Smartphone maker OnePlus has admitted to tweaking the processor scaling in its latest device, the OnePlus 5, when a benchmark is detected - but denies its intention is to mislead, claiming it 'best displays the [handset's] true performance.'
Evidence that the OnePlus 5 smartphone was artificially improving its benchmark scores surfaced earlier this week in an article published by XDA Developers. 'We have learned about OnePlus' new benchmark cheating mechanism through our review unit, which we received about ten days ago before the day the embargo breaks and reviewers are allowed to report on the device,' XDA Developers' Mario Tomás Serrafero wrote of his discovery. 'Unfortunately, it is almost certain that every single review of the OnePlus 5 that contains a benchmark is using misleading results, as OnePlus provided reviewers a device that cheats on benchmarks. This is an inexcusable move, because it is ultimately an attempt to mislead not just customers, but taint the work of reviewers and journalists with misleading data that most are not able to vet or verify.'
The trick, Serrafero has claimed, comes from OnePlus detecting when a pre-set list of benchmark programs are running and then effectively disables the processor's ability to down-clock its 'LITTLE' cores - the secondary processor cores of the smartphones' Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip (SoC) big.LITTLE design - from their peak speed of 1.9GHz. 'It is absolutely evident that OnePlus is keeping the CPU frequencies of these cores artificially high during the benchmark,' claimed Serrafero, 'which results in the significantly higher overall scores in the multi-core test and is also manifested in various CPU-bound subscores in the detailed breakdown of every test (particularly in integer and float operations).'
OnePlus, meanwhile, has not denied that its smartphone detects benchmarks and alters its performance characteristics but denies that it does so to mislead. 'People use benchmark apps in order to ascertain the performance of their device, and we want users to see the true performance of the OnePlus 5. Therefore, we have allowed benchmark apps to run in a state similar to daily usage, including the running of resource intensive apps and games. Additionally, when launching apps the OnePlus 5 runs at a similar state in order to increase the speed in which apps open. We are not overclocking the device, rather we are displaying the performance potential of the OnePlus 5,' the company claimed in an initial statement to the site, which it quickly followed with: 'We have set the OnePlus 5 to run benchmarks at a high-performance level that is both natural and sustainable for all devices, media and consumer, so that users can see the true potential of the device, when running resource intensive apps and games. At no point do we overclock the CPU, nor do we set a CPU frequency floor. We are confident our approach best displays the true performance capabilities of the OnePlus 5.'
XDA Developers has, unsurprisingly, rejected the validity of this statement - 'We must point out that "capabilities" here (and to them) refers to peak potential, not the actual level of performance the user experience is bound to provide through traditional frequency scaling,' Serrafero writes - but claims that even when not in benchmark-boosting mode they are 'actually happy with the device's actual performance' and that 'the product itself is good, [and] performance is phenomenal.'
February 17 2020 | 09:00