Greatest Gaming Rig Part Four - Benchmarking

We put our epic rig through a set of strenuous benchmarks to see what it can do.

This week, it's the moment we've all been waiting for on Greatest Gaming Rig as we benchmark our system for the first time. On the motherboard, we've got all our amazing components plugged in and wired up to our two Corsair power supplies, and we've borrowed a watt-measuring multimeter from our chums at ZDNet UK to measure power consumption. For testing, we used a number of synthetic tests, including 3D Mark Vantage, Cinebench, and Unigine Heaven, as well as more real-word results in games like Crysis, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Modern Warfare 2. All tests are run at stock speeds and at a 1920x1080 resolution.

The rig was set up as follows:

2 x Intel Xeon X5680 @ 3.33Ghz

3 x GTX 480 1.5GB 3-Way Sli

1 x GTX 460 for PhysX

24GB of DD3 RAM

Corsair Force 120GB SSD

1 x Corsair AX1200 PSU

1 x Corsair AX850 PSU

First up are 3DMark Vantage's CPU tests. The first runs an AI test, which features a number of high-intensity cooperative manoeuvering and pathfinding artificial intelligence calculations. The second runs a physics test, which features smoke collision and various cloth and soft-body obstacles. The Xeon X5680 is the fastest CPU that Intel currently produces, and with its six cores and workstation credentials, we expected some fantastic results. As the graph shows, our system easily came out on top, almost doubling the score of the Core i7-980x.

Next we fired up Cinebench. It's based on Axon's Cinema 4D, which is a piece of software used by production houses to create 3D content for movies. The benchmark renders a 3D scene with approximately 2,000 objects, more than 300,000 polygons, reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, and antialiasing. Cinebench is a great test for the X5680 because it's fully multi-threaded. This means it uses all 24 cores, taxing the CPU to the extreme. With all those cores, our CPU easily bested the i7s and made an absolute mockery of the aging Core 2 Duo.

Kicking off the graphics benchmarks is Unigine's Heaven. It uses a number of graphical techniques designed to tax the most hardened of GPUs, including dynamic lighting, physics calculations, and hardware tessellation, a feature unique to DirectX 11. Scores were taken with all settings maxed out and hardware tessellation enabled. Interestingly, though the three GTX 480s easily beat out the single cards, it's not by as large a margin as we predicted. With some tweaking and overclocking we should be able to eke a much better performance out of them.

Synthetic benchmarks are one thing, but what's really important is how the system handles actual games. We tested Crysis, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Modern Warfare 2 all on maximum settings, getting great results. Of note was Batman: Arkham Asylum, which didn't run all that well in the video. After we restarted the machine, though, the game ran flawlessly, and we haven't been able to replicate that slowdown since.

During our tests we monitored the power consumption of the rig; the results were not exactly eco-friendly. Power usage peaked at a massive 950 watts during the 3D Mark Vantage tests, and averaged around the 650-850 mark when playing games. This is likely to go much higher once we start overclocking the system, meaning a higher electricity bill for us, and sadness for baby seals the world over.

Check back next week when we'll be building the rig into a custom-made acrylic DangerDen case. Don't forget that we're giving you the chance to win the entire rig*, complete with accessories! Just head over here to find out more.

* To enter you have to be over 13 and a UK resident; the competition is subject to our normal terms and conditions.

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