In order to fully understand your PC’s performance, you need to understand benchmarking and benchmarking software. Today, we’re going to help you do that, and hopefully provide you some great options in the process.
What Are Benchmarks?
In this context, a benchmark is a measure of performance – whether of your entire PC, or of individual components. This measure of performance can be lined up to and compared with other PCs that have taken the same benchmark, allowing you to see how your performance lines up compared to everyone else’s. Is one of your components underperforming in comparison to what other people are scoring? A benchmark may reveal that discrepancy.
Before Benchmarking Your PC
Before you start benchmarking your PC, it’s important to ensure that you have all other programs closed. Having other applications open will bog down your results, sometimes significantly, especially in the case of games and web browsers. You’re also advised to close as many background applications as you can, but those shouldn’t matter too much.
How To Benchmark Your PC
As far as the actual benchmarking process itself goes… well, it’s pretty simple. All you need to do is download, install and run the benchmarking software, typically with the program’s default settings. In the case of graphically-intensive applications like Unigine Heaven and 3D Mark, you may feel encouraged to adjust settings – I really only recommend doing this after you’ve first run on default settings, and then adjusting settings to see how your PC can handle different levels of visual fidelity.
If you want to learn how to benchmark your PC, the “how” isn’t really the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking is what software you should use, and we’ll provide some recommendations.
Best Benchmarking Software
UserBenchmark is among my favorite full PC benchmarking tools for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, using the application is exceedingly simple: it doesn’t need to be installed, and after you launch the application, you can benchmark your entire PC in one click. Once the benchmark finishes, you’ll see your results opened in your default web browser, in a page like this one.
Geekbench is another full-PC benchmarking tool, but with a catch: this one is cross-platform! With the cross-platform Geekbench benchmarks, you can do things like compare the performance of your PC to the latest flagship smartphones. For instance, I have an i5 4690 in my PC and a Google Pixel XL as my smartphone. The cumulative multi-core performance of my Pixel adds up to the power of just one of my desktop PC cores – at least on paper.
Now, obviously these CPUs won’t have too much crossover in terms of applications and usages. However, being able to compare their raw performance in any capacity is, in my opinion, quite educational.
Unigine Heaven isn’t the latest Unigine graphical benchmark, but it is my favorite. There’s a few reasons for this, but chief among them is that Unigine Heaven is a great benchmarking tool for today’s mid-range GPUs. The latest graphical benchmarks out there are designed to bring 1080 Tis to their knees, but the Unigine Heaven benchmark is a few generations old, and more closely in line with what you may expect out of modern visuals in today’s video games.
If you have a newer, higher-end GPU and want to push it to its limits, you’re welcome to grab one of Unigine’s newer benchmarks. Otherwise, this one should do the job for most people with mid-range gaming PCs for lower.
3DMark is one of the premiere graphical benchmarking solutions on the market right now, and like Geekbench, is also multi-platform. It supports all kinds of different platforms and graphics APIs, and has a multitude of tests you can run to push your PC to its limits, even with the free Basic edition.
While 3DMark does lock some of its features behind a paywall, the basic benchmarks will all be available to you for free with their Basic package. We highly recommend even the Basic package, though, if you want to see what your system is capable of.
Which Benchmarking Software Is Right For Me?
Ultimately, which benchmarking software you opt for is dependent entirely on your preferences.
For a basic rundown of what your system is capable of and how it compares to other systems out there, Userbenchmark and Geekbench will more than do the job. (In fact, Userbenchmark’s database of performance results is very helpful to me as a hardware enthusiast – especially for, say, comparing GPUs.)
Unigine Heaven and 3DMark will have larger file sizes and boast more intensive graphical benchmarks. Scores for these are also fun to compare, but in my experience are generally less useful than Userbenchmark’s and are better for testing the capabilities of your own system, not necessarily how it compares to others.
Image credit: Performance level conceptual meter by DepositPhotos