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WebXPRT benchmarking tips from the XPRT lab

Occasionally, we receive inquiries from XPRT users asking for help determining why two systems with the same hardware configuration are producing significantly different WebXPRT scores. This can happen for many reasons, including different software stacks, but score variability can also result from different testing behaviors and environments. While some degree of variability is normal, these types of questions provide us with an opportunity to talk about some of the basic benchmarking practices we follow in the XPRT lab to produce the most consistent and reliable scores.

Below, we list a few basic best practices you might find useful in your testing. Most of them relate to evaluating browser performance with WebXPRT, but several of these practices apply to other benchmarks as well.

  • Hardware is not the only important factor: Most people know that different browsers produce different performance scores on the same system. Testers are not, however, always aware of shifts in performance between different versions of the same browser. While most updates don’t have a large impact on performance, a few updates have increased (or even decreased) browser performance by a significant amount. For this reason, it’s always important to record and disclose the extended browser version number for each test run. The same principle applies to any other relevant software.
  • Keep a thorough record of system information: We record detailed information about a test system’s key hardware and software components, including full model and version numbers. This information is not only important for later disclosure if we choose to publish a result, it can also sometimes help to pinpoint system differences that explain why two seemingly identical devices are producing very different scores. We also want people to be able to reproduce our results to the closest extent possible, so that commitment involves recording and disclosing more detail than you’ll find in some tech articles and product reviews.
  • Test with clean images: We typically use an out-of-box (OOB) method for testing new devices in the XPRT lab. OOB testing means that other than running the initial OS and browser version updates that users are likely to run after first turning on the device, we change as little as possible before testing. We want to assess the performance that buyers are likely to see when they first purchase the device and before they install additional software. This is the best way to provide an accurate assessment of the performance retail buyers will experience from their new devices. That said, the OOB method is not appropriate for certain types of testing, such as when you want to compare as close to identical system images as possible, or when you want to remove as much pre-loaded software as possible.
  • Turn off automatic updates: We do our best to eliminate or minimize app and system updates after initial setup. Some vendors are making it more difficult to turn off updates completely, but you should always double-check update settings before testing.
  • Get a baseline for system processes: Depending on the system and the OS, a significant amount of system-level activity can be going on in the background after you turn it on. As much as possible, we like to wait for a stable baseline (idle time) of system activity before kicking off a test. If we start testing immediately after booting the system, we often see higher variance in the first run before the scores start to tighten up.
  • Use more than one data point: Because of natural variance, our standard practice in the XPRT lab is to publish a score that represents the median from three to five runs, if not more. If you run a benchmark only once and the score differs significantly from other published scores, your result could be an outlier that you would not see again under stable testing conditions or over the course of multiple runs.


We hope these tips will help make your testing more accurate. If you have any questions about WebXPRT, the other XPRTs, or benchmarking in general, feel free to ask!

Justin

Looking back on 2023 with the XPRTs

Around the beginning of each new year, we like to take the opportunity to look back and summarize the XPRT highlights from the previous year. Readers of our newsletter are familiar with the stats and updates we include each month, but for our blog readers who don’t receive the newsletter, we’ve compiled highlights from 2023 below.

Benchmarks
In March, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of WebXPRT! WebXPRT 4 has now taken the lead as the most commonly-used version of WebXPRT, even as the overall number of runs has continued to grow.

XPRTs in the media
Journalists, advertisers, and analysts referenced the XPRTs thousands of times in 2023. It’s always rewarding to know that the XPRTs have proven to be useful and reliable assessment tools for technology publications around the world. Media sites that used the XPRTs in 2023 include 3DNews (Russia), AnandTech, Benchlife.info (China), CHIP.pl (Poland), ComputerBase (Germany), eTeknix, Expert Reviews, Gadgetrip (Japan), Gadgets 360, Gizmodo, Hardware.info, IT168.com (China), ITC.ua (Ukraine), ITWorld (Korea), iXBT.com (Russia), Lyd & Bilde (Norway), Notebookcheck, Onchrome (Germany), PCMag, PCWorld, QQ.com (China), Tech Advisor, TechPowerUp, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, TweakTown, Yesky.com (China), and ZDNet.

Downloads and confirmed runs
In 2023, we had more than 16,800 benchmark downloads and 296,800 confirmed runs. Users have run our most popular benchmark, WebXPRT, more than 1,376,500 times since its debut in 2013! WebXPRT continues to be a go-to, industry-standard performance benchmark for OEM labs, vendors, and leading tech press outlets around the globe.

Trade shows
In January, Justin attended the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Las Vegas. In March, Mark attended Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 in Barcelona. You can view Justin’s recap of CES here and Mark’s thoughts from MWC here.

We’re thankful for everyone who used the XPRTs and sent questions and suggestions throughout 2023. We’re excited to see what’s in store for the XPRTs in 2024!

Justin

Recent XPRT mentions in the tech press

Each month, we send out a BenchmarkXPRT Development Community newsletter that contains the latest updates from the XPRT world and provides a summary of the previous month’s XPRT-related activity, including mentions of the XPRTs in the tech press. More people read the weekly XPRT blog than receive the monthly newsletter, so we realized that some blog readers may be unaware of the wide variety of tech outlets that regularly use or mention the XPRTs.

