Fraps: Real-World Gaming Benchmark
At a Glance
There are two main schools of thought when it comes benchmarking. On one side of the fence there are proponents of synthetic benchmarks like SiSoft’s Sandra or 3DMark, and on the other are those who prefer to measure performance using actual applications and games, a method otherwise known as real-world benchmarking. Synthetic benchmarks may feature specialty code that provides a high level of granularity and other benefits--but at the end of the day, all they really tell you is how fast a system runs that particular benchmark. Applying those results to actual day-to-day computer use isn’t always as direct as the numbers imply. Real-world benchmarks sidestep this translation process by providing a means to precisely measure the performance of the software in question. Why guess what frame rate a 3DMark score means in your favorite game when you can just use the game itself? It’s a powerful argument, and tight, well-written utilities like Fraps make it all the more compelling.
Fraps is a real-world gaming benchmark that provides advanced frame rate reporting, screenshot capability, and gameplay capture all in a tiny, 2MB installation package. It's been evolving for years, faithfully delivering the dish on your system's gaming mettle. The interface is divided into four tabs controlling general settings, FPS options, desktop recording, and screenshot capturing. The FPS area includes some nice touches, including average as well as instant frame rates, timing features, and the ability to pick where on the screen Fraps displays its overlay FPS information. Video capture is similarly option-generous with hot key functions, capture rates and sound settings that are all easy to understand and set. Screenshot functionality rounds out the package with multiple file format support and the ability to repeat screenshots after a set time period. Overhead performance requirements are relatively minor and consistent, so the numbers reported are accurate to within a few FPS of the game running by itself, without Fraps.
The main drawback here isn't the software, but the company that produces it. Beepa’s customer support seems nonexistent. Several queries via their provided web forms (there are no email addresses, telephone numbers, or any other means of contact on the website) remained unanswered, and I was never able to contact anyone from the company despite repeated attempts to do so. This cold-shoulder approach doesn't bode well for customers looking for assistance with problems. It's a model that seems in stark contrast to the quality of the software and the speedy pace of its development. A lesser concern is cost for the full version: At $37, it's not cheap. Fortunately, the free demo version is quite feature-generous and will suit the needs of almost every user. All the important options are intact.
These issues aside, Fraps is an easy recommendation for gamers seeking the hard numbers from their favorite titles. It isn't going to give you a mountain of data to consider, nor will it rate your system on a global database or test esoteric hardware features. It'll just give you a single number--namely, your in-game FPS--but it is likely to be the exact answer you’re looking for and all you really need. It’s definitely worth a download.