One of the major concerns you have when you build a brand new PC is figuring out how well the graphics card works with other components. In order to find that out, your GPU needs to be tested.
That is what benchmarking software are for, they provide consumers with a way to test their GPUs and get enough data about them to further improve their PC’s performance or just to get an idea of how the GPU is performing overall.
Table of contentsBest Free benchmarks
So should you pay for a benchmark?
What are benchmarking software and why do you need them?
Benchmarking software, usually referred to as just benchmarks, are software specifically designed to test your GPU and measure different aspects of it during like FPS, clock speeds, power consumption, and temperatures.
Benchmarks effortlessly provide you with insights regarding which games and programs your GPU is capable of running.
If you need to test your GPU you will need some sort of software to fully understand its capabilities as well as test its overall stability with the other components in your computer.
There are two types of Benchmarks: synthetic benchmarks and real-time benchmarks.
Synthetic benchmarks run your GPU through a test with preset conditions that are usually the same for every GPU and they try to mimic an intensive gaming session while displaying a score in the end.
On the other hand, real-time benchmarks are more data-oriented and usually run in the background while you play a game or carry out graphics-intensive tasks and monitor the GPU as it is put through its paces.
Many benchmarks also merge this with synthetic benchmarking and create their own graphical simulation, which is closer to the games present at the time in terms of graphical processing requirements.
Apart from that, many benchmarks offer, “stress testing” which is even more demanding for the GPU and is specifically tailored for users who want to regularly overclock their GPU.
Stress testing enables users to find that sweet spot where they can safely overclock their graphics card without causing hardware failures.
Benchmarks should be the ultimate deciders in the current era, where thousands of options are available and many buzzwords are thrown around to prove one GPU better than the other, amid all this it is always better to believe benchmark scores rather than the profit-hungry retailers.
Over the years, benchmarks have improved a lot and countless features have been added from stress testing to measuring a GPU’s colour depth. Benchmarks have reached new levels in terms of how deeply they analyze your GPU.
Well, now you know what are benchmarks and why are they important for you but there are a plethora of software available so which one should you use?
Best paid benchmarks
Although there are many free benchmarks available, paid benchmarks usually offer something extra or carry cutting-edge technology in them that is not mainstream yet.
Paying for benchmarks may sound absurd but once you understand how paid benchmarks offer greater testing flexibility and provide you with a clearer picture of how capable your GPU is you might change your mind.
Here are some of the leading paid benchmarks in the market along with their quirks and features.
3DMark is one of the most popular paid benchmarks available today. It is offered by Steam and is widely available to almost anyone.
3DMark uses a combination of synthetic and real-time benchmarking; using a graphical simulation that resembles a typical PC game, it tests various aspects of your GPU and monitors its response accordingly throughout the test.
After running all of its tests 3DMark displays a scoresheet with useful information about your GPU along with a report about the FPS you can expect to get using it.
If you opt to pay for 3DMark, it will also display a live comparison of your GPU’s performance with other PCs that use a similar GPU. This offers crucial insights as to whether your build is fully optimized and what you can do to make your GPU perform to its best; any stability issues can be easily pointed out by this feature.
3DMark also lets you run looped benchmarks that gather more data about your GPU, which can come in handy if you are a technical person.
3DMark usually costs $30, but there is a demo available with limited features if you are interested in it.
PassMark is also widely used for benchmarking graphics cards and has positive user reviews online.
PassMark also uses a synthetic and real-time combination for its GPU benchmarking.
Note that Passmark is offered in two versions standard and advanced.
The standard version includes both 3D and 2D benchmarks and is an overall basic test for your GPU with a score displayed in the end.
Whereas the advanced version is just as its name suggests, more advanced.
The advanced version offers in-depth testing of various aspects of gameplay ranging from fogging, lighting, blending, texturing, colour depth and more, to see how your graphics card deals with it.
PassMark also has a beautiful UI that is very user friendly and easy to navigate through.
PassMark is offered in different pricing tiers but just like most paid apps, it also has a stripped-down basic free trial version available.
Probably the most sophisticated benchmark available out there today is Novabench.
Not only does it do everything else that the aforementioned benchmarks do, but it also goes the extra mile in terms of features that make it worth every penny.
Novabench is best for stress testing your GPU if you are into overclocking, its advanced algorithms make finding the best overclock for a GPU a breeze.
Additionally, Novabench also offers optimization and repair tools for those who are struggling with optimization and stability issues in their new builds.
Novabench also touches many of the technical aspects of GPUs like the read and write speed of their DRAMs and data transfer rate, this information can help you sort out any issues regarding speed or just clear the doubts you may have for your GPU.
Novabench costs $19 with all its features included and it also has a stripped-down free version if you just want to get the gist of it before actually buying it.
If normal benchmarks were cars then AIDA 64 would be a tank!
AIDA64 is probably the most advanced benchmark you can get and it would be overkill for anyone who just needs to do basic testing for their GPU.
AIDA64 is made for professionals who want every bit of information about their GPU, offering up to 50 pages of raw data and information from power ratings to installed programs and even firmware.
AIDA64 can read everything about the GPU.
This benchmark can also provide the user with details of the individual components inside the GPU without the need of disassembling, plus it offers comprehensive benchmarking of almost any component of your PC.
AIDA64 also lets you compare your results with other users using its massive database.
As this is made for professionals and has premium features, the price is quite high, touching upwards of $50 and this benchmark has no free version available unfortunately.
