New in 3DMark Vantage

The new 3DMark Vantage software is finally available after several months of “leaked” screenshots and information flooding the forums. Now that 3DMark has moved to DirectX 10 what can you expect to find in this incredibly popular benchmarking software?
Introduction and Background

The world of 3DMark has gone through a lot of changes in the last decade and without a doubt has seen its up and downs.  From 3DMark2001 to 3DMark05 the application was considered THE de-facto graphics card benchmark and was responsible for billion-dollar companies like ATI and NVIDIA technology decisions.  In recent years it has come under fire in the oft-debated “real world versus synthetic” testing debate – I won’t get into the dirty details of any of that here and will instead focus on the topic at hand: 3DMark Vantage. 

Much like the recently released PCMark Vantage, Futuremark set out to revive the 3DMark brand with a new twist on the benchmarking technology.  While not as dramatic a shift from the 3DMark series as many had probably predicted, the new Vantage software does offer a lot of great tools for gamers, enthusiasts and press to use.

What’s new in 3DMark Vantage?

The obvious first question for potential 3DMark Vantage users is “what’s new?”  The first major change is the move to DirectX 10 technology.  Where DX9 was the catalyst for the 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 benchmarks, DX10 and the new Windows Vista operating system are responsible for the shift to 3DMark Vantage.  The benchmark was designed from the ground up to take full advantage of DX10 and because of that this is a VISTA ONLY application.  Windows XP users are out luck.

All of the main tests, including the two graphics and two CPU benchmarks, are completely new and based on improved visual and computing technologies.  The graphics tests use DX10 exclusive features, parallax mapping and more.  The CPU tests sport brand new AI and physics modeling that we’ll discuss on the individual pages.

Another change to the functionality of the 3DMark Vantage is the addition of testing presets.  These presets are basically pre-defined settings for various gaming segments that will produce different 3DMark scores for budget, high-end and extreme options. 

System Requirements

The new 3DMark Vantage has some pretty heft minimum requirements and if you want to run it at resolutions like 1920×1200 you are going to need to step up even from these:
  • Processor
    • SSE2
    • Recommended: dual-core with performance equivalent Core 2 Duo E6600, Athlon X2 6000+ or higher
  • Graphics Card
    • DX10 compliant graphics card
  • Display Device
    • Requires 1280×1024 resolution
    • Recommends 1920×1200 to run all presets
  • System Memory
    • Recommends 2GB or more
  • Hard Disk
    • Requires 1GB of disk space
  • Operating System
    • Windows Vista with Service Pack 1
You can see that these specifications aren’t low by stretch and the move to REQUIRE Windows Vista will likely be an unpopular one.  Futuremark believes that it was a requirement though in order to get as future-proof a benchmark as possible.

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