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Smartphones With Flagship Processor Do Not Necessarily Mean Unprecedented Performance
When a tech enthusiast buys a smartphone, the first thing she/he might notice is the processor that powers the smartphone. However, just because two smartphones have the same processor doesn't mean they offer identical performance.
This becomes very evident especially after the OnePlus controversy, where, the brand blacklisted around 300 popular apps from using high-performance CPU cores. So, what should you look for while buying a new smartphone to ensure top-tier performance?
PCs Are Very Different From Smartphone
Say you are building a new PC, the most important thing to consider while building a new RIG is the CPU and GPU. However, one should also keep an eye on the PSU, cooler, and memory to make sure that the CPU and the GPU can offer their best performance. The amalgamation of all these things will determine the actual performance of your PC.
The same applies to laptops as well. However, most laptops are now becoming large-sized smartphones, as they tend to use sorted RAM, ROM, and some of the laptops even use ARM-architecture-based processors, just like smartphones. In fact, just like smartphones laptops like the MacBook Air uses a fan-less design, and let's discuss more on that in the next part.
Smartphones Are Closed Ecosystem
Unlike PC, smartphones are completely non-modular in design, where, everything is soldered to make it as compact as possible. Most smartphones don't feature an active cooling solution and use heat pipes to transfer the heat generated by the smartphone to keep the components at ambient temperature.
When it comes to processors performance, it is directly proportional to the temperature, where, most processors throttle performance at higher temperatures and become unstable once they go beyond T-junction. This will make the game or application slow until the temperature drops.
On most PCs, it is easy to monitor the actual performance, temperature, and other parameters of the components like CPU and GPU. However, when it comes to smartphones, it is very hard to track these parameters, especially when an app or game is running.
Smartphones processors also have limited TDP, hence they won't be able to operate at the peak frequencies for an extended period. If you run any CPU or GPU benchmark on most smartphones, they usually start throttling within 30 minutes.
Software Plays Vital Big Role In Smartphone Performance
One can control and even overclock the performance of the PCs running on the modern operating system. However, for smartphones, all these things will be managed by the OEM and will be tuned to offer the best possible experience and performance for the majority of the users.
According to the official statement, this is what OnePlus did to the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro, where, the company limited the power and computing resources to the 300 popular apps to improve battery life and stability. However, unlike PC, you won't have an option to choose between performance and efficiency.
This issue has come to the limelight and is being reported by a journalist who felt there is an anomaly between the performance of benchmarking apps and regular apps. However, most users even tend to notice a difference, which is what OnePlus tried to do, to offer the best possible experience for most users.
An OEM can whitelist an app on smartphones to stop throttling and they can also blacklist an app from using top-tier resources. This means a phone with the highest score on benchmark apps might actually fail to offer smooth performance under day-to-day tasks.
The only mistake that the company did was not being transparent about this development. Hence, the performance of the OnePlus 9/9 Pro might not be similar to the other smartphones powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. In this case, I don't mean the performance of the OnePlus 9/9 Pro is worse than the other smartphones with the same processor, I just mean there will definitely a performance difference, and it could go both ways.
What Can A User Do?
Honestly, there is nothing that one can do about it. As of now, OnePlus has admitted that it has done some optimizations for 300 plus apps to get better stability and battery life. However, we don't know if other brands have done the same or kept the performance of the 888 SoC intact. This is also something that a brand can do by issuing a software update.
The only thing one can do while buying a new phone is to look for reviews from multiple publications, and then follow their gut feeling. I personally feel that a brand should never reduce performance for the sake of battery life, but others might feel the other way around.