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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  • Atari2600 - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    I wouldn't call them very "professional" when they are sacrificing 50+% productivity for mobility.

    Anyone serious about work in a serious work environment* has a workstation/desktop and at least 2 of UHD/4k monitors. Anything else is just kidding yourself thinking you are productive.
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    I never said that we didn't have external monitors, keyboards, and mice for desktop work. However, from 25 years of personal experience in this industry I can tell you emphatically .. productivity isn't related to the number of pixels on your display. Reply
  • HStewart - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    Exactly - I work with 15 in IBM Thinkpad 530 that screen is never used - but I have 2 24in 1980p monitors on my desk at home - if I need to go home office - hook it up another monitor - always with external monitor.

    It is really not the number of pixels but size of work sapace. I have 4k Dell XPS 15 2in1 and I barely use the 4k on laptop - I mostly use it hook to LG 38U88 Ultrawide. I have option to go to 4k on laptop screen but in reality - I don't need it.
    Reply
  • Atari2600 - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    I'd agree if you are talking about going from 15" 1080p laptop screen to 15" 4k laptop screen.

    But, if you don't see significant changes in going from a single laptop screen to a 40" 4k or even just dual SD monitors - any arrangement that lets you put up multiple information streams at once, whatever you are doing isn't very complicated.
    Reply
  • twtech - Thursday, November 15, 2018 - link

    Maybe not necessarily the number of pixels. I don't think you'd be a whole lot more productive with a 4k screen than a 2k screen. But screen area on the other hand does matter.

    From simple things like being able to have the .cpp, the .h, and some other relevant code file all open at the same time without needing to switch windows, to doing 3-way merges, even just being able to see the progress of your compile while you check your email. Why wouldn't you want to have more screen space?

    If you're going to sit at a desk anyway, and you're going to be paid pretty well - which most developers are - why sacrifice even 20, 10, even 5% productivity if you don't have to? And personally I think it's at the higher end of that scale - at least 20%. Every time I don't have to lose my train of thought because I'm fiddling with Visual Studio tabs - that matters.
    Reply
  • Kilnk - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    You're assuming that everyone who needs to use a computer for work needs power and dual monitors. That just isn't the case. The only person kidding themselves here is you. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    Resolution and the presence or absence of a second screen are things that are not directly linked to increased productivity in all situations. There are a few workflows that might benefit, but a second screen or a specific resolution, 4k for instance versus 1080, doesn't automatically make a workplace "serious" or...well whatever the opposite of serious is in the context in which you're using it. Reply
  • steven4570 - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - link

    "I wouldn't call them very "professional" when they are sacrificing 50+% productivity for mobility."

    This is quite honestly, a very stupid statement without any real practical views in the real world.
    Reply
  • Atari2600 - Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - link

    Not really.

    The idiocy is thinking that working off a laptop screen is you being as productive as you can be.

    The threshold for seeing tangible benefiting from more visible workspace (when so restricted) is very low.

    I can accept if folks say they dock their laptops and work on large/multiple monitors - but absolutely do not accept the premise that working off the laptop screen should be considered effective working. If you believe otherwise, you've either never worked with multiple/large screens or simply aren't working fast enough or on something complicated enough to have a worthwhile opinion in the matter! [IMO it really is that stark and it boils my piss seeing folks grappling with 2x crap 20" screens in engineering workplaces and their managers squeezing to make them more productive and not seeing the problem right in front of them.]
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Thursday, November 15, 2018 - link

    Dude it depends entirely on what you are doing. A writer (from books to marketing) needs nothing beyond a 11" screen... I'm in marketing in a startup and for half my tasks my laptop is fine, writing in particular. And yes as soon as I need to work on a web page or graphics design, I need my two screens and 6 virtual desktops at home.

    I have my XPS 13 for travel and yes I take a productivity hit from the portability, but only when forced to use it for a week. Working from a cafe once or twice a week I simply plan tasks where a laptop screen isn't limiting and people who do such tasks all day (plenty) don't NEED a bigger screen at all.

    He'll I know people who do 80% of their work on a freaking PHONE. Sales folks probably NEVER need anything beyond a 15" screen, and that only for 20% of their work...
    Reply

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