Since the first version of 3DMark was released back in 1998 by FutureMark Corporation (then known as MadOnion.com), just about everyone involved in the computer industry has either used or heard of the famous 3DMark benchmark series which is used to measure the performance of 3D accelerators (or graphics cards, as they are known these days) by running visually impressive and intensive 3D scenes for their time.
The popular 3DMark software is used to give an indication of 3D gaming performance which will remain valid for around about a year and a half until the next version of 3DMark is released. FutureMark works with many different companies in the gaming industry through its Benchmark Development Program to try and figure out what PC games for that 18 month period will look like and what programming technology those games will make use of to thrill gamers around the world. You'll run a series of game tests which are rendered in real-time and a bunch of other tests which are designed to stress out your GPU (along with CPU and memory but more so just the GPU) which will eventually provide you with an overall score, known as your "3DMark", then allowing you to compare your system against friends or foes either in person or online using FutureMark's popular Online Results Browser (or "ORB" for short).
Since the first version of 3DMark which was 3DMark99, we've had three newer versions which make use of a range of different graphical effects such as hardware T&L in 3DMark2000, tens of thousands of polygons per frame and pixel shader 1.1 technology in 3DMark2001 and then in 3DMark03 pixel shader 1.x and 2.0 along with up to several hundred thousand polygons per frame.
Today FutureMark Corporation is releasing the latest version in the 3DMark series called 3DMark05. It is said to push the technology bar by exclusively using shader models 2 and 3 for all pixel and vertex processing which are complied using DX9c libraries, making 3DMark05 a true DX9 benchmark. This is different to 3DMark03 which had minimal DX9 tasks to perform since the majority of graphics cards back then only had DX8 or lower hardware support. Now all modern graphics cards support hardware DX9 for the latest graphics effects and 3DMark05 is here to give you an indication of how your hardware will stand up against the competition over the next year and a half until the next version is released probably sometime in 2006.
In this preview we will take you on a pictorial look at the three game tests inside 3DMark05 (Return to Proxycon, Firefly Forest and Canyon Flight) with a whole bunch of screenshots, the performance differences between 3DMark03 and 05 along with an indication of whether or not the CPU and memory subsystems play much of a role in the performance numbers of 3DMark05, all wrapped up with our own final thoughts on the benchmark software.
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