How Fast Is Your PC?
I'm shopping for a new PC, and it's difficult to get an overall rating for how fast a computer is, under real world conditions. Some benchmarks show raw CPU speed, but I'm looking for more than that. Can you recommend any free software to measure system peformance?
How To Measure PC Speed and Performance
It's true, computer vendors like to throw around numbers to dazzle you, when describing how fast their systems are. But after comparing CPU clock speeds, graphics adapter frame rates, motherboard bus capacity, hard drive data transfer, RAM speeds, and other arcane stats, your head starts to spin. And then there's the problem of comparing one brand versus another, when they use differing units of measurement.
Or perhaps you're one who likes to tinker or overclock your PC. When you try one of the many tricks to speed up your computer, how do you know whether it worked? A psychological phenomenon called "confirmation bias" makes your gut feeling about a tweak's effect unreliable; after all the work you put into speeding up your computer, you want to confirm that it worked.
That's where free performance benchmarking software comes in. Benchmarking is simply a matter of measuring the performance of your system before you start tweaking it, so you have a benchmark to which you can compare post-tweak measurements. Benchmarking is an objective way to see how much, or how little, your computer's performance changes over time.
Free Benchmarking Software
SuperPi is a free benchmark test program designed to measure the speed of your CPU. It calculates pi to 35 million decimal places, a very processor-intensive task. SuperPi tracks how quickly your processor performs the operation. Overclockers consider SuperPi a favorite free benchmark because it is processor-specific and helps them see how successful they are at getting their CPUs to run at faster than rated top clock speeds. But SuperPi won't tell you anything about the performance of other parts of your computer system.
FutureMark is a well-known developer of a broad range of computer benchmark programs. Chances are that you've read product reviews that quoted 3D Mark or PC Mark stats; both are benchmarks developed by FutureMark. 3D Mark measures the performance of graphics subsystems, while PC Mark delivers a benchmark metric of overall system performance. Both are available in basic editions which are free and can be used an unlimited number of times.
Novabench is a free software suite incorporating multiple benchmark tests. It is especially well suited for home and small office computer systems. It includes a hard drive performance test; processor speed benchmark; and 2D graphics test.
SiSoft's SANDRA is a full-featured benchmark suite that is geared towards IT professionals who need detailed analysis of multiple computers. In addition to standard benchmark tests of CPU, hard drive, and graphics, SANDRA (System Analyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) will also test your memory's bandwidth (speed), network performance, power efficiency, and a whole lot more. It also includes a database of reference products. So, for example, after benchmarking your CPU, SANDRA will show you up to five other similar processors to help you decide if an upgrade might be useful.
FRAPS is a popular gaming benchmark utility. It is different from most benchmarks in that it does not measure a system's performance on artificial tests like calculating pi. Instead, FRAPS records how your system actually performs during real world work. Specificially, FRAPS captures data on the number of frames per second your video system is displaying during game play (or movie watching). More frames per second equals smoother, more lifelike video.
Depending on your actual or intended usage, choose the benchmarking tests that will provide you with the information you need. If you're buying a new computer, ask the vendor to run one of these tests before you buy. Many benchmark suites have paid versions that allow you to compare your benchmark results against those of other users worldwide. That way, you not only know how your system is doing relative to itself before and after tweaks, but also how it compares to similar systems.
Do you have something to say about measuring the speed of a personal computer? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 13 Sep 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How Fast Is Your PC? (Posted: 13 Sep 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved