Hardware reviewers, manufacturers, and users love to benchmark the capabilities of their devices. While it’s fun, and sometimes surprising, to see how tech performs when pushed to its limits, you should probably ignore the benchmark figures from smartphones with MediaTek chips.
According to in-depth testing from AnandTech, MediaTek processors are built to fudge their own benchmarking performance to appear more powerful than they actually are.
How MediaTek gooses mobile benchmarks
Basically, some MediaTek processors have a code that can recognise when common benchmarking apps are running on your phone. When you pull up one of these apps to test the phone’s performance, your device will automatically overclock its hardware beyond safe limits, focusing all of its efforts on producing the highest benchmarking results possible. It’s as simple as that. Anandtech noticed the suspiciously high numbers while benchmarking the MediaTek phones, which led to further testing and, ultimately, the discovery of the hidden code snippets that made the results possible.
Why it’s important to play by the rules
To be fair, smartphone benchmarking tests are rarely representative of normal user experience, but they are often used in general hardware comparisons. As Android Central points out, it doesn’t really matter if you paid $US500 ($774) or $US1500 ($2,321) for a phone so long as its processor can run the Android OS and your apps well.
By most measures, a MediaTek processor can perform normal smartphone functions pretty well. The problem, however, is that MediaTek’s fudged numbers are essentially false advertising, making phones equipped with their chips appear more powerful than they actually are.
Falsified benchmarking allegations have been levied at phone manufacturers in the past, but MediaTek’s case is different: Rather than manufacturing the phones itself, the company provides processors to other companies, and the shady code comes baked into MediaTek processors before they’re ever installed. That means the numerous companies that use MediaTek’s processors—including LG, Motorola, Nokia, Oppo and Xiaomi—may unwittingly have been touting inaccurate benchmark results.
Oppo removed the benchmark-fudging code from their devices after Anandtech’s research, and we hope more manufacturers will follow. Either way, it’s a good idea to distrust the benchmark performance of MediaTek phones—and honestly, don’t worry too much about benchmarking in general. If you’re buying a budget phone, you already know that you probably won’t be able to use it for playing top-tier games or fussing around in augmented reality. As long as your inexpensive device handled the basics well enough, isn’t that all that matters?