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Is 3DMark Really the "Gamers Benchmark" ?
Is 3DMark Really the "Gamers Benchmark" ? Published on January 19th, 2006

3DMark is no doubt one of the most popular benchmarking programs in the world, with everyone from newbies to power-users running and testing it on their machines. The vast majority of hardware sites incorporate this ubiquitous application into their video card reviews, and no PR blurb would be complete without an anticipated 3DMark result figuring central to the report. Many people love this small program that tells you how powerful your graphics hardware is, or alternatively if you need to spend hundreds of dollars upgrading your components.

The program's authors, Futuremark, refer to it as "The gamers' benchmark". However, there is a dark side to this innocuous little app. 3DMark uses various game tests which help to decide your score, and all of these game tests are based on the DirectX9 platform. The question remaining on the silent majority's lips is "Where are the OpenGL game tests?" In response Futuremark have claimed that OpenGL is not deemed popular enough to warrant incorporation into the program. Is that really so?

Does the name "Counter-Strike" ring a bell? Most people have heard of this game (in fact there are pygmy tribes in Central Africa who have never seen a PC that are familiar with it!). And I'm not talking about Counter-Strike: Source. Even today the original Counter-Strike remains very popular among the gamers. What about Quake 3, Quake 4, Doom 3, Enemy Territory, The Chronicles of Riddick and Call of Duty? All of these big titles are OpenGL based.

Are you sure that OpenGL is not popular enough Futuremark? You better check out Valve's player numbers statistics here. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but according to Valve's statistics Counter-Strike 1.6 is still far and away their most popular game. Yes Counter-Strike is based on OpenGL. So is Condition Zero, Day of Defeat and many other mods. Only "Source" is based on DirectX.

OpenGL is popular like DirectX9, and until Futuremark decides to add OpenGL game tests the benchmark should never be described as "the gamers' benchmark". The real gamers' benchmark should have both DirectX 8/9 game tests and OpenGL tests. Currently 3DMark shows only one side of the real picture, as you will never know how your hardware will benchmark under the OpenGL platform. In light of the differences between ATi and Nvidia with respect to OpenGL, this is an especially pertinent point for such a widely-used benchmark.

In theory the idea behind programs like 3DMark is really good, and with the correct changes this program can offer a real alternative to actual gaming benchmarks. 3DMark should stand for all graphical APIs and not for only DirectX. Let's hope Futuremark read this and follow up as appropriate.

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