Geekbench 3: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Test Your Mac's Performance and Compare It With Other Macs

Geekbench 3 score
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Geekbench 3 from Primate Labs is a cross-platform benchmarking tool for evaluating the performance of single and multi-core processors. Geekbench can be used to test Macs, Windows, Linux, even iOS and Android systems.

Geekbench makes use of both simulated real-world tests, to measure the performance of your system performing the same types of tasks you'll be using it for on a daily basis, and stress tests, that not only can show what your Mac is capable of, but in some cases, even reveal problems with your system that you may not know you have.

Pro

  • Multi-core aware, testing all available processor cores.
  • Cross-platform; test your Mac and Windows PC with the same app.
  • Supports both 32-bit and 64-bit processors.
  • Share your test results in the Geekbench Browser so others can compare their systems with yours.

Con

  • Only tests the processor; no graphics processor testing.

Geekbench happens to be one of the benchmark suites we use here for testing and evaluating Macs. We also use it for testing the performance of virtual environments, such as Parallels and Fusion. We especially like that we can compare performance across platforms. For example, when we test virtualization systems, we can use Geekbench to check the performance of the host Mac, and then see how the client operating system performs in comparison. The difference gives us insights into the strengths and weakness of any virtualization system we're testing.

Using Geekbench

Geekbench is a straightforward install; drag the app to your Applications folder and you're ready to launch the benchmark utility.

Geekbench starts by displaying a system information window, showing the configuration of the Mac or other computing system you're testing.

When you’re ready to run a benchmark, you can choose the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version. For all but the very first Intel Macs, you should select the 64-bit version of the benchmarks.

Before you press the Run Benchmarks button, make sure you have closed all other apps on your Mac. This is important to get repeatable benchmarks.

Geekbench Benchmarks

Geekbench runs 27 different tests. Each test is run twice; first for measuring single CPU core performance, and then again using all available CPU cores, for a total of 54 test sequences.

Geekbench organizes the tests into three categories:

  • Integer performance: Measures the integer performance of your processors by performing tasks that rely on heavy use of integer instructions. The integer tests include AES, which generates encrypted text strings; Twofish encryption; SHA1 and SHA2 cryptographic hash algorithms; compression and decompression tests using BZip2, JPEG, and PNG; and Sobel, an algorithm for finding edges in images.
  • Floating point performance: Just like the integer tests, Geekbench runs a series of processor-intensive tasks that require the use of floating-point instructions. The floating-point tests include Black-Scholes, an equation used for modeling option pricing in stocks; Mandelbrot, a fractal equation; Sharpen and Blur image, used in many image-editing apps; SGEMM and DGEMM, a set of general matrix manipulation routines; SFFT and DFFT, popular fast Fourier transforms; N-body, a common simulation used in physics (popular with game apps); and Ray Trace, used to render 3D space.
  • Memory performance: Measures the memory bandwidth available to the processors using STREAM benchmarks.

Interpreting the Scores

Each test is measured against a baseline represented by a 2011 Mac mini (Intel Dual-Core 2.5 GHz with 4 GB RAM). The Geekbench tests produced a score of 2500 in the single-core test for this model.

If your Mac scores higher, it represents better performance than is available from the baseline Mac model.

Stress Testing

Geekbench supports a stress-testing mode that runs the multi-core tests in a loop. This places a large processing load on all cores, and all threads the cores support.

The stress test can detect errors that occur while running, as well as display average score, last score, and top score. All three values should be reasonably close to each other. If they're far apart, it indicates a possible problem with your Mac's processors.

Geekbench Browser

The Geekbench results can be shared with other Geekbench users via the Geekbench Browser, a special area of the Geekbench website that allows users of the app to upload their results to share with others.

Final Thoughts

Geekbench is an easy-to-use benchmarking tool that produces logical and repeatable results. Its cross-platform capabilities make it especially attractive. The use of simulated real-world tests, that is, running processes that your Mac is actually likely to encounter in real use, allows Geekbench to produce more meaningful results.

Additionally, the stress test can be helpful for verifying the performance of a new Mac or testing an older Mac that seems to be exhibiting intermittent problems.

If you've been wondering how your Mac is performing, give Geekbench a try. And don’t forget to compare your Mac against others using the Geekbench Browser.

Geekbench is $14.99 for the cross-platform version or $9.99 for just the Mac version. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.