GameBench: thwarting cheaters, taking names

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We all want fast devices, but RAM, CPU, and GPU are all just lines on a spec sheet. That’s where benchmarking comes in, but they can be gamed, and even cheated. Today we’re going hands on with GameBench, a new app that aims to change that and give us information that’s useful and accurate.

With so many components inside our devices, and complex interrelations between them, it’s all but impossible for us to gauge “how fast” something is just by looking at its specifications. Additional cores have an impact. How fast those cores are clocked play into the equation as well. Why type of technology is inside those cores plays a huge role in how fast our devices are.

Add to that the amount, type, and speed of RAM, and all the same considerations for the graphics processor, and you can see how the stack of variables keeps getting higher. Changing just one specs can have unexpected consequences when the device is looked at on the whole.

That’s where benchmarking comes into play. In theory, benchmarking is a concept wherein you run several devices through the same set of tests. Since the tests themselves are the same, the devices are the variable being tested. The result is a score that should be comparable between devices and telling of just how fast one is when compared to another.

The issue with benchmarks, in general, is that those tests are often weighted such that the score you’re interested in is factored lower than that of a score that someone else has interest – and vice versa.

And then there’s the potential for cheating. Not long ago we saw some manufacturers “gaming” the benchmarks, to artificially ramp up their speeds when they detected a benchmark was loading. This resulted in false highs.

Another issue is in the tests themselves. Especially when comparing graphics processing, benchmark apps often have to build their own graphics engines, which usually lag behind what “real” games and graphics apps can do – and the manner in which they do it.

That’s where GameBench comes in to play.

GameBench is a new kind of benchmarking utility that approaches the problem from a completely different angle. Rather than running a series of tests that may or may not represent what you actually use your device for, GameBench lets you test your own apps.

Testing is a bit unique. Rather than installing the app and pressing the “go” or “start” button, here you select which apps you want GameBench to monitor. When you fire off the test you’ll notice a time with a stop sign placed on your screen. This is a visual indicator that lets you know not only that GameBench is monitoring the game, but is also recording the session so it can analyze it later.

You must run these tests yourself – by playing the games – the app won’t do it automatically for you.

While that’s a bit inconvenient (I mean really, who actually likes playing games, right?) it does provide you with some very interesting data, and brings a lot of “firsts” to the mobile benchmarking industry.

GameBench:

  • is the first app to provide detailed Performance and Battery analysis across Android devices
  • is the first usability benchmark in the market
  • records frame rates and battery drain rates
  • visually correlate on-screen events to Frames Per Second
  • has simple to understand ratings
  • reports both game performance and battery analysis
  • has quick identification of bottlenecks in the game
  • includes graphs showing usage of CPU and GPU
  • reports battery drain rates

There are some nuances to be aware of:

  • Currently, devices powered by MediaTek processors aren’t supported because many of them have not enabled systrace in the kernel options.
  • Getting this kind of data needed for deep-digging benchmarks like this would usually require a rooted device. Although GameBench does not require root, it does need you to enable USB debugging, connect to and run an app on your desktop computer, though you only have to do this once.

Overall, GameBench is a huge step in the right direction!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.