For today’s blog, we want to give readers a sampling of the XPRT press mentions we see on a weekly basis. Recent mentions include:


If you don’t currently receive the monthly BenchmarkXPRT newsletter, but would like to join the mailing list, please let us know! There is no cost to join, and we will not publish or sell any of the contact information you provide. We will send only the monthly newsletter and occasional benchmark-related announcements, such as patch notifications or news of upcoming benchmark releases.

Justin

Exploring the XPRT white paper library

As part of our commitment to publishing reliable, unbiased benchmarks, we strive to make the XPRT development process as transparent as possible. In the technology assessment industry, it’s not unusual for people to claim that any given benchmark contains hidden biases, so we take preemptive steps to address this issue by publishing XPRT benchmark source code, detailed system disclosures and test methodologies, and in-depth white papers. Today, we’re focusing on the XPRT white paper library.

The XPRT white paper library currently contains 21 white papers that we’ve published over the last 12 years. We started publishing white papers to provide XPRT users with more information about how we design our benchmarks, why we make certain development decisions, and how the benchmarks work. If you have questions about any aspect of one of the XPRT benchmarks, the white paper library is a great place to find some answers.

For example, the Exploring WebXPRT 4 white paper describes the design and structure of WebXPRT 4, including detailed information about the benchmark’s harness, HTML5 and WebAssembly (WASM) capability checks, and the structure of the performance test workloads. It also includes explanations of the benchmark’s scoring methodology, how to automate tests, and how to submit results for publication.

The companion WebXPRT 4 results calculation white paper explains the formulas that WebXPRT 4 uses to calculate the individual workload scenario scores and overall score, provides an overview of the statistical techniques WebXPRT uses to translate raw timings into scores, and explains the benchmark’s confidence interval and how it differs from typical benchmark variability. To supplement the white paper’s discussion of the results calculation process, we published a results calculation spreadsheet that shows the raw data from a sample test run and reproduces the exact calculations WebXPRT uses to produce test scores.

We hope that the XPRT white paper library will prove to be a useful resource for you. If you have questions about any of our white papers, or suggestions for topics that you’d like us to cover in possible future white papers, please let us know!

Justin

Looking back on 2022 with the XPRTs

Around the beginning of each new year, we like to take the opportunity to look back and summarize the XPRT highlights from the previous year. Readers of our newsletter are familiar with the stats and updates we include each month, but for our blog readers who don’t receive the newsletter, we’ve compiled some highlights from 2022 below.

Benchmarks
In the past year, we released WebXPRT 4, and the CloudXPRT v1.2 update package.

XPRTs in the media
Journalists, advertisers, and analysts referenced the XPRTs thousands of times in 2022. It’s always rewarding to know that the XPRTs have proven to be useful and reliable assessment tools for technology publications around the world. Media sites that used the XPRTs in 2022 include AnandTech, Android Authority, Benchlife.info (China), BodNara (South Korea), ComputerBase (Germany), DISKIDEE (Belgium), eTeknix, Expert Reviews, Gadgets 360, Hardware.info (The Netherlands), Hardware Zone (Singapore), ITC.ua (Ukraine), ITmedia (Japan), Itndaily.ru (Russia), Notebookcheck, PCMag, PC-Welt (Germany), PCWorld, TechPowerUp, Tom’s Guide, TweakTown, and ZOL.com (China).

Downloads and confirmed runs
In 2022, we had more than 10,800 benchmark downloads and 183,300 confirmed runs. Users have run our most popular benchmark, WebXPRT, more than 1,135,500 times since its debut in 2013! WebXPRT continues to be a go-to, industry-standard performance benchmark for OEM labs, vendors, and leading tech press outlets around the globe.

XPRT media, tools, and publications
Part of our mission with the XPRTs is to produce tools and materials that help testers better understand the ins and outs of benchmarking in general and the XPRTs in particular. To help achieve this goal, we published the following in 2022:

We’re thankful for everyone who used the XPRTs, joined the community, and sent questions and suggestions throughout 2022. We’re excited to see what’s in store for the XPRTs in 2023!

Justin

Looking forward to an important WebXPRT milestone

February 28, 2013 was a momentous day for the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community. On that day, we published a press release announcing the official launch of the first version of the WebXPRT benchmark, WebXPRT 2013. As difficult as it is for us to believe, the 10-year anniversary of the initial WebXPRT launch is in just a few short months!

We introduced WebXPRT as a truly unique browser performance benchmark in a field that was already crowded with a variety of measurement tools. Since those early days, the WebXPRT market presence has grown from a small foothold into a worldwide industry standard. Over the years, hundreds of tech press publications have used WebXPRT in thousands of articles and reviews, and the WebXPRT completed-runs counter rolled over the 1,000,000-run mark.

New web technologies are continually changing the way we use the web, and browser-performance benchmarks should evaluate how well new devices handle the web of today, not the web of several years ago. While some organizations have stopped development for other browser performance benchmarks, we’ve had the opportunity to continue updating and refining WebXPRT. We can look back at each of the four major iterations of the benchmark—WebXPRT 2013, WebXPRT 2015, WebXPRT 3, and WebXPRT 4—and see a consistent philosophy and shared technical lineage contributing to a product that has steadily improved.

As we get closer to the 10-year anniversary of WebXPRT next year, we’ll be sharing more insights about its reach and impact on the industry, discussing possible future plans for the benchmark, and announcing some fun anniversary-related opportunities for WebXPRT users. We think 2023 will be the best year yet for WebXPRT!

Justin

Check out the other XPRTs:

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