Monday, 10 September 2018 22:35

Huawei issues joint statement with UL over findings of benchmark 'cheating'

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Getting phones to run at faster speeds when benchmark software is detected is what Huawei has been discovered doing, with the tech maker fessing up and issuing a statement.

A few days ago, tech site Anandtech published an article that demonstrated Huawei was detecting benchmarking software and getting its processor to run at faster speeds in those scenarios.

The problem is that benchmarking software is not the usual use for a smartphone, and so those heightened speeds aren't achievable at other times – hence the accusations of cheating.

Anandtech's write-up is thorough, as usual, and elicited an admission from Huawei that it did so due to the environment in China where its competitors followed the same practice, and that there was no standardised test that could be used by all and not abused.

Naturally, such an excuse is hardly robust – just because "everyone else" breaks the rules doesn't give you the right to!

In addition, given Huawei's political troubles in Australia where it has been banned from participating in the 5G network rollout, being caught up in any kind of cheating scandal obviously isn't a good look.

So, to read the full details of what Anandtech discovered, and to read Huawei's reasons why it was done via its staff during IFA 2018, check out Anandtech's article here.

There's also a full statement from Huawei posted below, but first, on a separate note, Huawei's GPU Turbo has also been analysed by Anandtech, and aside from over-zealous marketing claims, it turns out GPU Turbo does actually work on a range of games, but as you'll read, it doesn't work with all games by default, but needs to be crafted for individual games.

It's a legitimate technology, and the concept will presumably be copied by other smartphone manufacturers.

Back to the benchmarking controversy, UL, the company behind the 3D Mark benchmarks, decided to delist some Huawei phones from its rankings, pending Huawei making changes to its EMUI skin that will allow Huawei smartphone users to activate the performance mode, and wrote a statement here.

Huawei and UL have subsequently come out with a joint statement regarding the benchmarking tests, which you can read here and which is reprinted below in full.

"Huawei and UL (creators of 3DMark) have held comprehensive discussions on benchmarking practices this week, and have reached a positive agreement on the next steps in working together.

"In the discussion, Huawei explained that its smartphones use an artificial intelligent resource scheduling mechanism. Because different scenarios have different resource needs, the latest Huawei handsets leverage innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence to optimise resource allocation in a way so that the hardware can demonstrate its capabilities to the fullest extent, while fulfilling user demands across all scenarios.

"UL understands the intent of Huawei’s approach, but is opposed to forcing the use of a “Performance Mode” by default when a benchmarking application is detected by the device. UL rules require a device to run the benchmark as if it were any other application.

"Huawei respects consumers’ right to choose what to do with their devices. Therefore, Huawei will provide users with open access to 'Performance Mode' in EMUI 9.0, so that the user can choose when to use the maximum power of their device.

"Huawei and UL have also discussed current common benchmark testing methodologies in general. UL and Huawei would like to participate in an industry movement to develop benchmarking standards that best serve the needs of manufacturers, press, and consumers.

"To prevent confusion around current benchmarking results, after discussion, UL and Huawei have temporarily delisted the benchmark scores of a range of Huawei devices, and will reinstate them after Huawei grants all users of Huawei handsets access to the Performance Mode."

So, there you have it. Huawei has been caught doing something it says various Chinese smartphone makers are doing, so this will presumably shine a very bright light on this practice so it isn't tried again.

After all, people need to know the truth, whether it is Volkswagen or other German car makers defeating emissions tests, whether it is Apple slowing processors down (rather than speeding them up!) without telling end-users, or any form of cheating at all (hello Serena Williams and your coach).

Telling the truth should be a revolutionary act, it should simply be the right thing to do, and our default action.

After all, it's not the crime but the cover-up, so kudos to Huawei for quickly owning up to it, but it's a shame one of the world's bigger smartphone makers felt it had to go down this path in the first place, and then did so.

Huawei has its Kirin 980 processor (which is looked at in Anandtech's GPU Turbo article) and its Mate 20 smartphone coming up soon, as its flagship challenger against this week's new iPhones, the Note 9, the Pixel 3 from Google, and everyone else's flagships, so Huawei is lucky this storm comes before the Mate 20 launch, and not after it.

The full video of the Kirin 980 processor launch at IFA 2018 can be seen here

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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