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Benchmarking Excel Gaming Rig
In my essay about the differences between Excel versions, I discussed a bit about the significant decrease in performance in Excel 2002 when it comes to animating shapes. Carlos Rondão pointed out to me, that this issue is more complex than that. The speed of shape animation is affected by many other factors. For example, animating a shape on an embedded image may significantly decrease the performance.
Carlos created an elegant tool that allows you to test the speed of your machine as an Excel Gaming Rig. His workbook utilizes different shapes, the small ones are similar to those used in his excellent game BubbleCell
I tested it on my old desktop computer (Pentium 4 2.8 GHz, Gefore 4 MX GPU) with Excel 2000 installed, and got 950 fps. (frames per second) for Rotation, and only 210 fps. for Rotation with Background, Shape Animation also run at about 210 fps.
When I tried this tool on my new notebook (Core Duo T2400, Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU) with Excel 2003 I got 320 fps. for Rotation, 300 fps. for Rotation with Background, and 780 fps. for Shape Animation. It looks like much faster CPU / GPU speeds up shape animation, but there is also a strange bottleneck imposed by latter version of Excel for shape rotation.
Complex shape with 3D effect and gradient fill is animated very slowly in Excel version above 2000. I make a simple workbook with msoShapeSun animation: I got about 300 fps. (3D effect) and 670 fps. (plain shape) on old desktop with Excel 2000. More powerful machine (Core Duo notebook, X1600 GPU) with Excel 2003 only reached 16 and 48 fps. in those tests. Strange results indeed!
You can download both benchmarking tools below:
I will try to expand this section in future adding new benchmarks and reporting other peculiarities regarding the performance of Excel as a gaming platform.
Update: Dec 14, 2006.
On my Core Duo notebook I get around 35 fps. For animation with 50 bugs, this means 1,750 animate shape operations per second - quite an impressive capability of Excel application.
Update: Dec 18, 2006.
Update: Jul 31, 2007.
However, my Starshape benchmark reached 22 fps. for 3D star and 273 fps. for plain star - much better than Excel 2003. It seems that general dropdown of performance is mediated by some optimization in areas when Excel 2003 performed very poorly.
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