Whether you want to play the latest first person shooter game or perform some hard core data analytics, having the right hardware can make all the difference in the world. That’s where system benchmarking comes into play. Benchmarking allows you to quantify your PC’s performance to make sure it’s up to the task at hand. This article discusses five benchmarking tools.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: SiSoftware Sandra

SiSoftware Sandra (Figure A) is a nice commercial tool for performance benchmarking. It takes a modular approach and includes modules that focus on aspects that aren’t traditionally associated with benchmarking, such as program management and computer management. Traditional benchmarks are included with the program, but the software breaks them down in some creative and useful ways. For example, rather than simply having a CPU benchmark function, CPU performance can be benchmarked using tests that emulate the way the CPU is used when performing tasks such as scientific analysis, cryptography, and financial analysis.

Figure A

SiSoftware Sandra sells for $49.99, but a 75-module trial is available for download.

2: Passmark PerformanceTest

Passmark Performance Test (Figure B) is another useful tool for baselining and benchmarking your system’s performance. PerformanceTest does a good job of compiling a hardware inventory and then showing you how your system stacks up against other available hardware. For instance, you can use PerformanceTest to compare CPU performance or 2D graphics performance.

Figure B

Passmark PerformanceTest sells for $27.00, but a free trial version is available for download.

3: FreshDiagnose

FreshDiagnose (Figure C) is a free tool with a dizzying array of options that rival many commercial tools. In some ways, it could almost be thought of as a diagnostic tool rather than a benchmark tool because it provides a plethora of information about a system’s hardware, software, operating system, etc. However, FreshDiagnose does provide benchmarking capabilities as well. The benchmarking tests are related to processor, multimedia, memory, display adapter, hard disk, CD / DVD, and network.

Figure C

4: Fraps

I’ve been using Fraps (Figure D) for a few years now. It does one type of benchmarking and does it well. Fraps is designed to help you to measure framerates for DirectX games. The framerate is actually displayed in the game window (in a nonintrusive way) and is dynamically updated as you play the game.

Figure D

Although not directly related to hardware benchmarking, the coolest thing about Fraps is that it can record video from your games. I have personally been using Fraps for a few years now to make recordings from Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

Fraps sells for $37.00, but a free trial is available for download.

5: AIDA64 Extreme

AIDA64 Extreme (Figure E) is primarily a system diagnostic and reporting tool that has some built-in benchmarking capabilities. One of the things that I like best about this tool (besides the wealth of information it provides) is that the user interface looks like part of the Windows operating system, making it super intuitive to use.

Even though AIDA64 Extreme is more of a reporting tool than a benchmarking tool, it does have benchmarking and diagnostic tests built in. The benchmarking tests focus on storage, cache, memory, and GPU.

Figure E

AIDA64 Extreme sells for $39.95, but a free trial version is available for download.

Your picks

What are your favorite benchmarking tools? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

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