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Friday, 08 February 2013 11:25

3DMark Fire Strike benchmark reviewed - Conclusion

Written by Sanjin Rados

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Review: A new benchmark... for benchmarks

For the first time ever, a Futuremark benchmark is available as a cross-platform solution. This means you can use 3DMark and measure the performance of hardware running Windows, Windows RT, Android and iOS, allowing you to directly compare scores across all four platforms. At the moment 3DMark supports only Windows-based systems but we expect to see it fully functional later in Q1, 2013. As always, the benchmark is available in three Editions, Basic, Advanced and Professional Edition.

tablet

Today we will focus only on 3DMark’s Fire Strike benchmark test targeting high-end gaming PCs. Fire Strike is available in all 3DMark versions including the free Basic Edition. 

3DMark Basic Edition is not what we'd call appropriate for hardware reviewers because this edition will not allow you to run tests individually; you must run all tests together and this will be time consuming. Worse, each benchmark test includes a demo which will not display any performance results but you can disable it only in paid versions of 3DMark.

In 3DMark Advanced and Professional Editions each benchmark test can be run separately, and additionaly you can use custom settings, benchmark looping for stability testing or create interactive peformance graphs.

3dmark-professional

For high end gaming PCs, only the Fire Strike benchmark test is relevant. Using Fire Strike's Extreme preset is a good way of making high-performance PCs cry for mommy. The extreme preset is a full DirectX 11 benchmark made for high-end systems with multiple GPUs and it is not available in 3DMark Basic edition.


Windows Editions and Pricing
 
3DMark Basic Edition - FREE
- Includes all three tests: Ice Storm, Cloud Gate and Fire Strike.
- Test everything from tablets to gaming PCs.
- Easy to use, no technical know-how needed.
- Free online account to manage your results.

3DMark Advanced Edition - $24.99
- Run each test individually for faster benchmarking.
- Unlock the Fire Strike Extreme preset for extreme hardware.
- Explore your PC's performance limits with custom settings.
- Use benchmark looping for stability testing and burning in.
- Get in-depth insights with interactive performance graphs.
- Automatically save your results offline.

3DMark Professional Edition -$995.00
- Licensed for business and commercial use.
- Command line automation.
- Image Quality Tool.
- Private offline results option.
- Export results as XML.


A few special launch offers are available as well:

Save 25% in the Futuremark store
People who own 3DMark 11 Advanced Edition can get a 25% discount when they buy
3DMark Advanced Edition from the Futuremark store. 

Save 25% with Steam
3DMark is also available on Steam. For the first week only, you can save 25% when
you buy 3DMark Advanced Edition from Steam.


Get 3DMark free with MSI 
Look for specially marked MSI brand motherboards and video cards from MSI in stores
and get 3DMark Advanced Edition free.


Get 3DMark free with Galaxy
Look for specially marked Galaxy brand components in stores and get 3DMark Advanced
Edition free.



test-setup-0

test-setup-1


Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine and it includes two graphics tests, a physics test and a combined test designed to stress the CPU and GPU at the same time. One of the most important features of the engine is multi-threading, but let's not forget tessellation, advanced lighting, particle illumination, particle-based distortion, depth of field, surface illumination, volumetric illumination, lens reflections, bloom and smoke simulation.

3dmark-fire-strike

The Fire Strike benchmark can be customized or we can use the Extreme preset. We will not get an overall score for the custom test but individual results from each of the sub-tests and other performance statistics will be available.

 

fire strike default settings

 

 fire strike extreme settings

The bench will deliver average frame rates, as showed in tables below, for the two graphics tests, the physics and the combined test.

Graphics test 1

3DMark Fire Strike Graphics test 1 focuses on geometry and illumination. Particles are drawn at half resolution and dynamic particle illumination is disabled.

There are 100 shadow casting spot lights and 140 non-shadow casting point lights in the scene. On average, 3.9 million vertices containing 500,000 input patches for tessellation are processed per frame resulting in 5.1 million triangles being rasterized either to the screen or to the shadow maps.

Compute shaders are invoked 1.5 million times per frame for particle simulations and post processing. On average, 80 million pixels are processed per frame, which is lower than in Graphics test 2 as there is no depth of field effect.

t1 

Graphics test 1 (Average frame rates)

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

29.94

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

26.07

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

14.32


Graphics test 2

3DMark Fire Strike Graphics test 2 focuses on particles and GPU simulations. Particles are drawn at full resolution and dynamic particle illumination is enabled.

There are two smoke fields simulated on GPU. Six shadow casting spot lights and 65 non-shadow casting point lights are present. On average, 2.6 million vertices containing 240,000 input patches for tessellation are processed and 1.4 million primitives are generated with geometry shaders. That results in 5.8 million triangles being rasterized per frame on average.

