Saturday, April 5, 2008

How good are Current Laptops Graphically?

One of my most interesting past times, is running bench marks on computers and seeing what they get to score. Over the years my favourite bench mark application has been 3 D Mark 2001 SE (Ok call me archaic). This bench mark is really mostly a measure of the graphical performance of the computer. Well you would probably think that I should have moved to a more current version of the software but the truth is that I have seen so many low rate performances on that benchmark even from systems that I expected so much from that it just feels like a waste of time going to a more complex or complicated benchmark when a lot of systems still fall short of this tests.
In fact the highest scores I have ever had on these tests was an AlienWare Laptop running Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Direct X 9C, 3.0 Ghz Pentium 4 Processor with hyper threading, 1 GB of RAM, 128 MB Nvidia Geforce FX 5600 graphics accelerator on a PCI Express interface. This scored 9547 on the default test with a resolution of 1024x768 at 32 bit color and 11088 on the 800x600 at 16 bit color .Most other computers fall to less than half of these scores.
Over the years I have found out that the strength of a good score on this test is a very good graphics card and off course support for all of the 17 tests incorporated in the software. Most graphics cards fall short especially when it comes to the environment bump mapping, Pixel shader and the advanced pixel shader tests. I have had guys argue with me that this test is not a true test of a computer’s performance. Maybe true but let’s face it the graphical needs of a computer are still the heaviest needs on the performance of the computer at any time, just ask any hard core gamer.
This weekend I decided to run my first 3 D Mark benchmark on a Vista Capable computer. My original fear was that Vista might not support the software but it did. Truth is the software is not updated for Direct X 10 but then let’s face it, how many softwares, applications or graphics cards out there already support Direct X 10?
The culprit for my test was a HP Pavilion dv6000 running on Windows Vista Home Premium, With Intel Centrino Duo at 2.0Ghz, Mobile Intel 945GM/GU on a PCI Express interface,224 MB graphics memory, Direct X 10 and 2 GB RAM. The good part of the test was this system had no problems performing all 17 tests including the pixel shader tests I mentioned earlier. But I was disappointed with the final score of 4571 for the default settings 0f 1024x768 at 32 bit color and 5319 for the 800x600 at 16 bit color settings! This score is in the same range with a Sony Vaio I tested almost 2 years ago that scored 4606 and 5427, and that Sony Vaio was a Celeron M running at 1.73Ghz, 512MB RAM, Windows XP service pack 2 with Direct X 9C. One fact though is both ran on Intel graphics accelerators, so I am not really surprised. I do wonder if Vista played any part in the performance of the HP laptop. But it is obvious all this new processor, memory, graphics interface technologies does not nullify the need for an Nvidia or ATI graphics card to get the best results graphically.