With the rapid advancement of technology, graphics cards have become an integral component of modern computing systems, especially for gaming enthusiasts and professionals who rely on graphics-intensive applications. However, determining the performance capabilities of a graphics card can be a complex task. That's where benchmarking comes into play. In this blog post, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide that will help you evaluate its performance effectively.
Benchmarking your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is important for several reasons:
• Performance evaluation: GPU benchmarking allows you to assess the performance capabilities of your GPU. By running standardized tests and comparing the results with other GPUs, you can determine how well your GPU performs in various tasks such as gaming, 3D rendering, video editing, or machine learning. This information is valuable when making purchasing decisions or optimizing your system's performance.
• System stability testing: Benchmarking puts your GPU under a heavy workload, pushing it to its limits. This stress testing can help identify any stability issues or overheating problems. If your GPU consistently crashes or exhibits abnormal behavior during benchmarking, it may indicate an underlying hardware or cooling problem that needs attention.
• Overclocking potential: Overclocking refers to running your GPU at higher clock speeds than the manufacturer's specifications, which can result in increased performance. Benchmarking is an essential step in the overclocking process as it allows you to assess the impact of your overclocking settings. By comparing benchmark scores before and after overclocking, you can determine if the overclock is providing a tangible performance boost and if it's stable.
• Comparisons and optimization: GPU benchmarking enables you to compare the performance of different GPUs or different settings within the same GPU. This information helps you make informed decisions when choosing a GPU for your specific needs or optimizing your GPU settings for specific applications. By identifying which GPU performs better in certain tasks or which settings provide the best balance between performance and power consumption, you can maximize the efficiency and productivity of your system.
• Future-proofing: Benchmarking your GPU regularly allows you to keep track of its performance over time. As new games and applications are released, their system requirements may increase. By benchmarking your GPU periodically, you can assess whether it meets the performance demands of the latest software and determine if an upgrade is necessary to maintain optimal performance.
Now that you know why you should benchmark, it's time to learn how to benchmark. Let's start with stability and performance. This is rare, but sometimes the graphics card may be defective when shipped from the factory. You get what's called "artifacts" - images that are essentially buggy, flickering, or even pulsating in color.
Unigine’s Heaven benchmark
The first program we’re going to use is Unigine Heaven 4.0. It’s free for personal use and runs a loop of a graphical environment that really utilizes your GPU. The first order of business here is to make sure your graphics card can run without shutting down or displaying any weird graphical glitches, so you should allow it to run Heaven for at least 30 minutes, to allow the GPU to get up to temperature.
If everything looks good, you also need to pay attention to the important information, which will be displayed in the upper right corner along with your GPU information.
The first vital is temperature, which can indicate various potential issues with your hardware and case airflow. If your GPU quickly reaches its maximum temperature limit, it could indicate a rare (but possible) issue with its thermal paste, or (more likely) restricted airflow in your case if there isn’t enough clearance for the fans to get cool air. Add some fans or open some case panels and temperatures should improve. That’s a direct benefit of knowledge gained while benchmarking and testing your GPU.
You can also keep an eye on the core clock and memory clock of your GPU, to make sure it is performing near the intended specs. An easier way is to just run the benchmark option in Unigine Heaven, and then you can compare your score with others online and get a good baseline to make sure you’re in the ballpark.
An example of 3DMark Time Spy scores and estimated game performance.
After you’ve tested for stability and thermals, you can take your benchmarking degree up to a doctorate by testing performance. Here we’ll use the popular 3DMark benchmarking suite, which includes some free modes. Time Spy (which tests DirectX 12 graphics performance) and Port Royal (ray tracing performance) are some of the most widely used benchmarks around. 3DMark even has an online hall of fame where you can compare your scores against others!
What numbers should you focus on? If you run Time Spy, there is an overall score and then separate scores for CPU and GPU. Port Royal only has GPU score and overall score. If you make a tweak to a component in your computer, the individual scores can give you a better idea of how it affects your overall score.
A full page of scores and results for 3DMark’s Port Royal test.
3DMark mark can also show you the approximate frame rate performance you’d get on a chosen game and resolution, which is very useful information to gauge your performance and compare it against what new upgrades may accomplish for you. If you’re doing some overclocking, running 3DMark can also reveal instabilities in your system, such as crashes, so you can adjust your numbers and try again.
Another very fun way to benchmark your GPU is to use the automated benchmarks built into many games. Here is the list of games with built-in benchmarks at the always fantastic PC Gaming Wiki.
The results overview from Shadow of the Tomb Raider‘s built-in benchmark
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a favorite of mine because you can easily see the frames per second performance that you’re getting in each scene, giving you a good indication of how the game will run overall. As a bonus, if you upgrade your graphics card or other PC hardware, you can re-run the benchmark and you’ll know exactly what gains you’ve netted.
Overall, benchmarking your GPU provides valuable insights into its performance, stability, and optimization potential. It helps you make informed decisions, troubleshoot issues, and ensure your system is capable of handling demanding tasks effectively.