SiSoft just released a 2011 version of one of the most popular benchmarks in the world – SiSoft Sandra. Popular benchmark suite brings support for all the new and upcoming hardware from AMD and Intel [such as Sandy Bridge, Cayman, Antilles, Fusion etc.], as well as several new and invaluable benchmarks.

For starters, Sandra 2011 features a Media Transcode test, measuring the Transcoding bandwidth while converting media from one format to another. This is a highly debated subject which will peak once Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors go head to head against the GPUs from AMD and nVidia. That benchmark is based upon New Media Foundation from Windows 7, measuring the speed of WMV, MP4/H.264 videos to MP4/H.264 using multiple profiles [720p, 480p, tablet, phone etc.].

Second all-new benchmark is GPGPU Cryptography – measuring the encryption, decryption and hashing bandwidth of the modern GPUs using OpenCL. The most interesting bit is apples per apples results between CPU Cryptography benchmark and GPGPU Cryptography benchmark using some of the most common algorithms [AES256, AES128, SHA256, SHA1].

SiSoft Sandra 2011 Engineering Standard EditionThe interesting bit is that SiSoft expects how CPUs should be able to challenge GPGPUs in the near future, given that "Using 256-bit register width (instead of 128-bit of SSE/2/3/4) yields further performance gains through greater parallelism in most algorithms. Combined with the increase in processor cores and threads we will soon have CPUs rivaling GPGPUs in performance."
Third new benchmark tests the performance of Blu-ray optical drives. Adrian Silasi, author of the software debates that the time of introduction of this test was aligned with the fact that Blu-ray " finally become affordable for computer users as a replacement for DVD. We have thus added a brand new Blu-ray Test Disk to measure the performance of the latest drives on the market, adding to the existing DVD and CD Test Disks which are still required to measure DVD and CD disk performance."

The way how benchmarks are being reported also changed. For the first time, Sandra 2011 measures Min, Max and Average scores, instead of only Max ones.

However, there are some things that do not work with the initial version. We spoke with Adrian and he told us that right now, H.264 Transcoding nor GPGPU Cryptography [hashing] do not work in nVidia’s current drivers. This is due to lack of exposure of some OpenCL features. On AMD and Intel hardware, as well as a software workaround – the OpenCL based benchmarks execute without any issues. Adrian’s comment was that "We’ve not found a work-around for nVidia". Furthermore, Adrian went on to say that the benchmark is being released today because "If we would have delayed any more we would have missed releasing this year completely, and thus support for all the other hardware (Sandy Bridge, Cayman, "Fusion", etc.)."

We have contacted nVidia for comment and will be updating the story when the comment lands.