PC Advisor

How we test

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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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