No More Free Versions!
The bad news is about 3Dmark’s versions. Exit the free version - the Basic version, still very limited (only one preset, "Performance," is available) costs $7, although you can run it once for free (so make sure you’ve installed the latest drivers first!). An "Advanced" version priced at $20 lets you access all the settings; the Professional version ($500) gives you access to the advanced rendering settings, a commercial-use license and tech support.
This new pricing policy is surprising, and seems fairly dangerous for Futuremark (popular support for 3DMark from users is still indispensable to their image). The company explains, touchingly, that creating a new benchmark for Windows Vista generated an additional workload that required them to hire new programmers, boost maintenance for the Website and add new analysis tools. We should mention that not only do users pay for 3DMark, but so do all component makers who don’t want to look ridiculous when the new version comes out (in fact, they’re all members of the program).
The bottom line is that there isn’t much that’s really new in this new version of 3DMark, which looks very much like the previous versions, but with additional limitations (no free version and a single overall score, and the addition of the Presets, which will probably make comparisons more difficult). So we don’t see any more reason than we ever had to include it in our graphics-card test series, given its fundamentally artificial nature.