Samsung Galaxy S 4 artificially tuned for benchmarks research spots

Samsung tailored its Galaxy S 4 to deliver the best possible scores on popular Android benchmarking tools, investigations have revealed, despite apps potentially not getting the same power for real-world use. The AnandTech research was sparked by claims Samsung was reserving its fastest graphics chip speeds for select benchmarking apps alone, with games and other software only ever seeing slower performance from the Exynos 5 Octa processor found in select models of the Galaxy S 4. The motivation behind the tinkering appears to be to ensure the flagship smartphone posts consistently high benchmarking numbers for comparison with other devices, even if that doesn't necessarily translate to its everyday abilities.

Concerns about the clock speed the GPU ran at during testing began after it was noticed by Beyond3D users that the Galaxy S 4 ran its graphics chip at 533MHz when certain benchmarking apps were used. During the rest of the time, however, the GPU ran somewhat slower, at 480MHz.

A similar process was spotted during CPU testing, with the Galaxy S 4 automatically switched to a certain clock speed when select benchmarking applications were running. When AnTuTu, Linpack, Benchmark Pi, GFXBench 2.7, or Quadrant were loaded, the Galaxy S 4 would push its processor to the maximum frequency supported by each of the four cores. The behavior was spotted on both the Exynos 5 Octa and Qualcomm Snapdragon powered versions of the handset.

The claim is that Samsung has specifically tailored how the Galaxy S 4 reacts to benchmarking by the user, aiming to make sure the phone always looks its best. In reality, the situation is somewhat mixed: the CPU, even in its locked state, never reaches a speed that's unobtainable to individual applications.

However, on the GPU side, the 533MHz reached during testing is not, apparently, made available for users' apps. Samsung, it's pointed out, never actually promises a certain GPU clock speed from the phone, but it raises questions about misleading expectations when on-paper performance doesn't translate to real-world performance.

Benchmarking has always been a dark art, with questionable relevance for most users. Nonetheless, there are some device owners who enjoy knowing how their smartphones and tablets compare to the rest of the market, and it seems Samsung is doing them a disservice by not being entirely transparent about how its devices treat such testing.

We've contacted Samsung, which tells us that there is not currently an official comment on the report. We'll update when we hear more. Update: Samsung has commented on the benchmark findings.