Performance

For most of its brief life, Atom was the only core that beat at the heart of Chrome devices. Samsung actually brought us the first Core-based CPU with the Celeron 867 powered Series 5 550, and also the first ARM-based Chromebook with their very own Exynos 5 Dual. We didn’t have a chance to compare the results of the slightly faster clocked Samsung 550, but we do have data for the Atom-based Chromebook. What we expect from this processor is nothing less than IPC dominance. The Intel Celeron 847’s Sandy Bridge cores in the Acer C7 Chromebook are clocked at just 800 MHz, well below the 1.1 GHz possible. The low clock speed helps with battery life, of course, but still places the C7 in a position of dominance over the latest Samsung Chromebook. On the GPU front this is also the most power Chrome OS has seen, with the HD2000 being not our favorite but certainly not our least favorite integrated graphics.

How you harness all that processing and graphics power is . . . a bit limited. You won’t be launching Steam for a pick-up match in TF2 (about all I’d consider playing with the power on hand), instead everything you do will be in the browser. With technologies like WebGL and HTML5 becoming more capable of leveraging local hardware resources we are much closer to experiencing desktop-like web applications. To that end, we have a fair number of tests that show off how well Chrome OS can handle those technologies and the JavaScript tests we’re used to from our mobile tests.

Chromebook Performance Comparison
SunSpider 0.9.1 BrowserMark RIABench Focus Tests Kraken
Atom N570 1.66GHz 1034.3 ms n/a 1968 ms 14229.5 ms
Exynos 5 Dual 1.7GHz 690.5 ms 3056.0 1192 ms

9733.2 ms

Celeron 847 (SNBx2) 800MHz 527.1 ms 3403.7 1194 ms 6817.2 ms

In Sunspider we see a distinct advantage for the Acer, which is no big surprise. The Exynos 5 certainly shows off an admirable advantage over the Atom-based Chromebook, but the C7 trumps that advantage soundly. The Browsermark benchmark has seen its first full update, and as always, that means we’re left with the task of reevaluating all our old hardware with the new suite. In this case we only have a few samples to compare to, so no big burden. The advantage of the C7 is smaller compared to the Sunspider score, but still quite clear. RIABench stands out as the one equalizer between the C7 and the Samsung, indicating that the bottleneck may be within Chrome’s code itself. In Kraken we see another decisive performance win for the Acer.

Chromebook Performance Comparison
IE10 Bubbles Test IE10 Fishbowl IE10 Maze Solver
Atom N570 1.66GHz 11 fps 5 fps 45 seconds
Exynos 5 Dual 1.7GHz 17 fps 8 fps 17 seconds
Celeron 847 (SNB) 800MHz 19 fps 17 fps 17 seconds

The Bubbles and Maze Solver tests do not involve the GPU in any considerable way, making them mostly tests of JavaScript rendering. The Fishbowl test uses HTML5 functions which can be GPU accelerated, resulting in a large performance advantage for the C7. It’s hard to say whether there is any GPU acceleration happening in the Samsung, but if so then the GPU advantage for the Acer is enormous.

Chromebook GPU Performance Comparison
WebGL Solar System WebGL Cubes (500) WebGL Aquarium (50)
Atom N570 1.66GHz 2 fps 10 fps 2 fps
Exynos 5 Dual 1.7GHz 22 fps 28 fps 38 fps
Celeron 847 (SNB) 800MHz 31.7 fps 30 fps 43.3 fps

The WebGL tests hint at that GPU advantage, but not so clearly as we’d like. In the Samsung Chromebook review, Anand discussed how desperately Atom’s GMA-3150 GPU needs to see a huge update to be competitive. Samsung’s use of the Mali-604T in their Chromebook gives it a huge advantage over Atom. The HD2000-based graphics in the Acer C7 show how far mobile SoC GPUs still have to go to compete with PC derived GPUs. We’re limited by an inability to disable Vsync, but if we could I think we would see a much larger advantage than what we see now. We want to explore these differences further soon, but for now all you need to know is that anything that can be processed by the GPU will do much better on the C7 than the Samsung.

Display and User Experience Performance Upgraded
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  • Jhlot - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Can I put windows on it if I have a copy? Are there drivers from the network/wifi, sound, etc..? It is also listing over $199 at Amazon now but Best Buy has it for $199 http://bit.ly/13ZhP37 Reply
  • andrewaggb - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    lol, kinda what I was thinking. Can I install Centos 6 on this thing? Reply
  • owned66 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    1. a 100Mbps ethernet port (could used usb nics but...)
    2. low end wireless card

    it uses a custom bios that wont let u install ANYTHING else

    heard some ways to circumvent it
    Reply
  • cyrusfox - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Need a new bios to run windows (but at 800 MHz, it would be pretty anemic)

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/12/how-to-inst...

    ChrUbuntu will work though
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Yeah the performance would be Anemic.
    But, again. Faster than Intel Atom and ARM, but then again you wouldn't be buying a device such as this to play Crysis and the Dual-Core 800mhz Sandy Bridge chip would still be a crap-ton better than Atom powered netbooks.
    Reply
  • Flying Goat - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Don't quote me on this, but my understanding is that all ChromeOS devices have a developer switch that will unlock the system, but it will delete all current user data when flipped. Reply
  • schizoide - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Forget about windows, has anyone tried making a hackintosh out of it? At $299 it's got to be seriously commodity hardware, seems like it might be possible. Reply
  • schizoide - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Err, $199. Reply
  • N4g4rok - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    "I wanted to really dislike this experience, and in many ways it was comrpomised"

    First line after the conclusion header.
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Fixed. Thanks. Reply

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