Browser Benchmark: New Chromium-based Edge vs. Edge, Chrome & Firefox

In December 2018 Microsoft announced, to the surprise of many, that they would be replacing their existing Edge browser with a new version based on the Chromium open-source browser project. Other browsers based on Chromium include Google’s Chrome, Opera, and Brave. Microsoft also announced that they would be actively contributing to the Chromium project, which appears to be the case, with over 275 commits as of April 8, 2019.

The replacement for the original Edge browser, hereafter referred to as Chromium-Edge, is still in early development, with no beta release available as of late-April 2019. However, being based on a mature engine like Chromium, it is still and loads most sites without issue already. What is currently offered via the Microsoft Edge Insider site, are versions for Windows 10 in a Dev build channel with targeted weekly updates, and a Canary channel offering daily builds. There is a Beta channel listed, suggesting updates every six weeks, but so far no beta is available. The Insider site also lists Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and macOS as platform targets coming soon. That last bit is interesting since Microsoft hasn’t developed a broswer for Mac since Internet Explorer 5 Mac Edition’s last update in 2003.

Given that this is a significant shift in browser strategy for Microsoft, I decided to test what the performance impact might be for Windows 10 users. Using a variety of benchmarks, I tested the new Chromium-based Edge browser against the current releases of Google Chrome (73.0), Mozilla Firefox (66.0), and the EdgeHTML-based version of Microsoft Edge (44.17763) in Windows 10 1809. Microsoft has only released early builds of Edge in its Chromium flavor, so I tested the initial Dev release (74.1) and one of the daily Canary builds (75.0.134). The benchmarks used for this test are:

  • Google Octane 2.0
  • Sunspider 1.02
  • Mozilla Kraken 1.1
  • Speedometer 2.0
  • JetStream 2
Continue reading “Browser Benchmark: New Chromium-based Edge vs. Edge, Chrome & Firefox”

Home Lab on the Cheap: HP Z420 from eBay

Many technical individuals want to continually build their skills and learn new technologies. Sometimes this requires a hardware lab setup in order to run additional desktop or server operating system instances in virtual machines. This can be done in a number of ways:

1) Using an existing desktop or laptop with Client Hyper-V on either Windows 10 or Windows 8.1
2) Purchase new desktop or server hardware ($$$)
3) Purchase used server hardware (loud, power hungry)
4) Purchase used workstation hardware

When thinking about upgrading my home lab, initially I was dead set on buying server hardware, but decided against it when I considered power draw, space requirements, and the fact that my office is right off of my bedroom. I don’t think the wife would appreciate the loud fans of a 1U or 2U server running loudly all night, and I’d probably get tired of it as well. I don’t have another place to put it, so that solution was out.

I decided to go with a used HP Z420 workstation from eBay. I did quite a bit of research and found that this model should be able to run both Hyper-V and VMware ESXi very well. Additionally, it wouldn’t run too loud, nor would it be too terrible on the power bill. I was able to purchase one for $180 that had the following specs:   Continue reading “Home Lab on the Cheap: HP Z420 from eBay”

Virtualization on macOS: Parallels vs VMware Benchmarks

Currently there are two main commercial players in the virtualization market on macOS providing type-2 hypervisors, Parallels and VMware. These products allow one to run additional operating system instances on top of their current OS, providing the host system has the necessary resources available. For example, a user with a MacBook may want to run apps that are only available on Windows, alongside their Mac apps. Running an instance of Windows 10 in a virtual machine on top of Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion allows them to do that.

Type-2 hypervisors, like Parallels and Fusion on Mac, VMware Workstation on Windows, or VirtualBox on both platforms, are those that run on top of a base desktop or server operating system such as Windows or macOS. Type-1 hypervisors run on bare-metal, without a thick operating system in between, and include Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware’s ESXi. In general, type-1 hypervisors provide better performance, but have much more specific hardware requirements. Generally, type-2 hypervisors will also provide extra integration features, such as sharing host folders with guest VMs, or displaying an app running in the guest VM right on the host desktop, as if it was running right on the host OS. Rather than a feature comparison though, this test will focus on performance of the guest virtual machines.

