Test Your Phone’s Mettle With Benchmark & Tuning

Christian Gllner’s Benchmark & Tuning (Full) app is available for US$2.99 in the Google Play store. Here’s a novel way to find out if you do indeed need a new phone. It’s a benchmarking app that will test components and provide a comparison with crowdsourced benchmarks from other common devices out there.

If your 2-year-old, or so, phone or tablet seems a bit sluggish compared with the speed at which your colleagues and friends whizz through their smartphone-related tasks, the answer is that it probably is.

Benchmark & Tuning app

As we know, devices are frankly dinosaurs at a year old, and this app will conveniently prove it so that you can comfortably go to the store and buy a new device — guilt free and with no spousal recriminations. After all, you have documented evidence. How’s that for $2.99?

Benchmark & Tuning is actually a geek’s dream because it tests the phone’s CPU along with memory and input/output capabilities — your device’s power, in other words.

If you ever dreamed of being as a space rocket engineer, surrounded by dials and meters in the lab, calculating optimum thrusts and so on, this will do for you the same thing, but it’s for us, the smartphone wielding proletariat.

The Features

Benchmark & Tuning (Full) works by crowdsourcing benchmark comparisons. This means comparison data comes from fellow users, rather than from possibly inflated benchmarking stats from phone marketing departments.

There’s been a flurry of accusations aimed at phone makers in the media recently. Suggestions are that their numbers are inflated. The use of this app for comparisons means that you’re not using that dubious, and conceivably rigged, data.

The second key feature is that rooted users can set a governor too. Rooting is a process that Android enthusiasts use to gain control over the operating system. Ordinarily, you’d need two apps to do all this. One app for benchmarking, and one for tuning.

Test Results

I had a blast playing with the app and was delighted to find that all of the devices I tested performed poorly. This means that I’m gathering ammunition for eventual upgrades cross-gadgets.

Unfortunately, because I, along with vast numbers of other U.S. consumers, have moved over to a prepaid smartphone plan — I’m using Sprint MVNO Ting in the city and Verizon Prepay in rural areas — I don’t have the benefit of subsidized handsets anymore.

It’s no longer a case of waiting for a two-year upgrade and automatically getting the latest, fastest phone. It’s now a two-to-three year, or maybe longer full-cost proposition, so it involves some thought and research. This app fits the arsenal nicely.

I tested three of my devices. One device, a Motorola Photon 4G, came in 19th out of 25 overall; a Toshiba tablet came in 15th; and a cheap Galaxy Y miniphone came in at a super-bad 23rd. The Galaxy Y was purchased to function as a wireless hotspot only, so I expected lame results. However, I was quite surprised about the poor performance of my other devices.

If you’re interested, as of the day I tested, the HTC One S came in first overall, Samsung’s Galaxy SIII second and the Asus Transformer Prime TF201 third.

A Must-Have

This being a geek’s plaything, you’ll see when you run tests that some stock devices have been reported with better this-than-that — processor power than memory, for example.

Interestingly, the top seven — which included the HTC One X, 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 and two 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tabs — all had roughly the same I/O results.

All the same performance in the real world?

Peculiarly, there wasn’t a Samsung Galaxy S IV result on the list. The S IV is Samsung’s latest and greatest. I don’t know why it was omitted, but it skewed the results somewhat.

Overall, though, this app is a must-have if you’re contemplating a new-phone investment and don’t trust the manufacturer’s numbers.

Want to Suggest an Android App for Review?

Is there an Android app you’d like to suggest for review? Something you think other Android users would love to know about? Something you find intriguing but aren’t sure it’s worth your time or money?

Please send your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Android app review.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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Linux Mint 21 Release Brings Reviewer a Welcome Reunion

Is your favorite Linux desktop Cinnamon, MATE, or Xfce? Or you are hankering for a change to something different and potentially better?

Then one of your best options is the upgrade to Linux Mint 21 “Vanessa” released on July 30. It comes in a choice of Ubuntu- or Debian-base flavors.

Making that recommendation is a significant step for me. Once my daily Linux driver, I had a major falling out several years ago with this distribution, when an upgrade delivered some nagging issues that led to unpleasant responses — and no solutions — from the Linux Mint tech support community.

I then jumped to a near-clone of Linux Mint, Feren OS, and was a happy user until that distro’s developers made a radical design change and moved away from the traditional Cinnamon desktop.

So I jumped distros again. I had reviewed a then-new Cinnamon remix distro released by an independent Linux developer. My go-to Linux distro became Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, later renamed CinnaBuntu. I’ve been very happy with its performance and usability options ever since.

The ability to pick and choose operating systems and configuration options is one of the shiny pearls you can polish your way with Linux. Being able to quickly install replacement OSes with a similar look and feel is not possible with Windows or macOS.

My Linux reviewing wanderlust got the best of me with the release of Linux Mint 21, however. I was curious about what I might be missing.

I discovered quite a few features that my current Cinnamon edition does not offer. Those new features are in the MATE and Xfce editions as well. The LM 21 editions include the most recent versions of the three supported desktop environments: Cinnamon 5.4, Xfce 4.16, and MATE 1.26.

Read on to see what is pulling me back to Linux Mint. Since Cinnamon is my favorite desktop, I focused on that edition for this review.

