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Samsung accused of manipulating Galaxy Note 3 benchmark scores

2013 October 5

In the past, Samsung was accused of manipulating the benchmark scores of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Now it is being accused of doing the same thing, this time, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, its new phablet.2013-09-29-05.251-640x556

According to Ars Technica, “The smoking gun here is CPU idle speeds, which can be viewed with a system monitor app while using the phone. The above picture shows how differently the CPU treats a benchmarking app from a normal app. Normally, while the Note 3 is idling, three of the four cores shut off to conserve power; the remaining core drops down to a low-power 300MHz mode. However, if you load up just about any popular CPU benchmarking app, the Note 3 CPU locks into 2.3GHz mode, the fastest speed possible, and none of the cores ever shut off. Stopping the CPU from idling shouldn’t in and of itself affect the benchmark scores a whole lot, so this was our first sign that something was wrong. Benchmarks exist to measure the performance of a phone during normal usage, and a device should never treat a benchmark app differently than a normal app.

“While it’s difficult to determine every bit of special programming that affects the CPU while a benchmark is running, one sure-fire way to see what’s going on is to trick the phone into not entering a special “benchmark mode” during a benchmark. If we could defeat this behavior, we could have before and after benchmark numbers and thus see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. A bit of testing showed that the device’s boosted benchmark mode is triggered by the package names of the most popular benchmarking apps—loading Geekbench, for example, starts this mode. So we slapped together “Stealthbench,” a renamed version of Geekbench 3. By disassembling the benchmarking app, changing only the package name, and reassembling it, we could run the app without the CPU knowing we were running a benchmark app. The Note 3 should treat our benchmark like any other app and give a true representation of the phone’s performance relative to other devices.”

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