For most people, benchmarking is what you do to make sure your PC is performing normally and is giving you the kind of performance you need, most often in games where you may find yourself tweaking graphics settings to get the right balance. While I'm sure many, or maybe even most people, find this kind of stuff boring, I absolutely love benchmarking. Ever since I built my first PC about a decade ago, I have loved seeing what my components are capable of, and here's why.
1 It's a relaxing way to spend time
While many love playing games, sometimes it's relaxing just to play around with graphics settings in games instead of actually playing them. It's kind of like playing a sandbox game like Minecraft, where there isn't really a specific goal you're trying to achieve except for the one you make for yourself, and I find this really fun. Plus, lots of benchmarks can just run on their own and you don't even need to do anything, making it a perfect combination with reading, browsing the internet, or doing chores or work. I get lots of my writing done while testing SSDs, which saves quite a bit of time.
That being said, there are some games that aren't super fun to benchmark. There are lots of games like Skyrim that don't let you alter settings in game and force you to restart when you do, and that can make the whole benchmarking process much more tedious than it really needs to be. Thankfully, more and more modern games are allowing users to change graphics settings without a single restart, which I am very thankful for personally.
2 You can find a great combination of settings for games
Of course, there is a practical application to benchmarking: finding the best settings you can in games. You don't need to even take benchmarking to the extremes I do to find a spread of settings that satisfies what you want in a framerate, visual quality, and other aspects. This is especially important for cheaper CPUs and budget GPUs since you can't expect to just crank all the settings up and still have a good framerate.
But even beyond that, one of my main reasons for benchmarking is to sort of challenge myself to find not just good settings, but the best. If I'm on my main desktop, maybe I'm trying to see how far I can push my GPU with a specific framerate in mind, or if I'm on my Steam Deck I'm probably just looking for a great balance between framerate, visual quality, and battery life. Benchmarking is almost like solving a puzzle and the pieces change with the game and hardware.
3 You can write up reviews based on your benchmarks, and it's fun
As long as you have a piece of hardware and you want to spend the time benchmarking it, you can write up a review for it, and I personally love writing reviews. Even before I became a journalist, I wrote reviews for the CPUs and GPUs I happened to purchase and just posted them on forums. Very few people actually read them, but I didn't really mind and simply writing something up based on my findings and experience was (and still is) very fulfilling.
While there are good and bad ways to review a PC component, whether we're talking about how the review is written or how the testing was conducted, reviews from the community can be really important. There are lots of things that don't get reviewed by publications, and the community has always been very helpful to me in providing data I can't find from my trusted sources.
4 If you want to overclock, you need to benchmark
Overclocking, whether you're talking about CPUs or GPUs, is definitely going out of style. Still, it's not dead yet, and if you want to get good at overclocking and understand why you're even doing it, you need to get good at benchmarking. Benchmarking is going to tell you how your PC performs before an overclock, how much performance your overclock has actually gained you (because a 10% frequency bump doesn't mean 10% more frames), and whether your overclock is actually stable or not.
5 Testing hardware will teach you about how it interacts with our software
Perhaps my favorite part about benchmarking is discovering what makes hardware and software tick. I particularly love talking about how complicated CPU benchmarking is, because the CPU is both relatively unimportant compared to GPUs when it comes to games and yet can also destroy your performance if it's not good enough. I have always found testing methodology fascinating and something to be constantly improved upon when possible, and that's not because I think there's one true, perfect way to test: I just find it really interesting to find better ways to benchmark.
But hardware doesn't exist without software, and sometimes I find some really strange and unique results when benchmarking certain games. For example, I love Total War: Attila, but ever since it came out it has run like hot garbage on every single CPU that's come out, which indicates not just a CPU bottleneck, but a serious lack of optimization and good programming. However, I recently discovered that the Ryzen 7 7800X3D runs Attila super well, hitting twice the framerate of my Ryzen 9 7900X. There are probably loads more old games out there that run well on AMD's 3D V-Cache chips I bet.
Why not give benchmarking a try?
Even if you're not as crazy as I am, I think we can all agree we like seeing big numbers, and lots of benchmarks show you exactly that: big numbers. It's just a nice feeling to finally get one of the best gaming graphics cards, run it through 3DMark, and get a bigger score than you did with the old one. Lots of benchmarks are free, and you can compare them to other users' results (like in 3DMark), so give benchmarking a go and see whether you like it. The more people benchmarking, the better, in my opinion.