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Published Apr 25, 2022 4:00 PM

Whether you play PC games, create content, or work from home, PC benchmarks provide valuable insight into the performance of your computer. They can tell you how your system ranks against others and shed light on the actual hard numbers at the heart of your computing experience. PC benchmarks can also be useful to identify when your computer is underperforming, helping you identify faulty or failing components. The best benchmark software can help you get your rig running to its full potential.

If that sounds valuable, we’re here to help highlight the best benchmark software options consumers can get right now. Whether you’re curious how your rig will stack up in the latest games or just want to put your latest component to the test, we’ve collected the best choices for you:

How we picked the best benchmark software

As a PC builder since the early 2000s and a component reviewer for about seven years, I’ve had to become intimately familiar with a wide array of benchmarking programs. Over that time, I’ve had to cross-check the claims of major brands to ensure their products deliver the kind of performance they promise on the box. Whether that’s testing gaming laptops and PCs here at Popular Science or reviewing graphics cards for IGN, effective benchmarking tools are a staple in my computer testing routine. 

To pick the best benchmark software for this list, I relied on three key factors. First, I looked for software that was simple to use, effective, and offered easy-to-understand results. Results don’t mean much if you don’t understand what they’re trying to say. Second, I considered the software that is currently popular among professional and enthusiast testers. While benchmarking isn’t a popularity contest, using common tools makes comparing results and finding support online much easier. Finally, I used my own experience to connect those dots to choose the best options for you, whether you’re tech-savvy or not.

Things to consider before buying the best benchmark software

When you set out to benchmark your PC, it’s good to have a goal in mind. There are many apps and even more ways to test available, so it pays to have a game plan. Let’s talk about how to set your strategy and pick the software that will help you achieve that goal, whatever it may be.

What are you testing?

The first thing you should know when researching any benchmark is exactly what it’s designed to test. Sometimes, this is made clear right in the name: 3DMark, for example, is designed to test the 3D graphics performance of your machine. It isn’t always so clear, though. Tools like AIDA64 Extreme reveal almost nothing about what they’re designed for at a glance. Always take the time to read the developer’s description of their software. You don’t necessarily need to understand the intricacies of how it functions right off the bat, but it is important to grasp the big picture of what it’s trying to determine. 

It also helps to get a feel for how other PC owners use the tool by researching user reviews and product reviews where the benchmark has been used. Both sides are important: User reviews provide insight into how the results are for the average consumer. Industry professionals, on the other hand, will use the benchmark to hone in on specific elements of the product they’re testing, and often explain why they chose it. These added explanations can help you to build a better grasp of its usefulness and whether it will work for you. 

What information the benchmark provides

Benchmarking programs are not only defined by the information they provide, but also by how they present that data. Many benchmarks provide a synthetic score that, without context, means nothing. To really understand them, you need to check your score against publicly available leaderboards so you can see how your system compares to other machines. If you’ve tuned your rig and are curious to see how it stacks up, this can be useful. If you’re curious about a specific element, like how it performs in a particular game, leaderboards may not be helpful at all. 

Take the time to look through the developer’s website to find descriptions of what the benchmark intends to show you. Some benchmarks even maintain publicly accessible databases of results so you can see for yourself the insights they provide. If all else fails, searching for results screens on Google Images can provide you with concrete examples of what you’ll walk away with when the benchmark is finished.

Is it widely used?

There’s nothing wrong with using a lesser-known benchmark, but there’s something to be said for going with a known commodity. Word gets around when programs like these work well (or don’t work at all), so a strong reputation counts for a lot. 

Choosing a popular benchmark also makes it much easier to compare your results online. If you get a low score in popular test suites like Geekbench or Novabench, possible explanations are only a Google search away. If you have questions about improving your score, there are probably existing forum threads and FAQs published when there’s a large, active community using the tool.

Try before you buy

The final thing to consider when choosing the best benchmark software is its price. Benchmarking software is rarely expensive, and some of the best options are free. In many cases, you’ll find that to see developers lock features or results behind a paywall. If this happens, don’t reach for your wallet right away. 

Since most people only benchmark when they’re looking for specific information, free trials are especially useful. Many paid benchmarks include a 14- or 30-day trial. During that time, it’s usually possible to complete any benchmarking you need to do and be done with days to spare. Just be aware that once this trial has expired, you may not be able to use the software again until you’ve purchased a license.

