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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  • s44 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    As a second device, this is terrible. Active cooling, mechanical storage, total crap battery...

    No way should anyone buy this over the ARM Samsung.
    Reply
  • lwatcdr - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Actually I can see a lot of people using this as their only computer. If you do not game then this is ideal for a good number of home users. Thing of what a lot of home users do.
    1. Facebook,
    2. Amazon.
    3 Banking/investments.
    4. Email.
    5. Netflix.
    6. YouTube.
    7. Pandora.
    8 if a student writing papers.

    Will it do Netflix? Doesn't netflix use .Net?
    A lack of a spotify app could be an issue but then again RDIO doesn't need an app.
    Google Docs is good enough for a lot of folks. With more and more moving to the web this really does make some sence for users. I would probably put Ubuntu on it but that is just me.
    Reply
  • tech6 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    The problem with Chromebooks is the Chrome OS which is, at best, a Google side project. It's feels incomplete like an early beta release and the resulting compromises make it overpriced even at $200. Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    I guess the Nexus 10 review is permanently shelved... Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    +1.
    Still waiting for that.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    The performance figures are really bad in my opinion. The A15 is dangerously close to the SNB Celeron. I am looking forward to more tests between those chips. And I wonder what the implications are for the 13W IVB/10W Haswell chips.
    As for the laptop itself, it costs between 231€ (amazon.co.uk) and 269€ (.nl shop) in Europe, which means it competes with AMD E and C processor based notebooks (starting at 200€ without OS and 270€ / 300€ with full Win7/8 OS) and I don't see any advantage for this one.
    Reply
  • cosminmcm - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    What performance are you talking about? This Celeron is the lowest SB can go, it has no HT, no turbo and works at 800 MHz. Anything at a higher frequency would make the difference enormous. And Ivy would only add to that and lower the power consumption.
    An AMD E or C would be comparable to the Atom and lose to this Celeron too (800 MHz vs 1700 MHz).
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    I didn't draw a performance comparison between the Celeron and the E and C AMDs, I only drew one between the A15 and the Celeron. Yes, it is the lowest one out there and it is clocked even lower. But considering that it is still a chip from Intel, done on a competitive and proven 32nm process with a 17W TDP, the performance delta over the A15 is pretty low in my opinion. And the 13W TDP IVB and low power Haswell chips will get there by significantly reducing clocks as well. I'm not saying it is slower, but considering everything Intel has over the other chips manufacturers, such a small lead is surprising to me. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Celeron chips are Intel's not quite worthless dies salvaged for whatever they can get away with selling them for. They've always had horrid performance/watt numbers. The fact that a near garbage grade 2 year old design is still competitive with the best that Arm has to offer says something completely different; as does Intel's 17W IVB chips being nominally upto ~4-7x faster (dual core, HT, and 1.9-2.8ghz). Chop that in half to look at a single core and you're at ~2.3.5x the performance for only marginally above the A15's max power; do the same with the 13W TDP part (1.5-2.4 ghz) ~2-3x performance at a slightly lower TDP. Reply
  • extide - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    That Celeron may be rated at 17w TDP, but I bet it doesnt even get CLOSE to that in reality. It's probably more in the 5-7W realm realistically. Think about it, 800Mhz, very little cache, no HT, no Turbo... Also considering that the Exynos 5 is running at up to 1.7Ghz, which is over twice the clockspeed, it firmly puts the performance differences into perspective. The Intel chip is straight up smoking that ARM chip. Reply

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