Bringing benchmarking into the next generation, Futuremark, the masters of benchmark testing bring us 3D Mark 11. The 11 in the title is confusing as it refers to the program’s focus on testing Direct X 11 compatible graphics cards as opposed to the upcoming calender year. Regardless of this, 3D Mark 11 offers the world’s best benchmark testing utility at the affordable price of nothing if you are happy settling for the basic version. Though many are against the use of synthetic benchmark tests, there is no doubt that 3D Mark scores are helpful in discerning a system’s game running ability and 3D Mark 11 is the best and only way to get these scores for DX 11 compatible graphics cards.
The whole interface has been streamlined and improved over previous versions of 3D Mark and now also has much faster loading times to boot (no pun intended.) It is now much easier to get into a test quickly, especially if you use the handy presets provided. The entry and performance presets work well at identifying what kind of graphical level your systems are working at but the extreme setting is ridiculously taxing, to the point where I doubt any system on the market at the moment will be able to run it at a stable frame rate. Whilst this may be considered a point of contention for some, this is fantastic in a way as now 3D Mark 11 will also be able to accurately test future systems as they are released with more powerful GPUs.
The six new tests themselves are designed to take advantage of DX 11 only rendering features. The first four render two scenes of the deep sea and a jungle forest temple respectively, each using different degrees of the new tessellation and volumetric lighting features that are the main new boons of DX 11 powered visuals. The scenes themselves, though opting for a more realistic setting than previous instances of 3D Mark, are really quite delightful to watch as long as your pc can run them at a stable frame rate. Following these four tests you also have a physics test that taxes just your CPU with solid framed bodies, and a combined test designed to examine both your CPU and GPU simultaneously. It must be said that the figures obtained from 3D Mark 11 are unlikely to be entirely applicable yet as there aren’t really any games available yet that are as detailed as the visual tests. In spite of this the program is certainly well set up to test future systems in relation to the graphics of the coming years.
Once you are done with your testing you are taken to a web page that details your results. I say web page but it would be more accurate to describe it as web pages due to the results being so detailed and numerous. If you are willing to pay out the meagre sum for the advanced edition of 3D Mark 11 you will find yourself having many more options in how to use your results. A paid copy of 3D Mark 11 allows you to save as many results as you wish and you can then compare them with others online. You also gain many offline result analysis features. The general testing experience is also improved in the advanced addition as you are given a huge wealth of customisation options that allow you to tweak your tests to perfectly match your level of hardware. Nobody likes paying for what they can get for free, but with the advanced addition of 3D Mark 11 you really do get what you pay for.
Anyone who has read any of my other reviews will note the obvious lack of a score for 3D Mark 11, and this is because of the difficulty of scoring a utility in the same way as you would score a game. 3D Mark 11 doesn’t really need a score. It is basically perfect in that it is a program that does exactly what it says on the tin and it does this very well. The new features have been listed in the text of the review and if you like the sound of it then you should certainly check it out, especially when you consider that the basic version of the program is available for free from Futuremark’s website.