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Category: Benchmarking

The AIXPRT source code is now public

This week, we have good news for AIXPRT testers: the AIXPRT source code is now available to the public via GitHub. As we’ve discussed in the past, publishing XPRT source code is part of our commitment to making the XPRT development process as transparent as possible. With other XPRT benchmarks, we’ve only made the source code available to community members. With AIXPRT, we have released the source code more widely. By allowing all interested parties, not just community members, to download and review our source code, we’re taking tangible steps to improve openness and honesty in the benchmarking industry and we’re encouraging the kind of constructive feedback that helps to ensure that the XPRTs continue to contribute to a level playing field.

Traditional open-source models encourage developers to change products and even take them in new and different directions. Because benchmarking requires a product that remains static to enable valid comparisons over time, we allow people to download the source code and submit potential workloads for future consideration, but we reserve the right to control derivative works. This discourages a situation where someone publishes an unauthorized version of the benchmark and calls it an “XPRT.”

We encourage you to download and review the source and send us any feedback you may have. Your questions and suggestions may influence future versions of AIXPRT. If you have any questions about AIXPRT or accessing the source code, please feel free to ask! Please also let us know if you think we should take this approach to releasing the source code with other XPRT benchmarks.

Justin

Using WebXPRT 3 to compare the performance of popular browsers

Microsoft recently released a new Chromium-based version of the Edge browser, and several tech press outlets have released reviews and results from head-to-head browser performance comparison tests. Because WebXPRT is a go-to benchmark for evaluating browser performance, PCMag, PCWorld, and VentureBeat, among others, used WebXPRT 3 scores as part of the evaluation criteria for their reviews.

We thought we would try a quick experiment of our own, so we grabbed a recent laptop from our Spotlight testbed: a Dell XPS 13 7930 running Windows 10 Home 1909 (18363.628) with an Intel Core i3-10110U processor and 4 GB of RAM. We tested on a clean system image after installing all current Windows updates, and after the update process completed, we turned off updates to prevent them from interfering with test runs. We ran WebXPRT 3 three times on six browsers: a new browser called Brave, Google Chrome, the legacy version of Microsoft Edge, the new version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. The posted score for each browser is the median of the three test runs.

As you can see in the chart below, five of the browsers (legacy Edge, Brave, Opera, Chrome, and new Edge) produced scores that were nearly identical. Mozilla Firefox was the only browser that produced a significantly different score. The parity among Brave, Chrome, Opera, and the new Edge is not that surprising, considering they are all Chromium-based browsers. The rank order and relative scaling of these results is similar to the results published by the tech outlets mentioned above.

Do these results mean that Mozilla Firefox will provide you with a speedier web experience? Generally, a device with a higher WebXPRT score is probably going to feel faster to you during daily use than one with a lower score. For comparisons on the same system, however, the answer depends in part on the types of things you do on the web, how the extensions you’ve installed affect performance, how frequently the browsers issue updates and incorporate new web technologies, and how accurately the browsers’ default installation settings reflect how you would set up the same browsers for your daily workflow.

In addition, browser speed can increase or decrease significantly after an update, only to swing back in the other direction shortly thereafter. OS-specific optimizations can also affect performance, such as with Edge on Windows 10 and Chrome on Chrome OS. All of these variables are important to keep in mind when considering how browser performance comparison results translate to your everyday experience. In such a competitive market, and with so many variables to consider, we’re happy that WebXPRT can help consumers by providing reliable, objective results.

What are your thoughts on today’s competitive browser market? We’d love to hear from you.

Justin

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

CloudXPRT is on the way

A few months ago, we wrote about the possibility of creating a datacenter XPRT. In the intervening time, we’ve discussed the idea with folks both in and outside of the XPRT Community. We’ve heard from vendors of datacenter products, hosting/cloud providers, and IT professionals that use those products and services.

