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”

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”

Business Insider Surface “Flop” Linkbait: Point by Point

Jay Yarow from Business Insider claims that the Microsoft Surface tablet is “going to be a total flop”.  He writes this as though it is fact, despite that many questions, including price, remain unknown.  Through the use of faulty arguments, his blog post becomes a fail of epic proportions.  Normally I don’t write much about things like this, but this one astounded me.  How are articles like this even published?

His two main points (two? really??) are as follows:

Continue reading “Business Insider Surface “Flop” Linkbait: Point by Point”

Reset: Microsoft Announces Windows Phone 8

On June 20, Microsoft announced the next version of their mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8, at a San Francisco based event called the Windows Phone Developer Summit. At the event, Microsoft outlined the short term future for Windows Phone, including new features developed for use in the enterprise. Windows Phone 7 was described by Microsoft as a reset for its mobile OS, replacing Windows Mobile 6.x.  What was announced today appears to effectively be another reset, with Windows Phone being aligned closely with Windows. This time around, though, there is a focus on maintaining backwards app compatibility and improved support for enterprise scenarios, both of which were sorely missing when Windows Phone 7 was introduced. Windows Phone 8 is expected to be made available on new phone hardware in Fall 2012, though no date was announced.

Continue reading “Reset: Microsoft Announces Windows Phone 8”

Encoding h.264 Video for the Nook Color using Handbrake

The Nook Color from Barnes and Noble has a nice 7” IPS screen with a resolution of 1024×600, and also supports adding storage using a MicroSD card up to 32GB.  Given that, it makes sense to encode movies from DVD or other sources for viewing on the Nook.  There are some limitations though, due to the hardware.  As noted in the Nook FAQ:

Your NOOK Color supports the following video file formats: 3gp, 3g2, mp4, m4v; MPEG-4 Simple Profile up to 854×480; H.263 up to 352×288; H.264 Baseline profile up to 854×480

Your NOOK Color will not support the following video file formats: Flash (Flv/swf); Mov/qt; AVI; MKV; Xvid/divx; WMV / VC-1; H.264 Main and High profile; and videos with a resolution higher than 854×480

Continue reading “Encoding h.264 Video for the Nook Color using Handbrake”