For this test, I used an iMac from Late-2013 (see specs below) running macOS Mojave (10.14.2) to test out which of the type-2 hypervisors provided better performance. First, I installed VMWare Fusion 11, created virtual machines running Windows 10 version 1809, and ran a series of benchmarks to test virtual machine performance. After the tests on Fusion were completed, the VMs were destroyed and Fusion completely removed from the system. Next Parallels Desktop version 14 was installed, VMs created to identical specs, and the same benchmarks run in the same order.

iMac 27″ (Late-2013) Host Specs
CPU Intel Core i7-4771; 4-core/8-thread; 3.5GHz / 3.9GHz turbo; 8MB L3 cache; 84W TDP
RAM 24GB DDR3-1333
Storage 500GB SATA SSD
GPU Nvidia GTX 775M 2GB GDDR5 – 1344 CUDA cores; 256-bit memory bus; Kepler architecture

Continue reading “Virtualization on macOS: Parallels vs VMware Benchmarks”

DEAL: Affinity Photo and Designer 30% off on all platforms

Affinity Photo and Designer apps, from Serif Europe Ltd., are both currently on sale for 30% off. The price applies to both desktop and iPad versions. The desktop versions are available for both Windows and macOS, priced at $34.99 each (regularly $50) across the Affinity website, the Microsoft Store, and the Mac App Store. The iPad versions of Photo and Designer are $13.99 (regularly $20) in the iOS App Store.  The Microsoft Store shows 8 days remaining on the sale, implying that it may end around July 26.

It’s a pretty good deal on professional level photo editing and vector-based graphic design software that is regularly compared to Adobe products, especially given the one-time purchase and no subscription fees. Photo won the iPad App of the Year for 2017, and also the Windows Developer Awards in 2018.

There are also workbooks that Affinity calls “the official guides” for the apps on macOS and Windows that are also 30% off and now $34.99 (plus $4.99 shipping). I already own the apps, but given how much they can do, these workbooks are tempting. If that price is too steep, there are a bunch of official tutorial videos hosted on Vimeo for free.

Note: the apps are separate on each platform. Purchasing the desktop app for Windows via their site doesn’t also get you the app in the Windows Store. Additionally, purchasing the Windows or Mac version doesn’t net you the app on the opposing platform. So make sure you know which version you want. The Windows Store version will get you easy installs and updates, while the standard desktop version has no limits on when and where you install it (as long as it’s your own PCs, of course).

How To: Disable Annoying Magix Ads

Magix Software GmbH produces several different media applications, including VEGAS Pro, VEGAS Movie Studio, Music Maker, and others for Windows. If the VEGAS name sounds familiar, the company acquired much of the Sony Creative Software portfolio in May 2016, including the popular VEGAS software line. I’ve used VEGAS Movie Studio products for years, and purchased VEGAS Pro 14 in a recent Humble Bundle. I’ve always liked the software. One very unfortunate effect of that change, though, is that Magix now appears to bundle an application that repeatedly shows ads for their applications and add-ons in the lower right corner of the desktop where Windows 10 notifications often display.

If you are seeing these ads, there will be an application called Connect in your installed apps list on Windows. In the list of apps, it may not show Magix as the publisher, but if you click uninstall, the confirmation should show Magix. If you remove this app, the ads should stop showing immediately. Here’s hoping that Magix realizes that this does nothing but irritate users and removes this separate ad-ware app from their software installs. I was about to uninstall all Magix software I could find on my system before I found the Connect app. I already removed the Music Maker app. For now I will leave VEGAS installed, and see if Magix tries to force the Connect app to be installed again through updates or anything.

Intel Launches Sweepstakes for Core i7-8086K and Processor Details

Intel is running a sweepstakes, which began today and runs through tomorrow to win one of their new Core i7-8086K processors. The contest is celebrating 40 years of x86 computing since the initial 8086 release. It began today, June 7, at 5:00 PST and runs for only 24 hours, so hurry and enter if you are interested. Intel is giving away 8,086 of the processors, 2,086 in the United States, and the rest in other regions around the globe. Winners are being chosen on June 11. The processor is described as a limited-edition, available through the sweepstakes, and unknown if it will be available at retail later.

The processor is part of their 8th generation Core family, using the Coffee Lake architecture. Like other Coffee Lake products, it is built on a 14nm process. It is similar to the existing i7-8700K, but slightly faster.

Core i7-8700K Core i7-8086K
Cores/Threads 6/12 6/12
Base Frequency 3.7 GHz 4.0 GHz
Turbo Frequency (single core) 4.7 GHz 5.0 GHz
L3 cache 12MB 12MB
TDP 95W 95W
Graphics UHD Graphics 630 UHD Graphics 630
GPU Frequency 350-1200 MHz 350-1200 MHz
Price $359 Sweepstakes value listed as $425

The other differences are that the 8086K does not have vPro support and is not part of Intel’s Stable Image Platform Program. Neither is surprising given that it is a limited edition processor.

China will have 2000 8086K’s awarded, Germany 1000, and 500 each in Canada, U.K., France, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Threadripper 2 With 32 Cores, 64 Threads Announced by AMD at Computex

AMD introduced Threadripper 2, the next version of their high-end desktop platform, during their press conference at Computex in Taipei. Not many details were shared, as the CPUs will not be released until sometime in Q3 2018. Most importantly, AMD said that Threadripper 2 will have a 32-core, 64-thread model, as well as a 24-core, 48-thread model. There was no mention of clock speeds, though AMD’s demonstration showed both the 24-core and 32-core model running with an air cooler, possibly a bit of shade being thrown at Intel over their 5GHz 28-core demo, which appeared to be using a chilled water cooler according to Tom’s Hardware.

