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”

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”

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”

Windows Home Server Restore Issues with Realtek Network Adapters

There is apparently an issue with using the Windows Home Server Restore CD on systems with certain RealTek network adapters.  The driver on the WHS Restore disc seems to be defective and cannot start the network adapter to find the server when trying to do a restore.  This is fixable, but is a pain in the neck to begin with.

After doing a Bing search, it seems like there are a number of reports of the same issue for people that have the RealTek 8111, or some variant like 8111C.  I believe this generally ships as an onboard network adapter on motherboards, including mine, which is a Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R.  What happens after booting to the WHS Restore CD is that the WinPE environment detects the hardware and, if you click on Show Details, reports a RealTek RTL8111/RTL8168 NIC.  It looks like everything should work, but when the restore process tries to find the Home Server, it fails both automatic and manual because there is no network started.

The solution is to download the driver straight from RealTek on another PC if necessary, extract it and put it on a USB flash drive.  Stick the flash drive in a USB port and boot the computer to the WHS Restore CD.  After the hardware is detected, click on Show Details to see the hardware detected.  Select Install Drivers button, and click Scan.  The working RealTek drivers should be found on the USB key, and the name of the detected network adapter should change in the list.  At this point, when the restore process tries to find the Home Server on your network, it should work and barring any other issues you should be able to complete the restore.

Using the Realtek driver, my restore of 64-bit Windows 7 completed successfully from my Home Server.

 

Info from Microsoft

Realtek 8111/8168 Driver Download Page – Get the Windows XP/2003 driver package (not the installer program), and unzip to the USB flash drive

Windows 7 SP1 Installation Failed – Possible Fix With System Update Readiness Tool

In cases where the Windows 7 SP1 update fails, there may be a fairly easy resolution using a downloadable tool from Microsoft called the System Update Readiness tool.  This tool checks the state of certain files and registry keys, and attempts to fix them if required.  There are a certain set of errors (see table below) that this tool may help resolve when applying updates or service packs.  These largely relate to Windows manifests and servicing components.

I updated my 3 home systems to Windows 7 SP1 today using Windows Update.  On two of the three systems, the installation was flawless and fairly quick (for a service pack install).  On the third, however, the install failed.  When the failure was presented on the screen, I tried rebooting and running the update again.  Once again, it failed.  I checked into it further by clicking on View Update History in Windows Update, then double-clicking on one of the SP1 failed instances.  In the Error details field it showed “Code 80073712”.  Clicking on the “Get  help with this error” brings up a Windows Help and Support article that references the System Update Readiness Tool.  There isn’t much info presented on the tool, but it says that it may “correct some conditions” that cause this error.  Unfortunately the tool is mentioned briefly in the Help article, then there is much more detail about repairing Windows.  Definitely try the System Update Readiness Tool first. Thankfully a link is provided.

Continue reading “Windows 7 SP1 Installation Failed – Possible Fix With System Update Readiness Tool”