Let’s just be clear about something, benchmark tests are pure marketing smoke and mirrors. No matter how objectively fast a processor is, it’s only as efficient as the software that makes use of it. That said, this doesn’t stop some cell phone makers from cheating. Even when it’s ridiculous.
Liar, Liar, Battery On Fire
Samsung, for example, has been apparently rigging their Galaxy Note 3 to perform better on benchmark tests. Before we lay out what we’re doing, we just want to emphasize how silly this is, because the Galaxy Note 3 is a top of the line phone. It runs a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800, it’s got good software, it’s easy to use, it’s been getting great reviews; the Note 3 is a slam-dunk by any objective yardstick.
Also, in benchmark tests, it beat the LG G2, which was running… a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800. As you might guess, that shouldn’t happen, considering the chips are absolutely the same.
Special High Speed Mode
What happens is this: When reviewers boot up a benchmark app, the Note 3 goes into a special overdrive mode where all four cores of the CPU start cranking as fast as they possibly can, artificially inflating the numbers. Ars Technica, who first spotted this, put together a “stealth” testing app that was just Geekbench with a different name on the package, and discovered there were some pretty big discrepancies between the Galaxy Note 3’s performance with and without the overdrive features. But that’s not the saddest part of this whole story.
Cheating To Win By A Larger Margin
No, the really sad part is that, against most phones, the Galaxy Note 3 still smokes the competition, with a slight difference in memory tests, but that’s really it. The Galaxy Note 3 is perfectly capable of standing up on its own and sprinting. But apparently Samsung just doesn’t trust its product to sell unless it has magical CPU numbers.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.