Wednesday, March 05, 2014

KitKat update removes Samsung benchmarking 'optimizations'

Samsung, which was accused last year of optimizing benchmark scores for its Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 smartphones, seems to have had a change of heart. HS4 and GN3 devices that are getting an update from Android 4.3 to 4.4 (KitKat) are no longer seeing inflated scores, Ars Technica reported on Tuesday.

Previously, running Geekbench versions 2 and 3, AnTuTu, Vellamo, Basemark X, AndEBench, or 3DMark would ramp all four CPU cores up to their maximum clock rate and keep them there until you left the app. That is an obvious advantage for benchmarking purposes.

However, when the 4.4.2 update is applied, the symptoms above are no longer found. Could it be that Samsung found a clever way to avoid detection? It's not likely. The reason for that conclusion comes from the results of the benchmarking. After the ROM update, scores dropped. Primate Labs' John Poole said:
There's a statistically significant difference between 4.2.2 and 4.4.2, but the absolute differences are much smaller. I'm inclined to think that the change between 4.2.2 and 4.4.2 is due to Samsung tweaking the overall power and performance settings rather than a new harder-to-detect boost.
The lack of a benchmark boost isn't going to affect the real-world performance of an end user's device. However, 4.4.2 brings with it a number of under-the-hood enhancements to Android, although the devices will not receive any of the redesigned TouchWiz UI elements shown off during the Galaxy S5 launch last week.

These are just the first Samsung devices to get the latest version of Android. Earlier this month, the Korean giant released a list of 14 devices that will eventually receive KitKat, although it will depend on the carrier, as only "select carrier variants" will get the update.

The devices will be:
  • Galaxy Light
  • Galaxy Mega
  • Galaxy Note II
  • Galaxy Note 3
  • Galaxy Note 8.0
  • Galaxy Note 10.1
  • Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition
  • Galaxy S III
  • Galaxy S III mini
  • Galaxy S4
  • Galaxy S4 Mini
  • Galaxy S 4 Active
  • Galaxy S4 Zoom
  • Galaxy Tab 3
It's unclear if, when Samsung says the Galaxy Tab 3 will get the update, if all three size variants will receive KitKat.

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