Feeds

Analyst: Tests showing Intel smartphones beating ARM were rigged

Bad benchmark gave bad results

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

So does Intel's Atom-based Clover Trail+ platform really outperform ARM processors in smartphone benchmarks? Not so fast, says one analyst.

In June, The Reg reported analyst firm ABI Research's claim that it had pitted a Lenovo K900 smartphone based on Intel's Atom Z2580 processor against a brace of devices build around ARM system-on-chip (SoC) components and found that not only did the Intel part perform better, but it also drew less power.

But Jim McGregor of analyst firm Tirias Research smelled something fishy, and after investigating, he now says the surprise showing by Intel had less to do with the chip itself as it did with inconsistencies in the AnTuTu benchmark used to conduct the tests.

McGregor's first clue was that different versions of the benchmark produced wildly different results.

"Going from the 2.9.3 version of the AnTuTu benchmark to the 3.3 version, the overall AnTuTu scores increased 122 percent, and the RAM score increased 292 percent for the Intel processor, while the scores for the Samsung processor increased only 59 percent and 53 percent, respectively," McGregor wrote in a blog post at EE Times. "This was just from a change in the benchmark test, not the processors."

The discrepancy, it seems, stems from the fact that the binary executables of AnTuTu versions 2.9.4 and later are built for Intel chips using a different compiler than that used for other processor architectures.

Versions of AnTuTu for ARM chips are built using the open source GCC compiler. But beginning with version 2.9.4, AnTuTu for Intel is built using ICC, a proprietary optimizing compiler designed by Intel itself.

Working with AnTuTu and technology consulting firm BDTI, McGregor determined that the version of the benchmark built with ICC was allowing Intel processors to skip some of the instructions that make up the RAM performance test, leading to artificially inflated results.

AnTuTu released version 3.3.2 of the benchmark on Wednesday to address the problem, and according to McGregor, it negates Intel's artificial advantage. Intel's CPU and Overall scores are now about 20 per cent lower than they were with the previous build, and the RAM score is around 50 per cent lower.

"As a result of the revised scores, the AnTuTu benchmark is no longer an outlier from the other benchmarks and paints a competitive picture similar to the other benchmarks, with the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor outperforming the Intel Atom Z2580 processor," McGregor wrote on Friday.

He added that it's still hard to be sure if even those results are valid, because AnTuTu has not explained what changes were made to the Intel version of the benchmark, although the new version is still built with ICC.

What's more, he said, AnTuTu is planning to revise its testing standards in August, which will presumably result in completely different scores across all of the various platforms, due to the inherent complexities of SoC components – so get ready for another round of finger-pointing then.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for ABI Research told El Reg, "Honestly, we feel [McGregor] totally missed the point. He is focusing on the benchmark and not the power performance we highlighted. It is too easy to pick on benchmarks."

The spokesperson said ABI Research expects to have more to say on the matter next week. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
TEEN RAMPAGE: Kids in iPhone 6 'Will it bend' YouTube 'prank'
iPhones bent in Norwich? As if the place wasn't weird enough
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
iPAD-FONDLING fanboi sparks SECURITY ALERT at Sydney airport
Breaches screening rules cos Apple SCREEN ROOLZ, ok?
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
A moment of brilliance? UPnP for Internet of Stuff lightbulbs
Thus doth tech of future illuminate present, etc
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
The British Museum plonks digital bricks on world of Minecraft
Institution confirms it's cool with joining the blocky universe
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.