Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide August 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatch

It’s been a couple of months since I last wrote a benchmarking guide and since then the video card of my old machine started to fail more eventually leading to me replacing it, not being happy with the performance and last month building a nearly state of the art gaming system.

All the theory I talked about in my original benchmarking guide still applies but my new system is able to run all modern games with every setting super maxed out. Since everybody will not have a super new computer, I will keep my recommended benchmarking settings high but still reasonable so you can compare new systems to legacy systems.

The specifications for my new main gaming PC, which I built, now are:

OS: 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate edition
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 3.7 Ghz per core 6 MB L3 cache AM3+ socket processor
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 6870 1 GB
Memory: Kingston HyperX 16 GB (4 X 4 GB) 240 pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800) Quad Channel Kit non-ECC unbuffered CAS 9 1.65V RAM
Sound Card: onboard sound via a Realtek ALC889 chipset
Storage: Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS 3 TB 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache SATA 6.0 Gb/s 3.5″ internal hard drive OEM
Case: Thermaltake Xaser III LANFire VM2000A Case
Power Supply: hec X-Power 780W (peak) 600W (mean) ATX12V v2.3/EPS 12V v2.91 SLI nVidia Hybrid-SLI Certified CrossFire power supply
Peripherals: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD Burner

Again, this benchmarking guide consists ONLY of things you can download for free. Everybody can test with these free tools so it requires no spending on your part, just time and patience.

Let’s see what programs now got added, and why, and which ones got removed and why:

The RealStorm Benchmark 2006 test has been removed. This is rather unfortunate as this IS the ultimate single core CPU performance test I’ve ever used. The reason for the removal is that the real storm website was permanently taken offline and there are no plans for it to be brought back online in the future. If you can still find it somehow, I recommend using it. I might post it in the future for download and I can give you a copy via Skype or chat if you really need it. Just ask.

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has been removed as this resolution is too low and most people won’t use it to game anymore. I usually just run every game these days at a minimum 1280X1024. Yeah, my system can run stuff at much higher but I’d rather get 200 FPS than 120 FPS just to get more eyecandy. I’m more concerned with the smoothness of the graphics such as anti-aliasing options being turned on and high framerates. Like always, LAG is a killer.

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The updated criteria for benchmarking with Battleforge is the following:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download the Battleforge benchmark and full game from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Some of the options in this benchmark and others to come are either off or set not to max because the benchmarks are too picky and unless you have a 700 dollar video card, it will not let you run them. I’d rather everybody be able to test. The faster systems will yield insane numbers anyway.

My new PC got an average of 78.5 FPS, a minimum FPS of 7.1, and a maximum FPS of 182.7. You can compare that respectively to my old computer’s 6.8 FPS, 0.5 FPS, 53.5 FPS. It just blows it out of the water.

The Dirt 2 benchmark test still stays because it’s still a modern game engine and DiRT 3 is almost the same thing. That one was added too to the list as we’ll see below.

Dirt 2 Test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Medium (this setting is annoying and usually defaults to this)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://download.cnet.com/DiRT-2-demo/3000-7513_4-10977053.html

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

My current gaming machine yielded an average framerate of 105.5 FPS and a minimum framerate of 85.7 FPS versus my old machine’s 15.7 FPS and 13.4 FPS.

Moving on to a newer game we are now using the DiRT 3 game to benchmark as well. It’s the same as DiRT 2 but the game engine is tweaked a little more. The game is usually bundled often with most current video cards so either get it from there or download the demo for testing. You can check out my review for DiRT 3 here.

DiRT 3 test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1028
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8 x MSAA
VSync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Auto
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lightning: High
Shadows: Ultra
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Characters: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Distant Vehicles: High
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: High
Post Process: Medium (again this loves to set itself to this over and over so just leave it like that)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: Ultra
Cloth: High

I couldn’t find a direct download link for the demo because Codemasters is crazy enough that they don’t really have a main website anymore. I recommend getting the demo from Steam. Having a demo not be available would proabably encourage piracy but since this game is now being bundled with everything you’d probably find a product key easily with any AMD or ATI purchase at this moment.

With all the added graphic features to DiRT 3, my system got lower framerates with this one compared to DiRT 2. It yielded 66.39 FPS average, and 55.74 minimum FPS in this test. The game looks amazing.

I was considering adding the HAWX 2 benchmark to this guide but since the demo even includes the draconian Ubisoft you-must-be-online-and-make-an-account-like-an-mmo copy protection SCHEME then I refuse to. Sure, the game looks amazing but I don’t want to subject people to Ubisoft’s bullshit. Let’s stick to the original HAWX, which is still a great benchmark and doesn’t require all that drama to run.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX test settings:

Game version: DirectX 9 for legacy compatibility purposes
Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.gamershell.com/download_40308.shtml

If you never play this game, I recommend it still, and you can read my Tom Clancy’s HAWX review here.

