3DMark's version numbers have been ditched from the product name in an attempt to emphasize the new cross-platform nature of the release. This ill-advised gesture is ignored by the faithful and the press alike, including me.
Naming gaffes aside, Futuremark has undertaken the long-overdue rework of their flagship product and emerged with a slick package that sheds the weight of past releases and restores the luxurious visuals and sense of style that have been absent from the last few versions.
Installation isn't complicated and remains free of add-on traps and other bloatware, although the gigabyte-sized download isn't petite. Make sure you read the latest instructions: In the case of the AMD 7950 in my test system, beta drivers were actually recommended over certified ones. Once installed, it presents you with a window where the three test environments that comprise the suite can be selected for a benchmarking pass. Advanced options let you select custom visual settings, enable demo modes, loop benchmarks for stress testing and view past results.
Ice Storm depicts a low-count polygon world suitable for mobile devices and legacy or entry-level PCs. This is the benchmark destined to run on smartphones, tablets, WinRT devices and similar. The level of detail is roughly equivalent to DirectX 9. The demo mode for this world space is particularly well conceived and despite the lower level of detail, may be the most visually dynamic of the three.
Cloud Gate is the middle child, designed to test laptops and office PCs. The stately flybys of massive spacecraft and jump gates are a touch hazy here, but impressive nevertheless. This one is for PCs only, which is a shame, since data on high-end tablets would be of interest. The physics test is particularly tough here, producing FPS numbers lower than Fire Strike, which indicates a CPU bias at play.