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CPU Tests

If you’re expecting a whole new raft of rendered scenes in 3DMark06 you’re going to be a little disappointed. Three out of the four graphics tests – they’re not called game tests anymore – are the same as from 3DMark05. Well that’s not entirely accurate, the scripts may well be the same, but boy do they look different.

To obtain a 3DMark06 result you have to run three sections of tests – two of these sections are graphics tests and the third is a CPU test. I’m going to address the third section first, since I think that this will seem a little puzzling to many people. I imagine that many of you out there will be wondering why a CPU test is part of a graphics benchmark, but to be fair to Futuremark it doesn’t call 3DMark a graphics benchmark, it calls it the “gamers’ benchmark” and gamers need a CPU just as much as they need a graphics card.

Where the CPU tests becomes vitally important is if you’re benchmarking a whole PC rather than just a graphics card. Obviously if you’re buying a PC you’ll want to know how fast the entire system is, not just how quick the graphics card is – by factoring the CPU tests into the overall 3DMark score it gives you a better indication of the overall system performance.



Now, the argument against the inclusion of the CPU tests is that if you’re just testing graphics cards, why should the CPU tests affect the overall score? Well, anyone that knows the first thing about testing hardware will tell you that the consistency of supporting components is paramount for comparable results. That means if you use an Athlon FX-60 to test one graphics card, you better use the same chip to test the next one if you’re going to compare results. If you follow the rule of consistent supporting components, then having the CPU tests factored into the overall score is a moot point, since that part of the test suite should be pretty much identical from one graphics card to the next.

There are two CPU tests in total, but both will look very similar to the spectator. There’s a maze of canyons surrounding a castle, while speeders try to navigate their way to the castle and tanks try to stop them. This test places three distinct loads on the CPU – game logic (including graphics engine), physics and AI. The CPU tests are heavily multi-threaded and designed to take advantage of both SMP and multi-core systems.

Despite the two tests looking the same, they differ in the load balance of physics versus AI, to simulate the different type of CPU load that various future games could produce. Although the CPU tests will run on a single, single-core system, they have been designed to show significant benefits in an SMP or multi-core environment. With dual-core chips storming the market in 2005 and set to become the de facto standard in 2006, this part of the 3DMark06 suite is very important.

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