P20 Pro among Huawei handsets caught cheating in benchmark tests

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Following a discovery earlier this week by AnandTech that Huawei’s P20 flagship handset was fudging its numbers in graphics benchmarking app 3DMark, the phone's results have been delisted from the official results site, along with three other Huawei handsets.

UL Benchmarks – the company responsible for popular mobile and desktop benchmarking software such as 3DMark, PCMark and VRMark – released a statement about the delisting, claiming that it ran its own tests which confirmed AnandTech’s results and had subsequently delisted the Huawei P20 Pro, Huawei P20, Huawei Nova 3 and the Honor Play (a sub-brand of Huawei) as a result.

Specifically, UL found that Huawei had incorporated a hidden performance mode into its handsets, which only activated when the devices recognized the 3DMark app being run. This would bypass the phones’ typical restrictions on battery use and heat levels in order to eke out as much power as possible.

Huawei's P20 flagship handset

Huawei's P20 flagship handset

When UL compared the public version of 3DMark on these handsets with their own private benchmarks, they found that this performance mode boosted the handsets' scores by up to 47%. While the existence of high-performance modes on phones isn’t inherently cheating, UL’s benchmarking rules state that these modes must be disabled when running the benchmark. 

Huawei has responded to UL’s findings, stating that it’s “planning to provide users with access to 'Performance Mode' so they can use the maximum power of their device when they need to”.

It’s unclear whether Huawei users would have seen the release of this mode if the manufacturer hadn’t been caught cheating, and additionally, whether handset owners that choose to use the option could be causing long-term damage to their devices – something that's certainly a possibility if the mode disables Android's built-in heat- and battery-protection features.