On paper, the OnePlus 5 is an incredible smartphone, packing basically the most powerful processing package available on the market today. One would think that the raw power there wouldn’t require any sort of help on benchmarks, but it seems that isn’t the case.

XDA revealed yesterday that the OnePlus 5 appears to be cheating on benchmarking applications to achieve a higher score. To do that, the phone essentially activates a “performance mode” when it detects a benchmarking app has been opened to jack up the numbers. This isn’t something new to the 5, as the company has done this multiple times in the past. However, on former phones, OnePlus was a bit more subtle with this method.

On the OnePlus 5, the company has implemented this “cheat” to essentially be turning things to maximum whenever a benchmark is active. XDA explains:

“…it resorts to the kind of obvious, calculated cheating mechanisms we saw in flagships in the early days of Android, an approach that is clearly intended to maximize scores in the most misleading fashion. While there are no governor switches when a user enters a benchmark (at least, we can’t seem to see that’s the case), the minimum frequency of the little cluster jumps to the maximum frequency as seen under performance governors. All little cores are affected and kept at 1.9GHz, and it is through this cheat that OnePlus achieves some of the highest GeekBench 4 scores of a Snapdragon 835 to date.”

Now, of course, benchmarks aren’t what you should base your purchase on anyway since they don’t reflect real world performance. However, benchmarks have traditionally been a good way to get a general idea of how much raw performance one phone has over another under normal circumstances, so it’s a bit annoying to see the numbers artificially inflated again, even if it is a gain of barely 5%.

The bigger problem, though, is the method in which OnePlus is doing this. By locking the phone into its top speed, OnePlus runs the risk of dangerous levels of overheating. Worse yet, this same mode is apparently enabled when users are playing games according to Carl Pei. He issued the following response on Reddit overnight.

We have made it so that when running benchmark apps, the phone performs the same as when running resource intensive apps such as 3D games. We also fully activate our chipset in other parts of OxygenOS, for instance when launching apps to make the launch experience faster and smoother.

We are not making it easier for the chipset to perform, for instance by changing to a lower resolution when detecting a benchmark app. We are not changing the performance of our chipset, for instance by overclocking it.

When users run benchmark apps, which I agree aren’t a useful proxy for real life performance, we believe that they want to see the full potential of their device without interference from tampering. That’s what we’ve unlocked.

Every OEM has proprietary performance profiles for their devices, I appreciate that we have a tech enthusiastic following, but feel free to have a look around. :)

The problem with this method is that anytime users are playing graphic-intensive games they run the risk of overheating the phone. OnePlus says there is a fallback in place to shut the phone down when it gets too hot, but it’s still a pretty risky method which Google has actually said OEMs shouldn’t use. A Pixel performance engineer responded to this matter on Twitter where he stated that he has explicitly told OEMs on multiple occasions not to do exactly this. He states that making changes like this needs “a good reason” and that OnePlus’ reason is a “terrible, terrible reason.”

OnePlus says that this same software will be shipping to consumers, so at least for the time being, every OnePlus 5 is going to run at full speed when running intensive games. In a way that’s great for gamers, but it really puts the phone at risk. It’s especially irritating to see this happening since this phone needs no help in gaming or benchmarks. Even on phones where performance is arguably not great (I’m looking at you Galaxy S8), the Snapdragon 835 is a very capable chipset for gaming, and the rest of the OnePlus 5’s package should make that even better.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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