PC World's WorldBench 6: Behind the Scenes

The latest version of PC World’s test suite is getting finishing touches. But what makes this suite of apps different?

PC World will soon be publishing WorldBench 6, the latest version of our PC benchmarking suite. What does that mean to you? WorldBench is the core set of applications that PC World uses to test all kinds of desktop PCs and laptop PCs. The results generated from this comprehensive suite of real-world test scenarios are a significant component of our reviews of the systems that pass through PC World's door. And because these tests all use actual programs and involve tasks that you might perform in real life, they're an excellent barometer for determining how PCs might perform outside of the lab and on your desk.

Modern-day computer benchmarks fall into two distinct camps: synthetic and non synthetic. Synthetic tests such as HDTach and 3DMark are programs that are specifically designed to run test patterns that don't necessarily reflect real-world use of a system. They often yield results that are abstract. Such scores are good for comparing results across a wide range of computers, but they tell you little about the individual performance of a PC doing the kinds of tasks you likely do every day.

Nonsynthetic, or real-world, benchmarks like WorldBench 6 measure a system's performance by using everyday programs to generate measurable results, be it the time it takes to compress files, to run a series of Photoshop commands, or to encode movies. The results help us rank systems based on performance — but they also give you an indication of what you might encounter when you use the PC yourself.

PC World has updated and condensed the 12 applications of the previous test platform, WorldBench 5, into a tighter subset of 8 applications. From Web browsing to file encoding to general use, the automated test scripts that run in these applications have been designed to deliver a tougher evaluation for some of the top computers of today. Even though multicore processors and larger amounts of RAM are appearing even in cheap PCs, it's important to have benchmarks that can accurately assess — and challenge — systems with a wide variety of configurations. To that end, PC World's testers run WorldBench 6 many times on each machine and then compare the results against a common reference system to derive a final score.

WorldBench 6 is designed to run on all editions of Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Since it's fully automated, the application suite can report errors in testing and automatically restart failed tests without user input. It then records the results, including the final WorldBench 6 score as well as the individual results of each application's workload, in both text and graphs. Since WorldBench 6 represents a whole new testing platform, scores from WorldBench 6 can't be compared to results from earlier versions of the benchmark.

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David Murphy

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