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Category: Browser-based benchmarks

WebXPRT in PT reports

We don’t just make WebXPRT—we use it, too. If you normally come straight to BenchmarkXPRT.com or WebXPRT.com, you may not even realize that Principled Technologies (PT) does a lot more than just managing and administering the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community. We’re also the tech world’s leading provider of hands-on testing and related fact-based marketing services. As part of that work, we’re frequent WebXPRT users.

We use the benchmark when we test devices such as Chromebooks, desktops, mobile workstations, and consumer laptops for our clients. (You can see a lot of that work and many of our clients on our public marketing portfolio page.) We run the benchmark for the same reasons that others do—it’s a reliable and easy-to-use tool for measuring how well devices handle web browsing and other web work.

We also sometimes use WebXPRT simply because our clients request it. They request it for the same reason the rest of us like and use it: it’s a great tool. Regardless of job titles and descriptions, most laptop and tablet users surf the web and access web-based applications every day. Because WebXPRT is a browser benchmark, higher scores on it could indicate that a device may provide a superior online experience.

Here are just a few of the recent PT reports that used WebXPRT:

  • In a project for Dell, we compared the performance of a Dell Latitude 7340 Ultralight to that of a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air (2022).
  • In this study for HP, we compared the performance of an HP ZBook Firefly G10, an HP ZBook Power G10, and an HP ZBook Fury G10.
  • Finally, in a set of comparisons for Lenovo, we evaluated the system performance and end-user experience of eight Lenovo ThinkBook, ThinkCentre, and ThinkPad systems along with their Apple counterparts.

All these projects, and many more, show how a variety of companies rely on PT—and on WebXPRT—to help buyers make informed decisions. P.S. If we publish scores from a client-commissioned study in the WebXPRT 4 results viewer, we will list the source as “PT”, because we did the testing.

By Mark L. Van Name and Justin Greene

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

Comparing the WebXPRT 4 performance of five popular browsers

Every so often, we like to refresh a series of in-house WebXPRT comparison tests to see if recent updates have changed the performance rankings of popular web browsers. We published our most recent comparison last February, when we used WebXPRT 4 to compare the performance of five browsers on the same system.

For this round of tests, we used the same Dell XPS 13 7930 laptop as last time, which features an Intel Core i3-10110U processor and 4 GB of RAM, running Windows 11 Home updated to version 23H2 (22631.307). We installed all current Windows updates, and updated each of the browsers under test: Brave, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.

After the update process completed, we turned off updates to prevent them from interfering with test runs. We ran WebXPRT 4 three times on each of the five browsers. The score we post for each browser is the median of the three test runs.

In our last round of tests, the range between high and low scores was tight, with an overall difference of only 4.3 percent. Edge squeaked out a win, with a 2.1 percent performance advantage over Chrome. Firefox came in last, but was only one overall score point behind the tied score of Brave and Opera.

In this round of testing, the rank order did not change, but we saw more differentiation in the range of scores. While the performance of each browser improved, the range between high and low scores widened to a 19.1 percent difference between first-place Edge and last-place Firefox. The scores of the four Chromium-based browsers (Brave, Opera, Chrome, and Edge) all improved by at least 21 points, while the Firefox score only improved by one point. 

Do these results mean that Microsoft Edge will always provide a faster web experience, or Firefox will always be slower than the others? Not necessarily. It’s true that a device with a higher WebXPRT score will probably feel faster during daily web activities than one with a much lower score, but your experience depends in part on the types of things you do on the web, along with your system’s privacy settings, memory load, ecosystem integration, extension activity, and web app capabilities.

In addition, browser speed can noticeably increase or decrease after an update, and OS-specific optimizations can affect performance, such as with Edge on Windows 11 and Chrome on Chrome OS. All these variables are important to keep in mind when considering how WebXPRT results may translate to your everyday experience.

Have you used WebXPRT 4 to compare browser performance on the same system? Let us know how it turned out!

Justin

WebXPRT 4 is good to go with the latest Apple software release

Last month, we reported the good news that our WebXPRT 4 tests successfully ran to completion on the beta releases of iOS 17.2, iPadOS 17.2, and macOS Sonoma 14.2 with Safari 17.2. When we tested with those beta builds, WebXPRT 4 did not encounter the issue of test runs getting stuck on iOS 17.1 while attempting to complete the receipt scanning task in the Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan subtest. Unfortunately, during the past several weeks, this fix was only available to Apple users running beta software through the Apple Developer Program.

We’re happy to report that Apple has now finalized and published the general releases of iOS 17.2, iPadOS 17.2, and Safari 17.2. WebXPRT 4 tests running on those platforms should now complete without any problems.

