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Hey does anyone know of a tried and true benchmark test that's safe to run ?
3DMark is a good one to use
What are you trying to benchmark?
As far as I know all benchmarks are safe to run except Furmark, as its been known to overheat and kill GPUs. However, on that note the new 500 series from nVidia and 6000 series from AMD now have auto protections built in and will shut the card down if they reach a certain temp, so they don't burn up.
I don't like using 3DMark and Furmark for gaming benchmarks since they don't reflect the actual real world performance you will get. They give you some data, but not enough. I tend to use the Timedemos for the following Games:
Quake 3, Quake 4, Doom 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Unreal Engine Demo (Unreal Engine 1, 2 and 3)
Frostbite Engine Demo
The major FPS engines are the Unreal Engine and the Quake 3 Engine. Every major derivative like the Source Engine or the Engine found in Call of duty games are based of modified Quake 3 Engines with 80% of the Quake 3 Engine code intact. Some games use multiple engines. Medal of Honor (the 2010 release) uses the Frostbite Engine for Multiplayer (which is the engine for the battlefield series of games) and uses the Unreal Engine 3 in its singleplayer mode.
I can write about MMORPG engines, but there is not much to tell except most are generic and open source. Few are commercial and most are linux-based for their server clients to work through the LAMP method (Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP) where a lot of F2P games with limited resources set up the Game Server and main forum + site to the game on the same computer. Most programming in an MMORPG Engine deal with sending data to databases and updating them. No Database = No MMORPG and if you can't find a Database file anywhere, chances are you have an OODB (Object Oriented Database Base) hardcoded into the game.
Most engines are first generation engines with first generation performance. Playing MMORPGs is like accepting "Linux-level" performance and bugs in a Windows platform since the engine has few optimizations and very little plans on making a new engine since new engine = new sequal, so MMORPG Engine are about brute-forcing performance and just getting by.
----Primary System----i7-2600K @ 3.4 - 4.8ghz8GB RAM, 980 GTX SC (SLI)--Secondary System----1090T @ 4ghz 8GB RAM, HD 6950 (Xfr)Note: Flashed to 6970 & +20% OC
As others have said, 3dmark is pretty much the way to go for GPU benchmarks. The overall score is really of fairly limited use, but the GPU score is something that gives a good apples to apples comparison with other cards, and is generally fairly reflective of average gaming performance.
It's not perfect, but it tends to come a lot closer to indicating the average performance your card should given than any single game engine (due to the use of a number of types of scenes), and is generally about the best that you can do as far as a free and easy solution that you can just pick up and use once, making it a good way to do a relatively quick performance check, if, say, you're doing GPU overclocking and want to know how much performance you've gained.
3dmark11 is also completely gorgeous