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Category: Phones

The value of speed

I was reading an interesting article on how high-end smartphones like the iPhone X, Pixel 2 XL, and Galaxy S8 generate more money from in-game revenue than cheaper phones do.

One line stood out to me: “With smartphones becoming faster, larger and more capable of delivering an engaging gaming experience, these monetization key performance indicators (KPIs) have begun to increase significantly.”

It turns out the game companies totally agree with the rest of us that faster devices are better!

Regardless of who is seeking better performance—consumers or game companies—the obvious question is how you determine which models are fastest. Many folks rely on device vendors’ claims about how much faster the new model is. Unfortunately, the vendors’ claims don’t always specify on what they base the claims. Even when they do, it’s hard to know whether the numbers are accurate and applicable to how you use your device.

The key part of any answer is performance tools that are representative, dependable, and open.

  • Representative – Performance tools need to have realistic workloads that do things that you care about.
  • Dependable – Good performance tools run reliably and produce repeatable results, both of which require that significant work go into their development and testing.
  • Open – Performance tools that allow people to access the source code, and even contribute to it, keep things above the table and reassure you that you can rely on the results.

Our goal with the XPRTs is to provide performance tools that meet all these criteria. WebXPRT 3 and all our other XPRTs exist to help accurately reveal how devices perform. You can run them yourself or rely on the wealth of results that we and others have collected on a wide array of devices.

The best thing about good performance tools is that everyone, even vendors, can use them. I sincerely hope that you find the XPRTs helpful when you make your next technology purchase.

Bill

The XPRTs in action

In the near future, we’ll update our “XPRTs around the world” infographic, which provides a snapshot of how people are using the XPRTs worldwide. Among other stats, we include the number of XPRT web mentions, articles, and reviews that have appeared during a given period. Recently, we learned how one of those statistics—a single web site mention of WebXPRT—found its way to consumers in more places than we would have imagined.

Late last month, AnandTech published a performance comparison by Andrei Frumusanu examining the Samsung Galaxy S9’s Snapdragon 845 and Exynos 9810 variants and a number of other high-end phones. WebXPRT was one of the benchmarking tools used. The article stated that both versions of the brand-new S9 were slower than the iPhone X and, in some tests, were slower than even the iPhone 7.

A CNET video discussed the article and the role of WebXPRT in the performance comparison, and the article has been reposted to hundreds of tech media sites around the world. A quick survey shows reposts in Albania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Chile, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Italy Japan, Korea, Poland, Russia, Spain, Slovakia, Turkey, and many other countries.

The popularity of the article is not surprising, for it positions the newest flagship phones from the industry’s two largest phone makers in a head-to-head comparison with a somewhat unexpected outcome. AnandTech did nothing to stir controversy or sensationalize the test results, but simply provided readers with an objective, balanced assessment of how these devices compare so that they could draw their own conclusions. The XPRTs share this approach.

We’re grateful to Andrei and others at AnandTech who’ve used the XPRTs over the years to produce content that helps consumers make informed decisions. WebXPRT is just part of AnandTech’s toolkit, but it’s one that’s accessible to anybody free of charge. With the help of BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members, we’ll continue to publish XPRT tools that help users everywhere gain valuable insight into device performance.

Justin

Find the perfect tech gift with the XPRT Spotlight Black Friday Showcase

With the biggest shopping day of the year fast approaching, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the sea of tech gifts to choose from. Luckily, the XPRTs are here to help. We’ve gathered the product specs and performance facts for the hottest tech devices in one convenient place—the XPRT Spotlight Black Friday Showcase. This free shopping tool provides side-by-side comparisons of some of the season’s most coveted smartphones, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, and PCs. Most importantly, it helps you make informed buying decisions so you can breeze through this season’s holiday shopping.

Want to know how the Google Pixel 2 compares to the Apple iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in web browsing performance or screen size? Simply select any two devices and click the compare button to see how they stack up against each other. You can also search by device type if you’re interested in a specific form factor such as consoles or tablets.

The Showcase doesn’t go away after Black Friday. We’ll rename it the XPRT Holiday Buying Guide and continue to add devices throughout the shopping season. So be sure to check back in and see how your tech gifts measure up.

If this is your first time reading about the XPRT Weekly Tech Spotlight, here’s a little background. Our hands-on testing process equips consumers with accurate information about how devices function in the real world. We test devices using our industry-standard BenchmarkXPRT tools: WebXPRT, MobileXPRT, TouchXPRT, CrXPRT, BatteryXPRT, and HDXPRT. In addition to benchmark results, we include photographs, specs, and prices for all products. New devices come online weekly, and you can browse the full list of almost 100 that we’ve featured to date on the Spotlight page.

If you represent a device vendor and want us to feature your product in the XPRT Weekly Tech Spotlight, please visit the website for more details.

Do you have suggestions for the Spotlight page or device recommendations? Let us know!

Justin

Keeping up with the latest Android news

Ars Technica recently published a deep-dive review of Android 8.0 (Oreo) that contains several interesting tidbits about what the author called “Android’s biggest re-architecture, ever.” After reading the details, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

The article’s thorough analysis includes a list of the changes Oreo is bringing to the UI, notification settings, locations service settings, and more. In addition to the types of updates that we usually see, a few key points stand out.

