Inspecting OnePlus’ Efficiency Behaviour: Optimization or Misrepresentation?

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView (64b)

Benchmarks and efficiency measurements are a main-stay of analysis of gadgets and integral components of the assessment course of for lots of people – together with each precise customers in addition to publications or analysts as ourselves. Prior to now, when this relationship between benchmarks and real-world apps was damaged, we’ve at all times tried to show such behaviour to be able to have the distributors right their methods, which result in fairly just a few articles over time:

From time to time, these matters at all times resurface as distributors try and “differentiate” their gadgets amongst the group – it’s a repeated course of which sadly by now now not actually surprises us when it occurs.

Right this moment’s piece suits inside this class of articles, and extra particularly covers OnePlus’ latest OnePlus 9 Professional flagship cellphone, and the way its efficiency behaviour certainly manages to be extraordinarily distinctive within the present cell panorama. It’s one thing so uncommon and baffling, because it really blurs the road between battery optimisation, efficiency dishonest, and common machine specification misrepresentation.

We’ve detected that OnePlus is blacklisting fashionable purposes away from the its quickest cores, inflicting decelerate in typical workloads corresponding to internet looking. We’ve confirmed that (a) benchmarks or (b) unknown apps get full efficiency; many of the prime fashionable non-benchmark apps get notably decreased efficiency. That is  maybe to enhance battery life on the expense of efficiency, but it surely does imply that the common benchmark outcomes are considerably ineffective for consumer expertise.

Beginning off with bizarre benchmark numbers

As at all times with these tales, all of it begins out when discovering some bizarre oddity when going over the same old assessment course of. The OnePlus 9 Professional was launched in early April, nonetheless because of different work within the pipeline we by no means bought to completely assessment the cellphone till now – effectively, that’s additionally a bit delayed because of right this moment’s piece.

In testing, I had encountered one thing which actually perplexed me, and caught my consideration; seemingly inexplicable gradual browser benchmark figures which weren’t according to some other Snapdragon 888 machine out there, getting solely a fraction of the scores and efficiency of different gadgets.


OnePlus 9 Professional – Chrome & Vivaldi Efficiency

Particularly, Chrome gave the impression to be affected by extraordinarily bizarre behaviour that at worst ended up with the browser solely with the ability to use the SoC’s little Cortex-A55 cores.

Within the first/left video – I’m beginning Chrome contemporary and working the browser-based Speedometer 2.0 benchmark. Through the first run, the cellphone is managing a rating of 61.5 – a low rating that’s very irregular for a Snapdragon 888. Monitoring the CPU’s behaviour throughout the run factors out that the system is rarely loading the Cortex-X1 core of the Snapdragon 888, and as an alternative is working the benchmark on the Cortex-A78 cores. Moreover, these are working at solely 2GHz as an alternative of their most 2.41GHz. What’s extra perplexing, is that when re-running the check instantly once more in sequence, the workload is now being fully remoted to the little Cortex-A55 cores, with an expectedly horrible rating of 16.8.

We’ll get into extra element a bit later about browsers – however the one approach I ever managed to attain the complete efficiency of the Snapdragon 888 and have the X1 cores being loaded within the benchmark was in Vivaldi, ensuing with a rating of 107 which is according to different Snapdragon 888 telephones. What’s totally perplexing nonetheless, is that whereas this rating was repeatable back-to-back, it was solely ever achievable on a contemporary set up of the browser. Closing the app and re-launching it precipitated it to once more now not work on the Cortex-X1 cores, and solely run on the Cortex-A78 cores – this time round on the full 2.41GHz.

In some other WebView container built-in in any app, I used to be by no means in a position to get any internet content material to work on the X1 cores, or if it labored, it acted like Vivaldi in that it labored as soon as after which by no means once more.

 JetStream 2 - OS Webview (64b)

This resulted into some actually oddball benchmark numbers that painting the OnePlus 9 Professional as a early-2010’s finances machine, with horrible efficiency.

