You may -- or may not -- have noticed, but as new machines come in, I do my best to get a little quality one-on-one time with these new PCs. Today, I wanted to tell you a little bit about the battery of tests that we're throwing at these computers here at HP’s TheNextBench.com. I like to call it, “TheNextBenchmark” because I'm clever like that. Or not. Curious to see how your PC stacks up? I’ve got some of the best tests for your rig – and I’m going to show you where to find ‘em.
Back in the hidden laboratories of HP, we're running tons of tests. I've highlighted that stuff many times in the past. Beyond physical testing, guys like Kevin Wentzel throw the latest accepted benchmarks at PCs -- the kind of stuff that most tech editors at major outlets fire up and test on PCs when they write reviews.
In my case, I like testing new PCs with....wait for it....games. Now, while not every computer is a sanctioned gaming rig, it's still a good indicator of a machine's relative horsepower. So, I do what I used to do as a game editor: Gather up a list of great test titles – stuff that pushes the CPU and GPU. I even drafted a couple of my old editorial buddies from the likes of Computer Gaming World, CNET, ExtremeTech, PC World...Tested.com, you get the idea...to double check the tests that I should use. A lot of what I've already been using, a sprinkling of newer titles and I'm planning to install even more stuff and add to the list as we go.
All games chosen below come with pre-installed benchmarks that you can run on your own. I’ve selected titles that span a wide variety of genres – and they are all, conveniently enough, a ton of fun to play as well.
There are also a couple in-game engine, standalone benchmarks that we selected as well. (and where you can find ‘em.)
Batman: Arkham City – A great all-around test, but if you have the right gear to toggle on PhysX, this demo shows off impressive volumetric smoke and shattering ice effects as well.
The launcher, before going into the game, is used to adjust the PC settings. Then, after you start the game, navigate the menus. Under “Options,” in the lower right, you can select to run the Benchmark.
DiRT 3 – This one-lap race shows off particles, lighting….and whole lotta dirt. No, really. It’s a muddy track. (also this test spits out an XML report from benchmarks).
Once you’re in the proper game menu, go to “Options,” then “Graphics Options.” Adjust your settings. Make sure to hit “Esc” and accept whatever settings you’ve chosen. Then, scroll down to the bottom of Graphics Options and select, “Run Benchmark.”
Just Cause 2 – One of the oldest games on this list is also one of the more brutal. The game scales nicely, regardless of the resolution. However, I wanted to kick back and drink a Cuba Libre while the Desert Sunrise test ran.
From the main menu, select the Resolution you want. Then go into the Advanced Display Settings. Then Run the Desert Sunrise Benchmark. Or the other two.
Metro 2033 – They were kind enough to create a separate app just for benchmarking. Just look into the directory where you installed Metro 2033. (or you could just search in the Start menu for “metro2033benchmark.exe.” Just select the number of test runs you want and it’s done. Simple.
Resident Evil 5 – There isn’t much that you need to tweak in this game, but between the “Fixed” and “Variable” tests there is plenty to push your machine. All you need to do here is go into the System Settings and adjust everything you need. Next up, pick a benchmark. For consistency, I run the “Fixed” test because it is repeatable. And pretty slick.
Total War: Shogun 2 – This test is pretty brutal. I’ve seen this game make machines cry, and take their lunch money. It’s a deep strategy game that pushes both the GPU and CPU to the limits if you want to turn up all the settings. I’m running this game through Steam, so upon startup, I just get the option to run either the game or a series of benchmark tests. Just select and it does the rest. EASY!
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – While there are a ton of graphics sliders to adjust here, It’s the easiest to adjust to your liking. Just go into Options, click on the Graphics tab and switch up settings. When you’re ready, select the “Performance Test” button down on the lower right.
Standalone Benchmarks Don’t own the games? Don’t worry. Just download these and test your PC right now!
Each game gets tested at two resolutions, three times each...provided that the PC (and the graphics card) can handle ‘em. The resolutions: 1920 x 1080, with all the settings jacked to 11. Fair waring: This isn’t always a fair apples-to-apples comparison. You see, we also toggle on extra features offered by cards, when available. Like PhysX features on NVIDIA. Or if a card offers higher Anti-Aliasing options (like, say 32XCSAA). Point is, we’re not looking for “fair” at the 1920 x 1080 level – we’re looking for the most beautiful, playable moving image possible.
Then we conduct a second test at 1600 x 900 with medium settings. This is a more level playing field test. If a machine isn't capable of supporting either resolution, I drop the resolution to 1280 x 720 with medium-to-low settings. For example, several tested laptops max out at 1366 x 768. Speaking of which, every laptop and every desktop gets the once over with these tests. Even Ultrabooks and lightweight laptops like the Pavilion dm1.
In addition, I'm digging deeper into how the newest graphics cards work on our mainstream gaming rig, the Pavilion HPE Phoenix. As new cards come out, I plan to run tests and share my results so that you know how our machines will work with the latest 3D options. You see, while the Phoenix is a mainstream gaming machine, it also has a 600 Watt power supply to support a single, powerful graphics board. As a reminder, let's go back and refresh our memories about what's happening under the hood on my testbed Phoenix that I wrote up recently: