Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD Review

When SSD’s first arrived on the market the price point alone made many people turn away from them, but as the prices began to come down, more and more people began to see the benefit to adding a SSD to their existing system. For more novice consumers and those who still find the price a little too high there are remaining questions about when and why to get an SSD. In this review we will cover the benefits of the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD as well as the overall advantages to using a SSD.

Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD

Why an SSD?

So let’s start with the basics. An SSD is faster than your normal Hard Drive, much faster. The direct speed difference will vary on the model you get. Using the HyperX 3K we compared it to my previous hard drive, a 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s. The read and write speeds were many times faster with the SSD which translates into quicker load times and faster access of data. This means if you use it as your system drive Windows will boot and respond faster and applications will do the same.

For many gamers, an SSD is added to their existing system to be used as their game drive. What this does is improve the loading and access time of a game and this also comes into play online. Now an SSD cannot help you if your ISP is slow or you have bandwidth issues, but if you have applications running in the background along with your game, say Ventrilo, an SSD can manage the data better meaning a smooth gaming experience with no choppiness, which is a key in FPS, RTS and MMO gaming.

Beyond the benefits for applications and games an SSD can make an older computers seem newer by expanding its usability. Many times, especially for users who are not heavy into games, find themselves with a slow PC, not because of CPU or memory, but their hard drive. The speed and performance of an SSD can inject new life into your existing system even freeing the need to upgrade other parts. Finally, an SSD contains no moving parts so if you move your system a lot it can take the wear and tear that a traditional hard drive cannot.

The Breakdown

We tested the 240GB version of the Kingston HyperX for this review. For people looking to add more programs and games in addition to their operating system, this size is a perfect fit. This model is also lower in price costing a litter over two hundred dollars. For your O/S 100GBs of space is a good number to go with. I personally have used as low as 50GBs with a few applications added, but was always low on drive space. With this 240GB drive, you will have more than enough room for your operating system, your applications and games. If you collect media like movies and music you could add them as well, but its best to run those from a traditional drive as it does not really impact performance.

First thing you will notice is the size. The drive is 2.5 inches with a 9.5mm height, so it is much smaller than your traditional hard drive. The drive comes with a sturdy shinny metallic 3.5 inch bracket and mounting screws, so it can fit into any desktop case. The drive also comes with a handy screw drive that holds various bits as well as the screws keeping everything together and making installation very easy. Of course, if you are not comfortable doing your own installation you can ask a friend, but it is very simple to do and there are many videos showing how to install an SSD.

 

Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD

The HyperX 3K also comes with an USB external drive bay, which looks pretty cool design wise. This allows you to use your SSD as an external drive that you plug into your USB. This also allows you to take the drive on the road which is great for professionals or gamers that travel and since it supports USB 2.0 you will still get the speed and performance you expect.

The drive runs quite since it does not have any moving parts. This is ideal for those who want a silent running PC in their home or office. Another great thing about this drive is that it also draws less power and is cooler than a traditional hard drive meaning it will not add extra heat to your system or the environment it is in and overall is more energy efficient.

Here is a breakdown of the features for the SSD:

  • Features
    • SandForce controller technology
    • High-speed SATA Rev 3.0 (6Gb/s) transfer speeds
    • Advanced Wear-Leveling Technology
    • User-Configurable Over Provisioning4
    • Performance — incredible speeds for enhanced productivity
    • Reliable — much less likely to fail than a standard hard drive
    • Shock-Proof — dropping your notebook no longer means losing your data
    • Cool & Quiet — runs silent and with no moving mechanical parts to generate heat
    • Innovative — uses NAND Flash memory components
    • Supports TRIM — enhances device wear leveling by eliminating merge operation for all deleted data blocks
    • Supports S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology)
    • Guaranteed — three-year warranty, free technical support and legendary Kingston reliability.

Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD

Defining Technology

So when looking at the top SSD’s you will want to understand the technology that comes with it. Let’s take a look at some of the terms and breakdown their meaning for those not familiar with them.