Other details that AMD did share were that Threadripper 2 will contain the same enhancements as the 2nd generation Ryzen desktop processors released in April. These include being built on a 12nm process, and the Zen+ architecture. It was specifically mentioned that the 32-core version uses four active Ryzen 2nd-gen die in one CPU package, tied together with AMD’s Infinity Fabric. The first version of Threadripper with 16 cores, used 2 active die, though four were present in the CPU package. Threadripper 2 is also a drop-in replacement in existing X399 motherboards (likely with a BIOS update).

AMD’s demonstration showed the 24-core Threadripper outperforming an 18-core Intel i9 in a rendering test in Blender by a fair amount. The 32-core was also demoed, though not directly against an Intel product.

The replay of the press conference is available on Youtube here.

Update: Anandtech has posted slides from AMD’s presentation which show that both the 24-core and 32-core Threadripper 2 CPUs had a 3.0 GHz base frequency, and 3.4GHz (all-core) Turbo frequency, along with a 250W TDP. The turbo speed is noted as WIP. The slide also showed that the 24-core was using DDR4-2666, while the 32-core used DDR4-3200 RAM. That appears to have put the 24-core TR2 at a disadvantage in it’s head-to-head rendering test compared to the Intel i9, which was using DDR4-3200, and as Ryzen based systems are impacted more by memory speeds.

Snapdragon 850 for Windows 10 ARM PCs introduced by Qualcomm

On Monday, Qualcomm introduced a new version of their mobile platform for Windows on ARM PCs, the Snapdragon 850. This replaces the Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform used in the initial set of always connected Windows ARM devices. The 850 includes a number of enhancements, with Gigabit LTE download speeds via their X20 modem being featured. In terms of battery life, Qualcomm is claiming 25 hours of video playback or multi-day life under normal usage scenarios. We’ll have to wait for devices to be released to see if those claims hold up under real-life usage.

The Snapdragon 850 Mobile PC platform essentially seems to be a modified version of the Snapdragon 845, as the architecture and many of the features carry over from the platform used in mobile phones. The 8 Kryo 385 CPU cores are similar, though they get a slight speed bump from 2.8GHz to 2.96GHz. It’s worth noting that Anandtech compared the SD845 (with Kryo 385 cores) against the SD835 (Kryo 285 cores) and measured a performance improvement of 20-40% in integer tests using Geekbench 4, and a more significant 40-60% increase floating point scores.  The SD850 will have an additional benefit of a 6% clock speed increase. This means that Windows ARM PCs based on the SD850 should see a pretty significant performance improvement over the first-generation devices. The likely release of a new iPad Pro in late 2018 should make for interesting performance comparisons. Continue reading “Snapdragon 850 for Windows 10 ARM PCs introduced by Qualcomm”

DEAL: 1TB SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD for $200 at Best Buy

Best Buy currently has the SanDisk Ultra 3D 1TB SSD available for $200. This is a 2.5″ SATA SSD, and has received a Recommended rating from Anandtech (see the review), noting good performance at a reasonable price. At 20 cents/GB this is a pretty solid deal. The Samsung 860 Evo 1TB seems to be going for $260-280 at this point, and I don’t think the minor performance improvement is really worth an extra 30% or so in cost. Some other competitive drives, like the Crucial MX500 seem to be selling for around $230 at Amazon and other places. Note: Best Buy’s weekly sales usually begin on Sunday, so I’m guessing that the $200 price is good through Saturday, June 2. 

I picked up the SanDisk drive from a local store to replace an older 240GB Crucial M500 SSD that I had been using for Hyper-V VMs that was out of space. This will provide much more breathing room for VMs, and using the SSD for other media as well, at a relatively low cost. I will run some performance benchmarks and update this post in the next day or so.

Thoughts on a 2018 Surface 4

On May 16, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft would be releasing a new non-Pro Surface tablet device in late 2018. In summary, Bloomberg sources indicate it will have a 10” screen, use an Intel CPU/GPU, run Windows 10 Pro, last 9 hours on a charge, have 64GB and 128GB versions, USB-C port(s), LTE enabled models, and will not come with a keyboard or stylus. It will be priced around $400. It sounds like an updated version of the Surface 3, for better or worse. This is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which are the tougher competition found in the $329 iPad and the recently released Windows devices running on ARM-based hardware.

Continue reading “Thoughts on a 2018 Surface 4”