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Category: Future of performance evaluation

A clearer picture of WebXPRT 4

The WebXPRT 4 development process is far enough along that we’d like to share more about changes we are likely to make and a rough target date for publishing a preview build. While some of the details below will probably change, this post should give readers a good sense of what to expect.

General changes

Some of the non-workload changes in WebXPRT 4 relate to our typical benchmark update process, and a few result directly from feedback we received from the WebXPRT tech press survey.

  • We will update the aesthetics of the WebXPRT UI to make WebXPRT 4 visually distinct from older versions. We do not anticipate significantly changing the flow of the UI.
  • We will update content in some of the workloads to reflect changes in everyday technology. For instance, we will upgrade most of the photos in the photo processing workloads to higher resolutions.
  • In response to a request from tech press survey respondents, we are considering adding a looping function to the automation scripts.
  • We are investigating the possibility of shortening the benchmark by reducing the default number of iterations from seven to five. We will only make this change if we can ensure that five iterations produce consistently low score variance.

Changes to existing workloads

  • Photo Enhancement. This workload applies three effects to two photos each (six photos total). It tests HTML5 Canvas, Canvas 2D, and JavaScript performance. The only change we are considering is adding higher-resolution photos.
  • Organize Album Using AI. This workload currently uses the ConvNetJS neural network library to complete two tasks: (1) organizing five images and (2) classifying the five images in an album. We are planning to replace ConvNetJS with WebAssembly (WASM) for both tasks and are considering upgrading the images to higher resolutions.
  • Stock Option Pricing. This workload calculates and displays graphic views of a stock portfolio using Canvas, SVG, and dygraph.js. The only change we are considering is combining it with the Sales Graphs workload (below).
  • Sales Graphs. This workload provides a web-based application displaying multiple views of sales data. Sales Graphs exercises HTML5 Canvas and SVG performance. The only change we are considering is combining it with the Stock Option Pricing workload (above).
  • Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan. This workload uses ASM.js to sync notes, extract text from a scanned receipt using optical character recognition (OCR), and add the scanned text to a spending report. We are planning to replace ASM.js with WASM for the Notes task and with WASM-based Tesseract for the OCR task.
  • Online Homework. This workload uses regex, arrays, strings, and Web Workers to review DNA and spell-check an essay. We are not planning to change this workload.

Possible new workloads

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP). We are considering the addition of an NLP workload using ONNX Runtime and/or TensorFlowJS. The workload would use Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) to answer questions about a given text. Similar use cases are becoming more prevalent in conversational bot systems, domain-specific document search tools, and various other educational applications.
  • Message Scrolling. We are considering developing a new workload that would use an Angular or React.js to scroll through hundreds of messages. We’ll share more about this possible workload as we firm up the details.

The release timeline

We hope to publish a WebXPRT 4 preview build in the second half of November, with a general release before the end of the year. If it looks as though that timeline will change significantly, we’ll provide an update here in the blog as soon as possible.

We’re very grateful for all the input we received during the WebXPRT 4 planning process. If you have any questions about the details we’ve shared above, please feel free to ask!

Justin

Round 2 of the WebXPRT 4 survey is now open

In May, we surveyed longtime WebXPRT users regarding the types of changes they would like to see in a WebXPRT 4. We sent the survey to journalists at several tech press outlets, and invited our blog readers to participate as well. We received some very helpful feedback. As we explore new possibilities for WebXPRT 4, we’ve decided to open an updated version of the survey. We’ve adjusted the questions a bit based on previous feedback and added some new ones, so we invite you to respond even if you participated in the original survey.

To do so, please send your answers to the following questions to benchmarkxprtsupport@principledtechnologies.com before July 31.

  • Do you think WebXPRT 3’s selection of workload scenarios is representative of modern web tasks?
  • How do you think WebXPRT compares to other common browser-based benchmarks, such as JetStream, Speedometer, and Octane?
  • Would you like to see a workload based on WebAssembly (WASM) in WebXPRT 4? Why or why not?
  • Would you like to see a workload based on Single Page Application (SPA) technology in WebXPRT 4? Why or why not?
  • Would you like to see a workload based on Motion UI in WebXPRT 4? Why or why not?
  • Would you like to see us include any other web technologies in additional workloads?
  • Are you happy with the WebXPRT 3 user interface? If not, what UI changes would you like to see?
  • Have you ever experienced significant connection issues when testing with WebXPRT?
  • Given its array of workloads, do you think the WebXPRT runtime is reasonable? Would you mind if the average runtime increased slightly?
  • Would you like to see us change any other aspects of WebXPRT 3?


If you would like to share your thoughts on any topics that the questions above do not cover, please include those in your response. We look forward to hearing from you!

Justin

The WebXPRT 4 tech press feedback survey

Device reviews in publications such as AnandTech, Notebookcheck, and PCMag, among many others, often feature WebXPRT test results, and we appreciate the many members of the tech press that use WebXPRT. As we move forward with the WebXPRT 4 development process, we’re especially interested in learning what longtime users would like to see in a new version of the benchmark.  

In previous posts, we’ve asked people to weigh in on the potential addition of a WebAssembly workload or a battery life test. We’d also like to ask experienced testers some other test-related questions. To that end, this week we’ll be sending a WebXPRT 4 survey directly to members of the tech press who frequently publish WebXPRT test results.

Regardless of whether you are a member of the tech press, we invite you to participate by sending your answers to any or all the questions below to benchmarkxprtsupport@principledtechnologies.com. We ask you to do so by the end of May.

