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The Exploring WebXPRT 4 white paper is now available

This week, we published the Exploring WebXPRT 4 white paper. It describes the design and structure of WebXPRT 4, including detailed information about the benchmark’s harness, HTML5 and WebAssembly (WASM) capability checks, and changes we’ve made to the structure of the performance test workloads. We explain the benchmark’s scoring methodology, how to automate tests, and how to submit results for publication. The white paper also includes information about the third-party functions and libraries that WebXPRT 4 uses during the HTML5 and WASM capability checks and performance workloads.

The Exploring WebXPRT 4 white paper promotes the high level of transparency and disclosure that is a core value of the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community. We’ve always believed that transparency builds trust, and trust is essential for a healthy benchmarking community. That’s why we involve community members in the benchmark development process and disclose how we build our benchmarks and how they work.

You can find the paper on WebXPRT.com and our XPRT white papers page. If you have any questions about WebXPRT 4, please let us know, and be sure to check out our other XPRT white papers.

Justin

WebXPRT 4 is live!

We’re excited to announce that WebXPRT 4 is now available! Testers can access the benchmark at WebXPRT.com. If you’ve already been using the WebXPRT 4 Preview, your Preview test results will be comparable with results from the current official build.

Longtime WebXPRT users will notice that WebXPRT 4 has a new, but familiar, UI. The general process for kicking off both manual and automated tests is the same as with WebXPRT 3, so the transition from WebXPRT 3 to WebXPRT 4 testing should be straightforward. We will continue to make WebXPRT 3 available for legacy testing.

If you missed earlier XPRT blog posts about WebXPRT 4, here is a quick overview of the differences between WebXPRT 3 and WebXPRT 4:

General changes

  • We’ve 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’ve 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’ve updated the base calibration system for score calculations, and adjusted the scoring scale. WebXPRT 4 scores should not be compared to scores from previous versions of WebXPRT.

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.

We’re thankful for all of the feedback we received during the WebXPRT 4 development process, and we look forward to seeing your WebXPRT 4 results!

Justin

A clearer picture of WebXPRT 4

The WebXPRT 4 development process is far enough along that we’d like to share more about changes we are likely to make and a rough target date for publishing a preview build. While some of the details below will probably change, this post should give readers a good sense of what to expect.

General changes

Some of the non-workload changes in WebXPRT 4 relate to our typical benchmark update process, and a few result directly from feedback we received from the WebXPRT tech press survey.

  • We will update the aesthetics of the WebXPRT UI to make WebXPRT 4 visually distinct from older versions. We do not anticipate significantly changing the flow of the UI.
  • We will update content in some of the workloads to reflect changes in everyday technology. For instance, we will upgrade most of the photos in the photo processing workloads to higher resolutions.
  • In response to a request from tech press survey respondents, we are considering adding a looping function to the automation scripts.
  • We are investigating the possibility of shortening the benchmark by reducing the default number of iterations from seven to five. We will only make this change if we can ensure that five iterations produce consistently low score variance.

Changes to existing workloads

  • Photo Enhancement. This workload applies three effects to two photos each (six photos total). It tests HTML5 Canvas, Canvas 2D, and JavaScript performance. The only change we are considering is adding higher-resolution photos.
  • Organize Album Using AI. This workload currently uses the ConvNetJS neural network library to complete two tasks: (1) organizing five images and (2) classifying the five images in an album. We are planning to replace ConvNetJS with WebAssembly (WASM) for both tasks and are considering upgrading the images to higher resolutions.
  • Stock Option Pricing. This workload calculates and displays graphic views of a stock portfolio using Canvas, SVG, and dygraph.js. The only change we are considering is combining it with the Sales Graphs workload (below).
  • Sales Graphs. This workload provides a web-based application displaying multiple views of sales data. Sales Graphs exercises HTML5 Canvas and SVG performance. The only change we are considering is combining it with the Stock Option Pricing workload (above).
  • Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan. This workload uses ASM.js to sync notes, extract text from a scanned receipt using optical character recognition (OCR), and add the scanned text to a spending report. We are planning to replace ASM.js with WASM for the Notes task and with WASM-based Tesseract for the OCR task.
  • Online Homework. This workload uses regex, arrays, strings, and Web Workers to review DNA and spell-check an essay. We are not planning to change this workload.

Possible new workloads

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP). We are considering the addition of an NLP workload using ONNX Runtime and/or TensorFlowJS. The workload would use Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) to answer questions about a given text. Similar use cases are becoming more prevalent in conversational bot systems, domain-specific document search tools, and various other educational applications.
  • Message Scrolling. We are considering developing a new workload that would use an Angular or React.js to scroll through hundreds of messages. We’ll share more about this possible workload as we firm up the details.

The release timeline

We hope to publish a WebXPRT 4 preview build in the second half of November, with a general release before the end of the year. If it looks as though that timeline will change significantly, we’ll provide an update here in the blog as soon as possible.

We’re very grateful for all the input we received during the WebXPRT 4 planning process. If you have any questions about the details we’ve shared above, please feel free to ask!

Justin

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

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

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