3DMark 11 Performance Review
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959
Reviewed on: December 26, 2010
Price: Basic Free, Advanced $19.95, Pro $9.95
3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11, and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the upcoming date in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage only allowed for a single test run. The Advanced Edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all the features of the benchmark, while the Professional Edition costs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing, one to test for physics handling, and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulations and, although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.
With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests, but unlike the tests, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" — a few vessels exploring what looks similar to a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and is similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story — they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides, the sponsorships of which helped make the Basic Edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos.
The first two tests are based on the "Deep Sea" demo. Each test is fairly short, so not much is shown. The first test has lots of lighting, shadows, and post processing, but no tessellation. The second test reduces the amount of lighting while introducing additional effects, such as tessellation.
The next two tests are based on the "High Temple" demo, with one during the day and one during the night. Vehicles appear in both, as do many of the advanced features of DirectX 11.
The last two tests are based upon physics powered by the open source Bullet Physics library. The look of each test is similar to the prior "High Temple" tests, this time around with wobbling pillars and exploding roofs. The combined test applies physics to a normal graphics test to see how well the system handles the two together. Some flags are added for soft physics generally handled by the graphics card.
Now, knowing what to expect during testing, it is time to examine the benchmark launcher and get to testing some video cards to get a baseline for performance!
3DMark 11 is Futuremark's answer to DirectX 11 benchmarking. The overall feel is a comingling of the older versions for a quicker, cleaner benchmark that is infinitely free (versus the one time shot of Vantage). Testing the benchmark will be done in three steps to cover each performance level — Entry, Performance, and Extreme. All settings are left at default and all six tests are ran per level. The results are then posted from each video card below for comparison.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 200x18 3.6GHz
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition
- Memory: Mushkin 996805 Redline PC312800 6-8-6-24 1600MHz
- Video Cards: Listed Below
- Power Supply: Mushkin 1000 watt Joule Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Case: Cooler Master HAF 932
Comparison Video Cards:
- NVIDIA GTS 450
- EVGA GTX 460 FTW
- ASUS ENGTX465
- NVIDIA GTX 480
- Galaxy GTX 470 GC
- BFG GTS 250 1GB OC
- Sapphire HD 5970 2GB
- Sapphire HD 5870
- Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic 2GB
- Sapphire HD 5770 VaporX
- Sapphire HD 5750 VaporX
- XFX HD 6850
- XFX HD 6870
- NVIDIA GTX 580
- NVIDIA GTX 570
After the straightforward installation users can input their registration code if they have one, and the program is ready to go. The first tab is titled Basic and contains the three predefined score-capable settings: Entry has low settings at 1024x600 resolution, Performance with moderate settings at 1280x720, and Extreme with high settings at 1920x1080. Either the demos or the tests can be run, or both together for the "Full Experience". The next tab is titled Advanced, which allows parts of the benchmark to be chosen for a custom run, as well as a decent amount of custom settings that can be selected. The presets are also available at the bottom and clicking these will set the advanced settings to the proper levels for each tier of testing. These options are only available to consumers who purchase the Advanced or Professional editions of 3DMark 11. The third tab is titled Results and will show any resulting scores, as well as scores that have been saved beforehand. The option to save new scores is also available, as well as viewing the results at 3DMark.com for comparison automatically after the testing is finished, or at the user's leisure. The last page has basic help information, including the key and a hotlink to 3DMark support. The language option is also located here, along with an option to unregister the installation.
It looks as though the dual-GPU HD 5970 still holds tight as the performance leader in this new benchmark from Futuremark. The single GPU cards do fall in order of their performance expectations, with the GTX 580 and HD 6970 as the top single GPU cards from NVIDIA and AMD, respectively.
Installation was really easy and forthwith, while both the install and the actual interface were very simple. Even the Advanced page was still quite easy to navigate — as long as users have some prior knowledge for game settings then it should not be a problem. The benchmark had a much more stable feeling than Vantage and was a much shorter benchmark — both very nice features for a benchmark. The return of free testing should help increase the popularity of 3DMark 11 compared to 3DMark Vantage, which was a one shot ordeal unless people paid for one of the upgraded editions. All in all, it looks like Futuremark learned from its experiences with Vantage and the reception it received and used that knowledge to greatly improve the new benchmark!