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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

Moving forward with WebXPRT 4

In the coming months, we’ll be moving forward with the first stages of the WebXPRT 4 development process. It’s been a while since we last asked readers to send their thoughts about web technologies and workloads that may be a good fit for WebXPRT 4, but we’re still very much open to ideas. If you missed our previous posts about possible changes for WebXPRT 4, we recap the most prominent ideas below. We also request specific feedback regarding a potential battery life component.

  • Community members have asked about a WebXPRT 4 battery life test. Any such test would likely be very similar to the performance-weighted battery life test in CrXPRT 2 (as opposed to a simple rundown test). While WebXPRT runs in almost any browser, cross-browser compatibility issues could cause a WebXPRT battery life test to run in only one browser. If this turned out to be the case, would you still be interested in using the battery life test? Please let us know.
  • One of the most promising ideas 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.
  • 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 range of tasks including image classification, object detection, sentence encoding, and natural language processing. 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 simulating common web applications.

We’ll start work on WebXPRT 4 soon, but there’s still time to send your comments and ideas, so please do so as quickly as possible!

Justin

Using WebXPRT 3 to compare the performance of popular browsers (Round 2)

It’s been nine months since we’ve published a WebXPRT 3 browser performance comparison, so we decided to put the newest versions of popular browsers through the paces to see if the performance rankings have changed since our last round of tests.

We used the same laptop as last time: a Dell XPS 13 7930 with an Intel Core i3-10110U processor and 4 GB of RAM running Windows 10 Home, updated to version 1909 (18363.1139). We installed all current Windows updates and tested on a clean system image. After the update process completed, we turned off updates to prevent them from interfering with test runs. We ran WebXPRT 3 three times on five browsers: Brave, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. The posted score for each browser is the median of the three test runs.

In our last round of tests, the four Chromium-based browsers (Brave, Chrome, Edge, and Opera) produced scores that were nearly identical. Only Mozilla Firefox produced a significantly different (and better) score. The parity of the Chromium-based browsers was not surprising, considering they have the same underlying foundation.

In this round of testing, the Chromium-based browsers again produced very close scores, although Brave’s performance lagged by about 4 percent. Firefox again separated itself from the pack with a higher score. With the exception of Chrome, which produced an identical score as last time, every browser’s score was slightly slower than before. There are many possible reasons for this, including increased overhead in the browsers or changes in Windows, and the respective slowdowns for each browser will probably be unnoticeable to most users during everyday tasks.

Do these results mean that Mozilla Firefox will provide you with a speedier web experience? As we noted in the last comparison, a device with a higher WebXPRT score will probably feel faster during daily use than one with a lower score. For comparisons on the same system, however, the answer depends in part on the types of things you do on the web, how the extensions you’ve installed affect performance, how frequently the browsers issue updates and incorporate new web technologies, and how accurately each browsers’ default installation settings reflect how you would set up that browser for your daily workflow.

In addition, browser speed can increase or decrease significantly after an update, only to swing back in the other direction shortly thereafter. OS-specific optimizations can also affect performance, such as with Edge on Windows 10 and Chrome on Chrome OS. All of these variables are important to keep in mind when considering how browser performance comparison results translate to your everyday experience.

What are your thoughts on browser performance? Let us know!

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

Thinking ahead to WebXPRT 4

It’s been about two years since we released WebXPRT 3, and we’re starting to think about the WebXPRT 4 development cycle. With over 529,000 runs to date, WebXPRT continues to be our most popular benchmark because it’s quick and easy to run, it runs on almost anything with a web browser, and it evaluates performance using the types of web technologies that many people use every day.

For each new version of WebXPRT, we start the development process by looking at browser trends and analyzing the feasibility of incorporating new web technologies into our workload scenarios. For example, in WebXPRT 3, we updated the Organize Album workload to include an image-classification task that uses deep learning. We also added an optical character recognition task to the Encrypt Notes and OCR scan workload, and introduced a new Online Homework workload that combined part of the DNA Sequence Analysis scenario with a writing sample/spell check scenario.

Here are the current WebXPRT 3 workloads:

  • Photo Enhancement: Applies three effects, each using Canvas, to two photos.
  • Organize Album Using AI: Detects faces and classifies images using the ConvNetJS neural network library.
  • Stock Option Pricing: Calculates and displays graphic views of a stock portfolio using Canvas, SVG, and dygraphs.js.
  • Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan: Encrypts notes in local storage and scans a receipt using optical character recognition.
  • Sales Graphs: Calculates and displays multiple views of sales data using InfoVis and d3.js.
  • Online Homework: Performs science and English assignment tasks using Web Workers and Typo.js spell check.

What new technologies or workload scenarios should we add? Are there any existing features we should remove? Would you be interested in an associated battery life test? We want to hear your thoughts and ideas about WebXPRT, so please tell us what you think!

Justin

The XPRTs in 2019: Looking back on an exciting and productive year

2019 is winding down, and we want to take this opportunity to review another exciting and productive year for the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community. Readers of our newsletter are familiar with the stats and updates we post in each month’s mailing, but we know that not all our blog readers receive the newsletter, so we’ve compiled the highlights below.

Trade shows
Earlier this year, Justin attended CES in Las Vegas and Mark travelled to MWC Barcelona. These shows help us keep up with the latest industry trends and gather insights that help to lay the groundwork for XPRT development in the years ahead.

Benchmarks
In the past year, we released MobileXPRT 3, HDXPRT 4, and AIXPRT, our new AI benchmark tool that helps you evaluate a system’s machine learning inference performance. There’s much more to come in 2020 with AIXPRT and several other projects, so expect more news about benchmark development early in the year.

Web mentions
In 2019 so far, journalists, advertisers, and analysts have referenced the XPRTs over 5,000 times, including mentions in more than 190 articles and 1,350 device reviews. This represents a more than 50% increase over 2018.

Downloads and confirmed runs
To date, we’ve had more than 24,800 benchmark downloads and 153,000 confirmed runs in 2019, increases of more than 8% and 10%, respectively, over 2018. Within the last month, our most popular benchmark, WebXPRT, passed the 500,000-run milestone! WebXPRT continues to be an industry-standard performance benchmark upon which OEM labs, vendors, and leading tech press outlets rely.

XPRT Tech Spotlight
We put 47 new devices in the XPRT Tech Spotlight throughout the year and published updated back-to-school, Black Friday, and holiday showcases to help buyers compare devices.

Media and interactive tools
We published a new XPRTs around the world infographic and an interactive AIXPRT installation package selector tool. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the tool. We encourage you to give it a try if you’re curious about AIXPRT but aren’t sure how to get started.

We’re thankful for everyone who used the XPRTs, joined the community, and sent questions and suggestions throughout 2019. This will be our last blog post for 2019, but there’s much more to come in 2020, including some exciting new developments. Stay tuned in early January for updates!

Justin

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