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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

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

The XPRTs in 2020: a year to remember

As 2020 comes to a close, we want to take this opportunity to 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 CrXPRT 2 and updated MobileXPRT 3 for testing on Android 11 phones. The biggest XPRT benchmark news was the release of CloudXPRT v1.0 and v1.01. CloudXPRT, our newest  benchmark, can accurately measure the performance of cloud applications deployed on modern infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms, whether those platforms are paired with on-premises, private cloud, or public cloud deployments. 

XPRTs in the media
Journalists, advertisers, and analysts referenced the XPRTs thousands of times in 2020, and it’s always rewarding to know that the XPRTs have proven to be useful and reliable assessment tools for technology publications such as AnandTech, ArsTechnica, Computer Base, Gizmodo, HardwareZone, Laptop Mag, Legit Reviews, Notebookcheck, PCMag, PCWorld, Popular Science, TechPowerUp, Tom’s Hardware, VentureBeat, and ZDNet.

Downloads and confirmed runs
So far in 2020, we’ve had more than 24,200 benchmark downloads and 164,600 confirmed runs. Our most popular benchmark, WebXPRT, just passed 675,000 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 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’ve published the following in 2020:

We’re thankful for everyone who has used the XPRTs, joined the community, and sent questions and suggestions throughout 2020. This will be our last blog post of the year, but there’s much more to come in 2021. Stay tuned in early January for updates!

Justin

Following up on CrXPRT 2 battery life errors

A few weeks ago, we discussed error messages that a tester received when starting up CrXPRT 2 after a battery life test. CrXPRT 2 battery life tests require a full battery rundown, after which the tester plugs in the Chromebook, turns it on, opens the CrXPRT 2 app, and sees the test results. In the reported cases, the tester opened the app after a battery life test that seemed successful, but saw “N/A” or “test error” messages instead of the results they expected.

During discussions about the end-of-test system environment, we realized that some testers might be unclear about how to tell that the battery has fully run down. During the system idle portion of CrXPRT 2 battery life test iterations, the Chromebook screen turns black and a small cursor appears somewhere on the screen to let testers know the test is still in progress. We believe that some testers, seeing the black screen but not the cursor, believe the system has shut down. Restarting CrXPRT 2 before the battery life test is complete could explain some of the “N/A” or “test error” messages users have reported.

If you see a black screen without a cursor, you can check to see whether the test is complete by looking for the small system power indicator light on the side or top of most Chromebooks. These are usually red, orange, or green, but if a light of any color is lit, the test is still underway. When the light goes out, the test has ended. You can plug the system in and power it on to see results.

Note that some Chromebooks provide low-battery warnings onscreen. During CrXPRT 2 battery life runs, testers should ignore these.

We hope this clears up any confusion about how to know when a CrXPRT 2 battery life test has ended. If you’ve received repeated “N/A” or “test error” messages during your CrXPRT 2 testing and the information above does not help, please let us know!

Justin

Results details and unexpected behavior with the CrXPRT 2 battery life test

It’s been two weeks since the CrXPRT 2 public release, and we’re happy to see widespread interest in the test right out of the gate!

This week, we received a couple of questions about its battery life test from Melissa Riofrio at PCWorld. First, she asked for clarification about the relationship between the rundown time and the 30-minute increments that appear in the iteration details table for each battery life run. Second, she asked what could be causing her to get “N/A” and “test error” battery life results at the end of what appeared to be successful tests. Both topics may be of interest to other CrXPRT 2 testers, so we’ve decided to address them here in the blog and invite our readers to provide any relevant feedback.

Rundown time vs. elapsed time

When you’re viewing previous CrXPRT 2 test results and click the Details link for a specific battery life test run, a window displaying additional test information appears (the screenshot below shows an example). The window first provides performance details, then presents a table with several data points for each iteration.

The data point in the far-right column, elapsed time, can be slightly confusing. Each test iteration runs for 30 minutes, and this column provides a cumulative total of these 30-minute increments. In some instances, these totals accurately reflect the actual time elapsed from the time that testing begins. However, if the test system shuts down for some reason before running the entire iteration, this table will still show the entire 30 minutes allotted for the that iteration. In these cases, the cumulative elapsed time value in the far-right column will not match the rundown time that the test reports for the system’s battery life. For that reason, testers should always consider rundown time as the definitive value for battery life.


 “N/A” and “test error” battery life results after apparently successful tests

We’re actively investigating this issue at present. We’ve tested a wide range of Chromebooks, both old and new, on several versions of Chrome OS, including the latest versions, and have been unable to reproduce the problem. Have you witnessed this behavior at the end of a CrXPRT 2 battery life test? If so, we’d love to get more information from you about the system under test and your testing procedures, so please contact us.

We’re grateful to Melissa for raising these questions, and we appreciate everyone’s feedback on CrXPRT 2. Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to determine the cause of the  “N/A” and “test error” results and find a solution. We’ll be sure to share that information here in the blog once we do.

Justin

Principled Technologies and the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community release the CrXPRT 2 benchmark for Chromebooks

Durham, NC, April 20— Principled Technologies and the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community have released CrXPRT 2, a free app that measures Chromebook battery life, as well as how fast a Chromebook handles everyday tasks like playing video games, watching movies, editing pictures, and doing homework. Testers can install the app on Chromebooks from the Chrome Web Store or by clicking the Chrome Web Store button on CrXPRT.com.

The CrXPRT 2 performance test, which measures a Chromebook’s speed, gives testers an overall score and individual scores for each workload. In addition to an estimated battery life expressed in hours and minutes, the battery life test produces a separate performance score and a frames per second (FPS) rate for a built-in HTML5 gaming component. CrXPRT is user-friendly, delivering results that consumers can understand.

“CrXPRT is a popular, easy-to-use benchmark run by manufacturers, tech journalists, and consumers all around the world,” said Bill Catchings, co-founder of Principled Technologies, which administers the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community. “CrXPRT 2 continues CrXPRT’s legacy of providing relevant and reliable performance and battery life data for Chrome OS devices.”

CrXPRT is part of the BenchmarkXPRT suite of performance evaluation tools, which includes AIXPRT, CloudXPRT, WebXPRT, TouchXPRT, HDXPRT, and MobileXPRT. The XPRTs help users get the facts before they buy, use, or evaluate tech products such as servers, desktops, laptops, and tablets.

To learn more about the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community, go to www.BenchmarkXPRT.com.

About Principled Technologies, Inc.
Principled Technologies, Inc. is a leading provider of technology marketing and learning & development services. It administers the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community.

Principled Technologies, Inc. is located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. For more information, please visit www.PrincipledTechnologies.com.

Company Contact
Justin Greene
BenchmarkXPRT Development Community
Principled Technologies, Inc.
1007 Slater Road, Ste. 300 Durham, NC 27703
BenchmarkXPRTsupport@PrincipledTechnologies.com

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