Samsung is under fire for allegedly boosting performance of specific apps to get better reviews for the Galaxy S4.
The South Korean smartphone maker is said to have selectively caused hardware in the Galaxy S4 to over-perform in certain benchmark tests, thereby skewing results in its favour.
The allegations have been made following research carried out by AnandTech, which purports to show that while the Galaxy S4’s graphics processing unit (GPU) usually clocks in at 480MHZ, when it comes to launching certain apps used for benchmarking, the GPU frequency soars by 11 per cent, up to 532MHz.
Launching one of the benchmarking apps, including Quadrant and AnTuTu, meant the phone’s processor jumped to the highest performance mode and remained there no matter what the user was doing.
Investigators said they had found strings of code which suggested certain benchmark apps were being selected to launch with higher clock speeds. However, they did also point out that other benchmark apps which were not actually included in the code were also reacting in the same manner.
AnandTech reports finding what is described as a “Benchmark Booster,” where the Galaxy S4 is set to push harder if it recognises certain testing applications.
There is a whole industry based around developing and distributing benchmarks for the technology sector, in order to compare products.
But, many point out that benchmarks have never been an accurate reflection of user experience so a lot of tech sites and forums simply don’t publish reviews based on them.
But fears have now been raised by AnandTech that these optimisations could set a precedent, encouraging technology companies to focus on “gaming the benchmarks rather than improving user experience.”
The allegations immediately led to Samsung garnering not favourable reviews, but a whole lot of criticism. Techradar responded by saying: “Perhaps instead of worrying about fooling benchmarks into believing the Galaxy S4 is a better phone than it really is, maybe Samsung should put more effort into making the device perform better in the real world.”
Samsung has, however, never claimed or published a specific GPU clock speed for the Galaxy S4 in any of its marketing material.
And, the multinational firm has now responded to allegations denying the use of “a specific tool on purpose to achieve higher benchmark scores.”
The company goes on to point out that the Galaxy S4 operates at up to 533MHz while giving its best performance and that what it describes as certain “full screen apps”, those which don’t have the status bar, are already classed as needing the highest performance possible.
They said that lots of games didn’t need to have the maximum clock speed to run so Samsung had deliberately varied GPU frequencies in a bid to “provide optimal user experience” rather than as an attempt to “improve certain benchmark results.”
Whatever the situation really is, the new investigation has certainly cast fresh doubt on whether the use of benchmarking tests for smartphones is a relevant way of comparing handsets.