Articles :: How to Benchmark a Videocard ::

Doc Overclock · 12-01-2003 · Category: Guides


Halo was first shown to the public by Bungie Studios in 2000 at MacWorld San Francisco to a huge response. Anticipation was brought up to a fever pitch, with Mac and PC gamers clamoring for the new title. Unfortunately, things didn't go according to plan. Microsoft Games bought Bungie shortly after the announcement, and Halo ended up being delayed for the computers (Mac and PC) and released in 2001 for the Xbox. It wasn't until very recently, that the game was released for the PC.

Halo was developed using the Xbox as a reference platform. As such, design of the game was centered on the features of the Xbox GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Microsoft's Xbox GPU was based on Nvidia's NV20 chipset with a few improvements that makes it the equivalent almost of a Geforce4 clocked at 233 MHz. At the time of release, it was quite clear that more could be done.

The PC version was released in September of 2003. Thought the PC version of the game was basically a rehash of the Xbox version Bungie made some improvements to the game giving better visuals, multiplayer and other features. The developers of Halo for the PC added support for DirectX 9.0 class pixel shaders, allowing the players a visually richer gaming experience.

Anyway what does this trip down memory lane have to do with benchmarking a video card? I like to put things into perspective as to what a game or benchmark I use does. Too often, we forget what a benchmark is supposed to represent. One thing I will never use is a game I don't play. That's why you won't see Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness in any of our reviews. Some people may play the game, but personally I feel the game is horrible, and therefore will never use it in any of my reviews.

Benchmarking Halo is a simple matter, as Bungie includes a built-in benchmark utility. Some explanation is necessary, of course. After installing the full version game (Unfortunately, there's no benchmark of the demo), open a command prompt by using the start button, hitting run and typing cmd. This will bring up a command prompt. From here, you need to change the directory to the Halo directory, by typing cd (for changing the directory C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Halo. This changes the directory to the Halo game directory.

A word needs to be said about Halo's settings. By default, Halo uses one of 4 rendering code paths, Pixel Shader 2.0 (DX 9.0), Pixel Shaders 1.4 (DX 8.0), Pixel Shaders 1.1 (DX 8.0) or cards that support Hardware T+L (fixed function DX 7.0). With DirectX 9.0 supporting video cards being prevalent in virtually every video card sold, we will be using the Pixel Shaders 2.0 setting. To change the Pixel Shader version, simply use the -use20 modifier from the Halo directory. This will force Halo to render using the Pixel Shader 2.0 setting, which is supported by all Nvidia GeforceFX cards and ATI cards 9500 Pro or higher.

To run the benchmark, it's necessary to have the Halo CD in the CD drive. Second, bring up the command prompt as I described earlier and change directories to the Halo directory. At this point, simply type halo.exe -timedemo -use20 --vidmode 1024,768. This will cause the 4 cutscenes in the game to run giving a detailed report of the framss per second at the conclusion. BTW videmode changes the resolution, so if you want to run a different one simply type the width, height, and refresh rate, if you want to specify one, and you're set.

The report of the benchmark will be outputted to a file called timedemo in your Halo directory. After opening the file, it'll describe your system (CPU speed, memory, video card), what settings were used (Pixel Shader version, what vidmode, and the modes used) how many frames were rendered, total time, average frame rate (this is what we use) and a indication of how much time was spent at various framerates. Also enumerated are the sound settings and the video settings.


  1. Introduction
  2. Dronezmark
  3. SpecViewPerf 7.0
  4. Final Fantasy XI The benchmark
  5. Serious Sam: 1 & 2
  6. UT2003
  7. Quake3 Arena
  8. 3dmark 2001SE Build 330
  9. 3dmark 2003
  10. Gunmetal Benchmark 2
  11. Halo
  12. Aquamark 3
  13. Conclusion