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Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

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It's been quite some time since Futuremark rolled out something new for overclockers and "benchmarkers." Although Microsoft launched DirectX 10 also quite some time ago, there were still no updates for the standard set of tests.

Finally, late in April 2008, Futuremark Corporation released the long-awaited new version of 3DMark. While the previous versions featured years of announcement in their names, the new series got a proper name of '3DMark Vantage'. Like its predecessors, this suite should become an industry standard for gaming PC benchmarking. Now exclusively for MS Windows Vista and DirectX 10 API.

3DMark Vantage system requirements:

  • CPU with SSE2 support (at least Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ is recommended)
  • Graphics card supporting DirectX 10 API
  • Monitor supporting 1280x1024 (1920x1200 recommended)
  • 1 GB of memory (2 GB and higher recommended)
  • Free drive space - 1 GB
  • Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 recommended)

What's new?

Perhaps the most important change in Vantage for users is a new pricing policy, which has been changed because of the increased development costs. Futuremark spent five million dollars on 3DMark Vantage, which supports the latest technologies. For example, PCMark Vantage required one million dollars, while previous versions of 3DMark - two millions each. Most of the budget was spent on the new D3D10 engine, utilities, and content, as well as online services to analyze and compare performance.

Increased development costs made Futuremark change its old policy, when the free version of the benchmark could be run several times. Now the free version can be started only once, offering unitary features of Basic Edition. 3DMark Vantage trial calculates the score and shows results in an online browser. But you will have to buy Basic Edition for subsequent usage, which does not offer any special features, except for unlimited number of test runs.

So, 3DMark Vantage Basic Edition costs $6.95, it allows an unlimited number of test runs for a single preset, Internet connection is required to browse results. For personal and non-commercial use only. Advanced Edition comes for $19.95. It gives access to all profiles and settings, but it also requires an Internet connection to browse results. And it can be used solely for personal and non-commercial purposes. Fully commercial usage (including mass media) is allowed for Professional Edition, which reveals all features of the benchmark, it allows to browse results without connecting to Internet, and includes technical support and advanced automation features.

Professional Edition contains two graphics tests, two CPU tests, and six feature tests. All four basic tests in 3DMark Vantage are rewritten from scratch, unlike modifications in 3DMark06. Two technically advanced gaming graphics tests support a lot of new features of DirectX 10 graphics cards. Two CPU tests are also written from scratch. Their algorithms for computing physics and AI are close to real ones used in games. The second CPU test (physics) can use Ageia PhysX for hardware-assisted computing of physics.

The graphics engine of 3DMark Vantage supports all modern technologies. Moreover, some of them are not used in games yet. We should note the following: multiple light sources per pass, several lighting models, complex pixel/vertex/geometry shaders, GPU-assisted computing of physics, HDR, Variance Shadow Maps and Cascaded Shadow Maps, multiple post processing methods (bloom, streaks & flare, halo, depth of field, motion blur, depth fog, volumetric fog, tone-mapping), soft particles. This is only a part of features of the new 3D engine in Vantage. All of them will be described in another article about 3DMark Vantage, which is already being written.

One of the most important innovations in 3DMark Vantage is presets. They are combinations of rendering option settings, like resolution, anti-aliasing, texture filtering, etc, for graphics cards of various levels, from integrated solutions to top cards, with different GPU loads. When running 3DMarkB® Vantage with one of the presets selected, the benchmark produces an official score for that preset. Instead of the single default setting of previous 3DMarks, there are four Presets available for Entry, Performance, High and Extreme visual quality.

Entry is for benchmarking graphics cores integrated into chipsets and entry-level graphics cards with 128 MB of video memory. Performance is for Mid-End graphics solutions with 256 MB of video memory. Presets of a higher level require powerful 512 MB cards.

A resulting score reflects overall performance of a system, taking into account the speed of a graphics card and a CPU. Besides, there are separate parameters: GPU Score and CPU Score. The former contains FPS values of graphics tests, while the latter includes results of two CPU tests. Total 3DMark scores are calculated differently for each preset. GPU Score has the strongest effect in the Extreme preset, the least effect in the Entry preset. These presets affect solely two graphics tests: Jane Nash and Calico. All the other tests, including CPU and feature tests, do not depend on these settings.

Testbed configuration and settings

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 (3000 MHz)
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 (Intel X38)
  • RAM: 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM Corsair 1066MHz (CAS (tCL)=5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=5; Row Precharge (tRP)=5; tRAS=15)
  • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA
  • PSU: Tagan BZ 900
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows Vista 32-bit
  • Video drivers: CATALYST 8.4 (3DMark Vantage Hotfix), NVIDIA ForceWare 175.12
  • Monitor: Dell 3007WFP (30")

We used the same testbed for SLI with two NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 cards. We just replaced the motherboard to Zotac nForce 790i Ultra SLI and installed 2 GB of DDR3 memory operating at 2000 MHz. All Vantage tests were run with the Extreme preset. We used resolutions from 1024x768 to 1920x1200 inclusive, with enabled multisampling with four samples (MSAA 4x) and anisotropic filtering of the maximum level - 16x. All features were enabled from benchmark options, nothing was changed in the control panel of the video driver.

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