My new computer gets an average framerate of 163 FPS and a maximum framerate of 392 FPS… WOW. My old system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps. What a difference!

The X3 Terran Conflict benchmark demo continues to be an amazing testing tool not just for performance but for system stability. This IS the benchmark I use the most to either make or break a system.

X3 Terran Conflict benchmark test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Ansitropic Texture Filtering: On
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Glow enabled: On
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC. Even on my new gaming PC, this benchmark will bring your system down to its knees and make it cry like a little girl.

This benchmark is old but it even comes with a built in warning that it WILL really ABUSE your video card.

My new computer got a score of 91.303 FPS. There were some parts in the benchmark when performance dropped to about 22 FPS, like the warnings said. My old machine used to get 17.012 FPS.

Trackmania Nations, free as always and still a solid full game with a simple benchmark feature built in.

Trackmania Nations test Settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmaniaforever.com/nations/

This benchmark now yields a 69.7 FPS on my new machine versus the 31.8 FPS I used to get from my old system. It’s much more enjoyable to play this again with everything on.

***

There is the updated list! I moved on from Windows XP especially since 32-bit Operating Systems have both RAM and hard drive allocation limitations. Windows 7 is okay but I’m surprised as to how few games have pure real DirectX 11 support. Only super megacorp insane-budget titles seem to have this so far, so I’m disappointed.

Share your benchmark numbers with us either as a comment below, on our facebook page, or forums. Stay tuned for more hardware reviews and articles.

Battleforge

Battleforge Logo
Battleforge Logo

Battleforge Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The lovechild of Warcraft 2/3 on crack mixed with Magic the Gathering.”

Overall Score:

9 out of 10

Overview:

This is an RTS MMO by Phenomic and it is run by/published by Electronic Arts. The player takes the role of a Sky Lord, which is basically like a minor god mage that manifests units, buildings, and spells in the mortal realm. Every action in the game takes form of a card to represent the icon for the unit/building/spell which is played in real time whenever the player builds up enough power (mana) to cast/summon it. There are four disciplines of magic: Shadow, Fire, Frost, and Nature. You can make up your army of any mixture of disciplines. There are only two resources during battles, power wells which make power (mana) and monuments (orbs) which are your units/building/spell tier tech levels. Cards are bought using real money which buys one BFPs (battleforge points) either from EA or by buying the game. Trade in game is also possible so it’s not really necessary to buy the game at all if one wants to put in the time instead. The game is divided up into PVP and PVE. The PVP is divided up into unranked (practice), collection (any cards go) 1vs1 and 2vs2 (ranked), and tome (specific to cards bought that month in a random collection) 1vs1 and 2vs2 (ranked). The PVE takes the form of premade missions that are either single player, 2 player, 4 player, or 12 player. A new game mode has been added in Nov 2009 which adds random pve maps from 1-4 players and adds the reward system of the PVP system. As far as rewards go, missions give the player in game money (gold) and upgrades for unit/building/spell cards the player may or may not already own. The goal of the game is up to you, whether to own every card in the game, get all upgrades for them, or dominate the pvp ladders. The initial launch of the game in the US seems to have failed (as far as I know) and it’s relatively cheap to play it here vs the rest of the world. There is no monthly subscription fee and the game is “Play4Free.”

If you already know the game but would like my tips, click here to read my strategy guide on how to do battlegrounds properly.

Fun Factor:

It’s been 2 months since I started playing it and I am still lured back to the game. I hate MMOs in general but for what this is, the usual biweekly updates keep me coming back for more. It’s a lot of fun setting the difficulty higher each time to level up my real life micromanagement skills and I really enjoy sometimes being able to hold out 6-7 fronts throughout different parts of the battlefield all at once. I’ll give the fun factor score for Battleforge a 9 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

There have been times that I have been doing a mission with a friend for an hour on the max difficulties only to fail for not paying attention for about a minute or two. The difficulties for the missions scale very fast as there are 3 difficulties (Standard, Advanced, Expert) at the time of this writing. Let’s just say you better be good to play Expert. 😀 For the Random PVE maps, they implemented a bar that slides from 1 to 10 so it’s a lot more customizable and the game earns a lot of points in this category for that. For PVP, people have researched the living crap out of the game by now so there are pvp guides out there for people who just want to stick to other people’s strategies. I have myself countered some of the instawin bullshit strategies so I think the game has a lot to offer. I give the difficulty versatility a 10 out of 10.

