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3DMark 11

Score: 80%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Futuremark Games Studio
Developer: Futuremark Games Studio
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

3DMark 11 isn't the standard type of software we review. While it isn't a videogame so it doesn't fit nicely into our standard categories, I believe it is close enough that I can get it to work here. For those unfamiliar with the 3DMark line of software, it is a benchmarking tool that will put your PC through enough various tests to really get a good idea of what your machine can handle.

Many of the software's tests fall into the graphical category. The five graphics tests throw everything from volumetric lighting to lens effects and the tessellation on various models.

The first two tests take place underwater as a collection of mini-subs cast their spotlights in the murky depths on rock walls and a bit coral-encrusted ship wreckage.

The last two graphics intensive tests go to a jungle and features a fly-around near some ruins. In one case, it is daytime and 3DMark 11 tests your machine's capabilities on the sun casting light on the foliage and rocks. The other scene is at night with the moonlight being a major source of light, but also several vehicles with their headlights turned on.

There are two other tests 3DMark 11 can run, a physics test and a combined test. The physics one presents a field of stacked blocks arranged like old Greek columns. Hovering above them are giant stone boulders. When the test starts, the boulders fall and destroy the temple. This particular test isn't all that pretty, but it isn't designed to be; it's all about the CPU's ability to do rigid body physics.

The combined test, on the other hand, is everything. Those columns of stone are placed in the jungle and there are flags all over the place. This test not only covers all of the graphical options, but it also tests how well the CPU can handle the rigid body physics (the stone pillars) and the GPU's (graphics processing unit) ability to do the soft body physics (the flags).


So what would "gameplay" be in the case of 3DMark 11? I guess here, that would be the software's purpose, how well it tests the rig it is running on and what possible configuration options it has.

As a benchmarking tool, 3DMark 11 is designed to put your machine through the rigors and hardships that most high-end games will pose. As a result, you will have a much better understanding of what your rig can handle, what games play best on your machine and even what parts in the overall machine might need to be upgraded in order to handle the next big game that is always around the corner.

The 3DMark 11 has three preset configurations, but also the ability to tweak each and every one of the variables the program will throw at your machine. The three presets are Entry, Performance and Extreme. The Entry level preset is for low-end machines. The application suggests that this be run on laptops and netbooks. The Performance setting is for your average gaming PC and ups the video resolution from 1024x600 to 1280x720. The Extreme setting is for those monster rigs out there either reassembled by companies like Alienware or home-brewed (like my own desktop). With this setting, the screen resolution jumps up from 720p to 1080p.

The individual settings range from being able to decide which of the five demos to run, manually setting the resolution and tweak values ranging from tessellation detail to shadow map size to volumetric illumination quality and even depth of field quality. There are 10 different settings that can be adjusted and most of those values go from 1 to 10, but others like color saturation go from 0% to 200%. There is a lot on the software's Advanced Tab to fiddle with and run your benchmarks against in order to see what aspects of your computer still need working on.


3DMark 11 is a pretty easy piece of software to use. The documentation recommends running it a few minutes after a reboot when you haven't launched any additional programs or done any other tasks, in order to get a clean reading so that no other background process can mess up the results. On top of that, it suggests you perform the test you want several times (rebooting each time) in order to make sure the results are consistent.

Outside of deciding when is the best time to run the benchmarking software though, the decision about how exactly to run it comes to mind. Given the many different settings you can fiddle with, it should be no surprise that the software's average user, hardware enthusiast or PC gamers looking to make sure their box is up to snuff, might get a little lost in the various terminology, much less what the optimal settings are going to be for their machine. For the most part, that's what the program's three preset options are for, but there is also some good documentation that comes along with it that explains the various terms and features, and that really makes it easier to decide what settings should be set to what values in order to get good results with your machine.

Game Mechanics:

3DMark 11 offers a few interesting ancillary features that really add to the overall product. Actually, those nice features come from the software's website and include everything from online access to your various test results, a leaderboard system for the different machines the software has been run on, the ability to compare results with any submitted by the application and even a System Builder option.

This last feature feels like little more than an affiliate connection to an online hardware dealer, but it does tie into Futuremark's rating system nicely so you can see how the individual components stack up. I do wish there was a bit more integration with this aspect to where my personal machine would be passed into the System Builder site so that I can select components already on my machine and look into upgrade options. What it does offer you is the ability to choose the components that make up various top-ranked machines, so that's cool.

3DMark 11 has three different editions: Basic, Advanced and Professional. The Basic version doesn't offer a lot and, given that it's free, that is to be expected. It's more like the demo version of the software to wet your appetite and to make you consider the $20 price tag on the Advanced version a little more. The third version offers a few more featuers over the Advanced, but considering it is geared towards commercial applications and costs nearly $1,000.00, it isn't something the average gamer is likely to look into.

If the idea of using a benchmarking software to rate your machine and keep it up to date is appealing, then this is the software you will want to use. I would recommend downloading the Basic version first just to make sure you have a handle on the software, but it comes highly recommended.

One final note though, the 11 in 3DMark 11 is a reference to the DirectX version it needs to test, not a year or the version of the software, so if you aren't running Vista or Windows 7, then you might want to look at some other versions of 3DMark for your benchmarking needs.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows 7, 1.8GHz dual-core Intel or AMD CPU, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 11 compatible graphics card, 1.5 GB free space, Windows Vista / Windows 7 compatible sound card

Test System:

Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel i7 X980 3.33GHz, 12 GB RAM, Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

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