Ever wondered why smartphones with the same processor show different scores on benchmark apps? If they have the same chip, they should show the same scores too, right? Well, it’s more complicated than that.
In this guide, we’ll help you explain the key reasons behind this phenomenon so you can become a more informed buyer. We’ll also take a look at whether benchmark scores are actually useful in deducing a phone’s true performance.
Comparing Smartphone Benchmarks
To show you what we mean, let’s compare the benchmark scores of three devices: the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, the OnePlus 10 Pro, and the ZTE Nubia Red Magic 7. All of these devices house the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 flagship processor.
For this comparison, we’re using AnTuTu (v9) and Geekbench (v5.1), and in both cases, a higher score represents better performance. Here are the results:
|Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra||968359||3657|
|OnePlus 10 Pro||886248||3447|
|ZTE Nubia Red Magic 7||1056488||3855|
Despite having the same chip, the three devices show notably different scores—enough for someone to assume them to be a generation apart. But why does this happen? It’s not like Qualcomm designed the chip to work better for some brands and not others.
And it’s not just Qualcomm, test processors from any semiconductor company, and you’ll get different results on different smartphones. In fact, different smartphone models made by the same company carrying the same chip won’t show the same scores either.
For instance, the Galaxy S22 Ultra shows higher scores than the S22+ and S22. The same goes for the iPhone 13 series too, even though all the models have the same A15 Bionic chip. Let’s figure out why this happens.
Why Smartphone Processors Show Different Scores on Different Phones
Although the chip does most of the heavy-lifting, it’s not the only thing that determines benchmark scores. Think of it like this: the chip is the brain of your phone, but in order to use it to its full potential, you also need an equally competent body. A smart brain with a weak body isn’t going to get you very far.
There are so many components and sensors in your phone that help the processor achieve its objectives, such as the battery, memory chip, transceiver, DAC, and more, along with the motherboard that connects everything together. The quality of these components contributes to how well the processor is able to do its job.
Since these components are designed in-house by smartphone companies and are unique to each model, they can create a variance in the overall performance, reflecting different benchmark scores. Simply put, the brain can only push as much as the body is built to handle. If it pushes further than that, you start to experience all sorts of problems.
One of these problems—and it’s a big one—is overheating. Chip makers like Qualcomm can continue to release more powerful chips each year, but all that power is useless if it burns your hands while using your phone. There are mainly two solutions to this problem: built-in cooling systems or software optimization.
With a built-in cooling system, the goal is to cool down the device to increase its sustained performance. This is usually done via a liquid cooling mechanism, but some manufacturers go so far as to add a physical turbofan and air ducts to the device to push out hot air, much like what we saw on the Nubia Red Magic 7. The longer the device is kept from overheating, the longer you can use it.
However, when things start to go south and the phone can’t handle the heat anymore, the only solution left is to bring down the performance using software magic. This means your phone will detect that it’s getting really hot and will start to throttle in order to reduce the workload on the processor.
Another factor that influences benchmark scores is the attunement of hardware and software. Since Android chip makers like Qualcomm and MediaTek sell to many smartphone brands, their chips are designed using a one-size-fits-all approach. But when Apple designs its custom silicon, its sole intent is to make it work well with iOS; hence, the software is able to take full advantage of the chip’s true power.
Note that what’s in your phone, how you use it, how old it is, and other similar factors can also influence the benchmark scores of your device. That’s why, even after running consecutive tests on the same device, you can get slightly different results each time.
Do Benchmark Scores Really Matter?
Depending on the kind of user you are, the answer can be either yes or no. For casual users, benchmark scores don’t really matter as much. Most modern smartphones are already so powerful that you’ll almost never face any issues with performance concerning regular activities like using social media, messaging, taking photos and videos, or video calling.
However, if you are a power user or a gamer, benchmarks like AnTuTu can help measure specs you care about and ascertain the performance of a phone you intend to buy. Still, don’t count too hard on benchmarks as they can sometimes be misleading.
In fact, there are reports about smartphone companies cheating on benchmark apps. The phone is set up to detect that a benchmark app is running and ramps up the performance all the way—far beyond what it is capable of sustaining in real-world usage—just to show you a good score.
Or sometimes the phone throttles the performance of games and other apps but leaves the benchmark app untouched in order to inflate the scores.
That’s why the best way to judge a phone’s performance is to simply see it in action, which you can do by either testing the phone yourself or watching and reading product reviews.
Most of the red flags are pretty easy to spot. The phone shouldn’t overheat, lag, hang, or forcefully restart without your input, and should be able to run smoothly when performing heavy tasks for a reasonable amount of time.
Benchmark Scores Don’t Tell the Whole Story
If you’re a tech geek like us, looking at benchmark scores comes naturally to you when researching a device. And although they are helpful in their own right, benchmarks are not always reliable. So, you should consider their scores as more of a suggestion than objective truth.
As long as your desired phone works as expected in real life, there is really no reason to obsess over these numbers. If you want to get the best performance out of a given smartphone chip, the best option is to simply get a dedicated gaming phone as it prioritizes performance above all else.
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