Huawei caught cheating on benchmark test, says it was just AI

Benchmarking site UL has delisted the Huawei P20, P20 Pro, Nova 3 and Honor Play because of sketchy practices.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen
2 min read

The Huawei P20 and P20 Pro were among the culprits.

Josh Miller/CNET

Benchmark tests can give us an idea of how fast a phone performs, but not when that phone cheats to get a higher score.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the creators of the 3DMark benchmark test, have accused Huawei of cheating on its tests. To catch Huawei, UL ran certain Huawei phones through two different benchmark tests. The first test was the publicly available 3DMark benchmark, and the second was an identical but private version of 3DMark. UL found that results for these tests varied dramatically.

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Results changed dramatically using a different version of the test.


Since the results changed between different versions of the same test, UL accused Huawei of using a hidden "performance mode" that overrides the devices usual performance to deliver artificial scores for the test.

As a result, UL delisted the following phones from its site:

Huawei said in a statement that the boosted scores are a result of AI optimized performance under certain scenarios. But if that were truly the case, performance wouldn't have changed just by taking a different version of the same test. Instead, it's possible that Huawei had a performance mode explicitly for the 3DMark test.

UL's rules say that it requires phones to run its tests like they would run any other application. Huawei responded by saying that it would give people access to "Performance Mode" in EMUI 9.0, so users can choose when to use the maximum power of their device.

But if Huawei wasn't caught red-handed, there's no telling if it would've given people access to this performance mode.