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Test Setup

Tom's Definitive 10.1" Netbook Buyer's Guide: Fall 2010

There is a long back-story to the battery life benchmark used in this review. Chris and I have decided to save that long explanation for another time. What you should know is that it is similar to BAPCo’s MobileMark but it differs in a few ways. Like MobileMark, it is a workload-based benchmark, running processes through several programs. However, this is a benchmark that I have coded from scratch, so that is where the similarity ends.

We want to stress real-world usage, which is perhaps one of the biggest reasons we decided to have at an in-house-developed benchmark. This benchmark mimics what you should expect from everyday life. Right now, I have programmed the battery life metric to simulate a user typing at ~45 wpm and reading at ~200 wpm. So, this is a “Real Life Use” benchmark, hence the name--RLUMark (at least until I think of a better name).

Since we are testing netbooks, there is no need to include content creation programs like those from the Adobe CS5 suite. This limits benchmarking to the General Use Battery Workload.

This workload consists of the following programs

  • IE8
  • Excel 2010
  • Word 2010
  • Outlook 2010
  • WMP12

We will try and keep the benchmark as up to date as possible. Right now, everything has been updated to 8/28/2010.

In addition, we are always going to benchmark systems as they ship, including their default battery profiles. There is no clean wipe of the OS here. In real life, when you buy a notebook, system vendors rarely include a blank copy of Windows 7. Some of the included software is useless, such as trial software, but others programs are important for functionality, for example, ThinkVantage’s Power Manager.

Beyond turning down all the “special offers” when starting the system for the first time and installing Office 2010 Professional Plus, we do not disable or uninstall any software. Bloatware will naturally hog more system resources during the benchmark process, so we want to encourage manufacturers to cut down on this trend. I want to make a point that the time it takes to complete a benchmark workload is unaffected by included software.

Test Conditions for All Systems:

  • Windows 7, all patches updated to 8/30/2010
  • BIOS updates, current as of 8/30/2010
  • Master Audio Volume: 50%
  • System Drivers, current as of 8/30/2010
  • Graphic Drivers, current as of 8/30/2010
    • GMA 3150 -
    • AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4225 – Catalyst 10.8
    • Broadcom Crystal HD (3.3.0: HP Mini 210, 3.1.9: Dell Mini 10 [1012] HD)

Some vendors tweak their Windows 7 battery settings a bit in order to maximize battery life and longevity. There isn’t anything wrong with this. Every company has a different battery strategy that it believes is the best for its system. For example, some notebooks are hardwired to force hibernation at 5%. Other systems will let you go all the way to 0% and just die, no matter what you set in the battery profile. We are going to be testing at default shipping settings under the “Balanced” battery profile.

Some manufacturers have a different name for this profile, but this will always be the “Recommended” Windows 7 profile. To simulate the same visual experience, we only “untweak” the display settings to retail Window 7 settings. In addition, all displays have been set to about ~100 nits brightness, which is usually the 50% brightness level for the majority of systems.

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