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Benchmarks Show Modest Performance From 8-Core Samsung Chromebook

exynoseWith a mammoth eight-cores tucked up tightly inside, the new Samsung Chromebook 2 sounds like it has all the oomph to outrun its older 2012 self. 

Initial benchmarks testing specific computational functions of the Exynos Octa chip have revealed something surprising: the gains over the dual-core version used in the previous model are modest rather than magnificent.

The video below, courtesy of mobilegeeks.de, shows the 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 as it’s subjected to a series of standard browser-based tests.

So what gives?

Raw Data is Unprocessed Relevance

At face value, the results of the tests in the video above show that – in pure, raw performance terms – Chrome OS running on the Exynos 5420 SoC does not deliver a massive leap in power over that offered by the older, dual-core Exynos 5250.

Better? For sure. Worth upgrading for? Jury’s out.

With both chips coming from the same 5x series there’s an argument to be made that some of the lofty expectations had for it were misplaced to begin with. It’s also true that, while useful, stats stressing the number-crunching capabilities do not always accurately reflect the perceptible benefits that seemingly small bumps in results can have on user experience.

Low Octane Processor

Of the benchmarks run by mobile geeks and shown in the video above, the Octane test is useful in determining how well a computer copes with loading complex, JavaScript-heavy pages like Gmail, Google Music and Google+. The higher the score the faster and more responsive page rendering will be in real time.

The Exynos Octa 5420 shipping in the 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 (the 13-inch model sports a marginally faster chip) shows Octane results nearing 6,000 — more than 2,500 higher than those delivered by the dual core version.

This is actually a great score, and anyone upgrading from the older model will notice a more responsive web experience. On the flip side it remains well below the scores reputedly being achieved by the Intel Celeron 2955U, which canny Googling shows regularly passes 10,000.

With more cores at hand for processes to balance across, more RAM and a superior GPU, Chrome OS running on the Octa chip will feel faster, will multitask better and, as web technologies evolve to take advantage of multiple cores, should post better results as time goes on.

High Octane Caveats

Browser benchmarks are, like the oft-touted ‘horse power’ of a car, only part of the story. Other conditions, like usage load, temperature, battery life, etc. also play a role in determining how well a chip performs. This makes determining the true experiential performance of a chip a less qualifiable task; rigid benchmarks are rigid.

As Chrome OS renders each tab as a separate process, eight-cores – in theory – will deliver a better experience than two, regardless of how well those cores perform individually. Think of it like balancing plates: the more arms (‘cores’) you have, the easier it is to do.

Add in more RAM and Chrome should deliver a more responsive experience, with smoother switching between tabs and faster page loading times.

Benchmarks, for all their use, don’t test typical user behaviour.

Specific Stats

In the snippets below I’ve highlighted the Browsermark results (higher is better) in bold. This is because, more than any of the benchmarks posted thus far, this is the one that gives the best indication of overall performance, as it tests things like general rendering and graphics handling.

Samsung Chromebook (Exynos Dual)

  • SunSpider: 668ms
  • Browsermark 2.0: 2170
  • Octane: 3465

Samsung Chromebook 2 (Exynos Octa)

  • SunSpider: 619ms
  • Browsermark 2.0: 3320
  • Octane:  5982

The Takeaway

It’s easy to get caught up in a game of raw numbers, like kids playing a game of Top Trumps.

However, as I keep reiterating, real world experience matters more to most of us than which chip has the higher score. Noticeable improvements in multitasking, particularly with JavaScript-heavy websites open, is experientially better on the Samsung Chromebook 2.

It won’t beat out its Intel Haswell siblings any time soon, but it won’t crease up as quickly as current ARM offerings do, either.