I’ve really enjoyed building computers. I like how, while it’s reasonably simple, you still get a feel that it’s somehow your own creation. Once you’ve checked for 10 fingers and toes you though want to push it a little more, make it work. You can buy the latest game, £40, and watch the beautiful graphics bring your computer to its knees, only to get refused refund thanks to the wonders of modern DRM. Or you could just use a benchmarking tool to check that it’s up to scratch.
There are some really nice 3D benchmarks out there - my two favourites would have to be Heaven and 3DMark. They’re both totally free and give you a much better idea of how well games will perform for real. While games still have the specs on the back it’s often hard to compare, using a benchmark give much greater accuracy.
These tools basically display scenes that challenge the core components and measure the key factor of smooth game play: frame rate or FPS. Numbers and scores aside, there are some really nice graphics to watch while your computer trundles through the tests.
I know that this may seem kind of obvious but I still get plenty of questions from people asking how well games will run on their new computers.
On the topic of benchmarks there is another tool that deserves a mention, Geekbench. Geekbench doesn’t have a fancy 3D world but instead uses a set of tests to evaluate CPU and RAM performance. The great thing about Geekbench is a comparable score, you can run the suite on many devices (even phones and tablets) and get a meaningful score out of them.