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A preview of the new CrXPRT 2 UI

As we get closer to the CrXPRT 2 Community Preview (CP), we want to provide readers with a glimpse of the new CrXPRT 2 UI. In line with the functional and aesthetic themes we used for the latest versions of WebXPRT, MobileXPRT, and HDXPRT, we’re implementing a clean, bright look with a focus on intuitive navigation. The screenshots below show how we’ve used that approach to rework the home, battery life test, performance test, and battery life test results screens. (We’re still tweaking the UI, so the screens you see in the CP may differ slightly.)

On the home screen, we kept the performance test and battery life test buttons, but made it clearer that you can choose only one. We also added a link to the user manual to the bottom ribbon for quick access.

If you choose to run a battery life test and click Next, the screen below appears. The CrXPRT 2 battery life test requires a full rundown, so you’ll need charge your device to 100 percent before you can start the test. Once you’ve done that, enter a name for the test run, unplug the system, and click Start. (Note that you no longer need to enter values for screen brightness and audio levels.)

The CrXPRT 2 performance test includes updated versions of six of the seven workloads in CrXPRT 2015. (As we discussed in a previous blog post, newer versions of Chrome can’t run the Photo Collage workload without a workaround, so we removed it from CrXPRT 2.)  To run the performance test, enter a name for the test run, customize the workloads if you wish, and click Start.

For the results screens, we wanted to highlight the most important end-of-test information while still offering clear paths for options such as getting additional details on the test, submitting results, and running the test again. Below, we show the results screen from a battery life test. Note the “Main menu” link in the upper-left corner, which we added to all screens to give users a quick way to navigate back to the home screen.

CrXPRT 2 development and testing are still underway. We don’t yet have an exact release date for the CP, but once we do, we’ll announce it here in the blog.

What do you think about the new CrXPRT 2 UI? Let us know!

Justin

The XPRT activity we have planned for first half of 2020

Today, we want to let readers know what to expect from the XPRTs over the next several months. Timelines and details can always change, but we’re confident that community members will see CloudXPRT Community Preview (CP), updated AIXPRT, and CrXPRT 2 releases during the first half of 2020.

CloudXPRT

Last week, Bill shared some details about our new datacenter-oriented benchmark, CloudXPRT. If you missed that post, we encourage you to check it out and learn more about the need for a new kind of cloud benchmark, and our plans for the benchmark’s structure and metrics. We’re already testing preliminary builds, and aim to release a CloudXPRT CP in late March, followed by a version for general availability roughly two months later.

AIXPRT

About a month ago, we explained how the number of moving parts in AIXPRT will necessitate a different development approach than we’ve used for other XPRTs. AIXPRT will require more frequent updating than our other benchmarks, and we anticipate releasing the second version of AIXPRT by mid-year. We’re still finalizing the details, but it’s likely to include the latest versions of ResNet-50 and SSD-MobileNet, selected SDK updates, ease-of-use improvements for the harness, and improved installation scripts. We’ll share more detailed information about the release timeline here in the blog as soon as possible.

CrXPRT 2

As we mentioned in December, we’re working on CrXPRT 2, the next version of our benchmark that evaluates the performance and battery life of Chromebooks. You can find out more about how CrXPRT works both here in the blog and at CrXPRT.com.

We’re currently testing an alpha version of CrXPRT 2. Testing is going well, but we’re tweaking a few items and refining the new UI. We should start testing a CP candidate in the next few weeks, and will have firmer information for community members about a CP release date very soon.

We’re excited about these new developments and the prospect of extending the XPRTs into new areas. If you have any questions about CloudXPRT, AIXPRT, or CrXPRT 2, please feel free to ask!

Justin

Planning for the next CrXPRT

We’re currently planning the next version of CrXPRT, our benchmark that evaluates the performance and battery life of Chromebooks. If you’re unfamiliar with CrXPRT, you can find out more about how it works both here in the blog and at CrXPRT.com. If you’ve used CrXPRT, we’d love to hear any suggestions you may have. What do you like or dislike about CrXPRT? What features do you hope to see in a new version?

When we begin work on a new version of any benchmark, one of our first steps is to determine whether the workloads will provide value during the years ahead. As technology and user behavior evolve, we update test content to be more relevant. One example is when we replace photos with ones that use more contemporary file resolutions and sizes.

Sometimes the changing tech landscape prompts us to remove entire workloads and add new ones. The Photo Collage workload in CrXPRT uses Portable Native Client (PNaCl) technology, for which the Chrome team will soon end support. CrXPRT 2015 has a workaround for this issue, but the best course of action for the next version of CrXPRT will be to remove this workload altogether.

The battery life test will also change. Earlier this year, we started to see unusual battery life estimates and high variance when running tests at CrXPRT’s default battery life test length of 3.5 hours, so we’ve been recommending that users perform full rundowns instead. In the next CrXPRT, the battery life test will require full rundowns.

