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 CPU Performance: System Tests
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  • kkilobyte - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    s/i3/Pentium. Obviously :) Reply
  • freedom4556 - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    I think you messed up your charts for Civ 6's IGP testing. That or why are you testing the IGP at 1080p Ultra when all the other IGP tests are at 720p Low? Reply
  • freedom4556 - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    Also, the 8k and 16k tests are pointless wastes of time. Especially in this review, but also in the others. Your low/med/high/ultra should be 720p/1080p/1440p/4k if you want to actually represent the displays people are purchasing. Reply
  • nevcairiel - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    The Civ6 tests are like that because thats when it really starts to scale like the other games. Look at its IGP vs Low, which is 1080p vs 4K. The values are almost identical (and still pretty solid). Only if you move to 8K and then 16K you see the usual performance degredation you would see with other games. Reply
  • AnnoyedGrunt - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    I second this motion. Please have settings to cover the various common monitor choices. 1080P is an obvious choice, but 1440P should be there too, along with 4K. I don't think you need to run two 4K versions, or two 1080P versions, or whatever. I have a 1440P monitor so it would be nice to see where I become GPU limited as opposed to CPU limited. Maybe Civ6 could use some extra high resolutions in the name of science, but to be useful, you should at least include the 1440P on all games.

    Thanks.

    -AG
    Reply
  • eddieobscurant - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    Another pro intel article from Ian, who hopes that someday intel will hire him Reply
  • PeachNCream - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    The numbers in the chart speak for themselves. You don't have to acknowledge the conclusion text. It's only a recommendation anyway. Even though I'd personally purchase a 200GE if I were in the market, I don't think there is any sort of individual bias coming into play. Where the 200GE is relevant, gaming on the IGP, Ian recommended it. In other cases the G5400 did come out ahead by enough of a margin to make it worth consideration. The only flaw I could tease out of this is the fact that the recommendation is based on MSRP and as others have noted, the G5400 is significantly above MSRP right now. It may have been good to acknowledge that in the intro and conclusion in a stronger manner, but that means the article may not stand up as well to the test of time for someone browsing this content six months later after searching for advice on the relevant CPUs via Google. Reply
  • kkilobyte - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    Acknowledge "in a stronger manner"? Well, it is actually not acknowledged in the conclusion at all!

    The title of the article is: "The $60 CPU question". One of those CPU is clearly not being sold at $60 on average, but is priced significantly higher. I think the article should have compared CPUs that are really available at (around) $60.

    So maybe there is no personal bias - but there is clearly ignorance of the market state. And that's surprizing, since the G5400 price was above its MSRP for several months already; how could a professional journalist in the field ignore that?

    I guess it could be objected that "MSRP always was used in the past as the reference price". Granted - but it made sense while the MSRP was close to the real market price. It doesn't anymore once the gap gets big, which is the case for tbe G5400. Nobody gives a damn about the theorical price if it is applied nowhere on the market.

    And the 'numbers of chart' don't 'speak for themselves' - they are basically comparing CPUs whose retail price, depending on where you get them, show a 20-40% price gap. What's the point? Why isn't there a price/performance graph, as there were in past reviews? The graphs could just as well include high-end CPUs, and would be just as useless.

    If I want to invest ~$60 in a CPU, I'm not interested to know how a ~$90 one performs!
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    +1

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.
    Reply
  • cheshirster - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    Yes, 5400 is priced nowhere near 60$ and reviewer definitely knows it, but fails to mention this in conclusion. Reply

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