Utilities Installation

The last few articles should have given an idea as to just how important system monitoring is.

Here are a few instances in which system monitoring is beneficial:

  • Checking framerates (FPS) to better optimize gaming experiences with settings tweaks.
  • Logging temperatures to better understand when cooling upgrades may be needed, as high thermals will cause throttling.
  • Monitoring SMART HDD data to determine when a drive needs to be replaced.

CAM does all of these and more.

CAM is a free utility that is capable of logging framerates for future review (has performance improved or declined since the last time you played?), monitoring thermals, and keeping track of SMART data. All of this can be leveraged to the benefit of enthusiast system builders, especially when exploring new avenues of system performance tweaking – like overclocking, .ini modification, and game settings tuning. CAM’s FPS measurement can be plotted against time to create a “zoomed-out” log, stored to the optional user account for later recall and analysis.

Actively logging thermals and clock-rates also proves useful for similar functions. Active reporting supplies a means to determine whether the latest overclocking effort is actually applied and sustained, as opposed to silently throttling.

CAM’s not alone, though. AIDA64 offers a deep and granular component monitoring solution. AIDA64 could prove overwhelming to some users (in which case, CAM as a standalone tool is great), as it includes additional information on tertiary timings, voltages across the board, thermals, VRM temperatures, and more. That also makes it exceptionally powerful for overclocking – but the process of overclocking still requires more tools. However, CAM does provide a one-click overclocking solution for video cards.

CAM’s game tab produces averaged performance metrics for all the titles played (with CAM running), creating a “user benchmark” of sorts. For more benchmarking tools, we’d recommend playing around with 3DMark – if you’re into generating scores for your system – and Heaven or Valley by Unigine. All of these tools will help generate baseline scores that can be used for cross-checking against other machines (or against your own tuning and tweaks).

Sometimes, a more comprehensive solution isn’t really needed. For quick-and-dirty CPU temperature readings (and not much else), consider SpeedFan– another free utility. We like to use this one at GamersNexus because it is easy to deploy, and good for a quick “sanity check” on a brand new build. Once we’ve validated that the thermals are good, we’ll normally start installing more comprehensive tools (like CAM).

There’s more to monitoring than just the software, of course. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your brand new system’s average temperatures and performance. This will be useful if you ever experience instability or issues in the future, as it’ll allow quick validation against the fresh-from-box numbers. – Steve Burke, GamersNexus