Value:

Since the game is free, the game has a great Value score. You can download the full game from the main Battleforge website. With the Play4Free account one gets a limited amount of cards but it’s still possible to pretty much do everything in the game with them, although it will very hard to do so if just using these free cards as many basic cards are missing from the free account. To solve that one can trade gold for cards (risky because of the nature of the trade system in game) or if one wanted to be really cheap one can spend the bare minimum real money and add $5 through the EA website to their Battleforge account. That basically translates to one cent is one BFP and with those assets one can either buy two booster packs in game (which I don’t recommend) or buy a lot of cheap 2 cent cards in the auction house and then build up one’s army slowly. Those 500 bfps can also be used to farm the auction house and slowly start earning bfps through one’s buying out of and reselling in the auction house. It’s up to you if you want to put in the time and this can be a game in itself. I myself are notorious for my AH buyouts. (evil grin) If you opt out and buy the full game for $20, you get almost every basic card in the game automatically and 3000 bfps which you can use to buy boosters/tomes/cards in AH, etc. In the long run this is the best value for the in game economy of your character. Since the game has no subscription fee and it’s only $7 or $20 for many, many days/weeks/months of entertainment the game gets a 10 out of 10 in this category from me.

You can get the game from Direct2Drive or Steam for $20 or for close to 7 dollars on Amazon since the game is not as popular as they anticipated. This is by far the best value way to get the game.

Replayability:

The number of missions is limited but since there are three difficulties for each and each difficulty is completely different, these missions will offer at least a whole month worth of entertainment until you grow tired of them. The random pve can be a lot of fun since you pick whatever custom difficulty you want and it’s a random map/enemy every time. They can be extremely challenging. For PVP you can spend endless hours trying to fight your way up the ladder system. It’s up to you what your goals will be and you can always invent new ones. 😀 I’ll give the replayability an 8 out of 10. I do hope that they keep adding more content for this game if not this score will drop.

Sound:

The sound of the explosions and swords rattling is great. The voice actors they picked do a nice job as every unit has their own sounds, some which are funny, some which are generic. Overall I give the sound category a 7 out of 10.

Music:

Each discipline of magic has its own music score which sounds great, except to me the nature music which is kind of annoying (reminds me of the Lion King). My favorites are the music for Shadow (sounds like something out of Gladiator mixed with music from the Dawn of War games) and Fire (sounds like a mix of Assassin’s Creed music). The music can get repetitive, well if you play the game like I do (100 missions in a row, etc). Overall I still think they put a great effort on the soundscore and I reward this game a 7 out of 10 for the music.

Graphics:

The graphics for this game are simply beautiful! To my knowledge this is one of the first games to embrace DX11 and it’s sponsored directly by AMD/ATI (even gets promoted directly on their website and I saw the add for it when updating to the latest ATI video drivers). Each card in the game has its own custom icon which is very pleasing considering this is an RTS game. Special versions of cards (promotion cards) have an even more custom avatar for the units with a special skin and/or better graphics. I think this is one of the better looking RTS games out there and the graphics remind me a lot of Guild Wars and Age of Wonders 2, which as far as graphics go are a great thing! Graphics gets a 9 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

Overall the game is stable but…there are drops in connection/desynch when you least expect it. This might be because of latency issues between people playing far away but I had been playing this game with my brother which lives in the same house as I do and one of my best friends which lives blocks from my house and the match ends because of a desynch issue. This doesn’t happen all the time but I do want to bring it up because for an online game this is a deal breaker. As far as server up time, the servers are up 99.9% of the time with the only times I saw them down being for an update to the game which took about 30-50 minutes and one time for general maintenance. Compared to WoW or Eve Online, EA really does a much better job for quality of service. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 6 out of 10.

Controls:

The game implements the WASD scroll which is great and now makes other RTS games controls seem clumsy. Most hotkeys for commands of units are the same key which simplies micromanagement even further. I give Controls a 10 out of 10.

Performance:

I don’t run the latest hardware and the game runs like a champ on an AMD Athlon X2 5400 CPU and an ATI Radeon 3870 512 PCI Express MB video card. My brother is running the game playable on an AMD Athlon 64 3000 CPU and an ATI X800 AGP video card. Most gamers will be able to run this games on any modern gaming PC. I give it a score of 9 out of 10 for performance.

My history with this game:

I downloaded the demo for this game and I wanted it so suck so much but instead it was enough fun that I stopped playing most other games for a good month or two. I got most of my friends addicted to playing it, even those who hardly ever buy new games bought multiple copies of the game and we got a lot of members added to out gaming clan because of this game. I’ve been playing for two months and I have still a way to go before completing my card/army collection. Probably by the time this will happen another expansion will come out (there has already been one made) so that will keep me even more interested.