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Benchmarking a benchmark

One of the challenges of any benchmark is understanding its characteristics. The goal of a benchmark is to measure performance under a defined set of circumstances. For system-level, application-oriented benchmarks, it isn’t always obvious how individual components in the system influence the overall score. For instance, how does doubling the amount of memory affect the benchmark score? The best way to understand the characteristics of a benchmark is to run a series of carefully controlled experiments that change one variable at a time. To test the benchmark’s behavior with increased memory, you would take a system and run the benchmark with different amounts of RAM. Changing the processor, graphics subsystem, or hard disk lets you see the influence of those components. Some components, like memory, can change in both their amount and speed.

The full matrix of system components to test can quickly grow very large. While the goal is to change only one component at a time, this is not always possible. For example, you can’t change the processor from an Intel to an AMD without also changing the motherboard.

We are in the process of putting HDXPRT 2011 through a series of such tests. HDXPRT 2011 is a system-level, application-oriented benchmark for measuring the performance of PCs on consumer-oriented HD media scenarios. We want to understand, and share with you, how different components influence HDXPRT scores. We expect to release a report on our findings next week. It will include results detailing the effect of processor speed, amount of RAM, hard disk type, and graphics subsystem.

There is a tradeoff between the size of the matrix and how long it takes to produce the results. We’ve tried to choose the areas we felt were most important, but we’d like to hear what you consider important. So, what characteristics of HDXPRT 2011 would you like to see us test?

Bill

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