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Persistent CrXPRT 2 battery life test error on Chrome v89 and later

A few weeks ago, we discussed an error that we’d recently started encountering during the CrXPRT 2 battery life test on systems running Chrome OS v89.x and later. The error prevents the test from completing and producing a battery life estimate. CrXPRT stops running its normal workload cycle and produces a “Test Error” page. The timing of the error can vary from run to run. Sometimes, CrXPRT stops running after only a few workload iterations, while other times, the battery life test almost reaches completion before producing the error.

We have seen the error on across multiple brands of Chromebooks running Chrome OS v89.x and later. To our knowledge, Chromebooks running Chrome OS v88.x and earlier versions complete the battery life test without issues. We are unaware of any problems with the CrXPRT 2 performance test.

We’re continuing to investigate this problem. Unfortunately, we have not yet identified the root cause. Without a solution, we are recommending that for now, testers not use the CrXPRT 2 battery life test. We will post this recommendation on CrXPRT.com.

We apologize for the inconvenience that this error is causing CrXPRT 2 testers. As soon as we identify a possible solution, we will share that information here in the blog. If you have any insight into recent Chrome OS changes or flag settings that could be causing this problem, please let us know!

Justin

CrXPRT 2 battery life error on Chrome 89 and 90

In recent lab tests, we’ve encountered an error during the CrXPRT 2 battery life test that prevents the test from completing and producing a battery life estimate. As the screenshot below shows, when the error occurs, CrXPRT stops running its normal workload cycle and produces a “Test Error” page. We have seen this behavior on systems running Chrome OS v89.x and v90.x, across multiple vendor platforms. In our testing, Chromebooks running  Chrome OS v88.x and earlier versions continue to complete the battery life test without any issues.

The error occurs consistently on every Chromebook running v89.x or v90.x that we’ve tested so far. However, the timing of the error varies from run to run on the same system. Sometimes, CrXPRT stops running after only a few workload iterations, while at other times, the battery life test runs almost to completion before producing the error.

We’re actively investigating this problem, but have not yet identified the root cause. We apologize for the inconvenience that this error may be causing CrXPRT 2 testers. As soon as we identify the root cause of the problem and have ideas about possible solutions, we will share that information here in the blog. If you have any insight into recent Chrome OS changes or flag settings that could be causing this problem, please let us know!

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

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

The XPRTs can help with your holiday shopping

The biggest shopping days of the year are fast approaching, and if you’re researching phones, tablets, Chromebooks, or laptops in preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the XPRTs can help! One of the core functions of the XPRTs is to help cut through all the marketing noise by providing objective, reliable measures of a device’s performance. For example, instead of trying to guess whether a new Chromebook is fast enough to handle the demands of remote learning, you can use its CrXPRT and WebXPRT performance scores to see how it stacks up against the competition when handling everyday tasks.

A good place to start your search for scores is our XPRT results browser. The browser is the most efficient way to access the XPRT results database, which currently holds more than 2,600 test results from over 100 sources, including major tech review publications around the world, OEMs, and independent testers. It offers a wealth of current and historical performance data across all the XPRT benchmarks and hundreds of devices. You can read more about how to use the results browser here.

Also, if you’re considering a popular device, chances are good that someone has already published an XPRT score for that device in a recent tech review. The quickest way to find these reviews is by searching for “XPRT” within your favorite tech review site, or by entering the device name and XPRT name (e.g. “Apple iPad” and “WebXPRT”) in a search engine. Here are a few recent tech reviews that use one or more of the XPRTs to evaluate a popular device:


The XPRTs can help consumers make better-informed and more confident tech purchases this holiday season, and we hope you’ll find the data you need on our site or in an XPRT-related tech review. If you have any questions about the XPRTs, XPRT scores, or the results database please feel free to ask!

Justin

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