OnePlus flagships are some of the most powerful smartphones you can buy, and if benchmarks are your deciding factor, they are often at the top of any list. However, like many other brands before it, OnePlus was caught red-handed when it slowed the performance of most apps but paved the streets in gold for benchmarking apps.
AnandTech explains that the benchmark numbers did not match those of other Snapdragon 888 devices, but rather benchmarks in particular run via the Chrome browser. On the OnePlus 9 Pro with its Snapdragon 888, a benchmark achieved only 16.8 points, far less than the similarly equipped Galaxy S21 Ultra and even below the Pixel 5 with its Snapdragon 765. This was apparently due to the fact that Chrome and other WebView apps it were limited to using just one core for the most part. A new browser like Vivaldi could get a normal score on the first try but would then jump to Chrome-like results.
What was special about it was that other benchmarking apps, including AnandTechs internal solutions, out of line. The full report turns up deep into the nuances of what’s going on, but here is the short version.
OnePlus actively keeps a list of apps that are in fact prevented from using the phone’s full power. There is no official list of which apps are affected by this practice, but the apps tested that are affected include Google Chrome, Twitter, Microsoft Office, Zoom, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Discord, Strava, and, More.
Here, however, is the real kicker. Benchmarking apps like GeekBench are among the few apps that have full access to the phone’s performance. Because of this, the performance benchmarks for the OnePlus 9 seemed untouched in tests earlier this year when the phone came out. However, making the phone believe that GeekBench is indeed Chrome or Twitter lowered the score, as shown above. The popular game Geshin Impact wasn’t affected either, as were some strange outliers like Lyft and Grubhub.
While application behavior and performance vary from case to case, the only aspect that applies in almost all scenarios is that the OnePlus 9 Pro does not have the full capabilities of the Snapdragon 888 cores are used at all, frequencies above 2.38 GHz are unreachable except for brief booster moments. The vast majority of apps use 2 GHz Cortex-A78 cores. This is all a bit ironic, as the reason the larger, higher performing X-Series cores were designed primarily to serve high settling time workloads, which is not allowed here.
AnandTech concludes that OnePlus isn’t necessarily doing this to cheat benchmarks, but rather to increase battery life. In any case, the practice still hampers the performance of phones that people paid nearly $ 1,000 for, which makes the performance lower than competing devices with the same processor.
In response to the story, GeekBench publicly announced on Twitter that the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro will be removed from the benchmark table, adding that more testing will be conducted to see if other OnePlus phones need to be removed as well.
OnePlus has since responded to the problem with an explanation XDA. The brand states that these measures were taken regarding battery life and heat concerns raised by the first OnePlus 9 / Pro users. The full statement can be read below, emphasis placed by us.
Our number one priority is always to provide a great user experience with our products, based in part on responding quickly to important user feedback. After the introduction of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro in March, a few users told us about a few areas where we could improve the battery life and thermal management of the devices. As a result of this feedback Our research and development team has been working over the past few months to optimize device performance while using many of the most popular apps, including Chrome, by matching the app’s processor requirements with the most appropriate performance. This has helped provide a smooth experience while reducing power consumption. While this can affect the performance of the devices in some benchmarking apps, our focus, as always, is on doing everything we can to improve the device’s performance for our users.
Especially, in our review, we found the OnePlus 9 Pro had poor battery life, and Damien Wilde called it “not great”. OnePlus did not directly confirm whether this behavior has always been there or was only added after launch.
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