3DMark06 Standard Test
Over the next few pages, we'll focus on a few gaming specific benchmarks, starting with the rest of 3DMark06's modules.
3DMark06 is a hard-core, forward-looking 3D rending benchmark that pushes a system and its GPUs to the limits. The test includes Shader Model 2.0, Shader Model 3.0, and HDR tests. Scenes are rendered with very high geometric detail and shader complexity, and with extensive use of lighting and soft shadows. The maximum shader length 3DMark06 supports is 512 instructions. The 3DMark06 Overall Score is a weighted average based on the SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0, and CPU scores.
A score of 14,104 3DMarks is nothing to sneeze at, but it doesn't quite measure up to the level of performance we saw from systems with higher-end GPUs. Of course, since CPU speed is a factor in these scores (as it should be, as real-world 3D game play is heavily influenced by processor speed), it needs to be mentioned that these comparison scores were generated on systems with a faster CPUs (3GHz QX9650) than the Edge Z55's 2.66GHz Q9450.
Here is where things start to get a little weird. You'll notice that the dual-9800 GTX SLI-based Edge Z55 actually performed noticeably slower than a system with a single 9800 GTX card. What's up with that? To investigate, we turned off the Edge Z55's SLI and re-ran this test. The results did not change, which led us to first think that SLI wasn't working. But when we set the resolution up to 1920x1200 with 4X AA, we saw a noticeable difference between SLI and non-SLI scores. It turns out that at the default resolution for this test (which is how we ran it), the test is CPU bound. Combine that with the fact that SLI mode chews up some CPU overhead, and the Edge Z55's score on the SM 2.0 test starts to make sense. The lower SM 2.0 score here also helps put the 3DMark06 Overall score into further perspective.
The Edge Z55 fareed a bit better on the SM 3.0 test, but is still bested by a system with a single GeForce 9800 GX2. Mind you, you could easily pay for a 9800 GX2 what you would spend on two 9800 GTXs. At higher resolutions, where the workload is less CPU bound, we would expect the Edge Z55's dual 9800GTXs to do better. Unfortunately, we didn't have comparison scores available at higher resolutions. But before you lament how good an indicator 3DMark06 is or isn't of the relative graphics capability of a system, we'll next look at a few real-world gaming tests to see how the Edge Z55 performs with some blockbuster retail titles.