Our New Testing Suite for 2019 and 2020

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

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
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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  • Fallen Kell - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    Yeah. In many cases it is very sad when you look at this article. It has effectively taken a decade to finally get to the point that there is a worthwile upgrade in CPU performance. Prior to this, we were seeing CPU performance double every couple of years. A case in point is to look at an article from 2015 that did a comparison of CPUs over the last decade (i.e. ~2005 - 2015) and over that timeframe you saw a 6x performance increase in memory bandwidth and 8x - 10x CPU computational increase. But looking from 2011 to 2019 we barely see a doubling in performance (and then only on select use cases), while at the same time the price of said CPU is 25% more. It is no wonder why people have not been upgrading. Why spend $1000 for new CPU, motherboard, RAM to only gain 25-40% performance? We are just finally hitting that point now that people start to consider it worth that price.

    That all being said, it would have been nice to have included at least 1 AMD CPU in theses benchmarks for comparison. Sure, we can go to the review bench to get it, but having it here for some easy comparison would have been nice, especially given how Intel has seemed to have decided to innovating and purposely taking a dive (almost as if they feared regulatory actions from the USA/EU for effectively being a "monopoly" and to avoid such actions decided to simply stop releasing anything really competitive until AMD was able to get their act together again and have a competitive CPU...).
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Thursday, June 13, 2019 - link

    Funny thing is, last time it happened, Intel needed AMD to give it a kick in the nuts. Maybe this time too? Reply
  • mode_13h - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    I figured I'd wait for PCIe 4.0, to upgrade. With Zen2, I guess my chance is here. Reply
  • Wardrop - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    Yep, same. Hoping to replace my 3770k with Zen 2. Looking to down-size my chassis too with a Sliger case. Hopefully Zen 2 doesn't disappoint. Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    Still running my 3770 as I have not seen that large a difference to upgrade. But Zen+ had me itching and Zen2 is what will finally replace my 3770/Z77 system.

    That and its not just about the CPU but also the upgrades in chipset/USB/etc... parts.
    Reply
  • gambiting - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    Still have a 2600(not even the K model) running in a living room PC, paired with a GTX1050Ti and an SSD - runs everything without any issues, been playing Sekiro and Division 2 on it without any problems, locked 1080p@60fps. Progress is all good and fine, but these "old" CPUs have loads of life in them still. Reply
  • Potatooo - Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - link

    Me too. I haven't had much time for video games the last couple of years to justify $$$, but putting a 1050ti in an old i2600 office PC has kept me happy the last 18 month's or so (eg 55ish fps for Far Cry 5 ND medium/1080, 70 fps+ Forza 7/FH4 high/1080). I'm about to try a S/H RX580 which will probably be a bridge too far, but at least I'll get freesync. Reply
  • GNUminex_l_cowsay - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    Dare I look at the CIV 6 benchmarks; knowing they are pointless? What sort of idiot tests cpu performance in CIV 6 using FPS rather than turn times? I don't know who specifically but they write for anandtech. Reply
  • RealBeast - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    Certainly not a Civ 6 player. ;) Reply
  • Targon - Monday, May 13, 2019 - link

    I made a similar comment, Civ6 added a new benchmark with Gathering Storm as well that is even more resource intensive. Turn length will show what your CPU can do, without GPU issues getting in the way. Reply

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