The best benchmark software: Reviews & Recommendations

Now that you have an idea of what to look for, we’ve gathered a list of the best benchmarking software you can download right now. All of the software on this list can be used for free with options to purchase for additional tests or has a 30-day free trial. There are many great benchmarks available today, but every entry on this list is widely relied upon and delivers exceptional results.

Best all-in-one benchmark software: UserBenchmark

UserBenchmark

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Why it made the cut: UserBenchmark is a free, fast benchmark that tests your whole system and provides important insights into how each component compares.

Specs 

  • Price: Free
  • What it tests: Whole system
  • Time required: 5-10 minutes
  • Results: Each component compared against other systems

Pros

  • Free
  • Fast and easy to run
  • Compares your system against its vast database
  • Whole system benchmark

Cons

  • Lacks test customization options

UserBenchmark is the top choice when it comes to all-in-one benchmark software. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and thoroughness. After downloading the small installation package, all you need to do is select which components you would like to test and let the benchmark do its thing. Within about five minutes, a browser window opens and provides a detailed breakdown of how each component in your system performed compared against its vast database. It even tells you what percentile of performance each component fell into, providing even deeper insight into how well that piece of your system performed. 

In fact, this results screen is one of the biggest reasons UserBenchmark is such a good option. For users interested in the big picture, it provides short breakdowns of each component performed and what that means. If you’re looking for more information, you can scroll down to view the individual scores and specs of each component and how it compares versus the tool’s expectations for that part. Looking for an upgrade? The site also leverages its database to allow you to compare individual components or whole system builds to choose upgrades that will actually net you the performance improvement you’re looking for.

The downside here is that this test really isn’t that customizable. You can limit your run to individual components, but that’s about it. Additionally, you’ll need to do your own research if you’d like to know why a component scored low on the benchmark. Even though UserBenchmark clearly shows when a part isn’t pulling its weight, it doesn’t do a great job of explaining the reasons why that may be. 

Best CPU benchmark software: Cinebench

Why it made the cut: Cinebench is effectively the industry standard for CPU testing.

Specs

  • Price: Free
  • What it tests: CPU rendering
  • Time required:  10 minutes per test (20 minutes total)
  • Results: Scores ranked against other systems/configurations

Pros

  • Simple to run 
  • Compares score with other systems
  • Good for high-core count CPUs
  • Free

Cons

  • Doesn’t correlate to gaming performance
  • Doesn’t give much insight into results
  • Rather lengthy

Cinebench is as close to an industry standard as you find among PC benchmarks. This test uses your CPU to render a three-dimensional image, pushing your processor to its limit. While many benchmarks rely on abstract synthetic tasks, Cinebench simulates real-world image rendering to provide you with a much better idea of how that processor will perform in a true scenario. Because its results are reliable and repeatable, it provides an excellent benchmark to compare the performance of different CPUs. 

Cinebench also outclasses other tests because it pressures your whole processor. Many benchmarks don’t fully utilize the full set of cores and threads that have become common in modern CPUs, but that’s not an issue here. In fact, when it’s done, it will provide you with both single- and multi-core scores so you can see how your processor will stack up in different kinds of tasks. 

It isn’t perfect, though. Cinebench is one of many benchmarks that outputs a score that just doesn’t mean much out of context. Your system might score extremely well, but you’ll need to see it on a leaderboard to really understand that. Since the software automatically charts your results, this isn’t a huge imposition, but it won’t provide the most detailed diagnostic. Since each test (single-core and multi-core) take 10 minutes each, the full test is also fairly long.

Best GPU benchmark software: Superposition

Unigine

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Why it made the cut: Superposition can tax even the most cutting-edge GPUs, making it a great testing tool for a wide range of PCs.

Specs

  • Price: Free ($19.95 for extended features)
  • What it tests: Graphics card 
  • Time required: About 5 minutes 
  • Results: Score on leaderboard, FPS, temperatures

Pros

  • Scales with modern, high-performance GPUs
  • Plentiful customization options 
  • Includes VR benchmark
  • Interactive game benchmark option

Cons

  • Not best for low-end systems

Superposition is the latest benchmark from Unigine, a developer known among PC builders for another widely used tool called Heaven benchmark. Heaven has been a staple of graphics card reviews for years but hasn’t been updated for modern graphics features.

