Remember how well Samsung’s Galaxy S4 performed in early benchmark tests? Well it turns out there might have been a good reason for that and it has little to do with the device’s vast superiority to other smartphones — instead, it seems that Samsung designed the device specifically to perform well on performance tests. AnandTech has a lengthy post detailing how Samsung has been “aggressive” in optimizing its devices’ CPUs and GPUs to perform well on benchmark tests while not necessarily delivering a better overall user experience.
As 9to5Google concisely explains, “Samsung has set the GPU of the Exynos 5 Octa Galaxy S4 variant to run at a higher frequency when being benchmarked than during normal, day-to-day usage,” which means that the device’s benchmark performance likely won’t reflect what most users will experience when they use it. AnandTech says that this isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but the publication does think it would be good to avoid “an arms race between all of the SoC and device makers where non-insignificant amounts of time and engineering effort is spent on gaming the benchmarks rather than improving user experience.”
UPDATE: Samsung has issued the following response where it denies juicing its benchmark results:
Under ordinary conditions, the Galaxy S4 has been designed to allow a maximum GPU frequency of 533MHz. However, the maximum GPU frequency is lowered to 480MHz for certain gaming apps that may cause an overload, when they are used for a prolonged period of time in full-screen mode. Meanwhile, a maximum GPU frequency of 533MHz is applicable for running apps that are usually used in full-screen mode, such as the S Browser, Gallery, Camera, Video Player, and certain benchmarking apps, which also demand substantial performance.
The maximum GPU frequencies for the Galaxy S4 have been varied to provide optimal user experience for our customers, and were not intended to improve certain benchmark results.
We remain committed to providing our customers with the best possible user experience.