  • Do you think WebXPRT 3’s selection of workload scenarios is representative of modern web tasks?
  • How do you think WebXPRT compares to other common browser-based benchmarks, such as JetStream, Speedometer, and Octane?
  • Are there web technologies that you’d like us to include in additional workloads?
  • Are you happy with the WebXPRT 3 user interface? If not, what UI changes would you like to see?
  • Are there any aspects of WebXPRT 2015 that we changed in WebXPRT 3 that you’d like to see us change back?
  • Have you ever experienced significant connection issues when testing with WebXPRT?
  • Given the array of workloads, do you think the WebXPRT runtime is reasonable? Would you mind if the average runtime were a bit longer?
  • Are there any other aspects of WebXPRT 3 that you’d like to see us change?

If you’d like to discuss any topics that we did not cover in the questions above, please feel free to include additional comments in your response. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Justin

Moving forward with WebXPRT 4

In the coming months, we’ll be moving forward with the first stages of the WebXPRT 4 development process. It’s been a while since we last asked readers to send their thoughts about web technologies and workloads that may be a good fit for WebXPRT 4, but we’re still very much open to ideas. If you missed our previous posts about possible changes for WebXPRT 4, we recap the most prominent ideas below. We also request specific feedback regarding a potential battery life component.

  • Community members have asked about a WebXPRT 4 battery life test. Any such test would likely be very similar to the performance-weighted battery life test in CrXPRT 2 (as opposed to a simple rundown test). While WebXPRT runs in almost any browser, cross-browser compatibility issues could cause a WebXPRT battery life test to run in only one browser. If this turned out to be the case, would you still be interested in using the battery life test? Please let us know.
  • One of the most promising ideas is the potential addition of one or more WebAssembly (WASM) workloads. WASM is a low-level, binary instruction format that works across all modern browsers. It offers web developers a great deal of flexibility and provides the speed and efficiency necessary for running complex client applications in the browser. WASM enables a variety of workload scenario options, including gaming, video editing, VR, virtual machines, image recognition, and interactive educational content.
  • We are also considering adding a web-based machine learning workload with TensorFlow for JavaScript (TensorFlow.js). TensorFlow.js offers pre-trained models for a wide range of tasks including image classification, object detection, sentence encoding, and natural language processing. We could also use this technology to enhance one of WebXPRT’s existing AI-themed workloads, such as Organize Album using AI or Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan.
  • Other ideas include using a WebGL-based workload to target GPUs, and simulating common web applications.

We’ll start work on WebXPRT 4 soon, but there’s still time to send your comments and ideas, so please do so as quickly as possible!

Justin

Thinking ahead to the next HDXPRT

We’re currently formulating our 2021 development roadmap for the XPRTs. In addition to planning CloudXPRT and WebXPRT updates, we’re discussing the possibility of releasing HDXPRT 5 in 2021. It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been about two and a half years since we started work on HDXPRT 4, and February 2021 will mark two years since the first HDXPRT 4 release. Windows PCs are more powerful than ever, so it’s a good time to talk about how we can enhance the benchmark’s ability to measure how well the latest systems handle real-world media technologies and applications.

When we plan a new version of an XPRT benchmark, one of our first steps is updating the benchmark’s workloads so that they will remain relevant in years to come. We almost always update application content, such as photos and videos, to contemporary file resolutions and sizes. For example, we added both higher-resolution photos and a 4K video conversion task in HDXPRT 4. Are there specific types of media files that you think would be especially relevant to high-performance media tasks over the next few years?

Next, we will assess the suitability of the real-world trial applications that the editing photos, editing music, and converting videos test scenarios use. Currently, these are Adobe Photoshop Elements, Audacity, CyberLink MediaEspresso, and HandBrake. Can you think of other applications that belong in a high-performance media processing benchmark?

In HDXPRT 4, we gave testers the option to target a system’s discrete graphics card during the video conversion workload. Has this proven useful in your testing? Do you have suggestions for new graphics-oriented workloads?

We’ll also strive to make the UI more intuitive, to simplify installation, and to reduce the size of the installation package. What elements of the current UI do you find especially useful or think we could improve? 

We welcome your answers to these questions and any additional suggestions or comments on HDXPRT 5. Send them our way!

Justin

CloudXPRT is up next, and we’re thinking about how to handle results submission and publication

Last month, we provided an update on the CloudXPRT development process and more information about the three workloads that we’re including in the first build. We’d initially hoped to release the build at the end of April, but several technical challenges have caused us to push the timeline out a bit. We believe we’re very close to ready, and look forward to posting a release announcement soon.

In the meantime, we’d like to hear your thoughts about the CloudXPRT results publication process. Traditionally, we’ve published XPRT results on our site on a rolling basis. When we complete our own tests, receive results submissions from other testers, or see results published in the tech media, we authenticate them and add them to our site. This lets testers make their results public on their timetable, as frequently as they want.

Some major benchmark organizations use a different approach, and create a schedule of periodic submission deadlines. After each deadline passes, they review the batch of submissions they’ve received and publish all of them together on a single later date. In some cases, they release results only two or three times per year. This process offers a high level of predictability. However, it can pose significant scheduling obstacles for other testers, such as tech journalists who want to publish their results in an upcoming device review and need official results to back up their claims.

We’d like to hear what you think about the different approaches to results submission and publication that you’ve encountered. Are there aspects of the XPRT approach that you like? Are there things we should change? Should we consider periodic results submission deadlines and publication dates for CloudXPRT? Let us know what you think!

Justin

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