Benchmarking Tools in Games: An Overview

Benchmarking Tools in Games_ An Overview
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Component specifications may be the backbone of the DIY PC enthusiast community, but its lifeblood will always be the benchmarks. Getting a tangible, visual reading of how your PC build or played game performs is always a blast to see, even if the numbers didn’t turn out to be as favorable as you expect.

But while there are software and separate third-party tools to see your hardware performance in games, some titles conveniently provide their own. In fact, some of these are quite comprehensive enough that it can be worth owning the game, simply because of the type of measurements that it can provide.

Benchmarking and Monitoring are the Same Right?

Benchmarking and monitoring, in general, can be used interchangeably so long as the parameters being measured are the same. For example, your Rivatuner, GPU-Z, and HWMonitor can pretty much measure your graphics card’s current clock speed together at the same time.

However, benchmarking has the added difference of being the more specific measurement method. You benchmark something in comparison to a technical use case where the target hardware will be subjected. You monitor something when you simply want to see how your hardware performs at a given time, regardless of the load being given to the system.

This is why when benchmarking, the focus is typically given to:

  • On-screen status display – for measuring performance inside the main game window. Rivatuner comes into mind for these types of benchmarks.
  • Analyzed results – for confirming averages and totals after a test session. Benchmarking tools for Unigine and Fire Strike provides both real-time and analyzed results.

Can I Trust the Built-in Benchmarks of Grand Theft Auto V?

With the rise of modern gaming as we know it today, newer titles have finally opted to develop their dedicated benchmarking tools to further provide potential users with an idea of how their hardware tweaks would perform with the game.

Mostly, these tools show generic landscapes and scenery. But these are shown with increasing variety to simulate different loads that the game would place on the hardware. A few others would just instantly dive down into the resource-heaviest sections of the game, so that you would immediately know the toughest conditions that your hardware needs to face.

Also, do take note that each game is optimized differently. Some games will be GPU-intensive, others CPU-intensive, and fewer others have a healthy mix of both. There are also some games with benchmarking tools that are badly optimized, in that they would still show relatively low numbers even with high-end components.

Here’s a list of some of the more popular games that have built-in benchmarking tools:

Title Date Type Spec Focus Stats? Optimization
Assassin's Creed Odyssey 10/2018 Landscape CPU Yes OKAY
Assassin's Creed Valhalla 11/2020 Landscape GPU Yes BAD
Borderlands 3 (unpatched) 09/2019 Landscape GPU No BAD
Far Cry New Dawn 02/2019 Landscape CPU + GPU Yes GOOD
Forza Horizon 4 09/2018 Play Demo CPU + GPU No GOOD
Grand Theft Auto V 09/2013 Play Demo CPU Yes OKAY
Rainbow Six Siege 12/2015 Landscape CPU Yes GOOD
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 12/2018 Cutscene CPU + GPU Yes OKAY
Total War: Three Kingdoms 04/2019 Landscape CPU + GPU No OKAY
Watch Dogs Legion 10/2020 Landscape GPU No OKAY

So as we can see, benchmarking on some of these games can determine which hardware component you would want to check. Unfortunately, as we have mentioned, not all games are optimized well. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s PC version, for example, is very badly optimized at the moment, giving less than stellar FPS even with monstrous setups like a Ryzen 9 5950X + RTX 3090.

However, a few titles stand the test of time in their accuracy to provide good comparisons between GPU and CPU. The best example that we currently have in our generation is Far Cry New Dawn. Released just a year ago, it still gives us some of the most accurate performance ratings for any given CPU and GPU of this day and age.

Does MSI Afterburner Affect Performance and Lower FPS?

As for integrated/external benchmarking tools like MSI Afterburner/Rivatuner, the short answer is yes. MSI Afterburner does increase CPU usage and takes a tiny bit of load into your system. But the long answer is… it depends on the level of task you are letting the computer do.

On average, MSI Afterburner/Rivatuner only eats up somewhere around 3-10% of your CPU usage. If you are using a CPU that is an utter mismatch to the game that you are trying to play (for example, a Core 2 Quad versus Red Dead Redemption 2), then yes, this tiny load could affect FPS. However, do keep in mind that the reduction in FPS, if there’s any, will be so minuscule it can be technically considered as a margin of error. Because of this, the average measurements MSI Afterburner/Rivatuner would still be relatively accurate to the GPU it is trying to benchmark.

Besides, other things can also completely negate the “performance dip” that MSI Afterburner supposedly causes:

  • Increased threads/cores – the more threads/cores, the less likely you would feel that 3-10% CPU load. Ideally, 4-core 8-thread is the minimum, and if you get to the 6-core 12-thread range, the question basically becomes moot. However, even if you have a 4-core/4-thread CPU…
  • Modern architectural features – the more optimized instruction sets your CPU could perform, the less likely there would be a noticeable reduction in FPS. So your modern 4C/4T Core i3-9100F still wouldn’t feel the load. In terms of the bare minimum architecture, though, Haswell is a good starting point for Intel, then Zen 1 for AMD.
  • Advanced GPU load transfer features – if you are using modern GPUs that allow the transfer of computational load away from the CPU, then that reduced usage can completely offset any load that MSI Afterburner is supposed to have.

Again, don’t consider these as absolutes. These things are just meant to show that you don’t have to worry about MSI Afterburner at all when it comes to CPU load. Even your trusty ol’ 2C/4T Core i3-3250 will still work fine without experiencing considerable FPS lag due to integrated/external benchmarking tools.


The obsession for benchmarking comes from the varying numbers seen on-screen. Performance dips that you would otherwise never notice on a regular gaming session, you can see with such quantitative detail. This, unfortunately, can lead to bad impressions on some hardware and games, leading to unnecessary discontent when looking at average-numbers, even if the game itself is already running at very stable framerates.

Built-in game benchmarks don’t really help this situation either. But at the very least, for those who have tighter budgets, quantifying performance makes it easier to know the average or minimum PC build that you would actually need.

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