Hello, Old Friend

The Vanessa release rekindled my appreciation for how tightly knit Linux Mint is as a computing platform. From the initial loading of the live session DVD to the flawless installation, I was up and running in under 30 minutes.

Welcome screens are becoming a standard setup routine for Linux installations. They all could take a lesson for how to do it right using Linux Mint as an example. Even for seasoned Linux users, Linux Mint’s approach is fast and convenient in doing all the first-run tasks.

The panel’s left column panel provides a great index for accessing general information, documentation, and first steps completion. This is especially useful for new users unfamiliar with Linux in general — and LM in particular.

The main window area walks you through each phase of updating system components and basic desktop configuration. Each segment briefly explains what’s covered. A green-themed Launch button sets each part of the process in motion.

The steps include desktop color selections, selecting traditional or modern panel layout, updating drivers and system components, setting up system settings, and the software manager. The process even includes activating the built-in firewall, which is an item many users overlook.

Linux Mint 21 Welcome Screen

The Linux Mint 21 Welcome screen guides you through all the setup steps after installation, and is also a handy reminder of what needs updating periodically.

Desktop Difference

The design and usability features are one of the reasons that I favor the Cinnamon desktop. It has one of the most detailed and organized configuration panels of any Linux distribution.

The System Settings panel puts all the configuration options in one place. But unlike other desktop layouts with far fewer options, Linux Mint organizes all the systems controls into four general categories. Altogether, 40 icons keep related subcategories hidden from view until you click on an icon to open it.

The only other desktop that has close to this amount of configuration options is KDE Plasma. But that design is a series of separate settings panels that scatter controls and user options in too many menu places.

While the configuration options available in the MATE and Xfce editions are less extensive, they still provide the ability to create the look and feel that suits your computing needs.

Linux Mint does a better job than other desktops with how it handles screen design and usability aspects. It has a wide range of quick access tools called desklets that live on the desktop screen. Its use of applets that reside on the bottom panel add flexibility.

LM also offers a collection of extensions that provide even more usability options (similar to what is available in the KDE Plasma desktop). That combination of features is a solid reason for trying this distro.

Linux Mint 21 The desktop configuration options

The desktop configuration options available in the MATE and Xfce editions are less extensive than these in Cinnamon. They still provide the ability to create the look and feel that suits your computing needs.

Under the Hood

Linux Mint 21 is based on Ubuntu 22.04 and provides a full WIMP display, as in windows, icons, menus, pointer. It is a long-term support (LTS) release supported until 2027.

Vanessa, which continues LM’s fancy for naming all releases with female names ending in the letter “a” is loaded with notable improvements in performance, compatibility, and stability. It ships with the Linux kernel 5.15 LTS.

Other changes include a new NTFS file system driver which makes interacting with Windows partitions easier, improvements in the default EXT4 file system, plus better hardware support, security patches, and bug fixes.

A key Bluetooth change to the LM Blueman circuitry replaces the Blueberry app, which depended on GNOME-desktop plumbing. Like Blueberry, Blueman is desktop-agnostic and integrates well in all environments. It relies on the standard BlueZ stack and works universally including from the command line.

The Blueman manager and tray icon contain features not previously available in Blueberry. It handles more information to monitor connections or troubleshoot Bluetooth issues and brings better connectivity to headsets and audio profiles.

Linux Mint 21 Cinnamon desktop

The Linux Mint 21 classic Cinnamon desktop design sports a favorites column, application category list, and changing sublist of installed titles.

Pain Point Solutions

Welcome Thumbnails to Vanessa. Its lack in earlier releases was a usability issue. To address it, a new XApp (Linux Mint exclusive application) project called xapp-thumbnailers was developed for Linux Mint 21.

Process Monitor is a pain point solution for me. It places a special icon in the system tray when automated tasks are running in background. Such tasks can slow down system performance until completed. This new monitor is a silent alert that explains the computer’s slowdown.

Timeshift was an independent project for backing up and restoring OSes. The creator abandoned the application. LM took over the maintenance of Timeshift prior to the release of LM 21. Timeshift is now an XApp.

One immediate benefit is a change in how the rsync mode works. It now calculates the required space for the next OS snapshot storage. It skips proceeding if performing that snapshot leads to less than 1 GB of free space on the disk.

Another pain point remedy is how LM 21 now handles package removal. It prevents removal from the main menu (right-click, uninstall) if an evaluation detects other programs would be impacted. That triggers an error message and stops the operation.

If no harm to the system’s key components is detected, uninstalling an application from the main menu also removes dependencies of that application that were automatically installed and are no longer needed.

Linux Mint 21 Scale and Expo window views

Scale and Expo window views are triggered in Cinnamon by hot corners and applets on the bottom panel.

Bottom Line

Computer hardware requirements for Linux Mint 21 have not changed. You need a fairly-modern computer because LM is not as lightweight on system resources as it used to be. That means a box with a 64-bit processor, at least 2 GB RAM, and 15 GB free space.

The Linux Mint website has a comprehensive installation guide should you need assistance installing Linux Mint 21. But that should be unlikely. The installation engine is well polished. Most of my computers run multiple partitions, which typically force manual interventions.

LM 21 installer did not stumble. It simply asked where to put the OS. The installer handled all the partitioning and adjustments in the background.

Suggest a Review

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Email your ideas to me and I’ll consider them for a future column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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