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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

WebXPRT 3: relevant, reliable, and easy to use

WebXPRT continues to be the most widely-used XPRT benchmark, with just over 625,000 runs to date. From the first WebXPRT release in 2013, WebXPRT has been popular with device manufacturers, developers, tech journalists, and consumers because it’s easy to run, it runs on almost anything with a web browser, and its workloads reflect the types of web-based tasks that people are likely to encounter on a daily basis.

We realize that many folks who follow the XPRTs may be unaware of the wide variety of WebXPRT uses that we frequently read about in the tech press. Today, we thought it would be interesting to bring the numbers to life. In addition to dozens of device reviews, here’s a sample of WebXPRT 3 mentions over the past few weeks.

As we plan for the next version of WebXPRT, we want to be sure we build a benchmark that continues WebXPRT’s legacy of relevant workloads, ease-of-use, and broad compatibility. We know what works well in our lab, but to build a benchmark that meets the needs of a diverse group of users all around the world, it’s important that we hear from all types of testers. We recently discussed some of the new technologies that we’re considering for WebXPRT 4, so please don’t hesitate to let us know what you think about those proposals, or send any additional ideas you may have!

Justin

Potential web technology additions for WebXPRT 4

A few months ago, we invited readers to send in their thoughts and ideas about web technologies and workload scenarios that may be a good fit for the next WebXPRT. We’d like to share a few of those ideas today, and we invite you to continue to send your feedback. We’re approaching the time when we need to begin firming up plans for a WebXPRT 4 development cycle in 2021, but there’s still plenty of time for you to help shape the future of the benchmark.

One of the most promising ideas for WebXPRT 4 is the potential addition of one or more WebAssembly (WASM) workloads. WASM is a low-level, binary instruction format that works across all modern browsers. It offers web developers a great deal of flexibility and provides the speed and efficiency necessary for running complex client applications in the browser. WASM enables a variety of workload scenario options, including gaming, video editing, VR, virtual machines, image recognition, and interactive educational content.

In addition, the Chrome team is dropping Portable Native Client (PNaCL) support in favor of WASM, which is why we had to remove a PNaCL workload when updating CrXPRT 2015 to CrXPRT 2. We generally model CrXPRT workloads on existing WebXPRT workloads, so familiarizing ourselves with WASM could ultimately benefit more than one XPRT benchmark.

We are also considering adding 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, natural language processing, and more. 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.

Other ideas include using a WebGL-based workload to target GPUs and investigating ways to incorporate a battery life test. What do you think? Let us know!

Justin

Our results database, your resource

Testers who have started using the XPRT benchmarks recently may not know about one of the free resources we offer. The XPRT results database currently holds more than 2,400 test results from over 90 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.

We update the results database several times a week, adding selected results from our own internal lab testing, end-of-test user submissions, and reliable tech media sources. (After you run one of the XPRTs, you can choose to submit the results, but they don’t automatically appear in the database.)

Before adding a result, we evaluate whether the score makes sense and is consistent with general expectations, which we can do only when we have sufficient system information details. For that reason, we encourage testers to disclose as much hardware and software information as possible when publishing or submitting a result.

We encourage visitors to our site to explore the XPRT results database. There are three primary ways to do so. The first is by visiting the main BenchmarkXPRT results browser, which displays results entries for all of the XPRT benchmarks in chronological order (see the screenshot below). Users can narrow the results by selecting a benchmark from the drop-down menu and can type values, such as vendor or the name of a tech publication, into the free-form filter field. For results we produced in our lab, clicking “PT” in the Source column takes you to a page with additional disclosure information for the test system. For sources outside our lab, clicking the source name takes you to the original article or review that contains the result.

The second way to access our published results is by visiting the results page for each individual XPRT benchmark. Go the page of the benchmark you’re interested in, and look for the blue View Results button. Clicking it takes you to a page that displays results for only that benchmark. You can use the free-form filter on the page to filter those results, and can use the Benchmarks drop-down menu to jump to the other individual XPRT results pages.

The third way to view information in our results database is with the WebXPRT Processor Comparison Chart. When we publish a new WebXPRT result, the score automatically appears in the processor comparison chart as well. For each processor, the chart shows a bar representing the average score. Mousing over the bar displays a popup indicating the number of WebXPRT results we currently have for that processor and clicking the bar lets you view the results. You can change the number of results the chart displays on each page, and use the drop-down menu to toggle back and forth between the WebXPRT 3 and WebXPRT 2015 charts.

We hope you’ll take some time to browse the information in our results database. We welcome your feedback about what you’d like to see in the future and suggestions for improvement. Our database contains the XPRT scores that we’ve gathered, but we publish them as a resource for you. Let us know what you think!

Justin

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