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Category: WebAssembly

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

Feedback from the WebXPRT 4 tech press survey

In early May, we sent a survey to members of the tech press who regularly use WebXPRT in articles and reviews. We asked for their thoughts on several aspects of WebXPRT, as well as what they’d like to see in the upcoming fourth version of the benchmark. We also published the survey questions here in the blog, and invited experienced WebXPRT testers to send their feedback as well. We received some good responses to the survey, and for the benefit of our readers, we’ve summarized some of the key comments and suggestions below.

  • One respondent stated that WebXPRT is demanding enough to test performance, but if we want to simulate modern web usage, we should find the most up-to-date studies on common browser tasks and web technologies. This suggestion lines up with our intention to study the feasibility of adding a WebAssembly workload
  • One respondent liked that fact that unlike many other browser benchmarks, WebXPRT tests more than just JavaScript calculation speed.
  • One respondent suggested that we include a link to a WebXPRT white paper within the UI, or at least a guide describing what happens during each workload.
  • One respondent stated that they would like for WebXPRT to automatically produce a good result file on the local test system.
  • One respondent said that WebXPRT has a relatively long runtime for a browser benchmark, and they would prefer that the runtime not increase in WebXPRT 4.
  • We had no direct calls for a battery life test, because many testers already have scripts and/or methodologies in place for battery testing, but one tester suggested adding the ability to loop the test so users can measure performance over varying lengths of time.
  • There were no requests to bring back any aspects of WebXPRT 2015 that we removed in WebXPRT 3.
  • There were no reports of significant connection issues when testing with WebXPRT.

We greatly appreciate the members of the tech press that responded to the survey. We’re still in the planning stages of WebXPRT 4, so there’s still time for anyone to send comments or ideas to benchmarkxprtsupport@principledtechnologies.com. 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

Considering a battery life test for WebXPRT 4

A few weeks ago, we discussed the beginnings of a WebXPRT 4 development plan, and asked for reader feedback about potential workload changes. So far, the two most common feedback topics have been the possible addition of a WebAssembly workload, and the feasibility of including a browser-based battery life test. Today, we discuss what a WebXPRT 4 battery life test would look like, and some of the challenges we’d have to overcome to make it a reality.

Battery life tests fall into two primary categories: simple rundown tests and performance-weighted tests. Simple rundown tests measure battery life during extreme idle periods and loops of movie playbacks, etc., but do not reflect the wide-ranging mix of activities that characterize a typical day for most users. While they can be useful for performing very specific apple-to-apples comparisons, these tests have limited value when it comes to giving consumers a realistic estimation of the battery life they would experience during everyday use.

In contrast, performance-weighted battery life tests, such as the one in CrXPRT 2, attempt to reflect real-world usage. The CrXPRT battery life test simulates common daily usage patterns for Chromebooks by including all the productivity workloads from the performance test, plus video playback, audio playback, and gaming scenarios. It also includes periods of wait/idle time. We believe this mixture of diverse activity and idle time better represents typical real-life behavior patterns. This makes the resulting estimated battery life much more helpful for consumers who are trying to match a device’s capabilities with their real-world needs.

From a technical standpoint, WebXPRT’s cross-platform nature presents us with several challenges that we did not face while developing the CrXPRT battery life test for Chrome OS. While the WebXPRT performance tests run in almost any browser, cross-browser differences in battery life reporting may restrict the battery life test to a single browser. For instance, Mozilla has deprecated the battery status API for Firefox, and we’re not yet sure if there’s another approach that would work. If a WebXPRT 4 battery life test supported only a single browser, such as Chrome or Safari, would you still be interested in using it? Please let us know.

A browser-based battery life workflow also presents other challenges that we do not face in native client applications such as CrXPRT:

  • A browser-based battery life test would require the user to check the starting and ending battery capacities, with no way for the app to independently verify data accuracy.
  • The battery life test could require more babysitting in the event of network issues. We can catch network failures and try to handle them by reporting periods of network disconnection, but those interruptions could influence the battery life duration.
  • The factors above could make it difficult to achieve repeatability. One way to address that problem would be to run the test in a standardized lab environment lab with a steady internet connection, but a long list of standardized environmental requirements would make the battery life test less attractive and less accessible to many testers.

Our intention with today’s blog is not to make a WebXPRT 4 battery life test seem like an impossibility. Rather, we want to share our perspective on what the test might look like, and describe some of the challenges and considerations in play. If you have thoughts about battery life testing, or experience with battery life APIs in one or more of the major browsers, we’d love to hear from you!

Justin

Considering WebAssembly for WebXPRT 4

Earlier this month, we discussed a few of our ideas for possible changes in WebXPRT 4, including new web technologies that may work well in a browser benchmark. Today, we’re going to focus on one of those technologies, WebAssembly, in more detail.

WebAssembly (WASM) is a binary instruction format that works across all modern browsers. WASM provides a sandboxed environment that operates at native speeds and takes advantage of common hardware specs across platforms. WASM’s capabilities offer web developers a great deal of flexibility for running complex client applications in the browser. That level of flexibility may enable workload scenario options for WebXPRT 4 such as gaming, video editing, VR, virtual machines, and image recognition. We’re excited about those possibilities, but it remains to be seen which WASM use cases will meet the criteria we look for when considering new WebXPRT workloads, such as relevancy to real life, consistency and replicability, and the broadest-possible level of cross-browser support.

One WASM workload that we’re investigating is 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, and natural language processing. TensorFlow.js originally used WebGL technology on the back end, but now it’s possible to run the workload using WASM. 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.

We’re can’t yet say that a WASM workload will definitely appear in WebXPRT 4, but the technology is promising. Do you have any experience with WASM, or ideas for WASM workloads? There’s still time for you to help shape the future of WebXPRT 4, so let us know what you think!

Justin

CrXPRT support through 2022

CrXPRT testers may remember that back around the time that we began the CrXPRT 2 development process, the Chrome team announced that they were phasing out support for Portable Native Client (PNaCL) in favor of WebAssembly (WASM). As a first step, they changed the Chrome OS setting that enabled PNaCL by default. At the time, this caused problems with the Photo Collage workload in CrXPRT 2015, and even though we identified a workaround, details in the Chrome team’s announcement led us to conclude that the workaround might stop working in June 2021. Because of this change, we decided that the best decision would be to remove the workload from CrXPRT 2, and keep existing CrXPRT 2015 testers informed of any changes with the workaround.

In 2020, the Chrome team also announced that they would be phasing out support for Chrome Apps altogether starting in June 2021, and would shift their focus to Chrome extensions. This change would have required us to reassess the viability of CrXPRT in anything like its current form.

We’re happy to report that the Chrome team has extended support for PNaCL and existing Chrome Apps through June 2022. Barring further changes, this means that CrXPRT 2015 (with the workaround) and CrXPRT 2 should continue to serve as reliable Chrome OS evaluation tools for some time.

If you have any questions about CrXPRT 2, please let us know!

Justin

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