Benchmarking has long been the best way to objectively explore the performance of a device. By using a standard test, it’s possible to throw mere opinion to the wayside and obtain reliable results that can be reproduced by others. PCs have been benchmarked by reviewers for years, and it’s not hard to find free benchmark software for Windows.
Smartphones, however, are different. As they are relatively new, virtually all the software is early in its lifecycle, and that includes benchmarks. Still, there are some free apps that can be used to have a look at the performance of your new Android.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Quadrant is the most widely recognized and used benchmark currently available for Android smartphones. Once you start to use Quadrant, it’s easy to see why.
This benchmark has everything you’d want. It doesn’t take very long to run, so you don’t have to spend time babying your phone just to judge its performance. The benchmark also consists of various different tests that focus on different parts of a phone’s hardware, such as the memory, the processor and the GPU. Finally, there’s a results browser, so you can see how your phone stacks up against others.
For basic use, the free Standard version is excellent. If you’re looking for more control you can pay $2.99 for the Advanced version, which provides a detailed list of sub-scores and lets you change some of the benchmark’s settings.
Although Quadrant does perform a number of different tests and compiles them into a file score, in my experience it’s a bit tilted towards CPU performance. If you’re interested in isolating the GPU, NenaMark is a great choice.
NenaMark puts your phone through its paces by asking it to render a pre-determined scene. The camera flies through 3D terrain along a predetermined path and records the number of frames rendered each second. This is then averaged to provide a final result.
There’s actually two NenaMarks – 1 and 2. The second is a more complex scene that’s designed to task some of the new high-end phones now available, as many of these will zip through the original NenaMark with ease.
As the name implies, Browsermark is meant to benchmark browsers. It’s not an app, but a webpage you can visit on your mobile device. However, since the benchmark is standardized and relies on hardware performance, you can use this to benchmark various Android phones if you use the same browser on each.
Browsermark only takes a few minutes to run, and it provides a good overall glimpse at how quickly a phone might perform during web browsing. Since there’s no app to download or install, it’s an easy benchmark to run on a phone you don’t own – for example, you could very easily run this on a store’s demo unit for comparison against the Android you already own.
This benchmark will also run on PCs, although you’ll end up with absurdly high scores. While my HTC Thunderbolt usually obtains a score of around 37,000 in Browsermark, my PC scores around 650,000! Peacekeeper is the browser benchmark of choice for desktops and laptops.
A Word About Battery Benchmarks
Currently, there’s not a free app that provides battery benchmarks for Android phones. To attempt this, you’ll need to be a little creative.
One easy way to benchmark battery life is to have your phone play a video that’s extremely long. YouTube, for example, has many videos on it that span for 10 hours or more. Since your phone can be set so that it will not sleep or turn off the display while playing video, you can use this as a means of benchmarking the battery.
If you want a less intense usage cycle, media players and looped MP3 files can do the trick. Of course, you may want to keep the display on but not hear the music, so be sure to turn the volume down or off.
You can also, of course, simply use your phone normally. This isn’t a standardized test so it’s not a great benchmark, but it will help you peg your personal real-world usage. Whatever method you use, be sure to download the Battery Graph app. This will keep track of your battery use so you can see just how long it lasted.
While there aren’t as many free tools available for benchmarking Android phones as there are for benchmarking PCs, the apps available are decent. If you’re interested in gaining a clear, objective perspective on your phone’s performance, these apps are the way to do it.