The CPU or the Central Processing Unit of a computer is a very vital portion of the system as it carries out the instructions of a computer program. The instructions of the computer program are carried out by the CPU in sequence in order to perform the basic arithmetic, logical and input / output operations of the system. CPU benchmark is a process used to evaluate the performance of the CPU of a computer. These benchmarking programs compare the capabilities of your computer to other computers, using a score-based system or a numerical-value system.
Though the term CPU benchmark would refer primarily to the processor in the computer (CPU stands for Central Processing Unit), benchmark utilities test a host of other aspects of the computer as well as the CPU. This is largely due to the fact that the term CPU is used to loosely refer to the part of the computer called the system unit which houses all the critical components that are essential the computer to run. Other devices such as the monitor, printer, scanner, mouse and keyboard may not be tested by a benchmark utility but other utilities are available to test these components if one wishes to do so.
One of the purposes for using a benchmark utility is to find where bottlenecks may lie in your computer. Gamers for example will run a benchmark utility on their computer periodically to measure how well their system performs and hardcore gamers will strive to have their systems within the top tier of the results list.
A popular CPU benchmark utility used in the gaming circles is 3DMark which tests the CPU and the graphics capabilities of the computer. Tests consist of a number of videos that are generated by the program and the number of frames per second is recorded while the video is running. The human eye cannot discern fluctuations in a video over 30 frames per second (FPS) and results at around that number are considered to be average. Computers that belong to hardcore gamers will yield results sometimes far above 30 FPS.
Most CPU benchmark utilities will have an internal database that your computer is compared with and some other benchmark utilities such as 3DMark will allow you to submit your results online for others to compare their results with. The addition of this online comparison allows users to see which parts are in top performing computers that make them run so well compared to their own.
Online comparisons also offer additional marketing for manufacturers as well since higher results that are generated due to someone having a particular part in their computer will sway others to purchase the same part in order to get an overall higher score. A point to consider is the fact that a low-end graphics card may cause you to have a lower score even if all other parts in your computer are top-of-the-line.
Typical tests done by benchmark utilities include the number of calculations which can be done by the CPU, the ability of the CPU to assist in rendering graphics, the ability of the graphics card to render graphics and offload some of the work from the CPU, and the transfer rates between the hard disk drive and the memory in the system. All of these tests combined along with a couple others will contribute your final score at the end of the tests.