The factor is, is that these figures didn’t fall according to some other benchmark scores of the machine. All our in-house benchmarks in addition to third-party benchmarks introduced regular efficiency figures with what you’d count on from a Snapdragon 888 cellphone, exhibiting nothing notably totally different.

Diving deeper: Traces of detection, OnePlus’ kernel code

Naturally this perplexing behaviour piqued my curiosity as I used to be making an attempt to determine what’s occurring and what’s going incorrect. Investigating the machine’s OS logs, I managed to detect a repeatable behaviour between purposes that behaved extraordinarily weirdly, and people who didn’t.

Particularly, there are entries with reference to some form of OnePlus Efficiency service that’s working on the cellphone that’s dealing with High quality of Service requests. Usually, these sorts of mechanisms aren’t notably fascinating as many distributors do have OS framework aspect mechanisms to permit for higher efficiency experiences corresponding to for instance when launching or switching between apps. What was bizarre about OnePlus right here is that it didn’t deal with all apps equally:

I/OPPerf: perfAcquire # perflock change #: SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: perfAcquire # SCHEDTUNE change # : SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: mayPerfRelease # : SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: mayPerfRelease # reset SCHEDTUNE # : SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: perfAcquire # 160 cpu_bouncing_02 0

I/OPPerf: perfAcquire # set SCHEDTUNE #: 160 cpu_bouncing_02 0

On this log snippet, we see that the service acquires some schedtune efficiency lock (primarily some QoS degree) when coming into the default launcher, and when switching away from it, it releases this lock. When switching to Chrome, it additionally acquires an absence with some parameter known as “cpu_bouncing_02” – a bit extra particulars afterward this.

I/OPPerf: perfAcquire # SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: perfAcquire # set SCHEDTUNE #: SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: mayPerfRelease # : SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

I/OPPerf: mayPerfRelease # reset SCHEDTUNE # : SPerfInfonet.oneplus.launcher 160 cpu_bouncing_01 0

The odd factor is, that when switching to a third-party browser corresponding to Vivaldi, the lock doesn’t seem, and the efficiency service by no means really does something when switching away from the launcher.

I used to be curious what cpu_bouncing is meant to be and certain sufficient, there’s a OnePlus module inside the firm’s kernel modifications which seems to be associated to customized CPU frequency governor insurance policies and configurations.

Past that, it additionally appears that OnePlus had made some scheduler modifications including what it calls TPD or thread placement determination mechanism that permits for customised CPU affinity masks, limiting thread and activity placements primarily based on a classification that goes past the same old generic system CPU affinity, and even Android default framework app cpusets. This seemingly to me seems to be to be what’s the mechanism that’s limiting workloads from being positioned on the Cortex-X1 cores – and even the A78 cores in some locations.

A blacklist as an alternative of a whitelist – Spoofing fashionable apps

Up to now, what we discovered is that it appears OnePlus’ OS is detecting the at present run app, and imposing totally different CPU DVFS and scheduler behaviours depending on what you’re working. Due to the sooner talked about noticed behaviour within the OS logs when switching to Chrome or different apps (I’m utilizing the official Twitter app right here for instance), a strategy to affirm the efficiency discrepancy is trying to easily spoof a customized app to establish itself as a kind of detected apps, which I did with our customized toolset app:

In our customized CPU frequency scaling monitoring check, which works on absolute timescales in microsecond granularities, we instantly see that there’s a big distinction between working the check as a nondescript workload, and working it spoofed because the Chrome or Twitter apps. Because the nameless check, the CPU behaviour typically according to what we’d see in Qualcomm machine, although fairly a bit extra aggressive because of OnePlus utilizing an 8ms load monitoring window. The CPU rapidly reaches the X1 cores at 2.84GHz as one would count on.

The Chrome and Twitter spoofed variants of the identical check behave very totally different and the scaling is way slower, reaching most efficiency states 3-4x slower. That’s typically nonetheless fantastic, however what’s actually regarding right here is once more that the workloads by no means really attain the X1 cores, or solely at very diminished frequencies far beloew the two.84GHz state.