Best Free benchmarks
Unigene is probably the most widely used benchmark out there, almost everyone who has either built a PC or are involved in gaming are aware of this benchmark.
This benchmark is specifically made for testing GPUs and their every aspect. Unigene has been designed to perform very heavy and prolonged tests. From cooling capabilities to the power being drawn by the GPU, it takes into account everything when benchmarking your GPU.
Having a pre-built simulation, Unigene can test your GPU in different lighting, angles and FPS to accurately replicate an actual game. It also offers prolonged stress testing by running the same simulation many times with different variations. It also supports multi-monitor testing to suit anyone with such a setup.
After the test is complete, Unigene offers a comprehensive report about your GPU in a customizable CSV file.
This benchmark is also offered in several languages including Russian and Chinese.
The only downside to this benchmark is that it is now showing signs of age as it has now become quite old and as a result, it does not support the latest DirectX 12 Graphics cards.
Furmark is quite an efficient benchmark and it is also quite popular amongst the gaming community. It requires Open GL 2.0 API compliant cards to be able to run successfully.
Furmark, similar to Unigene, also runs its own 3D simulations, though its simulation may not be as comprehensive as that of Unigenes it offers many different modes for testing your GPU.
Furmark also offers a stability mode for testing the stability of your GPU with other parts of your PC and a burn-in test for effective testing of the GPU's capabilities under certain conditions.
It also enables the user to select their own widow size and offers a full-screen testing mode. Since FurMark is designed for stability and eliminating reliability issues like overheating, its report includes anything and everything regarding the stability of your GPU.
Geekbench is one of the most advanced benchmarks available, it uses cutting-edge technology to test your GPU, making the results that it produces the most accurate according to current technological standards.
Geekbench uses many power-hungry tests like VR and AR to test your GPU and push it to its absolute limits. It also uses Machine learning and Artificial intelligence to produce the best possible test results for you.
As it supports almost all APIs including the new Vulcan and the widely used CUDA and Open GL technologies, it means that it can be used with almost any GPU.
Not only does Geekbench offer excellent comparisons with other PCs, but it is also available for multiple platforms, all the way from Windows to android, Geekbench is available anywhere you can think of.
The only downside to this is that, if you intend to use Geek bench commercially, you will have to get a paid license.
Last but certainly not least, we have MSI’s overclocking tool. It’s free and if you’re confused about the MSI label don’t worry; you can use it on pretty much any graphics card, regardless of its manufacturer.
This benchmark is best for overclockers and offers manual control of the GPU.
It allows you to monitor the performance of your GPU while in game; there is a transparent overlay available. How cool is that? This might be annoying at first, but there isn't a more effective way to assess how your machine is functioning than to see it live in action.
One of the best features of Afterburner is its ability to control fan speed. If that seems unnecessary, remember that increasing the fan speed from 50% (usually the default setting) to 75-100% can make a game go from system crashing to perfectly stable and playable.
Afterburner requires an additional stress-testing tool called MSI Kombustor to be installed, but it’s easy and integrates well. You can also use MSI afterburner in conjunction with any other benchmark while adjusting different aspects of your GPU. That way you can see the improvements that your card is making in real-time.
So, even if you don't intend to use this as a benchmark it is still recommended that you install it so you can control your GPU with ease.
So should you pay for a benchmark?
For most of the users, free benchmarks will get the job done and tell the user what they need to know without any hassle. The only time the average user might think about paying for a benchmark is when they don't want to download multiple software for stability checks and help with optimization as almost all paid benchmarks have these features built into them already. Therefore, if you just want a score and brief stability tests, you will do just fine with the free benchmarks.
You may not even need paid benchmarks if you are willing to put in some extra time and effort. Many free benchmarks offer one or two features similar to paid benchmarks.
One free benchmark may have some features of paid benchmarks and another competitor may have the other remaining features. This essentially would mean that if you used both of them at the same time you could get all of the premium features for free!
On the other hand, hardcore gamers who love overclocking or tech geeks may want to opt for the paid benchmarks as they usually want every bit of information they can get to carefully tune their own build for maximum performance. Paid benchmarks are designed for such requirements and exceed the number of features available when compared to free benchmarks.
So, if you are someone who feels they need these features then getting a paid benchmark is worth it, you can optimize your PC to the next level using them.
Whether you decide to pay for a benchmark or decide to get one for free it is always better to use two different ones, if not more, together, for the most reliable and comprehensive results regarding the performance of your GPU.
Not all benchmarks are programmed the same way, every benchmark measures different areas of your GPU and averages them out to display them as a single score, that's why it is better to use multiple benchmarks as another benchmark wouldn’t consider one aspect more in weightage of the average as the last did one may have done.
Another crucial aspect that should be taken into consideration when buying or installing a benchmark is to make sure that the benchmark supports the API (Application Programming Interface) your GPU comes with. Most GPUs today have OpenGL, Direct X, CUDA or in the case of newer GPUs; Vulkan APIs respectively. Most benchmarks support all APIs but it is always better to double-check.
Lastly, never change a GPU solely based on a low benchmark score unless you are 100% sure other components may not be the reason behind it as more often than not, other components usually cause bottlenecks, ending up with your GPU not performing optimally and receiving a bad score.
If you would like to learn how to run a benchmark test for your graphics card, check out this article.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me, you can use the comments section below or a contact form.
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