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3DMark06 Under the Magnifying Glass
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As we have seen over the course of the few past years, graphics hardware has been the most rapidly changing component in a computer. It was only six months ago that Nvidia launched its 24 pixel pipeline monster GeForce 7800 GTX. After struggling with production problems, ATI launched the Radeon X1000 family, and the flip-flop battle was with us every month until we had a lull in February. Certainly, this rapid deployment of graphics cards has kept us reviewers on our toes. Fortunately, being in the neutral camp, we get to see what is in the production cycle; it is certainly great for consumers, as they benefit with each new advancement.

The rapid change in this industry is why we need new tools to measure the effect of these technological advances. The hardware is getting more powerful, and the designers of 3D applications are developing new tools, techniques and methods to get the most out of the hardware, giving the end user the best experience possible.

FutureMark develops suites to give evaluators an insight into what the hardware is doing, and how it will fare under future situations. Futuremark has several benchmarking tools, including PCMark for overall system performance; SPMark for phones; and 3DMark Mobile for OpenGL ES portable devices. Its flagship product, 3DMark, has been used for a long time. Futuremark claims it has over 30 million registered 3DMark scores in its Online Result Browser (ORB) database.

Since the introduction of 3DMark99, 3DMark has been a forward looking application. Although Transform and Lighting (T&L), multitexturing, and new shader models were in the future of games, the future came and went. To accommodate each Application Programming Interface (API) development or major technique change, the structure of the test platform had to be designed and packaged into each successive 3DMark application. Although the DirectX 10 API is not yet finalized and no major changes have taken place since 3DMark05, we still find ourselves with a new version: 3DMark06. On the following pages we will look at Futuremark's new software.

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