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Gaming on a computer has several advantages over console systems such as the Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, or the Nintendo Wii. The computer allows for much more customizability due to the granular nature of its design. Computer owners can swap out memory, CPU’s, sound cards, optical drives, cooling apparatus, and yes, even the all-important video card hard-core gamers seem to trade in as soon as the latest and greatest card is released.
There is a need for a simple-to-use test to determine a computer’s current capabilities to see whether it will work well with that new game about to be released, and to justify an upgrade if the computer fails to meet the gamer’s definition of smooth gameplay. The ability to benchmark a computer becomes most useful when the gamer can set his/her own parameters as to what is a “fair test" rather than relying on someone else’s definition. Regardless of the statistics touted by a computer parts manufacturer, the user defines what a quality experience is.
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Components of a Good Benchmark
Simulated benchmarks have the benefit of providing a reliable and replicable test to compare between-group variability. Like a good scholastic standardized test, it allows a user to compare two systems with the reliability of a lab experiment. Unfortunately, lab experiments rarely simulate real life well enough to be applicable to the real world. Often, the lab experiment is used to isolate one or a few variables to reduce the likelihood that other, usually unmeasured, variables have confounded the relationship between the variables under study.
Gamers do not play games in a lab. In the real world, there is no ideal situation. Computer configurations vary so much between players that within-computer benchmarks provide a much better picture of the experience a gamer will actually perceive. For example, a gamer may want to know what performance his/her computer will put out when the resolution is changed, different video settings are used, more memory is added, or a video card is upgraded. These questions are real-world, requiring a real-world benchmark.
In a recent article, a review of Fraps from Beepa software mentioned that the utility was capable of performing benchmarking. Unlike simulated benchmarks, Fraps allows gamers to test their computer’s hardware under any conditions the gamers desire. For example, suppose that a particularly graphic-laden part of a video game is slowing down a gamer’s system. In other words, the frames-per-second (fps) experienced by the gamer drops below a playable level. The gamer is interested to know under what settings he/she may play the game to experience smooth transition throughout the map. Fraps allows the user to capture a variety of data concerning the frames-per-second, the latency between frames, and other statistics such as the minimum, average, and maximum fps. Capturing this data is as simple as pushing a button and playing the game while Fraps is running the benchmarking portion of the utility in the background.
Later, when the gamer is sure that Fraps has recorded enough data, the information may be analyzed. Analyzing the data is as simple as using a spreadsheet to do a few pertinent calculations.
The next article in this series will look at a sample benchmarking procedure. The basic benchmark will measure the fps experienced during a particularly video-intensive game and the advanced benchmark will show how powerful a gamer-defined benchmark can be in determining the capabilities of a computer.
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Fraps allows users to create their own benchmarking experiments to not only determine their computer’s capabilities, but also test their computer under a variety of settings, conditions, and situations. By relying on a real-world test, gamers are not forced to benchmark their computers under someone else’s definition of a fair test. Using their own games, gamers can be sure that the results they get from the benchmark are accurate without relying on algorithms or norming features of simulated benchmarks. The following article in this series walks the user through a typical benchmark using Fraps that point out the powerful features of its benchmarking utility.
Create Your Own Real World Benchmarks for Your Computer’s Video Card
Fraps from Beepa Software allows gamers to benchmark their computers with various configurations and settings. In doing so, gamers can determine their current computer’s capabilities and check to see if an upgrade is warranted.