SPECint2006 Estimated Scores - OnePlus 9 Pro

We’ve confirmed that the scaling is totally different, however what’s precisely the ensuing efficiency? Working the SPEC suite disguised as each Chrome and Twitter, we will see some huge variations within the ensuing efficiency, in comparison with working the workload as a non-detected utility.

Within the Chromed spoofed variant, it does seem that the workload is allowed to scale as much as the Cortex-X1 cores of the Snapdragon 888, however these are restricted at 2.26GHz as an alternative of two.84GHz. This 20% discount in frequency comes with a corresponding 20% discount in rating efficiency within the check.

Within the Twitter spoofed variant, the workload by no means reaches the X1 cores and as an alternative falls in at a gradual state of 2GHz on the Cortex-A78 cores. The efficiency right here is correspondingly fairly meagre, showcasing solely 64% that of what the Snapdragon 888 is meant to be obtain. This determine right here additionally falls according to the browser benchmark figures earlier after they do get scheduled on the A78 cores.

GeekBench 5 - OnePlus 9 Pro

We’ve additionally reached out to Primate Labs’ John Poole to duplicate the behaviour in a preferred benchmark corresponding to GeekBench. Spoofing GeekBench 5 as both Chrome or Twitter additionally ends in notably decrease benchmark figures which might be 20% beneath of the height efficiency of the Snapdragon 888. The X1 cores right here seem to go to 2380MHz which traces up with the limitation that’s present in OnePlus kernel sources, and the A78 cores additionally by no means transcend 2GHz within the multi-threaded assessments.

I’m not too certain why we’re seeing a single-threaded behaviour discrepancy between SPEC and GB5 right here, and why my check toolkit degraded far decrease in efficiency, but it surely seems to be associated to OnePlus’ extraordinarily convoluted thread placement insurance policies.

What apps are affected, and the actual elephant within the room

We primarily talked about Chrome and Twitter till now, however the large query here’s what different purposes are affected and detected by OnePlus’ efficiency limiting mechanism. Whereas I haven’t found the likes of a smoking gun by way of the precise blacklist used for utility detection – most probably buried deep into the OS’ frameworks, the following smartest thing can be to easily check out varied fashionable purposes, and to verify whether or not they’re being detected or not:





com.zhiliaoapp.musically (TikTok)






















This checklist is certainly not exhaustive, however merely represents the apps which I examined out earlier than deeming it ample to get the purpose throughout.

What’s evident right here, is that this isn’t a mechanism solely making use of to a handful of apps, however applies to just about every thing that has any degree of recognition within the Play Retailer, together with the entire of Google’s app suite, all of Microsoft’s Workplace apps, all fashionable social media apps, and any fashionable browser corresponding to Firefox, Samsung Web, or Microsoft Edge. Vivaldi was one of many browsers which wasn’t detected and subsequently one of many solely I managed to get any cheap efficiency out of.

The one apps which have been notably absent from detection have been a few of the fashionable video games on the market, whereas the likes of Sweet Crush have been efficiency restricted, Genshin Affect was not. In fact, on prime of video games, no benchmark app was detected. Different purposes which additionally weren’t detected have been much less fashionable options – whereas for instance Uber and Uber Eats are detected, Lyft and Grubhub weren’t.

Past all fashionable purposes – what additionally actually stands out is that every one of OnePlus’ personal first-party apps are included inside this checklist, even as far as the OS’ system settings, and that is the place issues change into problematic.

How can we quantify efficiency in such a state of affairs?

At this level, there’s evidently a big disconnect between the efficiency that’s exhibited in the most well-liked purposes on the market and the experiences that customers will probably be having inside the most well-liked purposes in the marketplace, and even OnePlus personal apps.

The one open query that is still is with reference to how precisely this complete mechanism impacts the subjective consumer expertise. In any case, the cellphone has been out for just a few months now and primarily no person has remarked something concerning the common efficiency of the cellphone. The explanation right here is that whereas efficiency peaks are evidently restricted, it stays a responsive cellphone, and there are mechanisms at play which battle in opposition to the restrictions, corresponding to OS framework boosters and contact boosters. For instance, whereas one can find internet content material just about restricted to the little Cortex-A55 cores more often than not, this doesn’t apply whenever you work together with the cellphone as short-term contact booster will migrate issues over to the center A78 cores.