Superposition picks up where Heaven left off, taxing even the most high-end graphics cards available today. It is the benchmark to turn to if you want to know how your GPU will hold up in the most demanding scenarios—whether you’re running the best gaming monitor, the best ultrawide gaming monitor, or maybe one of each. It can test advanced lighting features like ray tracing, and fully takes advantage of modern graphics cards and push them all the way to 8K resolutions. 

When it’s finished, Superposition provides a synthetic score you can view on a leaderboard to see how it compares to other machines. For some extra insight into gaming performance, it also tracks your average framerate throughout the test and your GPU’s temperature when pushed to the max. In a separate mode, you’re even able to explore and interact with the environment like a mini-game, providing a real-world example of what a game may feel like under those same conditions. 

These advanced features make Superposition a great benchmark for modern GPUs, but it may be too taxing to be useful with older systems. That said, Unigine Heaven is still available, and we recommend using it to test GPUs more than two generations old.

Best RAM benchmark software: AIDA64 Extreme

FinalWire

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Why it made the cut: Even after more than a decade, AIDA64 remains one of the best tools to benchmark your RAM and monitor your system performance.

Specs

  • Price: $49.95 (30-day free trial)
  • What it tests: RAM, CPU, GPU, Storage
  • Time required: 5-10 minutes 
  • Results: Read, write, copy, and latency speeds 

Pros

  • Dedicated speed and latency benchmarking
  • CPU, Storage, and other benchmarks also included
  • Excellent system monitoring software 

Cons

  • Isn’t very user-friendly
  • Doesn’t explain data well

AIDA64 offers one of the best dedicated RAM benchmarks available today. While other tools assess RAM performance with artificial tasks and scores, this test tells you what you really want to know: How fast is my memory? As with SSD benchmarks like CrystalDiskMark, this benchmark tells you actual read and write speeds, as well as how quickly it can copy data and its overall latency. These hard numbers give you real data, not synthetic scores, to lean on when comparing the performance of your RAM.

While AIDA64 works best for testing memory, it can also test other core PC components, including your processor and graphics card. It offers a rich package of system benchmarks, monitoring tools, and stress testing to determine how reliable your system is. There are few tools that provide such deep insight into the inner workings of your PC that have benchmarking and stress-testing tools built in.

All of that functionality doesn’t come free. AIDA64 costs $49.95 and demands the user have a good amount of tech know-how to make full use of it. FinalWire offers a 30-day free trial, but you’ll need to pay up if you want your full memory test results as write and copy results are locked behind a paywall. There are also no leaderboards (or any context whatsoever) built into the test results, so you’ll need to do your own research to know whether your speeds are falling short.

Best for gaming: 3DMark

Why it made the cut: 3DMark compiles a rich suite of customizable 3D rendering benchmarks, creating an incredible toolkit for assessing gaming performance today.

Specs

  • Price: $29.99 (Free version includes three popular tests)
  • What it tests: GPU and CPU performance as it relates to gaming
  • Time required: 5-10 minutes (varies by test)
  • Results: Score, FPS, temperatures, expected gaming performance 

Pros

  • Wide array of tests for specific features
  • Lots of customization options
  • Gives insight into expected gaming performance

Cons

  • Free version doesn’t include full results
  • No option for VR testing

The 3DMark suite of gaming benchmarks is an industry standard and for good reason. Its many different performance tests can assess gaming performance for any system and deliver reliable, insightful results. Its tests render 3D scenes that make use of modern graphics technology, pushing both the CPU and GPU to their limits. After the test, it will provide a detailed breakdown of how both components performed, including FPS performance in a selection of modern games, and top-level scores you can compare on user leaderboards. Best of all, its most popular test, Fire Strike, is completely free.

Investing in the best gaming laptop and want to know how it will perform? Well, there really aren’t many drawbacks to 3DMark. While it can be confusing for newcomers to determine which test is right for them, the software explains what each test is for, making it a great training tool for aspiring power users. Given that many of the other extremely popular benchmarks are free, some may balk at 3DMark’s $29.99 price tag. It’s a small price to pay, though: Developer UL Benchmarks frequently updates the tests and supplements the suite with new benchmarks at no extra cost. If you want to test specific gaming features (like ray tracing), it’s more than worth it.