The common thread that emerged was the need for a cloud benchmark that can accurately measure the performance of modern, cloud-first applications deployed on modern infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platforms, whether those platforms are on-premises, hosted elsewhere, or some combination of the two (hybrid clouds). Regardless of where clouds reside, applications are increasingly using them in latency-critical, highly available, and high-compute scenarios.

Existing datacenter benchmarks do not give a clear indication of how applications will perform on a given IaaS infrastructure, so the benchmark should use cloud-native components on the actual stacks used for on-prem and public cloud management.

We are planning to call the benchmark CloudXPRT. Our goal is for CloudXPRT to address the needs described above while also including the elements that have made the other XPRTs successful. We plan for CloudXPRT to

  • Be relevant to on-prem (datacenter), private, and public cloud deployments
  • Run on top of cloud platform software such as Kubernetes
  • Include multiple workloads that address common scenarios like web applications, AI, and media analytics
  • Support multi-tier workloads
  • Report relevant metrics including both throughput and critical latency for responsiveness-driven applications and maximum throughput for applications dependent on batch processing

CloudXPRT’s workloads will use cloud-native components on an actual stack to provide end-to-end performance metrics that allow users to choose the best IaaS configuration for their business.

We’ve been building and testing preliminary versions of CloudXPRT for the last few months. Based on the progress so far, we are shooting to have a Community Preview of CloudXPRT ready in mid- to late-March with a version for general availability ready about two months later.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working on getting out more information about CloudXPRT and continuing to talk with interested parties about how they can help. We’d love to hear what workflows would be of most interest to you and what you would most like to see in a datacenter/cloud benchmark. Please feel free to contact us!

Bill

CES 2020: AI in action and a “smart” future

During last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one question kept coming to mind as I walked the floor: Are we approaching the tipping point where AI truly affects most people in meaningful ways on a daily basis? I think it’s safe to say that we’ve reached that point as a result of AI integration with phones. After all, for many of us, AI improves the quality of our photography, recommends words and phrases as we text and search the web, and lets us know when to allow extra drive time because traffic is heavy.

However, for me, the most intriguing aspects of this year’s CES are the glimpses of how AI will change every area of our lives, with and without mobile devices. The show floor is jam-packed with ways to integrate AI with everything from athletic shoes to pet care to the kitchen sink. Many of these ideas are fascinating on their own, and they’re all part of a much bigger picture. The next few years will see increased AI utilization in medicine, transportation, agriculture, water and energy distribution, natural resource protection, and many more areas. Our personal smart devices will connect to smart vehicles, smart homes, smart grids, and smart cities. In the near future, CES shows won’t need AI sections because AI will be a part of everything.

At each step of this journey, people will need objective data about how well their tech can handle the demands of common AI workloads. We’re excited that AIXPRT is already becoming a go-to tool for testing inference performance on laptops, desktops, and servers. There’s much more to come with AIXPRT in 2020, along with news about XPRTs in the datacenter, so stay tuned to the blog for exciting developments in the weeks to come!

I’ll leave you with pics from three of my favorite displays at this year’s show. The first is a model of Toyota’s Woven City. Toyota announced plans to build an entire mini city on existing company land near Mount Fuji. The city will house 2,000 people and will serve as an enormous real-time lab where designers and engineers can test ubiquitous AI and sensor technology. Toyota will also design the city to be fully sustainable with the use of hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels.

The second picture shows the electric Hyundai Urban Air Mobility prototype. Hyundai is partnering with Uber on this project, and the planned vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft will seat five passengers plus a pilot, have a range of 60 miles, and be able to recharge in less than 10 minutes. These concepts aren’t new, but battery and material sciences technologies are progressing to the point that this one may get off the ground!

The third picture shows BrainCo’s AI Prosthetic Hand display. The hand provides amputees with new levels of dexterity compared to previous prosthetics, and it uses AI to learn from the user’s patterns of movement. The idea is that the accuracy of gestures and grips will improve over time, allowing users to accomplish tasks that are impossible with existing technology. A young man in the booth was using the hand to paint beautiful and precise Chinese calligraphy. Very cool!

Justin

Check out the other XPRTs: