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Category: Touch-based computing

Diversity

Fall is beautiful in North Carolina. The temperature is dropping.  The leaves are changing color, making the hills scarlet and orange.  And, of course, the stores have been decorated for Christmas since Halloween.

As we head into the biggest shopping season of the year, it’s a great time to be getting XPRT results from the hottest devices. In the last few weeks, we’ve published results from

  • tablets such as the Apple iPad Air, Google Nexus 7 2, and both the Microsoft Surface 2 and Microsoft Surface Pro 2
  • phones such as the Apple iPhone 5c, Apple iPhone 5s, and LG G2
  • devices you might not have expected, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, Barnes and Noble Nook HD+, and NVIDIA Shield

The diversity of devices is nice to see. The results come from PT testing, the press, and benchmark users. Note that you don’t have to be a community member to submit results. The person who submitted the MobileXPRT Nook HD+ results was not a member. If you’ve tested something interesting, send the results on!

Eric

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The Microsoft Surface 2

As soon as the Microsoft Surface 2 became available, we got one and have been putting it through its paces. Of course, we ran WebXPRT and TouchXPRT. The results are on the TouchXPRT and WebXPRT sites, but I’ll repeat them here along with the results for its predecessor, the Microsoft Surface RT.

TouchXPRT WebXPRT
Surface RT

98

167

Surface 2

284

324

TouchXPRT shows the Surface 2 to be almost three times faster than the Microsoft Surface RT, while WebXPRT shows it to be almost twice as fast.

Why the difference? The most obvious explanation is that WebXPRT depends on the browser and its implementations of JavaScript and HTML5. TouchXPRT relies less on additional software and seems to take better advantage of the underlying hardware.

While we have yet to test the Intel Core i5-based Microsoft Surface Pro 2 ourselves, others have been doing so. Interestingly, Anandtech’s review of the Surface Pro 2 included WebXPRT results from both Chrome and IE. The Chrome result was over 30 percent higher than the IE result: 1,260 vs. 960. Unfortunately, Google has not made Chrome available for the ARM-based Surface 2, so we were not able to make that comparison.

As always, please let us know any results you get on any new hardware so we can get as many results as possible in our result databases. There are lots of new products coming out in the next few weeks and we’d love your help in getting results for as many of them as possible. Thanks!

Eric

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Touch device first impressions

One of the nice benefits of working on TouchXPRT has been the opportunity to play with the latest touch devices.  The latest two are Windows 8/RT tablets, the ASUS Vivo Tab RT and the Microsoft Surface. I’ve been using the Vivo Tab without a keyboard and relying solely on touch while on the Surface, I’ve been using the cool keyboard/screen cover as well as touch. Overall, I’ve found the devices and Windows 8 very interesting, but still rough around the edges. One example of interesting on the interface formerly known as Metro (IFKaM) is the elongated landscape screens. They take a bit of getting used to, but may prove to be a good choice. On the rough-around-the-edges front, the first thing I currently do on any new device is to install Dropbox so I can get to some files to play around with. Dropbox is not yet available, though it certainly will be—hopefully soon!

IFKaM has a lot to it. On the one hand, it does not seem to me as intuitive as IOS. On the other hand, I have found that if I look hard enough, I can find a way to do something I’m used to doing in Windows. For example, even though I couldn’t use Dropbox, it dawned on me that I could just mount my file server and get to some files that way. As I spend more time with these devices, I’ll have to see if the tradeoff of a longer learning curve pays off in terms of more power and flexibility.

While I ponder that, I want to put in a mention about TouchXPRT 2013 CP1. The source is now available to members. Let us know if you see areas to improve TouchXPRT or the code itself as we work the final version over the next few months. Thanks!

Bill

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Putting the TouchXPRT pedal to the metal

Since we announced TouchXPRT early this year, we’ve been following a typical benchmark development path. We started with the most important question—“What are people likely to do with a touch-based Windows 8 device?”—and built from there. We looked at what people are doing now with iOS- and Android-based devices. We worked with early Windows 8 units. We studied app stores. We spoke with members of the development community. And so on. When we were done studying, we moved to coding.

We’re making great progress, but something has been nagging at us: When Windows 8 tablets and other devices ship next week, there just won’t be much in the way of tools for measuring their performance when running Windows 8 apps. Sure, you may be able use standard benchmarks to assess the performance of typical desktop applications, but that won’t tell you how the devices will perform with tablet apps.

So, we’ve decided to put the pedal to the metal and provide everyone in our development community with a special treat. Sometime next week, before Windows 8 ships, we plan to release a sneak preview of TouchXPRT, the TouchXPRT 2013 Community Preview 1 (CP1).

