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Category: What makes a good benchmark?

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

Potential web technology additions for WebXPRT 4

A few months ago, we invited readers to send in their thoughts and ideas about web technologies and workload scenarios that may be a good fit for the next WebXPRT. We’d like to share a few of those ideas today, and we invite you to continue to send your feedback. We’re approaching the time when we need to begin firming up plans for a WebXPRT 4 development cycle in 2021, but there’s still plenty of time for you to help shape the future of the benchmark.

One of the most promising ideas for WebXPRT 4 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.

In addition, the Chrome team is dropping Portable Native Client (PNaCL) support in favor of WASM, which is why we had to remove a PNaCL workload when updating CrXPRT 2015 to CrXPRT 2. We generally model CrXPRT workloads on existing WebXPRT workloads, so familiarizing ourselves with WASM could ultimately benefit more than one XPRT benchmark.

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 variety of tasks including image classification, object detection, sentence encoding, natural language processing, and more. 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 investigating ways to incorporate a battery life test. What do you think? Let us know!

Justin

Thinking ahead to WebXPRT 4

It’s been about two years since we released WebXPRT 3, and we’re starting to think about the WebXPRT 4 development cycle. With over 529,000 runs to date, WebXPRT continues to be our most popular benchmark because it’s quick and easy to run, it runs on almost anything with a web browser, and it evaluates performance using the types of web technologies that many people use every day.

For each new version of WebXPRT, we start the development process by looking at browser trends and analyzing the feasibility of incorporating new web technologies into our workload scenarios. For example, in WebXPRT 3, we updated the Organize Album workload to include an image-classification task that uses deep learning. We also added an optical character recognition task to the Encrypt Notes and OCR scan workload, and introduced a new Online Homework workload that combined part of the DNA Sequence Analysis scenario with a writing sample/spell check scenario.

Here are the current WebXPRT 3 workloads:

  • Photo Enhancement: Applies three effects, each using Canvas, to two photos.
  • Organize Album Using AI: Detects faces and classifies images using the ConvNetJS neural network library.
  • Stock Option Pricing: Calculates and displays graphic views of a stock portfolio using Canvas, SVG, and dygraphs.js.
  • Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan: Encrypts notes in local storage and scans a receipt using optical character recognition.
  • Sales Graphs: Calculates and displays multiple views of sales data using InfoVis and d3.js.
  • Online Homework: Performs science and English assignment tasks using Web Workers and Typo.js spell check.

What new technologies or workload scenarios should we add? Are there any existing features we should remove? Would you be interested in an associated battery life test? We want to hear your thoughts and ideas about WebXPRT, so please tell us what you think!

Justin

An update on AIXPRT development

It’s been a while since we last discussed the AIXPRT Community Preview 3 (CP3) release schedule, so we want to let everyone know where things stand. Testing for CP3 has taken longer than we predicted, but we believe we’re nearly ready for the release.

Testers can expect three significant changes in AIXPRT CP3. First, we updated support for the Ubuntu test packages. During the initial development phase of AIXPRT, Ubuntu version 16.04 LTS (Long Term Support) was the most current LTS version, but version 18.04 is now available.

Second, we have added TensorRT test packages for Windows and Ubuntu. Previously, AIXPRT testers could test only the TensorFlow variant of TensorRT. Now, they can use TensorRT to test systems with NVIDIA GPUs.

Third, we have added the Wide and Deep recommender system workload with the MXNet toolkit. Recommender systems are AI-based information-filtering tools that learn from end user input and behavior patterns and try to present them with optimized outputs that suit their needs and preferences. If you’ve used Netflix, YouTube, or Amazon accounts, you’ve encountered recommender systems that learn from your behavior.

Currently, the recommender system workload in AIXPRT CP3 is available for Ubuntu testing, but not for Windows. Recommender system inference workloads typically run on datacenter hardware, which tends to be Linux based. If enough community members are interested in running the MXNet/Wide and Deep test package on Windows, we can investigate what that would entail. If you’d like to see that option, please let us know.

As always, if you have any questions about the AIXPRT development process, feel free to ask!

Justin

Planning for the next TouchXPRT

We’re in the very early planning stages for the next version of TouchXPRT, and we’d love to hear any suggestions you may have. What do you like or dislike about TouchXPRT? What features do you hope to see in a new version?

For those who are unfamiliar with TouchXPRT, it’s a benchmark for evaluating the performance of Windows 10 devices. TouchXPRT 2016, the most recent version, runs tests based on five everyday scenarios (Beautify Photos, Blend Photos, Convert Videos for Sharing, Create Music Podcast, and Create Slideshow from Photos) and produces results for each of the five scenarios plus an overall score. The benchmark is available two ways: as a Universal Windows App in the Microsoft Store and as a sideload installer package on TouchXPRT.com.

When we begin work on a new version of any benchmark, one of the first steps we take is to assess its workloads to determine whether they will provide value during the years ahead. This step involves evaluating whether to update test content such as photos and videos to more contemporary file resolutions and sizes, and can also involve removing workloads or adding completely new ones. Should we keep the TouchXPRT workloads listed above or investigate other use cases? Should we research potential AI-related workloads? What do you think?

As we did with MobileXPRT 3 and HDXPRT 4 earlier this year, we’re also planning to update the TouchXPRT UI to improve the look of the benchmark and make it easier to use. We’re just at the beginning of this process, so any feedback you send has a chance to really shape the future of the benchmark.

On a related note, TouchXPRT 2016 testers who use the installer package available on TouchXPRT.com may have noticed that the package has a new file name (TX2016.6.52.0_8.19.19.zip). Microsoft requires developers to assign a security certificate to all sideload apps, and the new TouchXPRT file contains a refreshed certificate. We did not change the benchmark in any other way, so scores from this package are comparable to previous TouchXPRT 2016 scores.

Justin

WebXPRT: What would you like to see?

At over 412,000 runs and counting, WebXPRT is our most popular benchmark. From the first release in 2013, it’s been popular with device manufacturers, developers, tech journalists, and consumers because it’s easy to run, it runs on almost anything with a web browser, and it evaluates device performance using the types of web-based tasks that people are likely to encounter on a daily basis.

With each new version of WebXPRT, we analyze browser development trends to make sure the test’s underlying web technologies and workload scenarios adequately reflect the ways people are using their browsers to work and play. BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members can play an important part in that process by sending us feedback on existing tests and suggestions for new workloads to include.

For example, when we released WebXPRT 3, we updated the photo workloads with new images and a deep learning task used for image classification. We also added an optical character recognition task in the Encrypt Notes and OCR scan workload, and combined part of the DNA Sequence Analysis scenario with a writing sample/spell check scenario to simulate online homework in an all-new Online Homework workload.

Consider for a moment what an ideal future version of WebXPRT would look like for you. Are there new web technologies or workload scenarios that you would like to see? Would you be interested in an associated battery life test? Should we include experimental tests? We’re interested in what you have to say, so please feel free to contact us with your thoughts or questions.

If you’re just now learning about WebXPRT, we offer several resources to help you better understand the benchmark and its range of uses. For a general overview of why WebXPRT matters, watch our video titled What is WebXPRT and why should I care? To read more about the details of the benchmark’s development and structure, check out the Exploring WebXPRT 3 white paper. To see WebXPRT 2015 and WebXPRT 3 scores from a wide range of processors, visit the WebXPRT 3 Processor Comparison Chart.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Justin

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