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Comparing apples and oranges?

My first day at CES, I had breakfast with Brett Howse from AnandTech. It was a great opportunity to get the perspective of a savvy tech journalist and frequent user of the XPRTs.

During our conversation, Brett raised concerns about comparing mobile devices to PCs. As mobile devices get more powerful, the performance and capability gaps between them and PCs are narrowing. That makes it more common to compare upper-end mobile devices to PCs.

People have long used different versions of benchmarks when comparing these two classes of devices. For example, the images for benchmarking a phone might be smaller than those for benchmarking a PC. Also, because of processor differences, the benchmarks might be built differently, say a 16- or 32-bit executable for a mobile device, and a 64-bit version for a PC. That was fine when no one was comparing the devices directly, but can be a problem now.

This issue is more complicated than it sounds. For those cases where a benchmark uses a dumbed-down version of the workload for mobile devices, comparing the results is clearly not valid. However, let’s assume that the workload stays the same, and that you run a 32-bit benchmark on a tablet, and a 64-bit version on a PC. Is the comparison valid? It may be, if you are talking about the day-to-day performance a user is likely to encounter. However, it may not be valid if you are making statement about the potential performance of the device itself.

Brett would like the benchmarking community to take charge of this issue and provide guidance about how to compare mobile devices and PCs. What are your thoughts?

Eric

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