Benchmark Strategies

The Windows NT Magazine Lab has adopted the BAPCo SYSmark benchmark so in order to provide a "real-world" evaluation of a computer's performance in workstation office automation. The Lab will use these tests to determine new platforms' value based on several criteria: overall performance (in a number of individual categories/32-bit applications via Microsoft Test scripts: Microsoft Word 6.0, Microsoft Excel 5.0, Microsoft PowerPoint 16-bit, Welcom Software's Texim Project, and Orcad MaxEDA), overall cost, and performance by cost.

The baseline machine for comparison is a 90-MHz Pentium system with 32MB of RAM, a 1GB SCSI-2 internal hard disk (with a PCI Adaptec 2940), a 2X CD-ROM drive, a Diamond Stealth 64 PCI video card, and a 3-Com Etherlink III ISA LAN card, with a street price of $2800.

The main graphs show performance in two ways: SYSmarks and runtime. SYSmarks are a composite linear test (for example, a SYSmark rating of 200 means that particular computer is twice as fast as a computer with a SYSmark rating of 100) based on popular applications run in a way that represents what typical users would do, such as file opens, calculations, graphing, etc. (visit BAPCo's Web site at http://www.bapco.com for a complete description of what each test does). The SYSmark Results graph (see Graph A) is the rating that the machine receives for each application run--each application test is run three times, and the results are then averaged. The Runtime graph (see Graph B) shows how long each test took to complete.

The remaining two graphs give you an idea of the computer's value: Overall Performance (see Graph C) tells you what its raw speed is, and the Performance by Cost graph (see Graph D) normalizes the machine's speed according to its cost, giving you a "miles per gallon"-type of value.

BAPCo, or Business Applications Performance Corporation, is a consortium of companies, including Compaq, Digital Equipment, Texas Instruments, Motorola, and others, brought together for the purpose of developing a set of objective benchmarks for personal computers. You can obtain the test suite directly from them for $495; contact their Web site for more information.