Cheating a benchmark… or enhancing performance? There are two sides to every story, and HTC seems to be opting for the one that makes the company appear as if it's allowing users and developers alike to maximise the performance of the HTC One M8 across various apps – if they choose to use the fancy feature.
The entire issue of "benchmark cheating" recently hit the airwaves based on early reviews of the newly announced HTC One M8 Android smartphone. That, and HTC blatantly admitting that it kicks its smartphone up into a high-performance mode whenever certain applications are detected.
In other words, if the smartphone sees that a user has fired up a popular benchmarking suite, it pushes the pedal to the floor – regardless of what it might do for a device's battery, for example – in order to squeak out the best scores possible.
According to an HTC spokesperson, writing to Cnet's Eric Mack after being asked about how the smartphone treats benchmarking applications:
"Thanks for your email about the HTC One (M8). Benchmarking tests look to determine maximum performance of the CPU and GPU and, similar to the engine in a high-performance sports car, our engineers optimise in certain scenarios to produce the best possible performance. If someone would like to get around this benchmarking optimization there are ways to do so, but we think most often this will not be the case."
And there you have it: benchmark cheating.
Or is it? HTC, to the company's credit, is at least offering all users the ability to kick their smartphones into turbo mode if they so desire by enabling a somewhat-hidden feature in the smartphone's settings. To note: said feature, like said smartphone, isn't yet available in the US.
"For those with a need for speed, we've provided a simple way to unleash this power by introducing a new High Performance Mode in the developer settings that can be enabled and disabled manually. The HTC One (M8) is optimised to provide the best balance of performance and battery life, but we believe in offering customer choice, as there may be times when the desire for performance outweighs the need for battery longevity," the HTC spokesperson said.
While that does sound a bit better than enabling such a feature and not admitting that it exists, the issue that some reviewers find with HTC's practice — which isn't exclusive to just that manufacturer, we note — is that the smartphone can't be dialled back down to its normal settings and speeds within these benchmarking apps.
Mobile benchmark developers are attempting to write new tests that prevent smartphones from recognising that, yes, a benchmark is being run and, yes, it's time to sprint instead of jog, but it's a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. Worse, reviewers and users alike would never know that said benchmark tweaking is taking place unless they had a direct, apples-to-apples comparison between a standard benchmark and its tweaked, "not a benchmark" variation.
"I fear that HTC's justification in all of this is that everyone else is doing it so why opt out. Nevertheless, the reality seems to be trending the other direction. We'll have to see what Samsung does with the Galaxy S5, but I have a feeling that HTC is going to end up on the wrong side of history with this move," wrote AnandTech's Anand Lal Shimpi and Joshua Ho.