We do appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked to find a solution to this problem, and we look forward to seeing your WebXPRT 4 scores from all the latest Apple devices! If you have any questions or concerns about WebXPRT 4, or you encounter any additional issues when running the test on any platform, please let us know.

Justin

The evolving PC market brings new opportunities for WebXPRT

Here at the XPRTs, we have to spend time examining what’s next in the tech industry, because the XPRTs have to keep up with the pace of innovation. In our recent discussions about 2024, a major recurring topic has been the potential impact of Qualcomm’s upcoming line of SOCs designed for Windows on Arm PCs.

Now, Windows on Arm PCs are certainly not new. Since Windows RT launched on the Arm-based Microsoft Surface RT in 2012, various Windows on Arm devices have come and gone, but none of them—except for some Microsoft SQ-based Surface devices—have made much of a name for themselves in the consumer market.

The reasons for these struggles are straightforward. While Arm-based PCs have the potential to offer consumers the benefits of excellent battery life and “always-on” mobile communications, the platform has historically lagged Intel- and AMD-based PCs in performance. Windows on Arm devices have also faced the challenge of a lack of large-scale buy-in from app developers. So, despite the past involvement of device makers like ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft, the major theme of the Windows on Arm story has been one of very limited market acceptance.

Next year, though, the theme of that story may change. If it does, WebXPRT 4 is well-positioned to play an important part.

At the recent Qualcomm Technology Summit, the company unveiled the new 4nm Snapdragon X Elite SOC, which includes an all-new 12-core Oryon CPU, an integrated Adreno GPU, and an integrated Hexagon NPU (neural processing unit) designed for AI-powered applications. Company officials presented performance numbers that showed the X Elite surpassing the performance of late-gen AMD, Apple, and Intel competitor platforms, all while using less power.

Those are massive claims, and of course the proof will come—or not—only when systems are available for test. (In the past, companies have made similar claims about Windows on Arm advantages, only to see those claims evaporate by the time production devices show up on store shelves.)

Will Snapdragon X Elite systems demonstrate unprecedented performance and battery life when they hit the market? How will the performance of those devices stack up to Intel’s Meteor Lake systems and Apple’s M3 offerings? We don’t yet know how these new devices may shake up the PC market, but we do know that it looks like 2024 will present us with many golden opportunities for benchmarking. Amid all the marketing buzz, buyers everywhere will want to know about potential trade-offs between price, power, and battery life. Tech reviewers will want to dive into the details and provide useful data points, but many traditional PC benchmarks simply won’t work with Windows on ARM systems. As a go-to, cross-platform favorite of many OEMs—that runs on just about anything with a browser—WebXPRT 4 is in a perfect position to provide reviewers and consumers with relevant performance comparison data.

It’s quite possible that 2024 may be the biggest year for WebXPRT yet!

Justin

Passing two important WebXPRT milestones

Over the past few months, we’ve been excited to see a substantial increase in the total number of completed WebXPRT runs. To put the increase in perspective, we had more total WebXPRT runs last month alone (40,453) than we had in the first two years WebXPRT was available (36,674)! This boost has helped us to reach two important milestones as we close in on the end of 2023.

The first milestone is that the number of WebXPRT 4 runs per month now exceeds the number of WebXPRT 3 runs per month. When we release a new version of an XPRT benchmark, it can take a while for users to transition from using the older version. For OEM labs and tech journalists, adding a new benchmark to their testing suite often involves a significant investment in back testing and gathering enough test data for meaningful comparisons. When the older version of the benchmark has been very successful, adoption of the new version can take longer. WebXPRT 3 has been remarkably popular around the world, so we’re excited to see WebXPRT 4 gain traction and take the lead even as the total number of WebXPRT runs increases each month. The chart below shows the number of WebXPRT runs per month for each version of WebXPRT over the past ten years. WebXPRT 4 usage first surpassed WebXPRT 3 in August of this year, and after looking at data for the last three months, we think its lead is here to stay.

The second important milestone is the cumulative number of WebXPRT runs, which recently passed 1.25 million, as the chart below shows. For us, this moment represents more than a numerical milestone. For a benchmark to succeed, developers need the trust and support of the benchmarking community. WebXPRT’s consistent year-over-year growth tells us that the benchmark continues to hold value for manufacturers, OEM labs, the tech press, and end users. We see it as a sign of trust that folks repeatedly return to the benchmark for reliable performance metrics. We’re grateful for that trust, and for everyone that has contributed to the WebXPRT development process over the years.

We look forward to seeing how far WebXPRT’s reach can extend in 2024! If you have any questions or comments about using WebXPRT, let us know!

Justin

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