How we test

PC Advisor - - GROUP TEST: GAMING PCS -

To test gen­eral PC per­for­mance, we’re use Fu­ture­mark’s PCMark 8 v2.0 bench­mark­ing suite. Un­like the pre­vi­ous PCMark 7 bench­mark, the new ver­sion doesn’t pro­duce a sin­gle over­all fig­ure. In­stead, re­sults are di­vided into Home, Cre­ative, Work and Stor­age tests. The Home bench­mark re­flects com­mon tasks for typ­i­cal home use with lower com­put­ing re­quire­ments, such as web brows­ing, photo edit­ing and low-end gam­ing.

The Cre­ative bench­mark is aimed more at en­thu­si­asts and pro­fes­sion­als work­ing with mul­ti­me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment con­tent. It is more de­mand­ing on the pro­ces­sor and in­cludes transcod­ing tests as well as fur­ther gam­ing work­loads.

The Work test is geared to­wards of­fice work tasks such as cre­at­ing doc­u­ments, web brows­ing, spread­sheets and video con­fer­enc­ing. It does not stress the gam­ing and mul­ti­me­dia ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the PCs.

Gam­ing per­for­mance

We’ve used three games to eval­u­ate graph­ics per­for­mance. We run our tests at 1280x720, 1920x1080, 2560x1440 and 3840x2160 pix­els at var­i­ous qual­ity set­tings ap­pro­pri­ate to the per­for­mance level of the PCs or graph­ics cards be­ing tested.

Our cur­rent bench­mark games are Thief, Alien Iso­la­tion and Deus Ex Mankind Di­vided. Most res­o­lu­tions are tested in both High and Ul­tra present modes with low res­o­lu­tion 720p tests oc­ca­sion­ally con­ducted in low qual­ity modes on low-end de­vices which would oth­er­wise strug­gle with gam­ing. We make no other tweaks to the game set­tings, so if you want to run th­ese tests for your­self, you can just pick from the pre­sets named in our in­di­vid­ual test re­sults.

We also run Fu­ture­mark’s 3DMark suite of bench­marks to help eval­u­ate gam­ing per­for­mance in eight dif­fer­ent usage sce­nar­ios. With th­ese re­sults, we can get a good idea of the level of qual­ity and dis­play res­o­lu­tions a given PC can run ac­cept­ably. In this group test, the scores are all very close, due to the sim­i­lar hard­ware used. Re­sults are given in points and higher num­bers are bet­ter.

VRMark – also from Fu­ture­mark – stresses the PCs much fur­ther and pro­vides an in­sight into how they might per­form with more de­mand­ing Vir­tual Re­al­ity ti­tles in the fu­ture.

It con­sists of two bench­mark tests: the ‘Orange Room’ test which will ver­ify that your PC meets the min­i­mum per­for­mance re­quire­ments for HTC Vive and Ocu­lus Rift and a more de­mand­ing ‘Blue Room’ test, which eval­u­ates per­for­mance at the very high­est set­tings and is much trick­ier for cur­rent PC hard­ware to pass (we’ve not yet seen one pass the test).

To meet the bare min­i­mum spec­i­fi­ca­tion for Ocu­lus Rift, a PC must score at least 3,716 points in the Orange Room, while a PC Fu­ture­mark con­sid­ers to be VR-ready must score over 5,000. In the Blue Room, cor­re­spond­ing scores are much lower at 719 points and 1082 points re­spec­tively.

Power con­sump­tion tor­ture test­ing

We mea­sure the power con­sump­tion of each PC base unit when idle, and again while run­ning at its per­for­mance limit. Dur­ing the idle test, the PCs hard drives are still spin­ning and the power-man­age­ment fea­tures are not en­abled. For the full-load tor­ture test, we run Prime 95 to force all CPU pro­cess­ing threads to max­i­mum util­i­sa­tion and stress sys­tem memory.

At the same time we run the Geek­s3D Fur­mark bench­mark to stress any in­stalled graph­ics cards. We leave th­ese tests run­ning for 10 min­utes, then record the power con­sump­tion and the max­i­mum CPU core tem­per­a­ture reached.

Power con­sump­tion will in­crease with per­for­mance, and over­clock­ing will re­quire sig­nif­i­cantly more power. Greater power usage also re­quired bet­ter cool­ing, and th­ese test al­low us to ver­ify that the in­stalled cool­ing sys­tems are up to the task of keep­ing tem­per­a­tures within safe lim­its.

Over­clock­ing

Be­cause gamers de­mand the best per­for­mance from their hard­ware, we al­low ven­dors to over­clock PCs in this cat­e­gory. We re­quire that the PC ven­dor of­fers a com­pre­hen­sive war­ranty cov­er­ing the over­clocked sys­tem. Be aware that if you over­clock the PC your­self, you may in­val­i­date your war­ranty.

Sub­jec­tive as­sess­ment

We pay close at­ten­tion to the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of each PC, its noise out­put and its build qual­ity, delv­ing in­side the case and tak­ing note of the qual­ity of com­po­nents used, ca­bling and air­flow.

Sup­port

Dif­fer­ences in war­ranty terms can im­pact our scor­ing. Long war­ranties are sought af­ter, but we also look at the terms and con­di­tions – specif­i­cally, whether faulty PCs must be re­turned to the ven­dor at your cost, and if both parts and labour are in­cluded.

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