Compute shaders are invoked 8.1 million times per frame for particle and fluid simulations and for post processing steps. On average, 170 million pixels are processed per frame. Post processing includes a depth of field effect.

t2

Graphics test 2 (Average frame rates)

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

26.61

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

21.99

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

12.55


Physics test

3DMark Fire Strike Physics test benchmarks the hardware’s ability to run gameplay physics simulations on the CPU. The GPU load is kept as low as possible to ensure that only the CPU is stressed. The Bullet Open Source Physics Library is used as the physics library for the test.

The test has 32 simulated worlds. One thread per available CPU core is used to run simulations. All physics are computed on CPU with soft body vertex data updated to GPU each frame.

The 3DMark Fire Strike Physics test uses the Bullet Open Source Physics Library.

t3

Physics test (Average frame rates)

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

24.67

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

24.60

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

24.68


Combined test

3DMark Fire Strike Combined test stresses both the GPU and CPU simultaneously. The GPU load combines elements from Graphics test 1 and 2 using tessellation, volumetric illumination, fluid simulation, particle simulation, FFT based bloom and depth of field.

The CPU load comes from the rigid body physics of the breaking statues in the background. There are 32 simulation worlds running in separate threads each containing one statue decomposing into 113 parts. Additionally there are 16 invisible rigid bodies in each world except the one closest to camera to push the decomposed elements apart. The simulations run on one thread per available CPU core.

The 3DMark Fire Strike Combined test uses the Bullet Open Source Physics Library.

t4

Combined test (Average frame rates)

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

12.38

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

10.10

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

5.46




Fire Strike will output the overall score, graphics score and physics score. Average frame rates are given for the two graphics tests, the physics and combined test. Of course, the more powerful your hardware, the smoother the tests will run. We used three XFX graphics cards for comparison and we got the following results:

fire-strike-results

3DMark Score (Fire Strike Default preset)

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

5793

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

4947

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

2871

Graphics Score

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

6480

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

5487

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

3077

Physics Score

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

7772

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

7747

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

7774

Combined Score

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

2662

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

2171

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

1174

The 3DMark score, graphics score, physics score and combined score are shown in the 'Run details' screen after the benchmark is complete. We also see average frame results for the two graphics tests, the physics and the combined test, and also graphs for those results.

You can interactively search the graphs and see different measures over time, for example the frame rate, GPU temperature, CPU temperature, CPU Power, CPU clock. You can decide what you want to see in the graphs simply by unchecking some check boxes. It would be nice to have option to export the graphs, however, the results are auto saved locally on the machine and we can load saved results and generate the graphs again. The ability to save results online is very useful.

fire-strike-results-3

fire-strike-results-2

 


3DMark's Fire Strike Extreme preset is a modified version of 3DMark Fire Strike designed for high-end multi-GPU (SLI/Crossfire) systems and future hardware generations. In addition to the higher rendering resolution, additional visual quality improvements increase the rendering load to ensure accurate performance measurements for truly extreme hardware setups.

fire-strike-extreme-results

 

3DMark Score (Fire Strike Extreme preset)

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

2934

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

2465

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

1031

Graphics Score

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

3006

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

2562

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

1053

Physics Score

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

7572

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

7571

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

7549

Combined Score

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

1388

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

1075

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

421

 


Futuremark says that 3DMark Fire Strike is a second generation DirectX 11 benchmark and the scores cannot be directly compared to those from 3DMark 11, but regardless of that we ran both tests and you can see the results in the table below.

The results demonstrate that the new mark places more load on GPUs, which makes the difference between high end and low end graphics cards even more pronounced than in 3DMark 11. The new 3DMark uses higher resolutions and the tests themselves are better optimized to put DirectX 11 features to good use.

3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark 11 performance

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

5793

7700

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

4947

7174

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

2871

4234

 

3DMark Fire Strike extreme

3DMark 11 extreme

XFX HD 7950 Black Edition

2934

2618

XFX HD 7870 Black Edition

2464

2209

XFX HD 7770 Black Edition

1031

1268

 


At the moment, the new 3DMark is only available for Windows systems, but it should soon become a proper multi-platform benchmarking tool for other operating systems, including Android, iOS and Windows RT. This heterogeneous approach with homogenous results will be the key to 3DMark's future success.

Fire Strike is based completely on a DirectX 11 API and it delivers exceptional visual effects, top notch real-time graphics rendered with high detail and complexity. The eye candy packed benchmark is definitely worth a look and you can find the trailer here

3DMark is still a sythetic test, but we believe it is a very good test that helps consumers makes the right decision when choosing their next upgrade. The benchmark results can give a good idea of real world gaming performance. It is easy for any user to compare their 3DMark scores on the internet, pitting the test rig against similar systems. You can get a free online account in case you want to manage your results.

3DMark is available in three Editions, Basic, Advanced and Professional Edition. The Basic one is free and include all three tests (except the Extreme preset for Fire Strike). The 3DMark Advanced Edition cost US $24.95 while the 3DMark Professional Edition, which is aimed for businesses and commercial use, costs US $995.

fire-strike-2

(Page 8 of 8)
Last modified on Sunday, 17 February 2013 22:00
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