Free 3DMark Basic Benchmarks Your Gaming PC

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You know the only reason you lost that deathmatch was because your hardware just isn't up to snuff any more, but how do you prove it? You download and run 3DMark Basic, a free benchmarking program from Futuremark, makers of the PCMark family of products. 3DMark Basic performs a series of high-performance tests on your computer and provides a number which you can then go online to compare to other people's numbers. (For optimal psychological benefit, run it just before and just after sinking a few hundred dollars into a new graphics card, so you can see just how much better your system is.)

3DMark Basic gives you pretty much one button to push, and then your gaming PC is benchmarked.
3DMark Basic offers very few options. Screen resolution is fixed; so is the suite of tests. You can choose between running the benchmark test, or running the benchmark tests and a series of nice, but not incredibly spectacular, 3-D rendered scenes. Really, you need only to run the tests.

The tests consist of various work-outs of your graphics card and CPU, including rendering, multiple light source, physics simulation, and various combinations of all of these. More detailed tests, including "Extreme" performance testing, require an upgrade to the $40 3DMark Advanced.

I had an interesting experience, It took about five minutes for 3DMark Basic to produce a number which rated my system (Windows 7 64-bit, using an ATI Radeon 5670 graphics card), and then it linked me to a website to compare values. My score was low compared to other systems with my hardware, and the website suggested updating drivers, which I did. A re-run of the tests showed a marked improvement... but because the new driver I'd installed wasn't "approved," I couldn't compare my system to other benchmarks. In other words, 3DMark Basic knew my driver wasn't up to date, but the correct, current, driver it pointed to me hasn't yet been added to the driver list recognized by the benchmark archive site.

As a free tool which can gauge the worthiness of your graphics card, 3DMark Basic does the job and takes little time or effort to run--and it might point out, as it did for me, an easily-correctable oversight that was hindering performance.

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