DxOMark adds audio performance to smartphone benchmark protocol

For a long time, DxOMark's mobile benchmarks focused on the basics of smartphone cameras but, at long last, it started modifying its testing protocol last year to accommodate unmistakable trends in the market. First to come were tests for bokeh and zoom followed by selfies. Last month it added tests and scores for wide-angle cameras and night mode and now it is adding yet another new protocol that is only indirectly related to cameras: audio recording and output quality.

As a company that gained fame for its benchmarks and reviews of cameras and lenses, this new direction may sound odd, no pun intended. But while cameras have primarily been used for taking still photos, smartphones are increasingly being used in recording video and playing them back. And when it comes to those, audio quality is just as important in providing a satisfying experience and impressive results.

To that end, DxOMark is adding objective and perceptual, a.k.a. subjective, tests for audio recording and audio playback quality. This two-fold approach shouldn't be a surprise to long-time DxOMark followers as it is the same system used in all its camera tests. Admittedly, audio is harder to pin down compared to visual data and the properties that can be scientifically and objectively measured with equipment might not always apply to what individuals hear in the end.

DxOMark tested seven recent (or semi-recent in Huawei's case) smartphones to make up the initial ranking. Huawei once again stands at the top but, surprisingly, with the Mate 20 X and not the more recent Huawei P30. Also interesting is how the iPhone Xs Max outperformed the more recent iPhone 11 Pro Max in both recording and playback scores. Sony, which should have had an edge with its legacy and expertise is at the bottom. LG once again gets no love yet despite having been advertising the G series' audio prowess for years.

This is definitely interesting information to have at hand but it might do little to change consumers' buying habits. Apart from professionals and audiophiles, few make decisions based on audio quality compared to camera performance. Even content creators will rely more on accessories than on built-in mics and speakers because those just don't cut it, at least for now.