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CPUs Tests in 3DMark06

A special feature of 3DMark06 is the new ideology of overall score calculation. While the previous version of the benchmark used to produce its total score basing on the performance of the graphics subsystem alone, 3DMark06 calculates its scores using the results of the graphics as well as the CPU tests. In other words, the final score the benchmark produces depends on both the graphics subsystem and central processor performance.

This has been implemented because the developer wanted to make 3DMark06 a benchmark that would give a general estimate of the performance of a platform at large as concerns running contemporary 3D games as opposed to a benchmark that measures the performance of graphics subsystems relative to each other. This approach is well grounded because modern gaming applications call for a high-performing central processor and are expected to get more demanding in the future as developers pay more attention to better modeling of the physics and AI of in-game objects.

As a result, the CPU test is an integral and important part of 3DMark06 and it has been made closer to real life than before. The CPU test from 3DMark05 had nothing to do with games. The performance was measured using academic algorithms that were not used in real applications. For example, the CPU was executing vertex shaders, but is it an ordinary gaming task for it?

The problem with the CPU performance tests in the previous versions of 3DMark was that they didn’t use specialized algorithms like those employed in real-life games. The new 3DMark06 corrects this issue as the algorithms from its CPU tests are the same as the CPU performs in real 3D games.

The CPU performance is measured in 3DMark06 by modeling a real-life gaming situation the benchmark designers called Red Valley. The test shows a fortress squeezed in between two cliffs. The bottom of the cliffs is all in ravines speedsters are racing along. Each speedster is trying to avoid crushes and the fortress defense and to get inside the fortress. The defense is using some kind of flying tanks, slow but equipped with rockets. All in all, there are as many as 87 bots of these two types in the Red Valley scene.

It is the graphics subsystem only that is responsible for graphics output during the CPU test. To minimize the influence of the graphics subsystem on the CPU performance result, the test is performed in 640x480 resolution and dynamic shadows are disabled. The processor is doing its typical job. It processes the in-game logic, models the physics, and gives the bots their AI. The physics of the Red Valley scene is calculated using the AGEIA PhysX library, popular among game developers. The intelligence of the bots is the result of solving the path-finding problem.

With so many intelligent bots in the scene, the CPU test looks more like a real-time strategy, but you should be aware that 3DMark06 is not meant to resemble today’s games. It must predict tomorrow’s ones which, according to Futuremark, are going to have much more active and intelligent objects than today’s.

Being oriented at tomorrow’s games, 3DMark06 was optimized for today’s advanced dual-core processors. This test can also effectively load CPUs with more cores since the task of finding optimal paths for numerous objects can be easily paralleled. The calculations in the CPU test are divided into threads as follows: one thread calculates the game logic and controls the calculation process; the second thread is used to model the environment physics; the other threads are busy finding the optimal paths (there can be as many of them as there are execution cores in the system).

When testing processors in 3DMark06, the Red Valley scene is used two times with different algorithms settings. The first time more resources are allocated to model the artificial intelligence and the second time the environment physics is in the focus of the test.

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