Remember last summer, when Samsung tweaked the system software on the Galaxy S4 to run the processor at maxed-out speeds during benchmark tests, generating inflated scores? The controversy ended up bruising Samsung's credibility among the tech press.
Samsung has had a change of heart, or at the very least, doesn't think the optimizations are necessary now that the reviews are all written. Ars Technica discovered that the latest Android 4.4 KitKat update for the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 actually eliminates the throttling code. The Galaxy S4's Geekbench numbers appear to be on par with what we would expect them to be:
Moving to Android 4.4, that strange CPU activity stops happening. Every single benchmark we ran prompted variable-but-normal fluctuations in CPU speed based on actual activity. Speeds would ramp up for a couple of seconds while the app launched, but once it became idle, the speeds settled back down to where they would normally be.
Primate Labs' John Poole confirmed that the benchmark boosting practices exhibited in Android 4.3—the software the Note 3 shipped with—were not present in the Android 4.4 update. "The team has also added some detection code in a recent Geekbench update that would note when boosted scores were uploaded to that database," wrote Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham. "Samsung's Android 4.3 software sets the detector off, while 4.4 does not."
It's a smart move on Samsung's part to remove the software tweaks that gave away its hardware boosting practices, as detailed in AnandTech's original report. We don't allow benchmark results to influence our review scores here at Greenbot, as we find little correlation between them and how smooth and responsive a phone actually feels in real-world use. But the news serves as a good opportunity to remember that it's the experience that makes the phone, not necessarily the numbers on a bar chart.