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Looking back on 2021 with the XPRTs

As 2022 gets underway, we want to take this opportunity to look back on 2021 and review another productive year for the XPRTs. 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 below.

Benchmarks
In the past year, we released the WebXPRT 4 Preview, CloudXPRT v1.1, and an updated CrXPRT 2 build that included a fix for prior issues with the battery life test.

XPRTs in the media
Journalists, advertisers, and analysts referenced the XPRTs thousands of times in 2021. It’s always rewarding to know that the XPRTs have proven to be useful and reliable assessment tools for technology publications such as AnandTech, Expert Reviews, Gadgets 360, Gizmodo, Hot Hardware, Laptop Mag, Legit Reviews, Notebookcheck, PCMag, PCWorld, TechPowerUp, Tom’s Hardware, and ZDNet.

Downloads and confirmed runs
In 2021, we had more than 23,600 benchmark downloads and 228,900 confirmed runs. Our most popular benchmark, WebXPRT, just passed 909,800 runs 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.

Media, publications, and interactive tools
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 2021:

We’re thankful for everyone who has used the XPRTs, joined the community, and sent questions and suggestions throughout 2021. We look forward to an exciting 2022!

Justin

Here’s what to expect in the WebXPRT 4 Preview

A few months ago, we shared detailed information about the changes we expected to make in WebXPRT 4. We are currently doing internal testing of the WebXPRT 4 Preview build in preparation for releasing it to the public. We want to let our readers know what to expect.

We’ve made some changes since our last update and some of the details we present below could still change before the preview release. However, we are much closer to the final product. Once we release the WebXPRT 4 Preview, testers will be able to publish scores from Preview build testing. We will limit any changes that we make between the Preview and the final release to the UI or features that are not expected to affect test scores.

General changes

Some of the non-workload changes we’ve made in WebXPRT 4 relate to our typical benchmark update process.

  • We have updated the aesthetics of the WebXPRT UI to make WebXPRT 4 visually distinct from older versions. We did not significantly change the flow of the UI.
  • We have updated content in some of the workloads to reflect changes in everyday technology, such as upgrading most of the photos in the photo processing workloads to higher resolutions.
  • We have not yet added a looping function to the automation scripts, but are still considering it for the future.
  • We investigated the possibility of shortening the benchmark by reducing the default number of iterations from seven to five, but have decided to stick with seven iterations to ensure that score variability remains acceptable across all platforms.

Workload changes

  • Photo Enhancement. We increased the efficiency of the workload’s Canvas object creation function, and replaced the existing photos with new, higher-resolution photos.
  • Organize Album Using AI. We replaced ConvNetJS with WebAssembly (WASM) based OpenCV.js for both the face detection and image classification tasks. We changed the images for the image classification tasks to images from the ImageNet dataset.
  • Stock Option Pricing. We updated the dygraph.js library.
  • Sales Graphs. We made no changes to this workload.
  • Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan. We replaced ASM.js with WASM for the Notes task and updated the WASM-based Tesseract version for the OCR task.
  • Online Homework. In addition to the existing scenario which uses four Web Workers, we have added a scenario with two Web Workers. The workload now covers a wider range of Web Worker performance, and we calculate the score by using the combined run time of both scenarios. We also updated the typo.js library.

Experimental workloads

As part of the WebXPRT 4 development process, we researched the possibility of including two new workloads: a natural language processing (NLP) workload, and an Angular-based message scrolling workload. After much testing and discussion, we have decided to not include these two workloads in WebXPRT 4. They will be good candidates for us to add as experimental WebXPRT 4 workloads in 2022.

The release timeline

Our goal is to publish the WebXPRT 4 preview build by December 15th, which will allow testers to publish scores in the weeks leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2022. We will provide more detailed information about the GA timeline here in the blog as soon as possible.

If you have any questions about the details we’ve shared above, please feel free to ask!

Justin

A huge milestone for XPRT runs and downloads!

We’re excited to have recently passed an important milestone: one million XPRT runs and downloads! Most importantly, that huge number does not just reflect past successes. As the chart below illustrates, XPRT use has grown steadily over the years. In 2021, we record, on average, more XPRT runs and downloads in one month (23,395) than we recorded in the entire first year we started tracking these stats (17,051).

We reached one million runs and downloads in about seven and a half years. At the current rate, we’ll reach two million in roughly three and a half more years. With WebXPRT 4 on the way, there’s a good chance we can reach that mark even sooner!

As always, we’re grateful for all the testers that have helped us reach this milestone. If you have any questions or comments about using any of the XPRTs to test your gear, let us know!

Justin

Publishing CloudXPRT results from testing on pre-production gear

We recently received questions about whether we accept CloudXPRT results submissions from testing on pre-production gear, and how we would handle any differences between results from pre-production and production-level tests.  

To answer first question, we are not opposed to pre-production results submissions. We realize that vendors often want to include benchmark results in launch-oriented marketing materials they release before their hardware or software is publicly available. To help them do so, we’re happy to consider pre-production submissions on a case-by-case basis. All such submissions must follow the normal CloudXPRT results submission process, and undergo vetting by the CloudXPRT Results Review Group according to the standard review and publication schedule. If we decide to publish pre-production results on our site, we will clearly note their pre-production status.

In response to the second question, the CloudXPRT Results Review Group will handle any challenges to published results or perceived discrepancies between pre-production and production-level results on a case-by-case basis. We do not currently have a formal process for challenges; anyone who would like to initiate a challenge or express comments or concerns about a result should address the review group via benchmarkxprtsupport@principledtechnologies.com. Our primary concern is always to ensure that published results accurately reflect the performance characteristics of production-level hardware and software. If it becomes necessary to develop more policies in the future, we’ll do so, but we want to keep things as simple as possible.

If you have any questions about the CloudXPRT results submission process, please let us know!

Justin

WebXPRT passes the 750,000-run milestone!

We’re excited to see that users have successfully completed over 750,000 WebXPRT runs! If you’ve run WebXPRT in any of the more than 654 cities and 68 countries from which we’ve received complete test data—including newcomers Belize, Cambodia, Croatia, and Pakistan—we’re grateful for your help. We could not have reached this milestone without you!

As the chart below illustrates, WebXPRT use has grown steadily over the years. We now record, on average, almost twice as many WebXPRT runs in one month as we recorded in the entirety of our first year. In addition, with over 82,000 runs to date in 2021, there are no signs that growth is slowing.

Developing a new benchmark is never easy, and the obstacles multiply when you attempt to create a cross-platform benchmark, such as WebXPRT, that will run on a wide variety of devices. Establishing trust with the benchmarking community is another challenge. Transparency, consistency, and technical competency on our part are critical factors in building that trust, but the people who take time out of their busy schedules to run the benchmark for the first time also play a role. We thank all of the manufacturers, OEM labs, and members of the tech press who decided to give WebXPRT a try, and we look forward to your input as we continue to improve WebXPRT in the years to come. 

If you have any questions or comments about WebXPRT, 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

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