Like PCMark Vantage, the user interface has undergone an update. The changes here tend to be a bit more far-reaching, however. Instead of the usual 3DMark where you get a standard setting that everyone should use if they want to compare scores, 3DMark Vantage now includes four benchmark scenarios that you can run. The default is "Performance", which is roughly equivalent to the default settings in 3DMark06. It runs at 1280x1024 with a reasonable selection of graphics enhancements. "High" bumps the resolution up to 1680x1050 and increases the various detail settings, while "Extreme" takes things a step further in the detail department and runs at 1920x1200. Don't have what it takes to run at any of these settings? No worries, as Futuremark now includes an "Entry" setting that runs at 1024x768 and disables much of the complexity.
The above four images show the default settings for the four benchmark modes just described. Entry frankly looks quite poor with the disabled effects, but it runs fast. Even on a relatively high-end system, Performance and High modes struggle, and the Extreme benchmark absolutely crawls. Note that we experienced quite a few graphical glitches on Extreme in the Jane Nash test; AMD is likely working to release updated drivers, as it appears to be a GPU issue rather than a CPU/system problem.
Update: We have indeed received confirmation that new drivers are available - and not just from AMD. There's a hotfix driver update from AMD to address performance and graphical corruption issues with 3DMark Vantage and a beta driver from NVIDIA to do the same for their hardware. Since this is merely a first look rather than a review, however, the performance differences aren't a huge concern. We'll save the driver updates for future hardware reviews.
Update #2: Futuremark was kind enough to provide us with a Pro version registration code, and we sort of assumed the normal functionality and limitations that are present in previous 3DMark releases would continue. Not so, good readers! It turns out that you must register in order to even run 3DMark Vantage, and even with your email address you only get to generate one result with your trial - and even that needs to be viewed online. If you want what was normally free, you now have to purchase the Basic version for $6.95, and you still don't get access to all the features (i.e. the four test settings listed above along with the feature tests) unless you upgrade to the Advanced version for $19.95. The Pro version is mostly for business use, priced at a whopping $495. (Ed: Did we mention how thankful we were to receive a Pro code from Futuremark?)
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because Futuremark may have relegated 3DMark Vantage into irrelevance by this decision. Now, you can't test and retest your system to see how any tweaks may or may not affect your score, and if you have multiple systems you're going to need to generate multiple email addresses. (Ed: I smell a rise in Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. email account registrations.) On the other hand, users interested in competing for the top ORB spots will now have to put some money into Futuremark's pockets. But then, Futuremark already receives funding from various sources, like Sapphire obviously, and paying to see ads isn't something most people like.