Sandforce Technology: Sandforce is the processor for Flash Storage devices. Also known as the controller, it is key component of the drive. Sandforce is known for making top rate SSD processors, which contains additional features that improve the performance and power optimization for a drive and the longevity of the SSD.

TRIM: TRIM in a nutshell is Windows 7 memory optimization for SSD’s and was best explained to me like this. When you write something to your drive think about writing on a piece of paper. When you want to get rid of the paper you would toss it away. With a computer you are not tossing the paper, but erasing whatever you wrote on the paper to use again. With an SSD, you may delete or erase a page, which can be a word doc or an entire program, but the SSD needs a stack of papers, or what is referred of as a block before it deletes them. However, when it’s time to delete the block, since there is more than one page to do, it can take time and that time taken can slow down the SSD. TRIM anticipates that you will need to delete that block sooner or later so it does it ahead of time so you do not run into that large block being erased that slows down your system and in turn your SSD runs at optimum speeds at all times.

S.M.A.R.T: This stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology. This is the early warning system that something is going to happen to your disk drive. SMART monitors your drive and its main function is to detect and report and various indicators of reliability giving you a heads up of potential issues. When SMART finds something wrong you have the option to prepare for an outage by backing up your data and getting a replacement drive. In addition to having a warning to back up your data disk drive manufactures may be able to use the SMART data to find out where issues occurred in their drive and even help them make changes to prevent other issues from occurring. Think of it as the little black box for your SSD.

ATTO Disk Benchmark on my old drive
ATTO Disk Benchmark on my old drive
AS SSD Benchmark on my old drive
AS SSD Benchmark on my old drive
Crystal Disk Mark on my old drive
Crystal Disk Mark on my old drive

Testing

One thing to keep in mind when testing is how the drive is being used. You will often see faster speeds if you run tests on a free drive being used for gaming than one that you already installed Windows on and then ran the tests. The HyperX features 555MB/sec read and 510MB/sec write speeds, but again these can vary depending on the software and testing conditions. However, the overall speed difference over a traditional hard drive is unmistakable as you can see in the benchmarking screenshots below.

AS SSD Benchmark on the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD
AS SSD Benchmark on the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD
ATTO SSD Benchmark on the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD
ATTO SSD Benchmark on the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD
Crystal Mark SSD Benchmark on the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD
Crystal Mark SSD Benchmark on the Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD

As you can see compared to my previous hard drive the HyperX is much much faster in both read and write speeds. As far as daily use, the different is night and day. When logging into Windows after a reboot the load time is cut down to a few seconds. With my old drive, it would be up to a minute before all my programs would open and be ready for use.

This is another point for SSD’s specifically the Kingston HyperX. If you run a lot of programs and/or have a number of programs that start automatically like instant messenger programs and anti-virus software, a faster drive dramatically drops down the loading time of those applications. Even using programs such as Microsoft Office I can see the different when it auto saves or I save the program myself. Finally, for those who work with audio or video programs an SSD is a must for quicker access of your work and loading times.

Kingston HyperX 3K Series 240GB SSD

Final Thoughts

Kingston offers a 3-year warranty with this SSD as well as customer support via their website. In addition, a toolbox software download is available. The Kingston Toolbox enables you to read your drive information such as Serial Numbers, Firmware versions, and S.M.A.R.T. attributes.

Overall the Kingston HyperX SSD is one of the fastest drives on the market at with a price in the low 200’s, it is perfect for the advanced or novice user of any budget. The speed and reliability you get with this drive will make any system better, and for those who demand the best performance it is a must have.

WarFactory PCs’ The Sentinel PC January 2011 model Review

Cooler Master HAF 912 caseThese days there are many manufacturers which make custom or prebuilt gaming PCs, but which one is the right one for one to choose? There are many factors to take into account such as price, choice of parts, real world performance numbers, the reliability of the system, the quality of construction and assembly, the availability of support as well as the duration and quality of the warranty, and especially these days whether or not the company will be around during the life of the product to be able to help you with or help repair the system. There are many brands and companies to choose from whether big or small, such as Alienware, Dell, OriginPC, IBuyPower, LanSlide PCs, WarFactory PCs, and many others. I’ve seen many companies come and go so most people will usually only want to purchase from a bigger company but even some of those are starting to disappear. It’s important to choose the right brand. Today, we will be looking at The Sentinel, the model offered around January 2011 by the manufacturer WarFactory PCs. I will discuss its real world performance, how I found the construction and finish to be, and talk about what I thought about WarFactory PCs based on my interactions with them.

