Futuremark Benchmarks, a brief history
These Futuremark synthetic benchmarks have been used to test graphics card power over the years
Part of researching graphics cards is looking at reviews of said cards to try and determine which provides you with the best performance/price ratio. While most modern reviews rely heavily on game playthroughs to give a real world indication of performance, for years the go to guy for testing graphics card performance was Futuremark.
With this in mind, we take a look at the most well known Futuremark benchmarks since 2001.
3D Mark 01
While 3D Mark 01 was Futuremark’s third synthetic benchmark, we’ll start off with it as it was one of the first to really hit mainstream popularity. Based on the DirectX 8 API, 3D Mark 01 released in March of 2001, and ran on every Windows operating system from 98 though to XP.
An updated version, 3D Mark 2001 SE was released in February the following year. This version featured DirectX 8.1 support, and brought with it additional feature tests despite the core benchmarking tests remaining the same.
3D Mark 01 SE is still being used 10 years later in the HWbot global overclocking league, and often overclockers will dedicate hours into learning every small detail about the benchmark to gain the highest score possible.
3D Mark 03
Futuremark’s fourth attempt at a Synthetic benchmark, 03 built on the success of 01 in a market which was becoming savvier to benchmarking hardware. The first of the DirectX 9 benchmarks, 03 included more feature tests than ever before, stressing everything from the graphics card to CPU to sound card.
Released nearly a year to the day after 3D Mark 01 SE, 3D Mark 03 has been around since February 2003, and is also still currently used in the HWbot global overclocking league.
3D Mark 05
Released in late 2004, 3D Mark 05 was more progressive than revolutionary in terms of benchmarking. Rather than supporting a whole new DirectX standard, 05 required the DirectX 9c update to run.
Even so, the visuals were impressive, and the benchmark did require modern hardware capable of running “shader model 2.0” technology before it would give you a full score.
05 also included a CPU test, though the results of this were ignored in the final score.
As with the above benchmarks, 3D Mark 06 is also used by HWbot in the overclocking league.
3D Mark 06
The beginning of 2006 saw 3D Mark 06 released, and once again was more progressive than revolutionary. Three of the four game tests were identical to those found in 3D Mark 05 aside from a graphics update that made use of new rendering techniques. The fourth test was new; it included the now popular High Definition Rendering (HDR) technology that strained then-current technology despite being based on DirectX 9c.
3D Mark 06 was also the first Futuremark benchmark compatible with Windows Vista and XP, though performance junkies often ran it on Windows XP for better scores. 3D Mark 06 is unsurprisingly, still used by HWbot.
3D Mark Vantage
Futuremark decided to break the mould with its seventh benchmark released in mid 2008, calling it 3D Mark Vantage.
Vantage was the company’s first DirectX 10 benchmark, and as such only ran on Windows Vista or Windows 7. It would not run any of the tests on hardware incapable of running DirectX 10, which limited its adoption initially.
However once DirectX 10 hardware was common, Vantage took off and remains one of the most popular Futuremark benchmarks to date. No surprise then that HWbot uses the benchmark.
3D Mark 11
Deciding numbers were better than words, Futuremark reverted back to their original naming scheme for the latest version of the software, 3D Mark 11.
Making use of DirectX 11 features such as tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading, even the highest-end hardware struggles to manage consistently high framerates.
Released at the end of 2010, 3D Mark 11 struggled initially thanks to HWBot’s refusal to accept submissions and credit them with league points, citing security and validity concerns.
They have since included it in the rankings and the benchmark is now the current high-end standard.