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Analyst says Intel beating ARM in benchmarks was a sham

Awhile back everyone was impressed when Intel's Atom processors beating ARM SoC in benchmarks. As it turns out, these may have been erroneous results.
July 13, 2013
Intel logo
Earlier this month we brought you news that Intel had destroyed ARM in benchmarks. It was a pretty big deal. Not just because it beat out chips like the Snapdragon 800 and the Exynos 5 Octa, but because it beat them out by so much. In the original benchmarks, Intel beat out the Snapdragon 800 by 11000 points and the Exynos 5 Octa by 16000 in the widely used AnTuTu benchmark. As it turns out, it may have all been a sham.

According to Neil McAllister of The Register, analyst Jim McGregor didn’t quite like those numbers. McGregor went on an investigation and concluded that the benchmarks didn’t show Intel being better because they were actually better. It was actually an error with AnTuTu.

During his investigation, he found that updates made to AnTuTu seemed to favor Intel chips over ARM chips. As he explains, the updates gave ARM processors a mere 50% upgrade in performance whereas Intel chips were seeing increases of up to 292%. This is what originally piqued McGregor’s interest to look more into the situation. It was a good thing he did, too, because he was completely right.

So here is the long and short of the problem. Starting at AnTuTu 2.9.4, they began compiling using a unique compiler designed by Intel. This allowed Intel chips to bypass certain parts of the test to inflate their score. In other words, AnTuTu made a mistake and Intel’s chips cashed in. Due to this error and due to parts of the test being skipped, Intel was able to gain an unfair advantage in the test scores.

So has this been fixed? Well, sort of. AnTuTu has released an update to fix the problem and Intel’s performance has since dropped dramatically. Check out the screen shot below for the new scores.

Intel vs Arm
Image Credit: Jim McGregor

So all is right again in the universe and ARM is better than Intel?

Well according to these test results, that would be the indication. However, ARM fans shouldn’t grab out their celebratory drinks yet. While McGregor was able to find the issue and AnTuTu fixed it, there is still more going on. AnTuTu is now going back and revising their standards. According to McGregor, there will be a new standard released sometime in August that should be more fair between the two warring behemoths. The keyword in that last sentence was “should”. Even though Intel can no longer bypass parts of the test, it is now possible that the new standard may further alter these test results.

For now, we’ll count it like a game. Intel has one point and ARM has one point. The tie breaker will come in August with AnTuTu’s new standard. With the playing field evened out and one more proverbial inning left in the game, who comes out of 2013 with the stronger chipset? Intel or ARM? If you want to take a guess, feel free to leave a comment and let us know.