Top Video Card Benchmarks

By Jared Shurtz
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There are a lot of video cards on the market today; some perform well above what is needed for most games on the market, while others are going to fall short. We used benchmarks from respected software testers Tom's Hardware to see what video card is the best for your gaming PC. Benchmarks are software applications that run a variety of tests to measure your system’s 3D gaming capabilities with the current card and processor in use.

Benchmarks are made to mimic a specific workload or, in this case, a type of game experience on your system. Many of the benchmarks for video cards will allow you to test the graphics of a given animation at different levels. Most will run a variety of different animations, such as a first-person shooter game or an outdoor scene with a variety of lighting effects that will truly test your system's ability to render the needed graphics.

The program used to acquire the benchmarks seen below is 3DMark06; this is software designed specifically to test the 3D gaming capabilities of your system. Here are a few of the tests we used to test your video card: 

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This test uses a third-person shooter emulation to test the SM2.0 shaders. Basically it takes a large room that has a variety of lighting effects from laser gunfire and inputs one main character with a large gun laying waste to anything and everything. The lighting from the fire coming from the barrel of the gun and the bullets bouncing off everything are used to see how well your card renders the shadows and other lighting effects. 

Firefly Forest
This test is done in a forest environment in which grass and other vegetation are growing. Two fireflies (purple and green) fly through the forest lighting up different parts of the leaves and vegetation. This test is designed to put your video card's movement and lighting to the test.

Canyon Flight
This is an SM3.0 graphics card test designed to test the updated gaming engine (most high-end cards nowadays use the SM3.0 engine). HDR (High Dynamic Range) rendering effects are tested over and over in this short benchmark test. This game scene is designed to test your card's ability to render smooth shadows, water effects, sky and atmospheric effects and its ability to render a variety of different color maps. This test will truly put your video card to the test and give you a very good idea of what your card can handle.

 

 



These are just a few of the tests used to get the final results seen below. You will notice that the ratings for each are not that different, but in the end it is the small things that can make or break how well a video card performs.

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