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A new year, a new 3DMark… but wait doesn’t 3DMark come out every 2 years? Maybe we’ve all been nice and Santa decided to give us a late present or maybe Christmas comes very early this year. 3DMark is back and with a vengeance! Let’s have a closer look at the new 3DMark06 and see what Futuremark presents us with.

First let’s start with a history lesson. 3DMark99 concentrated on measuring fixed function vertex transformation and lighting, and multitexturing. 3DMark2000 added support for graphics hardware supporting transformation and lighting, and the complexity of the game tests was increased. 3DMark2001 increased the complexity of the fixed function game scenes to tens of thousands polygons per frame on average and also introduced shader technology. The scenes mainly used fixed function vertex and pixel processing, while shaders were used for special effects. There was skinning, morphing and massive amount of animated grass and leaves, all using 1.1 vertex shaders. Game test 4 presented the first higher level material using a 1.1 pixel shader.

3DMark03 concentrated on testing ShaderModel 1.x and 2.0. Only one game test, meant for legacy systems, offered fixed function multitexturing, while the other three used pixel shaders for all materials. All vertex processing used vertex shaders, mainly of the 1.x model. The last game test presented the first vertex and pixel shaders of ShaderModel 2.0, while the majority of the shaders in that test still were of the 1.x model. The scene complexity was raised to several hundred thousand polygons per frame on average.

3DMark05 raised the technology bar and used exclusively ShaderModel 2 (and 3) for all vertex and pixel processing. DirectX 9 also presented ShaderModel 2a, 2b and 3.0. All compatible shaders could be run using any of the ShaderModel 2.x profiles or 3.0. This is enabled throughout 3DMark05 based on our understanding that this is what shader-heavy games will offer. The scene complexity was raised to over one million rendered polygons per frame on average. The key ShaderModel is 3.0 and in 3DMark06 there are 2 graphics tests using almost all key SM3.0 features, and above all, rendered in HDR. The scene & shader complexity and use of dynamic soft shadows has again been raised incrementally over 3DMark05.

Minimum system requirements for 3DMark06:

  • DirectX® 9 compatible graphics adapter with support for Pixel Shader 2.0 or later, and graphics memory of 256 MB or above.*
  • Intel® or AMD® compatible processor running on 2.5 GHz or above.
  • 1GB system memory or more.
  • 1.5GB of free hard disk space.
  • Windows® XP operating system with the latest Service Pack and updates installed.
  • DirectX 9.0c (December 2005) installed with the latest updates.
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 installed, for some 3DMark functionality.
  • Microsoft Excel 2000, 2003 or XP for some 3DMark functionality.
  • Microsoft DirectX 9.0c (December 2005) System Development Kit is required to run the image quality test using the reference rasterizer.

* In order to run the HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, a DirectX 9 compatible graphics adapter with support for Pixel Shader 3.0, 16 bit floating point textures and 16 bit floating point blending is required.

As you can see from the requirements above, it is pretty steep. This ensures that the benchmark can last throughout the year, but it also reflects the heading and requirements of games that are created these days.

So what does the new 3DMark actually look like? Let's find out.