Taiwanese SoC vendor MediaTek is allegedly cheating when its chips are detecting benchmarking applications in order to inflate the performance scores.
In the past, many benchmark cheats have been exposed in virtually every market, from high-performance GPUs to low-power, mainstream mobile devices. Since benchmark scores and figures are considered by most users as a good way to compare the performance of devices, companies have responded by making some unfair tricks as they seek to gain a competitive edge.
This time, an AnandTech article about an Oppo smartphone powered by a Mediatek SoC alleges that the chip gave an unexpectedly high performance during benchmarking. Specifically, they tested Oppo’s new Reno3 Pro device, which uses the European version with MediaTek’s Helio P95 chipset. The reviewer claims that in systems benchmarks such as PCMark, the Mediatek's Cortex-A75 class SoC (Helio P95) performed much better than a MediaTek Dimensity 1000L SoC found in a Chinese version of the Reno3 smartphone.
The article also claims that MediaTek appears have targeted specific many popular benchmarks. It says that MediaTek has incorporated a simple whitelist in their firmware files that detects certain benchmarks, and enables what it calls “Sports Mode,” allegedly to artificially inflate benchmark scores. Sports Mode appears to alter the dynamic voltage and frequency scaling of the SoC, memory controller frequency, and thermal and scheduler settings, when these whitelisted benchmarks are being run. This means that the SoC is being allowed to more quickly ramp up to higher frequencies long enough to maintain a high benchmark score, without caring about thermals and overheating.
According to the article, popular benchmarks being detected include PCMark, AnTuTu, and GeekBench, in addition to an array of AI-centric tests and other tools.
MediaTek today responded to the allegations. Here is what the chip maker said:
MediaTek follows accepted industry standards and is confident that benchmarking tests accurately represent the capabilities of our chipsets. We work closely with global device makers when it comes to testing and benchmarking devices powered by our chipsets, but ultimately brands have the flexibility to configure their own devices as they see fit. Many companies design devices to run on the highest possible performance levels when benchmarking tests are running in order to show the full capabilities of the chipset. This reveals what the upper end of performance capabilities are on any given chipset.
Of course, in real world scenarios there are a multitude of factors that will determine how chipsets perform. MediaTek’s chipsets are designed to optimize power and performance to provide the best user experience possible while maximizing battery life. If someone is running a compute-intensive program like a demanding game, the chipset will intelligently adapt to computing patterns to deliver sustained performance. This means that a user will see different levels of performance from different apps as the chipset dynamically manages the CPU, GPU and memory resources according to the power and performance that is required for a great user experience. Additionally, some brands have different types of modes turned on in different regions so device performance can vary based on regional market requirements.
We believe that showcasing the full capabilities of a chipset in benchmarking tests is in line with the practices of other companies and gives consumers an accurate picture of device performance.
MediaTek also added, “As we mentioned above, we follow accepted industry benchmarking standards and are confident that the capabilities of our chipsets are being accurately represented in benchmark tests.”
The chip maker also goes on to claim that one of its competitors is doing similar things with its chipsets, but doesn’t go so far as to name the competitor.
MediaTek's chips feature intelligent power saving features, which encompass a wide range of technologies that dynamically manage a device’s computing resources to provide a sustained user experience. Devices are also optimized to adjust for power and performance depending what applications are being run. This means that the device will only run full throttle (which eats up battery life) when it’s absolutely necessary for a good user experience.
MediaTek says that ultimately device makers have the final say about what types of optimizations they want to include in Android Package Kits (APKs). Here is what MediaTek said:
Many brands have agreed that consumers want to understand the full capabilities of a chipset for benchmarking tests. And while high performance is one benchmark, at the same time brands understand that battery life is one of consumers’ top factors in choosing a smartphone, so it’s critical to minimize power consumption whenever possible as well. Furthermore, certain brands sometimes give consumers in specific regions the option to enable advanced modes (like “sports mode” or “monster mode”) to maximize performance. These modes are switched off in other regions, so device performance can also vary based on regional market requirements.