General System Performance

What follows now is a breakdown of performance of these two notebooks giving us an apples to apples comparison of 6th Generation (Skylake) and 7th Generation (Kaby Lake) Intel mobile processors.

  Core i7-7500U Core i7-6500U
Architecture Kaby Lake Skylake
Process Tech 14nm+ 14nm
Cores/Threads 2/4 2/4
Base Clock 2.7 GHz 2.5 GHz
Max Turbo Clock 3.5 GHz 3.1 GHz
Cache 4MB 4MB
TDP 15 watt 15 watt
Max. Memory 32GB 32GB
Graphics HD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 520
Graphics Clocks 300 - 1050 MHz 300 - 1050 MHz
Tray Price $393 $393

There are two key feature changes that will affect the performance results we captured. The clock speed improvements allowed with the 14nm+ FinFET process technology nets a 200 MHz base frequency improvement and a 400 MHz peak Turbo clock frequency jump. Even though we know that heavy workloads won’t be able to run at peak Turbo speeds indefinitely in thermally constrained environments like notebooks, those speed increases are substantial.

Second, the addition of HEVC (H.265) hardware accelerated decode will offer dramatic decreases in CPU utilization when watching content encoded in that format. As the HEVC codec becomes more popular, even being used in streaming media, this will equate to longer battery life, quieter systems and smooth viewing experiences for media consumption.

We are going to start with a few general performance benchmarks, SYSmark 2014 and WebXPRT.

SYSmark 2014

SYSmark® 2014 is the latest revision of the preeminent system performance benchmark series that measures and compares PC performance using real world applications, featuring all-new workloads, support for Microsoft Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 both 64-bit and 32-bit, and a new automatic system configuration manager.

SYSmark 2014 gives commercial and government IT decision makers, media, channel buyers, consultants, and system and component designers and manufacturers an objective, easy-to-use tool to evaluate PC performance across the wide range of activities that a user may encounter.

SYSmark 2014 is designed for those who want to:

  • Evaluate and compare desktop and mobile computers for purchase consideration based on system performance and application responsiveness.
  • Provide useful information to their audiences to assist in the evaluation and purchase of desktop and mobile computers.
  • Evaluate desktop and mobile computers to better optimize the performance of the system.

Unlike synthetic benchmarks, which artificially drive components to peak capacity or attempt to deduce performance using a static simulation of application behavior, SYSmark 2014 uses real applications, real user workloads, and real data sets to accurately measure how overall system performance impacts user experience.

SYSmark 2014 builds upon BAPCo’s 23-year history of building benchmarks to evaluate platform technologies. Benchmarks designed by BAPCo are the result of cooperative development between companies representing the breadth of the computing industry. They harness a consortium of knowledge to better reflect the business trends of today and tomorrow.

It has been a while since we have used SYSmark in our testing suite but for mobile performance metrics it truly does offer one of the best user experience based testing suites available for professional users. Workloads for SYSmark 2014 include:

Office Productivity

The Office Productivity scenario models productivity usage including word processing, spreadsheet data manipulation, email creation/management and web browsing.

Media Creation

The Media Creation scenario models using digital photos and digital video to create, preview, and render advertisements for a fictional businesses.

Data/Financial Analysis

The Data/Financial Analysis scenario creates, compresses, and decompresses data to review, evaluate and forecast business expenses. Also, the performance and viability of financial investments is analyzed using past and projected performance data.

The overall performance advantage for the HP Spectre using Kaby Lake is 12.6% while the individual tests range from 10% to 16%. The largest gain is seen on the productivity side, likely due to the bursty nature of the workloads in Excel, etc. Longer workloads will see less of an advantage moving from Skylake simply because the clock speed advantage is less at the base frequencies. For business and consumer usage though, these results point to a noticeable performance increase, a surprise to many.


WebXPRT 2015 uses scenarios created to mirror the tasks you do every day to compare the performance of almost any Web-enabled device. It contains six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing.

It runs these four tests seven times each:

  • Photo Enhancement: Measures the time to apply three effects (Sharpen, Emboss, and Glow) to two photos each, a set of six photos total.
  • Organize Album: Measures the time it takes to check for human faces in a set of five photos.
  • Stocks Option Pricing: Measures the time to calculate financial indicators of a stock based on historical data and display the result in a dashboard.
  • Local Notes: Measures the time to store notes securely in the browser's local storage and display recent entries.
  • Sales Graphs: Measures the time to calculate and display multiple views of sales data.
  • Explore DNA Sequencing: Measures the time it takes to filter eight DNA sequences for specific characteristics.

Each test uses different combinations of HTML5 Canvas 2D and Javascript, common elements in many Web pages, to gauge how well your device and browser work together in everyday Web browsing situations.

Our testing was done with the latest version of the Microsoft Edge browser.

In our total score, the Kaby Lake based HP Spectre is about 20% faster than the previous generation model, a more significant increase than we saw in SYSmark. The individual scores (where lower times are better) show improvements ranging from just 10% (photo enhancements) all the way up to 25% (local note taking), indicating the range of possible performance advantages based on the workload. Again, I wager that many users and media would be surprised by the differences between the two most recent Intel processors in this space.

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