Best for PCs: PCMark 10

Why it made the cut: PCMark 10 is the go-to test to get the rundown on your PC’s productivity performance. If you’ve bought a new PC for work, this is the benchmark for you.

Specs: 

  • Price: $29.99 (Free version includes standard benchmark test.) 
  • What it tests: Whole system
  • Time required: 20-30 minutes (depending on test)
  • Results: Essentials, productivity, and digital content creation scores

Pros

  • Focuses on productivity and general performance instead of gaming
  • Effective battery test
  • Paid versions allow customization and express testing options

Cons

  • Tests take a long time

If you’re considering a new laptop for work or school, PCMark 10 is the benchmark for you. Made by UL Benchmarks, the same company behind our gaming pick, PCMark sets gaming performance aside and instead focuses on the fundamentals of how your computer works:

  • Do programs start up quickly?
  • Can you browse the web efficiently? 
  • Does it work well for video conferencing?
  • How does it perform in word documents and spreadsheets?

In addition to classic productivity tasks, PCMark dedicates time to assessing performance for digital content creation, including photo editing, video editing, and rendering. When it’s done, you’ll be able to see the overall score of your system, as well as how it performed across each area being tested. Those results can then be compared against an extensive database of scores to pinpoint exactly how your system stacks up.

PCMark 10 doesn’t stop with overall system tests either. If you’re running on a laptop, its selection of battery tests will tell you exactly the kind of battery life you can expect, whether you’re getting work done, watching movies, or even playing video games. Likewise, a selection of storage tests will provide you with important insight into how SSDs and external hard drives perform.

PCMark 10 is an extensive test and takes a long time to complete. Its standard performance test, which is part of the free version, takes around 20 minutes. When testing, you aren’t supposed to use your computer for other tasks. There is an express test, but it’s included in the paid version of the app.

FAQs

Q: How much does the best benchmark software cost?

Like all software, the cost of benchmarking software varies, but many of the best choices have free versions, trials, and low-cost paid versions for home use. In researching this article, we found that most paid benchmarking software costs less than $50. 3DMark, the best benchmark for gaming, costs $29.99 to unlock its full suite of tests. AIDA64 Extreme, our choice for the best RAM benchmark, is more expensive at $49.95 but includes multiple other tests and system monitoring capabilities. Some tests, like the overclock-centric BurnInTest or the multi-benchmark tool Sandra 20/21, do cost more, but there are usually lower-cost alternatives worth considering. 

With that in mind, casual users may be able to get by without spending anything at all. Many of the best benchmarks, like UserBenchmark, are completely free. Others, like 3DMark and PCMark, have free versions to run their most popular tests and paid versions that unlock others. Since many users only run benchmarks for a short amount of time, a 30-day trial can often be more than enough time to run any tests you need for a single session on one machine.

Q: How do I benchmark my PC?

Benchmarking a PC is usually very easy to do. Most benchmarks simply require you to select the test and click go. Others may offer a handful of different settings to hone in on what you would like to test. 

If it’s your first time running a benchmark, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the most accurate results. Your PC has limited resources and you want all of those to be dedicated to the test. That means closing any unnecessary programs before it begins. Likewise, we recommend not using the PC at all while the benchmark is running. Even browsing the web or typing in a word document can lower your results and paint an inaccurate picture. Shut down anything not absolutely necessary and let the benchmark test your PC to its full potential. 

Q: What is the best free benchmark for PC?

Picking the best free benchmark for your PC depends on what you’d like to test, but the best all-in-one benchmark is UserBenchmark. It tests your entire system quickly and easily. After the program is installed, you simply press a button and wait for it to finish. When it’s done, you will see a results page that displays the performance of each component in your PC, and ranks them by percentile against its massive database of results. It’s an outstanding, easy-to-use tool to get a quick bird’s-eye view of your system.

Final thoughts on the best benchmark software

Learning to benchmark your PC is an important skill for anyone who builds PCs or wishes to optimize their computer’s performance. You may not always care how your system stacks up against someone else’s, but knowing if it can play your favorite game or have enough battery for your workday are key to deciding if a system is a good fit for you. Likewise, using benchmarks to identify bottlenecks or weak points in your system can help you decide on your next upgrade. If you’re looking for that extra bit of insight in your PC, benchmark tests are a great place to begin.