What are the specifications of the Sentinel – January 2011 model?

Price As Configured: $1238
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
PROCESSOR: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz stepping: AACAC AC, CACAC AC
GRAPHICS PROCESSOR: ATI 5870 1 GB
MEMORY: G.Skill 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
MOTHERBOARD: ASUS M4A89TD/USB3
STORAGE: Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB
CASE: Cooler Master HAF 912
POWER SUPPLY: Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt
PERIPHERALS: Asus DVD Burner

Performance benchmark tests:

The criteria used for my gaming PC benchmarking is shown in my Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011 article.

The Sentinel will be compared to my old gaming PC that I built in 2007. At the time it had all the parts needed to run anything and it still can run just about every game out there. That system has the following specs:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

Onto benchmarks…

Following the order of my benchmarking guide first we will see how well the systems compare in the RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test.

If you remember my benchmarking guide you will remember that this test shows a real world analysis of single core raw processing power. In this test The Sentinel is 43.79% faster than my machine. That means that each core is that percent faster per CPU core. This is important because not every program one uses is multi-threaded (supports multi-core processing).

The average performance in this test showed that The Sentinel is about 44.06% faster than my gaming PC in this single-core CPU test.

In this same test, this shows that at the bare minimum frames per second rendered, The Sentinel was 39.41% faster than my system. Minimum FPS tests are usually very important tests because this is when you notice the lag the most.

At their peak performance, we see a performance difference of The Sentinel being 47.35% faster than my gaming PC. Max fps is not as important as other benchmarks but I include it in my tests simply to see as high as peak performance goes.

Battleforge 1024x768 average fps

Battleforge is a free RTS MMO that I used to play a lot of and it still looks pretty amazing and is a great benchmarking tool for testing how good your system is at running a modern war game. I usually run my Battleforge settings to display 1024×768 so I wanted to benchmark it like that, as well as at a higher resolution. At 1024×768, The Sentinel performed on an average 757.60% faster than my old gaming PC. This is the proof I needed to remind myself to get a new gaming PC! The game supports all the latest graphic technologies for modern video cards as well as has modern multi-core support.

Battleforge 1024x768 minimum fps

Again, this is where a PC fails and we notice lag, which ruins the gaming experience. In this test, The Sentinel is 311.76% faster than my system. It put out 14 Frames Per Second, which is still under the desired 30 Frames Per Second that most of us would want, but then again this is with every option on, so a smart move would be to turn down some of the options before playing.

Battleforge 1024x768 max fps

In this test we see that The Sentinel is 240.61% faster than my machine. The game is obviously much smoother on The Sentinel system.

Battleforge 1280x1024 average fps

The Battleforge test gets more brutal as the resolution gets bumped up to 1280×1024 with everything on. The limitations of my own system are more obvious now and even The Sentinel has a hard time, but it’s still 845.58% faster in this test.

Battleforge 1280x1024 minimum fps

11.1 Frames Per Second are still not desirable so again, I recommend lowering the graphic settings. Still, it’s nice to bring systems down to their knees. Although in this test, The Sentinel does shame my old machine by being 2120% faster than it… Yeah…

Battleforge 1280x1024 max fps

This again is the fastest each system can run the benchmark. The Sentinel flies again, yielding performance 215.51% faster than my old gaming rig.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings average fps

Like I mention in my guide, Dirt 2 is simply brutal and overall the best benchmark I recommend for testing the real gaming capability of a system since racing games require so much to run right. Lag is most unforgiving in racing games out of all games because one wrong move and you crash, so you need peak performance always. This test shows that The Sentinel is 280.25% faster than my machine. I will have to get a new machine before playing the next Codemasters racing game, although I do love how efficient they code them.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings minimum fps

This is where we see that my system can no longer handle modern racing games. The Sentinel is 273.88% percent faster than mine. It’s Frame Rate at 50.1 is much higher than the 30 fps minimum we all need. This does make it a great gaming machine for modern gaming.

