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What Makes a Valid Benchmark? 20

An anonymous reader writes "Benchmarks can make a big difference if they are accurate in predicting performance. That's simple enough to describe; it's not nearly so simple to implement. Benchmarks can be an excellent tool for predicting performance and estimating requirements, but they also can be misleading, possibly catastrophically so. This article looks at benchmarks; the good, the bad and the ugly."
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What Makes a Valid Benchmark?

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  • by Jherek Carnelian ( 831679 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @06:57PM (#15593217)
    The best benchmarks are those that lead their respective industries.

    As manufacturers seek to maximize benchmark scores, they end up improving their products in ways that make the product more useful to the consumers.

    One example of a bad benchmark: For the longest time, cpu frequency has been a sort of benchmark easily understood by the buying public. But it was a very poor one, leading Intel to maximize cpu frequency at the cost of almost all else -- actual computational performance fell behind, power efficiency became even worse with chips becoming mini-furnaces.
  • Aside from the usual High School "Scientifically fair test" basic stuff: like for like testing with control options and keeping other non calculated factors constant, the best benchmark is the application you plan to run with the hardware, or very close. Nothing can tell you exactly how well it will perform except the actual app you are running, becuase now days setups are so complex and individual hardware and software components rely on so many different factors that it's easy to produce a test which look
    • Yes, the real world is the only place that performance matters. If I date myself and go back to my first desktop and laptop I bought with my own money, I had a AMD 450 and an P166 respectively. Certain programs (like Firefox for example because i still both occasionally) load faster on the Pentium laptop, others the desktop. It's all about how the code is written and how it integrates with the hardware. With that said, the only real benckmark involves the software and other hardware you will be using. If we
  • by Clockwurk ( 577966 ) * on Friday June 23, 2006 @07:35PM (#15593394) Homepage
    are real world apps that your audience will be using. Whenever I read a review of a new CPU or graphics card, I always skip synthetic benchmarks (PCMark, 3Dmark, etc.) and go straight to the real world stuff like media encoding, and gaming benchmarks. Synthetic benchmarks tend to be little more than dick waving contests and have little bearing on the real world. If I see 4000 3Dmarks, its a meaningless number. If I see 58 fps in F.E.A.R. or 45 seconds in Photoshop, I immediately have a decent idea of how the computer is going to perform in real world use.
    • are real world apps that your audience will be using

      Wish I had mod points, that's +5 insightful.

      The short answer to this (and any process question, really) is: ask the next guy down the line. If you're a designer, ask the prepress guy what he wants. If you're prepress, ask the pressman. Rinse, repeat.

      If you're a developer, ask the fscking user. Your gaussian blur might be teh shit, but if your app takes five minutes to load, nobody's going to bother with it.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      are real world apps that your audience will be using.

      Interesting, but metrics such as FPS and time to render a frame are equally meaningless for lots of other reasons. For example, you can "cheat" a real-world benchmark by changing the way some routines are drawn. Heck, some graphics cards makers have been known to optimize their code for a particular game or testing routine. A while back some tests would measure the time it took to run a particular Photoshop filters. This was also vulnerable to cheats beca
    • I agree and this is also my experience creating enterprise applications.

      Whenever I need to benchmark databases or enterprise applications I use the same method.
      Often you start by taking a sample of the average useage (if the system is not live yet you need to come up with different user scenario's that will be most likely used) and mimic the load based on that. My metric would be in user sessions per minute/hour/day
      Different parts of the industry but it is a good method
      Surely I could also go and insert, sel
    • I look at benchmarks the same way. The only thing that is important to me is how the cpu/video card/[insert hardware] performs in real world situations. I'm a gamer so I tend to look at real game benchmarks and avoid crap like 3Dmarks. The people that tweak their systems every last bit so they can get an extra 100 score in 3dmarks are just dick-wavers IMO.
  • Let's not forget the "optimizations" that both ATI and nVidia engaged in. The ones where you'd take quake3.exe and rename it quack3.exe and your framerate would suddenly drop by 20fps. You see, Quake 3 was the defacto benchmark of the era...

    Interestingly, despite this special treatment, the game ran better under Wine, and still better as a native Linux program.

  • Three things. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @08:27PM (#15593673) Journal
    Scope, repeatability and transparency.

    Scope means defining clearly and specifically what your benchmark measures and what it does not measure.

    Repeatability means being able to run the benchmark many times under the same conditions and getting statistically consistent results.

    Transparency means having the details of the mechanics of the benchmark, so that the results can be completely analyzed and understood.

  • Apples and Oranges (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jzor ( 982679 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @08:48PM (#15593769)
    This reminds me of a comparison I saw in Circuit City once... (Warning: I'm not going to talk about a computer hardware benchmark.) They were trying to sell the insanely expensive Monster video cables by comparing the Monster cables to standard cables on identical TV's. The screen with the monster cables looks hella better than the other monitor. The difference was so astounding that I just had to look at the back of the TV... The Monster TV was hooked up with an HDMI cable..... The other a FRIGGIN UNSHIELDED COMPOSITE VIDEO CABLE. Apples and oranges, apples and oranges...
  • Why, everyone knows that the only valid benchmark is bogomips!!!
  • As long as your piece of hardware is faster in some subset of some test in some benchmark, you'll be able to advertise "xx% faster". It's not limited to computer gear either, every car is "best" in this or "first" in that...

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur