Our New Testing Suite for 2018 and 2019

Spectre and Meltdown Hardened

In order to keep up to date with our testing, we have to update our software every so often to stay relevant. In our updates we typically implement the latest operating system, the latest patches, the latest software revisions, the newest graphics drivers, as well as add new tests or remove old ones. As regular readers will know, our CPU testing revolves an automated test suite, and depending on how the newest software works, the suite either needs to change, be updated, have tests removed, or be rewritten completely. Last time we did a full re-write, it took the best part of a month, including regression testing (testing older processors).

One of the key elements of our testing update for 2018 (and 2019) is the fact that our scripts and systems are designed to be hardened for Spectre and Meltdown. This means making sure that all of our BIOSes are updated with the latest microcode, and all the steps are in place with our operating system with updates. In this case we are using Windows 10 x64 Enterprise 1709 with April security updates which enforces Smeltdown (our combined name) mitigations. Uses might ask why we are not running Windows 10 x64 RS4, the latest major update – this is due to some new features which are giving uneven results. Rather than spend a few weeks learning to disable them, we’re going ahead with RS3 which has been widely used.

Our previous benchmark suite was split into several segments depending on how the test is usually perceived. Our new test suite follows similar lines, and we run the tests based on:

  • Power
  • Memory
  • Office
  • System
  • Render
  • Encoding
  • Web
  • Legacy
  • Integrated Gaming
  • CPU Gaming

Depending on the focus of the review, the order of these benchmarks might change, or some left out of the main review. All of our data will reside in our benchmark database, Bench, for which there is a new ‘CPU 2019’ section for all of our new tests.

Within each section, we will have the following tests:

Power

Our power tests consist of running a substantial workload for every thread in the system, and then probing the power registers on the chip to find out details such as core power, package power, DRAM power, IO power, and per-core power. This all depends on how much information is given by the manufacturer of the chip: sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all.

We are currently running POV-Ray as our main test for Power, as it seems to hit deep into the system and is very consistent. In order to limit the number of cores for power, we use an affinity mask driven from the command line.

Memory

These tests involve disabling all turbo modes in the system, forcing it to run at base frequency, and them implementing both a memory latency checker (Intel’s Memory Latency Checker works equally well for both platforms) and AIDA64 to probe cache bandwidth.

Office

  • Chromium Compile: Windows VC++ Compile of Chrome 56 (same as 2017)
  • PCMark10: Primary data will be the overview results – subtest results will be in Bench
  • 3DMark Physics: We test every physics sub-test for Bench, and report the major ones (new)
  • GeekBench4: By request (new)
  • SYSmark 2018: Recently released by BAPCo, currently automating it into our suite (new, when feasible)

System

  • Application Load: Time to load GIMP 2.10.4 (new)
  • FCAT: Time to process a 90 second ROTR 1440p recording (same as 2017)
  • 3D Particle Movement: Particle distribution test (same as 2017) – we also have AVX2 and AVX512 versions of this, which may be added later
  • Dolphin 5.0: Console emulation test (same as 2017)
  • DigiCortex: Sea Slug Brain simulation (same as 2017)
  • y-Cruncher v0.7.6: Pi calculation with optimized instruction sets for new CPUs (new)
  • Agisoft Photoscan 1.3.3: 2D image to 3D modelling tool (updated)

Render

  • Corona 1.3: Performance renderer for 3dsMax, Cinema4D (same as 2017)
  • Blender 2.79b: Render of bmw27 on CPU (updated to 2.79b)
  • LuxMark v3.1 C++ and OpenCL: Test of different rendering code paths (same as 2017)
  • POV-Ray 3.7.1: Built-in benchmark (updated)
  • CineBench R15: Older Cinema4D test, will likely remain in Bench (same as 2017)

Encoding

  • 7-zip 1805: Built-in benchmark (updated to v1805)
  • WinRAR 5.60b3: Compression test of directory with video and web files (updated to 5.60b3)
  • AES Encryption: In-memory AES performance. Slightly older test. (same as 2017)
  • Handbrake 1.1.0: Logitech C920 1080p60 input file, transcoded into three formats for streaming/storage:
    • 720p60, x264, 6000 kbps CBR, Fast, High Profile
    • 1080p60, x264, 3500 kbps CBR, Faster, Main Profile
    • 1080p60, HEVC, 3500 kbps VBR, Fast, 2-Pass Main Profile

Web

  • WebXPRT3: The latest WebXPRT test (updated)
  • WebXPRT15: Similar to 3, but slightly older. (same as 2017)
  • Speedometer2: Javascript Framework test (new)
  • Google Octane 2.0: Depreciated but popular web test (same as 2017)
  • Mozilla Kraken 1.1: Depreciated but popular web test (same as 2017)

Legacy (same as 2017)

  • 3DPM v1: Older version of 3DPM, very naïve code
  • x264 HD 3.0: Older transcode benchmark
  • Cinebench R11.5 and R10: Representative of different coding methodologies

Linux (when feasible)

When in full swing, we wish to return to running LinuxBench 1.0. This was in our 2016 test, but was ditched in 2017 as it added an extra complication layer to our automation. By popular request, we are going to run it again.

Integrated and CPU Gaming

We have recently automated around a dozen games at four different performance levels. A good number of games will have frame time data, however due to automation complications, some will not. The idea is that we get a good overview of a number of different genres and engines for testing. So far we have the following games automated:

AnandTech CPU Gaming 2019 Game List
Game Genre Release Date API IGP Low Med High
World of Tanks enCore Driving / Action Feb
2018
DX11 768p
Minimum
1080p
Medium
1080p
Ultra
4K
Ultra
Final Fantasy XV JRPG Mar
2018
DX11 720p
Standard
1080p
Standard
4K
Standard
8K
Standard
Shadow of War Action / RPG Sep
2017
DX11 720p
Ultra
1080p
Ultra
4K
High
8K
High
F1 2018 Racing Aug
2018
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
Med
4K
High
4K
Ultra
Civilization VI RTS Oct
2016
DX12 1080p
Ultra
4K
Ultra
8K
Ultra
16K
Low
Car Mechanic Simulator '18 Simulation / Racing July
2017
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
Medium
1440p
High
4K
Ultra
Ashes: Classic RTS Mar
2016
DX12 720p
Standard
1080p
Standard
1440p
Standard
4K
Standard
Strange Brigade* FPS Aug
2018
DX12
Vulkan
720p
Low
1080p
Medium
1440p
High
4K
Ultra
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Action Sep
2018
DX12 720p
Low
1080p
Medium
1440p
High
4K
Highest
Grand Theft Auto V Open World Apr
2015
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
High
1440p
Very High
4K
Ultra
Far Cry 5 FPS Mar
2018
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
Normal
1440p
High
4K
Ultra
*Strange Brigade is run in DX12 and Vulkan modes

For our CPU Gaming tests, we will be running on an NVIDIA GTX 1080. For the CPU benchmarks, we use an RX460 as we now have several units for concurrent testing.

In previous years we tested multiple GPUs on a small number of games – this time around, due to a Twitter poll I did which turned out exactly 50:50, we are doing it the other way around: more games, fewer GPUs.

Scale Up vs Scale Out: Benefits of Automation

One comment we get every now and again is that automation isn’t the best way of testing – there’s a higher barrier to entry, and it limits the tests that can be done. From our perspective, despite taking a little while to program properly (and get it right), automation means we can do several things:

  1. Guarantee consistent breaks between tests for cooldown to occur, rather than variable cooldown times based on ‘if I’m looking at the screen’
  2. It allows us to simultaneously test several systems at once. I currently run five systems in my office (limited by the number of 4K monitors, and space) which means we can process more hardware at the same time
  3. We can leave tests to run overnight, very useful for a deadline
  4. With a good enough script, tests can be added very easily

Our benchmark suite collates all the results and spits out data as the tests are running to a central storage platform, which I can probe mid-run to update data as it comes through. This also acts as a mental check in case any of the data might be abnormal.

We do have one major limitation, and that rests on the side of our gaming tests. We are running multiple tests through one Steam account, some of which (like GTA) are online only. As Steam only lets one system play on an account at once, our gaming script probes Steam’s own APIs to determine if we are ‘online’ or not, and to run offline tests until the account is free to be logged in on that system. Depending on the number of games we test that absolutely require online mode, it can be a bit of a bottleneck.

Benchmark Suite Updates

As always, we do take requests. It helps us understand the workloads that everyone is running and plan accordingly.

A side note on software packages: we have had requests for tests on software such as ANSYS, or other professional grade software. The downside of testing this software is licensing and scale. Most of these companies do not particularly care about us running tests, and state it’s not part of their goals. Others, like Agisoft, are more than willing to help. If you are involved in these software packages, the best way to see us benchmark them is to reach out. We have special versions of software for some of our tests, and if we can get something that works, and relevant to the audience, then we shouldn’t have too much difficulty adding it to the suite.

Test Bed and Setup HEDT Performance: Encoding Tests
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  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    Yah because you don't do anything intensive with the jobs you have, of course you would use laptops or whatever mobile. But the reality is most people would use desktops because simply faster to get stuff done, and more powerful.

    BYOD fyi is not like that for most companies..
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    ..and if you are doing anything intensive with laptops..that just means company you work for is behind the curve and just being cheap and not fork out money for the right hardware. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    There are over 250K people on the payroll. There ARE desktop PCs around, but they are few and far between. I'm not going to get into an extended debate about this because it won't change anyone's perspective, but I do believe you've got a slight misconception about the usefulness and flexibility of portable computer hardware. A simple look at the availability of desktops versus laptops should be enough to make it obvious, for most people, computer == laptop these days. Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    You're eliding the difference between "convenient and sufficient" and "as powerful as anyone needs".

    I'll absolutely grant that if you're only going to have one system for doing your work and you move around a fair bit, then it absolutely makes sense to have that system be mobile, even if you lose a bit of edge-case performance.

    For people doing /serious/ GPU grunt work something like an XPS 15 is going to provide between 1/2 and 1/3 of the power they could get with a similarly priced desktop. That compromise doesn't make any sense for someone whose job does not require mobility.

    So sure, notebooks are better than ever for a large number of people. Doesn't make desktops and HEDT chips functionally irrelevant for businesses, though. If you can really use 18 cores for the work you're doing then being provided with an XPS 15 will be, at best, a sad joke.
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    Any laptop is essentially on a different planet than any of the processors covered in this review (doesn't matter if we are talking Intel or AMD).
    1. If it is possible to do your work on a laptop (which I am myself at this very moment) then you (and me) are not the target audience for these CPU's. In fact, I'm not entirely sure why you even bother to read or comment on the story?
    2. If you have to ask if you need it, you don't need it.
    3. If you have to think more than about 1 second to make a decision between one of these and a laptop, then you don't need it.
    4. If you do need one, then you already know that.

    Most people don't need one, including me. I read these things because the technology is interesting and because I find it interesting what others might be doing. I don't really feel any need to insist that others need what I need and could not possibly need anything else.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - link

    So a differing opinion than yours should mean that someone not read an article or comment on it. That appears to be nothing more than a self-protective mechanism intended to erect a bubble in which exists nothing more than an echo chamber filled with your own beliefs. That's hardly a way to integrate new thinking, but I do understand that a lot of people fear change in the same way you do. Reply
  • Kilnk - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    "But the reality is most people would use desktops because simply faster to get stuff done, and more powerful."

    See, that's the problem with your reasoning. You assume that most people need power when they do not. The reality is that the majority of people who need to use computers for work do not need to do rendering or any kind of intensive task. So no, most people don't use desktops nor would they want to use desktops given the opportunity. They use laptops.
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    "Now we live in a BYOD (bring your own device) world where the company will pay up to a certain amount (varies between $1,100 and $1,400 depending on funding from upper echelons of the corporation) and employees are free to purchase the computer hardware they want for their work. There are no desktop PCs currently and in the past four years, only one person purchased a desktop in the form of a NUC. "

    The Man's advantage to the Worker Bees using laptops: their always 'on the job'. no time off. as close to slavery as it's legal to be. some smart folks are truly stupid.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    "The Man's advantage to the Worker Bees.." (just quoting because of the lack of continuing indents in Anandtech's 1990's-era comment system)

    I think that's a bit of a stretch in our case. My division doesn't do on-call and we strictly prohibit our lower tier managers from tapping employees outside of their normal work hours. Even checking company e-mail outside of work hours is against posted (and enforced) policy. If we must, due to emergencies, they absolutely have to be compensated for the time regardless of whether or not they are hourly or salaried workers. I haven't seen an "emergency" that couldn't wait until the next day so that policy has not been put into use in at least the last five years. Computational mobility is no excuse to allow invasions into off-the-clock time and I for one won't allow it.
    Reply
  • jjjag - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    I hate to admit it but PNC is right. Super-high-powered desktops are an anachronism. If you need REAL horsepower, you build a server/compute farm and connect to it with thin-client laptops. If you are just doing software development, the laptop cpu is usually good enough.

    This is especially true of single socket monsters like these HEDT chips. The only reason they exist is because gamers will pay too much for everything. It's nothing more than an expensive hobby, and like all hobbies at the top end is all "want" and very little "need". The "need" stops somewhere around 6 or 8 cores.

    It's exactly the same as owning a Ferrari and never taking it to the track. You will never use more than 20% of the full capabilities of it. All you really need is a Vette.
    Reply

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