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Alienware Area-51 m9750

Alienware Area-51 m9750

Test System

Core 2 Duo T7600 (2.33Ghz)
2x1024Mb PC2-5300 (666Mhz) DDR2 Memory (5-5-5-15)
Intel 945 Based Motherboard
2x NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX 512Mb
Realtek 7.1 Channel HD Audio
500Gb Raid0 Drives (250×2 5400rpm)
Optiarc AD-5540A DVD Writer
Intel Wireless LAN
17” 1920×1200 WUXGA Screen

Windows Vista Ultimate
Forceware 163.69
DirectX 9.0c/DirextX10
Sisoft Sandra
Photoshop CS3
Half-Life 2: Ep2
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
PowerDVD 7.3
Easy CD-DA Converter
ConvertX to DVD

The test system was built from scratch, a format of the hard drive was performed (NTFS) and then Windows Vista was installed. Following the completion of the installation, the chipset, video and sound drivers were installed. All windows updates were then installed as were the latest builds of the benchmarking tools. Finally, the hard drive was de-fragmented. For each test, the video drivers were set to default quality/optimizations (unless otherwise stated).

Good Benchmarking Practice/Testing Methodology
Almost every publication has a different methodology for testing hardware and Driver Heaven has always firmly believed that if you are testing hardware, then test it in the way it is going to be used. We know many people base their decisions for purchasing hardware on our results so it is important we explain our procedures.

When we test graphics cards, we install all the necessary drivers and actually play the game before even starting our benchmarking phase, drivers are constantly in a state of flux, things are fixed, but sometimes things are also broken. This preliminary testing ensures we can catch abnormalities and possible problems before running our benchmarking tests.

Regulars will be aware that due to our previous ATI 3870 X2 testing, we noticed problems which we reported back to ATI HQ. ATI then held the launch of their product back a week while they worked with us in resolving the driver issues. The end result of this was a better product at launch and more accurate analysis of the hardware, rather than performance being hampered by problematic drivers. If we had just clicked a button for automated benchmark scripts rather than analysing beforehand with our real world testing then the excellent 3870 X2 would have received a more negative report from many of the press publications.

The majority of our testing will be under real world conditions with FRAPS recording the framerates as we play several levels of a game, but sometimes we will also throw in a time demo or a built in benchmarking script from a game, these can have their uses, for example if you want to see for yourself how your own hardware tallies up with something you are thinking about buying. We prefer the real world scenario however, by a long shot. It has more meaning in today’s gaming environment.

Testing processors, memory and motherboards often requires the use of synthetic benchmarks such as SiSoft Sandra and PcMark and they certainly have their place in this hardware sector. We do not just leave it at that however, were possible we always subsidise this with real world testing, such as our very popular Photoshop benchmark. We aim to cover as wide a territory as possible so we have at least several programs and benchmarks which should be relevant to every reader.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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