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For over 13 years the Finland-headquartered Futuremark Corporation has been developing and releasing software for benchmarking graphics cards and showcasing new-generation game engines (besides working on some other popular test suites like the well-known PCMark). Although each version of 3DMark is always met with some criticism, there is no other GPU benchmark that could rival its popularity. The overwhelming majority of print and electronic media use 3DMark to test graphics cards of the same or different generations. The ease of use and broad availability combined with support for all modern graphics technologies are the trademark of Futuremark's product. Unveiled on the 6th of February 2013, the latest 3DMark – it’s called just like that without any numbers or anything in its name – carries on the glorious traditions. Let’s see what it’s like and how it runs on modern graphics cards with GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia.

3DMark (2013): What’s New?

The new 3DMark is available in three versions. The free Basic Edition can be used to run three graphics tests (Ice Storm, Cloud Gate and Fire Strike) and publish results online using a free user account. The Advanced Edition costs $25 and offers the same tests but you can run each of them individually. It also unlocks the Extreme mode for the Fire Strike scene, auto-saves results and allows to enable several benchmarking cycles. And finally, the Professional Edition opens up all setup options for $995. It can also output benchmarking results in XML format. In this review we will describe the Professional Edition to you.

So, 3DMark welcomes its user with a brief description of its features and supported platforms:

Here you can launch all the available tests and demo clips.

The Tests screen allows choosing any of the three scenes, read its brief description and run each of them individually.

The Custom screen offers detailed settings for each test scene. You can enable or disable individual subtests, select resolution and other settings.

The first test scene is called Ice Storm. Not a heavy load by today’s standards, it is designed for benchmarking smartphones and other Android-based gadgets or low-performance desktop PCs. It consists of two brief graphics subtests and one physics effects subtest:

Graphics test 1

Graphics test 2

Physics test

Ice Storm requires 128 megabytes of graphics memory to run. Frankly speaking, its visuals are rather primitive, so even weakest graphics cards deliver a high frame rate in it. But again, Ice Storm is meant for smartphones and other mobile gadgets, so it is just difficult enough for such devices. It runs on a Direct 11 engine limited to DirectX 9 capabilities.

The second test is called Cloud Gate and requires 256 megabytes of graphics memory. It is a more resource-consuming thing with lots of various settings:

Consisting of two graphics and one physics subtest too, Cloud Gate is far more beautiful than Ice Storm. And the beauty means higher graphics load.

Graphics test 1

Graphics test 2

Physics test

Running on a DirectX 11 engine, Cloud Gate is limited to DirectX 10 features and serves to benchmark basic desktop PCs and notebooks.

It is Fire Strike which is the most sophisticated scene in the new 3DMark. It requires at least 1 gigabyte of graphics memory and has a huge amount of settings:

Making full use of all DirectX 11 capabilities and defaulting to 1920x1080 (as opposed to the first two scenes which run at 1280x720 pixels), it consists of four subtests: two graphics, one physics and one combined subtest.

Graphics test 1

Graphics test 2

Physics test

Combined test

The combined one is especially beautiful, showing a brief fight of two alien creatures. Fire Strike is designed for high-performance graphics subsystems including multi-GPU ones (CrossFireX and SLI). However, if you find this not enough for your system, you can run Fire Strike at the Extreme settings (2560x1440, at least 1.5 GB of graphics memory) which can get even a GeForce GTX 690 to its knees.

After each test scene is complete, 3DMark issues detailed results on each scene/subtest, illustrating them with fps graphs.

It’s handy for comparing different computers. You can publish your results on the official Futuremark website and compare them with other users'.

The Professional Edition of 3DMark has a number of additional settings related to image quality and XML exporting:

And finally, the last window Help is where you can check out your program version and specify some extra settings (disable sounds and choose one of the four available interface languages, for example).

We won’t delve into details about how each score is calculated because it’s unimportant. Let’s just get right to our testing and see what modern graphics cards can do in the new 3DMark.

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