Synthetic benchmarks do an admirable job of allowing system to system or component to component comparisons, however they often lack a direct "real world" relevancy. Just because a video card does well in 3DMark11 for example, does not necessarily mean it will have a guaranteed level of performance in the next blockbuster gaming title.
In order to balance both sides of the coin we have developed a few of our own real world benchmarks utilizing some well known gaming titles. The process here is rather simple. We load up said game while also running FRAPS. The game is played for 30 minutes during which time we have FRAPS calculate the average frame rate. This is admittedly not as structured as a synthetic benchmark, but it is more akin to real world usage where gaming will see the GPU usage peak and valley rather randomly based on game play.Call of Duty: Black Ops
One of the most highly anticipated, and consequently most highly purchased games of all times, CoD: Black Ops is a game most are familiar with. We have chosen to include this game in our suite largely due to its sheer penetration in the gaming market, most gamers either own the game or have played the game, and those that haven’t have most likely heard about it. While this test will fall under the real world gaming benchmark description, the "shooter on rails"
moniker that the COD series have earned is well deserved in this case as there is generally only one way through a level. This real world benchmark will prove to be the closest to fixed-variable aspect of a synthetic benchmark.
Black Ops follows the exploits of its main character Mason throughout 1960’s including settings in Cuba, Vietnam, Soviet Russia and more. True to it’s namesake, the mix of missions are "black bag"
or clandestine operations
. For benchmarking purposes we play through the first full level of the game.Just Cause 2
Here we are again with Just Cause 2. While we have already utilized the in-game benchmark we thought it would be interesting to bench some real world gaming with the title and see how closely the game’s in-game benchmark predicts real world performance.
The first thing you will notice here is a change in the leadership position. Running the canned benchmarks resulted in the R6850 grabbing the top slot, yet running the real world benchmark we see that the tide has turned and the N460GTX takes top billing. This works to illustrate the fact that synthetic benchmarks are only part of the story. Metro 2033
We chose Metro 2033 for its system crushing-abilities. It is one thing to run a canned benchmark and get a sub-30fps score, its quite different however to actually have to play a game at those frame rates. Much the same as Just Cause 2, it will be interesting to see how well built-in benchmark predicts actual game play performance.
The real world benchmark of Metro 2033 shows us a few things. First, the leader remained the same with the R6850 showing the lead in this benchmark as it had with the in-game benchmark we tested previously. The second thing we notice here is that the both cards performed significantly better on average FPS in the real world benchmark than they did in the previous in-game benchmark. Each card gained roughly 5-6fps over their built-in benchmark score, this may not sound like much but with scores that were sub-20fps before, this equates to roughly a 25% performance "gain". Obviously the cards themselves have not actually gained any performance but it does appear that the built in benchmark for Metro 2033 does tend to stress the graphics card more strenuously than does general game play. Again, this is not so much a revelation as a reminder it is important to look beyond mere synthetic/canned benchmarks in order to see the entire performance spectrum of a component.
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