Benchmarks are considered to be targeting enthusiasts only, but anyone can get one and run it in order to assess the true power of their computer's hardware. Alongside CPUs, motherboards, storage devices or memory, video card adapters benchmarks are the top-line of the business. While games and renowned benchmarking software such as 3DMark remain the best choices, you can also try some particular programs like AquaMark, FurMark or ShaderMark.
Usable by all levels of experience
This program was born to fulfill the need of a native, untouched HLSL pixel shader benchmark in the VGA industry. Moreover, ShaderMark is the first pixel shader / shader model 3.0 to reach the market. While its interface may look a bit techie, leaving the default parameters set is to way to go no matter the knowledge that you possess. This way, you can be sure that you get those results that you can later share and confront within the community.
Get details for every shader
Also, by running the benchmark at default values you gain access to the 'Picture Quality Mode' that calculates MSEs (Mean Square Error) for every shader. This is done by comparing the Microsoft Reference Rasterizer with your card's rasterizer. As a side note, smaller values mean better results in this case. ShaderMark provides support for shaders up to 3.0, sRGB textures or gamma correction through DAC or frame write.
Various rendering settings
There are three settings categories covering 'Adapter and device', 'Display mode' and 'Device', with the first one allowing you to choose from your available display adapters (usually only one option here) as well as the 'Render Device'. The second section provides access to 'Adapter Format', 'Resolution' and 'Refresh Rate'.
Choose options for the test to run
Last but not least, the third area opens the gates to selecting the 'Back Buffer Format', 'Depth/Stencil Buffer Format', 'Multisample Type / Quality', 'Vertex Processing' or 'Present Interval'. Once you hit the 'Run' button, the screen will go black while the textures and shaders are loaded. You will be presented with an OSD that summarizes the available options.
Clever support for hotkeys
Navigating the environment is done with the aid of the keyboard and mouse, while changing the shaders or entering the benchmark / picture quality mode have specifically assigned hotkeys. You can also choose to turn light motion, HDR or shadow map on or off, change gamma level, HDR light level, precision or shader version. The results of the benchmark and the picture quality are generated into text files and not displayed on the screen at the end of the process.
To end with
In conclusion, while not being one popular video benchmarking application, ShaderMark's position in Softpedia's Benchmark category has been reached through its features and the fact that it sports a broad range of tests and options. It delivers the expected set of tools to get the utmost from your video card's HLSL capabilities next to the achieved benchmark results that you can discuss with your fellow benchmarkers.