HAWX 1280x1024 max highest fps

Tom Clancy’s HAWX is still one of my favorite action flying games out there and it does showcase some of the best graphics I’ve seen come out in the past 2-3 years. The efficiency of this game engine makes me smile and the built-in benchmark tool does too. At peak output, which this test shows, The Sentinel is 181.88% faster than my machine.

HAWX 1280x1024 max average fps

Again, in this test The Sentinel shames my system by being 582.60% faster than mine. Its 157 Frames Per Second put my 23 fps to shame utterly.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280x1024 max average fps

This game is filled with super eye-candy and you really want to be able to run this game on a system that is totally up to par with the scalability of the game’s graphics engine. In this benchmark, The Sentinel was 397.80% as faster than my machine. The average FPS is at 84.686 which is way higher than the fabled 60 FPS that most people desire.

Trackmania Nations average fps

This test shows what a legacy game that still requires a good system to run will yield. The window closes a little but The Sentinel still beats the crap out of my system being 107.86% faster than it.

Performance Conclusion and Parts Analysis:

In the performance department, The Sentinel is sufficient enough of a gaming PC to be able to run any modern game at pretty much max settings, staying reasonably realistic.

The processor it comes with is great for both gaming and running heavy applications. It’s great for multitasking and multi-threaded programs and applications as well.

The video card has 1 GB of memory on it which is really important for rendering high resolutions. 1 GB of video memory is usually enough for most gaming needs unless you are one of those people that wants to set the resolution as high as your display can handle for every single game you play. It also has a strong GPU which keeps your framerates high while minimizing minimum framerates.

The RAM is quick but 4 GB is starting be a low number for modern PCs. It’s still enough to run anything, don’t get me wrong but this is probably one of the first areas that one will want to improve on if you are like me and run 10 applications WHILE running a game at once and alt-tabbing. The motherboard supports 16 GB of RAM max so it’s very future-proof and that’s a really great thing to have.

The hard drive only has 500 GB of space, which is not high compared to some other gaming machines but it does have enough speed to be able to load games up quickly. Anyways, I wouldn’t probably use the machine to store much on if you want it straight up for gaming and if you do want to store a lot, I would recommend adding a multi-TB hard drive for storage and using the main drive for applications and gaming. That’s a no-brainer. ;]

The case is a Cooler Master HAF 912 which looks both great in its jet black color and could pose well not only as a gaming machine but a professional server or business computer. Not many cases have such prestige to be able to pull that off. Great pick, WarFactory PCs on such an amazing case. The design of the case inside is so well done that it’s easy to install and remove components. This is highly desirable. All wiring came neatly assembled and tucked-in correctly as well.

Compared to my systems The Sentinel is relatively quiet. The fans barely make any noise even when under heavy load.

The Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt power supply is more than enough to handle the power requirements of the system and leaves enough free power for reliable operation as well as adding more parts and faster parts in the future.

Warfactory PCs emblemSupport and Warranty Information:
The basic price and system include a limited lifetime warranty. This means that you get a one year warranty on the actual parts, a three year labor warranty, and a lifetime of general support. Since there are manufacturers out there that will not provide any sort of support whatsoever for an out of warranty machine, WarFactory PCs beats them in with their lifetime general support warranty. At the time of this writing, support is available through a phone system at the number 708-667-5375 as well as through AOL Instant Messenger under the screen name WarFactoryPCs and email. It’s important to be able to call a company in the instance that the system is your only system and you have no way to get online to contact support. WarFactory PCs addresses this criteria with their phone system support channel.