  • Project Treble, a complete reworking of Android’s foundational structure intended to increase the speed and efficiency of update delivery
  • A serious commitment to eliminating silent background services, giving users more control over their phone’s resources, and potentially enabling significant gains in battery life
  • Increased machine learning/neural network integration for text selection and recognition
  • A potential neural network API that allows third-party plugins
  • Android Go, a scaled-down version of Android tuned for budget phones in developing markets


There’s too much information about each of the points to discuss here, but I encourage anyone interested in Android development to check out the article. Just be warned that when they say “thorough,” they mean it, so it’s not exactly a quick read.

Right now, Oreo is available on only the Google Pixel and Pixel XL phones, and will not likely be available to most users until sometime next year. Even though widespread adoption is a way off, the sheer scale of the expected changes requires us to adopt a long-term development perspective.

We’ll continue to track developments in the Android world and keep the community informed about any impact that those changes may have on MobileXPRT and BatteryXPRT. If you have any questions or suggestions for future XPRT/Android applications, let us know!

Justin

Celebrating one year of the XPRT Weekly Tech Spotlight

It’s been just over a year since we launched the XPRT Weekly Tech Spotlight by featuring our first device, the Google Pixel C. Spotlight has since become one of the most popular items at BenchmarkXPRT.com, and we thought now would be a good time to recap the past year, offer more insight into the choices we make behind the scenes, and look at what’s ahead for Spotlight.

The goal of Spotlight is to provide PT-verified specs and test results that can help consumers make smart buying decisions. We try to include a wide variety of device types, vendors, software platforms, and price points in our inventory. The devices also tend to fall into one of two main groups: popular new devices generating a lot of interest and devices that have unique form factors or unusual features.

To date, we’ve featured 56 devices: 16 phones, 11 laptops, 10 two-in-ones, 9 tablets, 4 consoles, 3 all-in-ones, and 3 small-form-factor PCs. The operating systems these devices run include Android, ChromeOS, iOS, macOS, OS X, Windows, and an array of vendor-specific OS variants and skins.

As much as possible, we test using out-of-the-box (OOB) configurations. We want to present test results that reflect what everyday users will experience on day one. Depending on the vendor, the OOB approach can mean that some devices arrive bogged down with bloatware while others are relatively clean. We don’t attempt to “fix” anything in those situations; we simply test each device “as is” when it arrives.

If devices arrive with outdated OS versions (as is often the case with Chromebooks), we update to current versions before testing, because that’s the best reflection of what everyday users will experience. In the past, that approach would’ve been more complicated with Windows systems, but the Microsoft shift to “Windows as a service” ensures that most users receive significant OS updates automatically by default.

The OOB approach also means that the WebXPRT scores we publish reflect the performance of each device’s default browser, even if it’s possible to install a faster browser. Our goal isn’t to perform a browser shootout on each device, but to give an accurate snapshot of OOB performance. For instance, last week’s Alienware Steam Machine entry included two WebXPRT scores, a 356 on the SteamOS browser app and a 441 on Iceweasel 38.8.0 (a Firefox variant used in the device’s Linux-based desktop mode). That’s a significant difference, but the main question for us was which browser was more likely to be used in an OOB scenario. With the Steam Machine, the answer was truly “either one.” Many users will use the browser app in the SteamOS environment and many will take the few steps needed to access the desktop environment. In that case, even though one browser was significantly faster than the other, choosing to omit one score in favor of the other would have excluded results from an equally likely OOB environment.

We’re always looking for ways to improve Spotlight. We recently began including more photos for each device, including ones that highlight important form-factor elements and unusual features. Moving forward, we plan to expand Spotlight’s offerings to include automatic score comparisons, additional system information, and improved graphical elements. Most importantly, we’d like to hear your thoughts about Spotlight. What devices and device types would you like to see? Are there specs that would be helpful to you? What can we do to improve Spotlight? Let us know!

Justin

Mobile World Congress 2017 and the territories ahead

Walking the halls of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC)—and, once again, I walked by every booth in every one of them—it was clear that mobile technology is expanding faster than ever into more new tech territories than ever before.

On the device front, cameras and camera quality have become a pitched battleground, with mobile phone makers teaming with camera manufacturers to give us better and better images and video. This fight is far from over, too, because vendors are exploring many different ways to improve mobile phone camera quality. Quick charging is a hot new trend we can expect to hear more about in the days to come. Of course, apps and their performance continue to matter greatly, because if you can do it from any computer, you better be able to do at least some of it from your phone.

The Internet of Things (IoT) grabbed many headlines, with vendors still selling more dreams than reality, but some industries living this future now. The proliferation of IoT devices will result, of course, in massive increases in the amount of data flowing through the world’s networks, which in turn will require more and more computing power to analyze and use. That power will need to be everywhere, from massive datacenters to the device in your hand, because the more data you have, the more you’ll want to customize it to your particular needs.

Similarly, AI was a major theme of the show, and it’s also likely to suck up computing cycles everywhere. The vast majority of the work will, of course, end up in datacenters, but some processing is likely to be local, particularly in situations, such as real-time translation, where we can’t afford significant comm delays.

5G, the next big step in mobile data speeds, was everywhere, with most companies seeming to agree the new standard was still years away–but also excited about what will be possible. When you can stream 4K movies to your phone wirelessly while simultaneously receiving and customizing analyses of your company’s IoT network, you’re going to need a powerful, sophisticated device running equally powerful and sophisticated apps.

Everywhere I looked, the future was bright—and complicated, and likely to place increasing demands on all of our devices. We’ll need guides as we find our paths through these new territories and as we determine the right device tools for our jobs, so the need for the XPRTs will only increase. I look forward to seeing where we, the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community, take them next.

Mark

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