We recently got the HTC One M8 from Verizon for review and have been wildly excited to review the device as a follow up to our HTC One M7 review last year. Now, HTC has made a vast amount of improvements with the HTC One M8, many of which have gotten quite a bit of praise from reviewers that went live with their reviews on launch early last week. However, some of them, including CNET and Anandtech, noticed that HTC’s One M8 vastly outperformed phones with almost identical specifications. These oddities eventually resulted in them calling HTC out for their benchmark optimizations, similar to what Samsung had been doing with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. They have since backpedaled and updated the Galaxy Note 3 to remove the optimizations in light of all the negative press.
So, we contacted HTC about it and they basically said the same to us as they did to CNET, in fact quoting the CNET quote. “Benchmarking tests look to determine maximum performance of the CPU and GPU and, similar to the engine in a high-performance sports car, our engineers optimize in certain scenarios to produce the best possible performance. If someone would like to get around this benchmarking optimization there are ways to do so, but we think most often this will not be the case. For those with a need for speed, we?ve provided a simple way to unleash this power by introducing a new High Performance Mode in the developer settings that can be enabled and disabled manually. The HTC One (M8) is optimized to provide the best balance of performance and battery life, but we believe in offering customer choice, as there may be times when the desire for performance outweighs the need for battery longevity.”
There are a few problems with this mentality, it doesn’t allow reviewers to do their jobs right and it clearly indicates that the company is willing to be dishonest to their customers in order to seem better and faster. The truth is that anyone with any sense of logic would realize that the performance differential between two phones running almost the same hardware and the same OS would probably not perform wildly differently. Sure, there are differences in the real world experience, but in the end a lot of that can’t be quantified with a benchmark number.
I understand that HTC has been trying to compete with Samsung and appear faster or better than Samsung’s offerings, but I suspect that HTC has actually been at this for quite some time. There were some benchmarks a few years ago when I compared the HTC Droid DNA against LG’s Optimus G. Back then, both phones had the exact same SoC, but for some inexplicable reason the Droid DNA outperformed the Optimus G and did it with a higher resolution display, too. When I asked about this anomaly I was stonewalled, and eventually it was discovered that HTC and Samsung had been cheating with their next generation of devices on certain benchmarks. While I can’t confirm now whether or not the Droid DNA was cheating, it seems almost logical to assume considering the vast performance differences I saw in my Optimus G review. Some theories I was given were that HTC managed their power better or that they had better thermals which resulted in the phone not throttling during benchmarks. But those seem less plausible than HTC flat out cheating like they are now.
The saddest part? People are absolutely thrilled with the HTC One M8 and performance isn’t even a topic of discussion. I’ve already convinced a few people to buy the phone simply by handing it to them and letting them play with it. The truth is that the M8 is probably the most solid Android phone ever made, and that is both in terms of hardware and software. HTC doesn’t need to cheat on benchmarks or make us think they’re faster when they really aren’t, nobody needs that. We need a device that is well built, performs well and makes us forget the lag of yesteryear. We don’t need to score 5,000 more 3DMarks than the guy with the Samsung Galaxy S5 because in the end, most consumers don’t really look at that at all. What benchmarks did Apple need to sell the iPhone to consumers?
As someone that has been a customer of HTC since 2005, I find it shameful that such a brilliant company would resort to such measures and is almost proud of it. They aren’t doing anyone any good by doing these benchmark optimizations, and in fact, it has gotten them delisted from Futuremark’s benchmark scores, so nobody can know what it scores anyways.