My Impressions of WarFactory PCs:

They were very attentive to my many, many annoying questions that I used for formulating this review as well as asking them questions that showed me that they are a reliable and trustworthy company worth buying products from. If you guys know how annoying I am and how little life I have, you very well know that I am the kind of person that will contact a company in the middle of the night when normals are sleeping or having dinner. Gamers don’t rest! WarFactory PCs understand this.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a gaming PC machine right now that DOES have a manufacturer warranty and is set at a reasonable price, I would recommend The Sentinel to be among the systems you look at before making a purchase or build decision. Some manufacturers which I will not name right now (or yet) offer really shitty entry-level gaming PC solutions, but this is not the case with The Sentinel. Even the basic configuration is worth getting as it will be able to run every modern game. You can’t go wrong with a system like that for only $1238. This recommendation is coming from someone that only builds his own systems and never buys any built PCs. It might totally be worth the difference of spending 100-200 dollars more knowing that you have the manufacturer’s expertise to help you out when something goes wrong.

***

This review was done on a Sentinel PC lent to me by WarFactory PCs solely for review purposes. Stand by for upcoming reviews by other gaming PC manufacturers. Once I get a good list of reviews going and more data for my benchmarking database, stand by for a competition to see who is the best bang for the buck out of these gaming PC manufacturers!

Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatchIf you are like me then you probably do not have the latest gaming PC out there. Even if you built a new machine it will probably have at least one obsolete part easily within a month or two. Because of this dilemma I have created the following gaming PC benchmarking criteria, which has some modern games and game engines as well as some older ones which still scale well.

A problem a benchmarker will face, especially when comparing an older machine with a newer one is that sometimes the older machine will not be able to run whatever game or benchmark as opposed to the new machine. Not necessarily saying the whole program won’t run but saying that it won’t run at the exact settings that the program runs on the faster, newer machine. Some settings will simply never run because the GPU will never ever have the ability to render those settings as it’s limited at a hardware level.

The specifications for my main gaming PC which is now old are:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

My concern was to create a benchmarking guide that a normal person that is not running the latest hardware AND does not have an unlimited budget can use to test their system against ours and all the upcoming gaming PCs and parts we plan to review. How to do that? It’s rather simple. I sat there and hunted down many free games and demos that are currently available on the internet for download.

These benchmarks are run at a reasonable resolution that will yield great graphics while getting high frame-rates which a real gamer will use in a real world without risking to suffer lag in a (ranked) game.

As far as my picks go, I could have picked to run other games and just have FRAPS show my the framerates but FRAPS uses the hard drive a lot, especially to record and that would quickly become a bottleneck.

I will discuss why I picked those programs to benchmark now rather than some others which might be more popular. The list is the following:

The RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test has the following settings:

Demo: 1/5 Global Illumination Compare
Resolution: 1280×1024
Shadows: On
Reflections: On
Anti Alias: On
Depth of Field: On
Volume Lights: On
Radiosity: On

Download it from: http://www.realstorm.de/

This is the default benchmark option for this old benchmarking tool that is now discontinued but it will destroy the living shit out of any system out there. This benchmark uses straight-up RAW CPU processing power. It does NOT have multi-core support and it will simulate the max speed a single core will deliver in a system. Not every program has multi-core support and it’s still extremely important to have each core be as fast as possible. To a limited degree this benchmark does test the RAM as well but it’s mainly for the CPU. It stressed the living shit out of the system by making the CPU render everything, ignoring the GPU.

On my system, under the settings I listed above my computer yielded 2569 raymarks (the raw score used only by this benchmark), as well as 2.61 fps (frames per second) average, a minimum score of 1.7 fps, and a maximum score of 9.27 fps. Yes, that’s really really low but go ahead and run the benchmark on your own system. I hope you have good cooling, because you will need it! ;]

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1024×768
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 from: http://www.battleforge.com/

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.

I picked this part of the test to run at 1024×768 because when I play the game competitively and most of the time, I run it only at this resolution to get the max amount of framerates and no lag.

At this resolution my system put out an average framerate of 9.2 fps, a minimum framerate of 3.4 fps, and a maximum framerate of 54.9 fps.

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 Battleforge 1280×1024 test has the following settings:

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 from: http://www.battleforge.com/

The same as above except with better eyecandy because of the higher resolution.

My average framerate was 6.8 fps, my minimum framerate was 0.5 fps, and my maximum framerate was 53.5 fps. Do you see now why I play it at a lower resolution? The game looks almost the same to me anyways, so might as well avoid lag!

