Introduction and Changes

Futuremark is set to reveal the new 3DMark06 benchmark today and we have information on the new tests they have included that take advantage of SM2.0, HDR and SM3.0 graphics card features. We have also have scores from a slew of recent GPUs for a comparison using the new benchmark.


Futuremark, formerly of MadOnion fame, has been at the forefront of graphics benchmarking for as long as most of us can remember.  Their initial release of 3DMark99 was the first standardized benchmark that PC manufacturers and gamers could use to judge the performance of their systems and compare it to others.  With each successive release, 3DMark2000, 2001, 2003 and 3DMark05, the team has made steps to make sure their testing software was at the top of the pack in features and reliability.

We are not going to get into all the mess regarding the status of synthetic benchmarks versus real world benchmarks; we simply don’t have the time and it’s been dug into the ground countless times before.  The short of it is that applications like 3DMark06 do have a place in our benchmarking world but that placement depends largely on your own point of view.  At PC Perspective we use 3DMark software as a sanity-check on new hardware as well as a tool to gauge the feature sets of new GPUs that might go unnoticed with normal software.  To each their own.

In this article I am going to very quickly go over the major changes from 3DMark05 to 3DMark06 as well as show you some benchmarks from 3DMark06 on the latest GPU hardware. 

Theory Changes in 3DMark06

Perhaps the most important change in 3DMark06 revolves more around the CPU than the GPU; CPU test results now influence and affect the overall 3DMark score.  This is a first for the benchmark that had previously made the 3DMark score a derivative of the game tests only and left the CPU tests to be used by reviewers and interested third parties only.  That is no longer the case with 3DMark06. 

In order for the 3DMark06 score to more closely simulate the system performance a gamer would get while playing on a real game, the GPU and CPU scores are weighted in a way that Futuremark thinks shows a future-looking preview of how each component will work together in real game software.  Basically, 3DMark06 wants to gauge overall gaming performance on the system, not just performance of the graphics cards. 

That is really the biggest change to the benchmark, and the rest of the new features we can write off as being merely upgrades in rendering technology and graphics technology.  3DMark06 uses Shader Models 2.0 and 3.0 exclusively now for all vertex and pixel processing.  In fact, the engine in 3DMark06 dynamically builds the shaders for each material in HLSL (high level shader language) and they are runtime compiled by the GPU drivers. 

Here is a quick version comparison chart provided by Futuremark:

Futuremark 3DMark06 Benchmark Overview - Graphics Cards 19

Now I’ll briefly go over the tests included in the freely available version of 3DMark06 that is being released today, and talk about the technology being showcased in each.

Page 2 – Graphics Test Updates

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