I wouldn’t blame anyone in the event that they hadn’t essentially observed the efficiency discrepancy – I hadn’t instantly observed it myself past the gadgets’ extraordinarily gradual momentum scrolling velocity setting. Nevertheless, having it side-by-side to a Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely, or a Xiaomi Mi11 (Extremely) and paying consideration, I do very a lot discover that the OnePlus 9 Professional is much less responsive.

The issue with claims corresponding to “much less responsive” is that we can not quantify it correctly. Whereas there are reliable reviewers on the market who’re happy in writing about subjective efficiency evaluations – our pedigree right here at AnandTech is all about with the ability to justify these claims with goal measurements. On this case, OnePlus is leaving us with very restricted choices. We did attain out to UL to be able to attempt to get a spoofed PCMark variant, nonetheless we weren’t in a position to organise one thing within the quick time period for this piece.

Optimisation, or misrepresentation of what you’re being bought?

An additional query is why precisely OnePlus has created such a mechanism within the first place? What precisely is the aim the corporate software program groups have been making an attempt to attain? Usually, up to now, utility detection mechanisms have been included as makes an attempt to color gadgets in higher gentle with reference to their efficiency. On this case, that is really nonetheless the case – it’s simply that as an alternative of accelerating the benchmark efficiency, the corporate is lowering real-world utility efficiency to beneath that of the theoretical {hardware} capabilities.

The one smart rationale for such a call is to enhance a tool’s energy effectivity and battery life. The OnePlus 9 Professional, regardless that it advertises itself as utilizing the most recent LTPO OLED expertise as Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Extremely for instance, nonetheless suffers from notably worse energy traits and worse energy effectivity. In our web-browsing battery life check, even with this efficiency crippling mechanism in place, with each gadgets at 120Hz underneath the identical check circumstances, the OnePlus 9 Professional achieves 11.75 hours of runtime, versus the S21 Extremely’s 13.98 hours, the latter which runs on the SoC’s full efficiency potential. I’ll be working the identical check inside an undetected browser corresponding to Vivaldi to see what it finally ends up at – however I believe it’ll be notably worse for the OP9Pro.

Whereas utility behaviour and efficiency varies case by case, the one facet that holds true in virtually all eventualities is that the OnePlus 9 Professional doesn’t ship on the complete traits of the Snapdragon 888. In blacklisted/detected purposes, when and if the X1 cores are getting used in any respect, frequencies past 2.38GHz are unreachable save for temporary booster moments. The overwhelming majority of apps fall again to 2GHz Cortex-A78 cores. That is all a bit ironic as the explanation the bigger extra efficiency X-series cores have been created within the first place was to serve excessive transient response efficiency workloads, one thing they’re not allowed to do right here.

The one argument I’ve in in decoding this mechanism as a misrepresentation of machine efficiency moderately than an total energy effectivity optimisation is the actual fact that it doesn’t apply equally to all apps. Should you’re utilizing some extra obscure app on the market, you’ll be getting higher efficiency than in comparison with a extra fashionable app. Benchmark purposes are additionally in fact not representing the “meant” efficiency of the machine – and I declare right here for it to be the meant efficiency of the machine, as that is how OnePlus configures its personal OS and first-party apps. Out of the field, virtually all preinstalled apps behave on this efficiency restricted style.

The entire scenario is moderately baffling, and positively represents the primary case of a vendor implementing utility and benchmark detection on this method, with variations in efficiency differing to such a level. I’m not too certain what to make of it, bar merely exposing it and have customers come to their very own conclusion.

Editor’s observe: Right this moment’s article focuses solely on the OnePlus 9 Professional, examined on firmware Attributable to missing sibling or previous gadgets, we weren’t in a position to affirm whether or not this mechanism is current on different OnePlus telephones.

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