The Dirt 2 1280×1024 max settings test has the following 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: Ultra
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://www.codemasters.com/downloads/details.php?id=39424

In my opinion, you cannot get more intense for beating up your gaming system than playing a racing game OTHER than playing a real flight simulator game with all the options on. Think about how fast a system needs to render what’s going in a racing game, especially 200 MPH or higher being scaled realistically and you will see how these games are system killers.

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.

Although I play it usually at a lower resolution, I tested it at 1280×1024 just to stay consistent with my future gaming PC reviews as well as my upcoming new gaming PC that I plan to buy this year so we can see the before and after results. My average framerate was 15.7 fps and my minimum framerate was 13.4 fps.

This IS the game that made me realize I needed to upgrade my machine to a newer system.

The demo (although I have the full game) includes a built in benchmarking tool so it’s a great test.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX 1280×1024 max settings test:

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.bigdownload.com/games/tom-clancys-hawx/pc/tom-clancys-hawx-demo/

My friend Chris Mosso, which was my top Lieutenant in my massive guild in Auto Assault, always kept recommending for me to try out Tom Clancy’s HAWX saying it was an amazingly fun game and of course, he was completely right. I hadn’t had that much fun playing a game like that where you fly around fighting for your life since Descent: Freespace. The game is a permanent adrenaline rush and is simply total eye candy. I’ve shown this game to some friends of mine that are not gamers and it got them dizzy from just staring at the screen when I play.

Anyways, although this game is super eyecandy, it does have an AMAZINGLY efficient game engine. I like to include this game in the benchmarking guide because it represents for me what a well written game’s performance would be like with a typical game system. My system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps.

The fun demo includes the benchmarking tool, so it’s totally worth getting.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280×1024 max settings test

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
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

My friend Ramiro became a huge fan of the X series after I lent and gave him a copy of X Beyond The Frontier many years ago. As kids, we grew up playing Elite 2: Frontier on my Amiga 600. We thought it was the most epic game every made and and I played it religiously exploring star systems and reading up on their composition and learning a lot about astronomy as well as doing missions nuking planets from space as well as other crazy things like assassinations. I even dabbled with Privateer 1 and 2 later on, but those games were much simpler than both Elite 1 and Elite 2: Frontier.

Anyways, although I played X: Beyond The Frontier a lot and a little of X2, I kind of gave up on that series, especially when I later got into playing Eve Online and found it kind of pointless to play a game like that single player. The people who make the X series have ALWAYS impressed the living hell out of me with how efficient their game engines are as well as how scalable, detailed, and completely beautiful they are.

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.

Let’s see the numbers… My system only got a framerate of 17.012 fps in this benchmark but believe me, considering the settings and how beautiful everything looks, that was still higher than I expected it to be. Still, I would maybe play X3 when I get my next gaming machine.

Trackmania Nations

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://trackmania.com/

Trackmania is still one of my favorite racing game series of all time. This benchmark is done using the game Trackmania Nations that has always been the free version of Trackmania and the one that most people in the world play. I highly recommend getting Trackmania United if you are serious about having FUN in playing a racing game MMO.

This game is a massive physics simulator and it has looked good right from the start. The game engine is probably even as efficient as probably the Unreal engine except that Epic Games doesn’t put out free games! At 1280×1024 my system puts out an average framerate of 31.8 fps.

Okay, so there’s the list. Yeah, you might say that who cares because my system is running Windows XP and therefore DirectX 9 but the way I see it, gaming is a lot like racing cars in the real world. You might run DX11 on your Windows 7 box but if you barely run stuff and my system gets higher framerates than yours, that’s pretty sad. Only real results matter in the real world! I say fuck it, compare apples to oranges. I just care if the system will be able to run a game 100% stable as well as with decent performance.

So that about wraps it up. I hope you use my February 2011 benchmarking guide to test out your system and post some results below as comments. I know my system is a 2007 average price gaming system but let’s see what my next PC yields! And let’s see what the gaming PCs I will review soon will show us. Will these brands defend their speed claims when being tested in the real world? Stay tuned!