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Anatomy of a benchmark, part I

Over many years of dealing with benchmarks, I’ve found that there are a few major components that HDXPRT 2011 and most others include.  Some of these components are not what you might think of as part of a benchmark, but they are essential to making one both easy to use and capable of producing reproducible results.  We’ll look at those parts this week and the rest next week.

The first piece that you encounter when you use a benchmark is its Installation program.  Simple benchmarks may forgo an installation component and just let you copy the files, including any executables, into a directory.  By contrast, HDXPRT 2011, like other application-based benchmarks, takes great pains to install the necessary applications. It even has to check to see which of them are already installed on the computer under test and cope with those it finds.

Once the benchmark is on the system, you launch it and encounter the User Interface (UI).  For some benchmarks, the UI may be only a command-line interface with a set of switches or options. HDXPRT 2011, in keeping with its emphasis on an HD user experience, includes a graphical UI that lets you run its tests.

Many benchmarks, including HDXPRT 2011, provide a Results Viewer that makes it easy for you to look at your results and compare them to others.  Results viewers range from fairly simple to quite sophisticated.  The prevalence of spreadsheet applications and XML has led to benchmark creators minimizing the development costs of this component.

Next week, I’ll look at the components that handle the actual tests that make up the benchmark.


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