From Enumeration Comes Elucidation
Benchmarks are for the pros, right? Gordon Mah Ung disappears into the maw of the Maximum PC lab for days, and emerges to tell the world whether the next CPU or chipset matters. I'm often hunkered down in the basement lab at the Case House, running endless series of games and 3D tests on graphics cards to find that sweet card just right for your budget.
Every now and then, though, you need to check the performance of your system. Maybe it seems to be running sluggishly. Perhaps you just got a new graphics card, or doubled your installed DRAM. So you want to run some quick performance tests to see if your system is indeed more sluggish than before, or faster with that upgrade.
What you want to do is run the appropriate benchmark. Benchmarks are simply standardized methods for testing performance. They may be standalone applications specifically designed to test performance of a particular component (like a graphics card) or the entire system. Another type of benchmarks uses an actual application as the test, but these often only tell you how your system or component behaves with that one application.
This isn't a comprehensive tutorial on how to run benchmarks for repeatable results; if you want to know the skinny on benchmarking methodologies, check out Gordon's article on that topic. Instead, we'll be diving into the world of quick and dirty benchmarking: testing your system as a quick way to see the impact of changes, or as troubleshooting tools.
In addition, this is benchmarking on a budget. We'll be using benchmarks or applications available at the best possible price: free. In some cases, the free benchmark may be a stripped-down version of a more robust test; if so, we'll mention that. Our trip down benchmarking lane is also divided up by categories: CPU, graphics, storage, and system tests.
But before diving into the specifics of individual tests, let's take a look at the two key reasons an everyday user might want to run benchmarks. Let's begin, shall we?