CP1, as its name makes clear, is not the final TouchXPRT release. It is, though, a useful tool for beginning to measure Windows 8 device performance. It is also a great way for everyone in the community to see the current state of our thinking and to provide us feedback—rather than read a design spec, you can actually run this version of the tool and see what you think! (If you would like to read the informal design spec, check out http://www.hdxprt.com/forum/touchxprt2013cp1.php .)

To make the tool easier to evaluate and more useful to all of us, we’re also taking two more unusual steps:

1.            We’re not putting any publication restrictions on this preview release. Test at will, and publish your findings.

2.            We’re releasing the source code to all community members. If you’re curious about not just what we’re doing but how we’re doing it, you can find out.

We hope these steps will speed acceptance of TouchXPRT 2013 and foster more and faster feedback. Releasing a preview version is more work, because we have to do much of the work of a software release and on less-than-final code, but we believe the value to our community justifies the effort.

Next week, when we release CP1, I’ll go over more details, the known limitations, and how you can get us your feedback—feedback we very much want.

Between now and then, we’ll be readying CP1 for your use.

Bill

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Tablets everywhere

Everyone wants in on the tablet market. This month, two software vendors have announced hardware tablets—Microsoft’s Surface and Google’s Nexus 7. Both vendors in the past relied on OEMs to create tablets using their software (Windows and Android). Both have met with limited success doing so.

Now, both are trying Apple’s strategy of controlling the hardware as well the software. Unlike Apple, however, Microsoft and Google still need to work with their OEM partners. I’m looking forward to watching that delicate dance!

I’m looking forward more, however, to being able to actually play with both of those products. I’m also looking forward to using TouchXPRT on such products. We have not given you an update in a while on TouchXPRT, but rest assured that we are hard at work on it. Once we have HDXPRT 2012 ready to go, we will give you more details on where we are with TouchXPRT and its current schedule. The touch and tablet market are heating up and we plan to be there for it. As we have indicated before, we will support Windows 8 Metro in the first version, but we see a real need for TouchXPRT to work on multiple platforms. So much to do!

Please note that today is the end of the beta test period. We appreciate the results, bugs, and suggestions you have sent so far. Feel free, however, to continue to send us any feedback or issues you find even after the official beta period is complete. After today, we can’t guarantee to be able to address them, but we will try.

Bill

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TouchXPRT update

We have been busy the last couple of months with TouchXPRT. We have been investigating and trying out things on Windows 8 Metro. While we are excited by the possibilities for a benchmark in that space, the task is a bit daunting.

The first key question is what are people likely to do with a device using touch-based environment like Metro? The best way to answer that is to look at what people are currently doing with IOS- and Android-based devices. We have been playing with those as well as some units running the Metro beta. To create an initial list of roles or usage categories, we spent some time looking at what is available on the iTunes App Store, the Android Play store, and the Windows Store. Here, in no particular order, is the list of uses we came up with:

  • Consume and manipulate media – Touch devices are heavily used for consuming media (music, photos, and video), but now are being used for some simple manipulation tasks like adding simple visual effects to video, mixing and changing audio, and enhancing photos.
  • Browse the Web – Touch devices are becoming one of the main ways people consume Web content, both normal Web pages and specially crafted “mobile” pages. Touch devices are what I use to find the phone number for the nearest takeout Chinese.
  • Watch video for entertainment – Through movie apps like Netflix and TV network apps, touch devices (especially tablets) are becoming a major force in this area.
  • Play games – This is obviously something folks do on their touch devices. As best we can tell, no consumer device can ship without Angry Birds!
  • Interact with others – Through apps like Facebook and Foursquare, touch devices are becoming a big way that people interact with each other.
  • Get news and information – Another big area is general news and information, including things like stock quotes and weather.
  • Use utilities – This is a broad category—there are a ton of utilities for doing everything from moving files to backing up data.

That list covers a lot of ground and some of the areas, like games, would be particularly difficult to benchmark. We thought, however, that it would be best to get everything out and then figure out what to tackle first. The big challenges we face are the lack of apps available for Metro and having no good ability to script or drive applications. Our current thinking is to write some minimal sample apps that mimic common apps out there. These would not be complete apps, but would do some of the key functions. Then, we could build scenarios around these functions. That seems like the best approach to completing something in a timely fashion. Initially, we would aim for two or three of those areas and then add others over time.

As always, we need your feedback. Let us know what you think about the list of uses and the approach in general. And, let us know if you can help with any of the sample app development. Thanks!

Bill

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