It's Thursday, the 12th of January and right now I'm on a train traveling to Amsterdam where ATI will hold a press-briefing on their upcoming R580 release. Good stuff. Yesterday however, the English site Hexus posted some results/score on NVIDIA's and ATI's latest and to be released flagship graphics cards. I mention this because the only thing the small news-bit mentions performance wise is yet again the 3DMark05 number. How come that whenever we see a 3DMark score we immediately know exactly how fast the product will be? It's almost scary how much people can rely on a number and that's exactly the success of the 3Dmark series, that single number.
It's simply perfect, the number represents something we can comprehend; scaling. Just like we scale the number in GHz for processors, if you ask a user with a low knowledge level do you think 2 GHz is fast he'll go "hmmm." If you ask him that same question yet with 3.6 GHz in the question he'll go "aah." You can see there is a certain danger to a single number, for example an AMD 64 FX-57 running at 2.8 GHz is much faster then a 3.6 GHz Pentium 4 processor.
Futuremark's 3DMark series however is more than a scaled number. The series looks at what modern 3D cards do performance wise at several levels and then weighs how important a technology features and then will calculate the score based upon many factors. This is where we land at 3DMark06. Synthetic test or not, 3DMark is THE only standard benchmark that everybody can comprehend and it actually works extremely well.
Might I suggest that during the time you read this review you startup your download of 3DMark06 (click here), the file is 550MB in size so you'll kill some time during that download process.
Last year when 3DMark 05 was released (February I think) it became the standard for DirectX 9 benchmarking and it was well received by the consumer and industry. In the months following I however honestly felt the benchmark was good but not yet perfect as some very important features were left out. NVIDIA started their bragging rights with Shader Model 3 last year already, yet they also introduced something new and exciting called High Dynamic Range (HDR), which is one of the more beautiful technologies we saw last year. There's still very few games supporting it to the fullest yet mark my words, 2006 is going to be an exciting year in game development. New technology that is being introduced needs to go mainstream in hardware, accepted by the consumer and then game developers will start using it. A process that usually takes one or two years. It of course doesn't stop there. Subsurface scattering, the introduction of dynamic soft shadows and much, much more are all very exciting to see.
Needless to say that 3DMark06 entails all the new features and we will take a brief look at this exciting new update of the software. I say update because in essence 3Dmark06 is 3Dmark05, yet with a complete overhaul of features and exciting end-result.
Before I continue I have to state that we only had seven days before we received whitepapers and such to make this article. With other NDA stuff exactly in the middle of this Futuremark release we will show you a short review with a lot of stuff taken directly from the whitepapers.
A small peek at one of the new tests; Deep Freeze.