How to Benchmark a Graphics Card

Find out just how powerful your GPU is

What to Know

  • Download and run a synthetic or game benchmark. Note the score/FPS.
  • Synthetic benchmarks include 3DMark, Superposition, and Heaven.
  • Game benchmarks include Horizon: Zero Dawn and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.


This guide will explains how to benchmark your graphics card with 3D tests and games.

Graphics Benchmarks—A Good Starting Point

You can benchmark a graphics card in all sorts of different ways, with no one test giving you the complete picture, as different graphics cards perform better and worse in certain games, other components can affect the score, and real-world performance can be very dependent on what kind of settings you pick.

Synthetic benchmarks are a good starting point for graphics benchmarks, as they can give you a
generalized score and idea of the relative performance of your GPU.

There are a few popular synthetic benchmarks worth considering, including Unigine Superposition, Unigine Heaven, and Furmark, but the most popular graphics benchmark is 3DMark. You get its most robust suite of benchmarks with the paid-for version, but it does also have a free version with limited testing and it’s available through Steam, making it easily accessible.

  1. Download 3DMark from Steam and allow it to install like you would any game or tool.

  2. Launch 3DMark from your Steam Library.

  3. If you have a modern graphics card, select the orange Run button on the Time Spy benchmark. If you have an older GPU, or are running integrated graphics, consider running Night Raid or Fire Strike instead, as those are not as strenuous.

    The 3D Mark program with the 'Run' button highlighted

Let the benchmark run until completion. It may show a demo scene, but will then follow with a number of graphics and CPU benchmarks. When complete, it will output a general score, as well as individual CPU and graphics scores, and a number of other metrics.

A 3DMark user benchmarks a GPU using the Time Spy benchmark test.

You can use the combined and graphics scores to get a measure of your graphics card performance. If you want to learn more about your GPU, consider running additional 3DMark tests, or changing the settings to see what effect it has on your score.

In-Game Graphics Benchmarks

Synthetic benchmarks are great, but they don’t necessarily give you the whole picture of how powerful your graphics card is. If you want to know how your graphics card will perform in certain games, or get more of an idea of what its real-world performance is like, you can use in-game benchmarks.

Running these sorts of tests is similar to synthetic tests, though they tend to output average (and sometimes minimum and maximum) frames per second, rather than a score. You will also need to adjust the in-game settings yourself, so knowing what kind of resolution, frame rates, and detail settings you’re targeting beforehand is a good idea.

Not all games have their own benchmarks, and all games that do run them slightly differently, but the main way of doing so is starting up the game, using the settings menu to set everything as you want it, then select the benchmark from the menu to run it. Note down the FPS after completion. You can then run the game again at different settings, or with an overclock to see what effect it has.

Some good games for in-game benchmarking include:

  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
  • Dirt 5
  • Total War Saga: Troy
  • Gears tactics
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • World War Z
  • Mortal Kombat 11

There are many others, so feel free to explore some of the alternatives out there if you don’t own these games, or want to play them in the future.

Doing Your Own Benchmarking

The final way to benchmark your graphics card is with your own test. That means playing a game with a frames per second counter enabled. Many games come with their own FPS counters, but there are also a number of standalone versions, including those built-in to Nvidia and AMD’s latest drivers.

This is the best way to test the actual games you want to play, since you have to already have them to perform the benchmark. That said, they are far from comprehensive, and different sections of a
game are harder or easier on a GPU than others, so won’t give you the complete picture.

What Is the Best GPU Benchmark Test?

There is no one graphics card benchmark that will tell you everything about your graphics card. That’s why professional graphics card reviews tend to run multiple synthetic and in-game benchmarks.

3DMark is seen by many as the best GPU benchmark suite because of its range of options, multitude of benchmarks, and its detailed outputs. There’s also a strong community of competition surrounding it, where people compete to see who has the most powerful computers.

How Do I Check My Graphics Card Benchmarks?

Benchmarks like 3DMark will store your results on your account, so if you ever want to look back on scores you achieved in the past with different hardware, or with different configurations and clock speeds, you can login on the 3DMark website, and look back as far as you like.

How Can I Benchmark My GPU for Free?

There are a number of great, free graphics benchmarks. Here are the most popular options:

  • 3DMark
  • Unigine
  • Superposition
  • Unigine
  • Heaven
  • Furmark
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Star Control Origins
  • World of Tanks enCore
  • Resident Evil 6
  • Killer Instinct
FAQ
  • Why do graphics cards cost so much?

    There are a few reasons why that GPU you've been eyeballing went up in price recently. Demand could be high right now. There could be supply issues, like the silicon chip shortage that's affecting many industries in 2021. High demand and short supply can also lead to scalpers grabbing up all the inventory they can find and inflating the price.

  • How do you overclock a graphics card?

    First, do your research. Go to a site like Overclock.net and make sure your GPU can handle the increased workload. Then, update your drivers and pick up overclocking and benchmarking software like Afterburner and Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0. Raise your GPU's clock speeds and test it to make sure the new settings are stable. Check out Lifewire's full guide to overclocking a GPU for more detailed information.

  • How can you switch between graphics cards?

    If your computer has two GPUs, like an integrated graphics card and a beefier gaming graphics card, it's usually smart enough to know when to use one over the other. But, sometime you may want to manually set which GPU a program uses. You can usually do this via an app like Nvidia Settings or AMD Radeon Settings.

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