We’ll also be revamping the CrXPRT UI to improve the look of the benchmark and make it easier to use, as we’ve done with the other recent XPRT releases.

We really do want to hear your ideas, and any feedback you send has a chance to shape the future of the benchmark. Let us know what you think!

Justin

A CrXPRT fix for Chrome 76

After Chrome OS version 76 moved from Chrome’s Beta channel to the Stable channel last week, we became aware of an issue that occurs when CrXPRT’s Photo Collage workload runs on a Chrome 76 system. We found that the Photo Collage workload produces an error message—“This plugin is not supported on this device”—and the test run does not complete.

The error occurs because the Photo Collage workload uses Portable Native Client (PNaCl), and starting with version 76, the Chrome team changed the way the OS handles PNaCl tasks. Technically, Chrome still supports PNaCl, but the OS now disables the capability by default. Chrome’s current plan is to end support for PNaCl by the end of this year, focusing related development efforts on WebAssembly instead.

We’ll investigate the best path forward during this transition, but for now, testers can use the following workaround that allows CrXPRT to complete successfully. Simply navigate to chrome://flags on the test system, and find the Native Client flag, which is set to “Disabled” by default. Click the toggle switch to “Enabled” to allow native client capabilities, restart the system, and kick off a CrXPRT test in the normal manner.

We’ll update the CrXPRT web page and test documentation to include information about the workaround. In the long term, we’re interested in any suggestions you have for CrXPRT—whether they’re related to PNaCl or not. Please let us know your thoughts!

Justin

A new playing field for WebXPRT

WebXPRT is one of the go-to benchmarks for evaluating browser performance, so we’re always interested in browser development news. Recently, Microsoft created a development channel where anyone can download early versions of an all-new Microsoft Edge browser. Unlike previous versions of Edge, Microsoft constructed the new browser using the Chromium open-source project, the same foundation underlying the Google Chrome browser and Chrome OS.

One interesting aspect of the new Edge development strategy is the changes that Microsoft is making to more than 50 services that Chromium has included. If you use Chrome daily, you’ve likely become accustomed to certain built-in services such as ad block, spellcheck, translate, maps integration, and form fill, among many others. While each of these is useful, a large number of background services running simultaneously can slow browsing and sap battery life. In the new Edge, Microsoft is either reworking each service or removing it altogether, with the hope of winning users by providing a cleaner, faster, and more power-efficient experience. You can read more about Microsoft’s goals for the new project on the Microsoft Edge Insider site.

As we’ve discussed before, many factors contribute to the speed of a browsing experience and its WebXPRT score. It’s too early to know how the new Microsoft Edge will stack up against other browsers, but when the full version comes out of development, you can be sure that we’ll be publishing some comparison scores. I’ve installed the Dev Channel version of Edge on my personal machine and run WebXPRT 3. While I can’t publish the scores from this early version, I can tell you that the results were interesting. Have you run WebXPRT 3 on the new Microsoft Edge? How do you think it compares to competitors? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Justin

CrXPRT is more valuable than ever

Digital Trends recently published an article discussing various rumors about the future of the Google Pixelbook line. Pixelbooks were some of the first Chromebooks with high-end hardware specs, and they were priced accordingly. Whether or not the rumors discussed in the article turn out to be true, the author points out that the Pixelbook prompted several other vendors, such as HP and Lenovo, to take a chance on high-end Chromebooks. It seems like high-end Chromebooks are here to stay, but given the unique constraints of the Chrome OS environment, buyers are often unsure if it’s worth it to shell out the extra money for a premium model.

We developed CrXPRT to help buyers answer these questions. CrXPRT is a benchmark tool that measures the battery life of your Chromebook as well as how fast it handles everyday tasks like playing video games, watching movies, editing pictures, and doing homework. The performance test gives you individual workload scores and an overall score based on the speed of the device. The battery life test produces an estimated battery life time, a separate performance score, and a frames-per-second (FPS) rate for a built-in HTML5 gaming component.

You don’t have to be a tech journalist or even a techie to use CrXPRT. To learn more, check out the links below.

Testing the performance or battery life of your Chromebook

Simply download CrXPRT from the Chrome Web Store. Installation is quick and easy, and the CrXPRT 2015 user manual provides step-by-step instructions. A typical performance test takes about 15 minutes, and a battery life test will take 3.5 hours once the system is charged and configured for testing. If you’d like to see how your score compares to other Chromebooks, visit the CrXPRT results page.

Want to know more?

Read the Exploring CrXPRT 2015 white paper, where we discuss the concepts behind CrXPRT, its development process, and the app’s structure. We also describe the component tests and explain the statistical processes used to calculate expected battery life.

BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members also have access to the CrXPRT source code, so if you’re interested, join today! There’s no obligation and membership is free for members of any company or organization with an interest in benchmarks.

Give CrXPRT a try and let us know what you think!

Justin

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