System Performance Revisited

Now that we’ve covered battery life we can revisit another topic where our testing has changed dramatically for 2016, which is our system performance benchmarks. As previously mentioned this year a major goal of ours was to focus on benchmarks with metrics that better indicate user experience rather than being subject to additional layers of indirection in addition to updating our previously used benchmarks. Probably one of the hardest problems to tackle from a testing perspective is capturing what it means to have a smooth and fast phone, and with the right benchmarks you can actually start to test for these things in a meaningful way instead of just relying on a reviewer’s word. In addition to new benchmarks, we’ve attempted to update existing types of benchmarks with tests that are more realistic and more useful rather than simple microbenchmarks that can be easily optimized against without any meaningful user experience improvements. As the Galaxy S7 edge is identical in performance to the Galaxy S7, scores for the Galaxy S7 edge are excluded for clarity.

JetStream 1.1

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2015 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

In browser/JavaScript performance the Galaxy S7 in its Snapdragon 820 variants performs pretty much as you'd expect with fairly respectable performance about on par with the iPhone 6 at least part of the time, which frankly still isn't enough but a lot of this is more due to Google's lack of optimization in Chrome than anything else. The Exynos 8890 version comes a lot closer but it still isn't great. Subjectively browsing performance on the Galaxy S7 with the Snapdragon 820 is still painful with Chrome, and I have to install either a variant of Snapdragon Browser or Samsung's stock browser in order to get remotely acceptable performance. Even then, performance isn't great when compared to Apple's A9-equipped devices. The lack of single thread performance relative to other devices on the market in conjunction with poor software optimization on the part of Google is really what continues to hold OEMs back here rather than anything that Samsung Mobile is capable of resolving.

PCMark - Work Performance Overall

PCMark - Web Browsing

PCMark - Video Playback

PCMark - Writing

PCMark - Photo Editing

PCMark shows that the Galaxy S7 is generally well-optimized, with good performance in native Android APIs, although devices like the OnePlus 3 pull ahead in general, likely due to differences in DVFS, lower display resolution, more RAM, and similar changes as the hardware is otherwise quite similar. In general though unless you get something with a Kirin 95x in it you aren't going to get performance much better than what you find in the Galaxy S7, although the software optimization in cases like the writing test could be better for the Snapdragon 820 version of the phone.

DiscoMark - Android startActivity() Cold Runtimes

DiscoMark - Android startActivity() Hot Runtimes

As hinted by the PCMark results, the Galaxy S7 with the Snapdragon 820 is really nothing to write home about when it comes to actual software optimizations, while the Exynos 8890 version is significantly faster in comparison. The fastest devices by far here are still the Kirin 950-equipped phones, but even from cold start launches the HTC 10 is comparable, and pulls ahead slightly when the applications are pre-loaded into memory. The OnePlus 3 and Xiaomi Mi5 are closer to what the S820 GS7 should be achieving, which is really more a testament to just how strangely slow the Galaxy S7 with Snapdragon 820 is.

Overall though, the Galaxy S7 in both iterations are acceptably fast for general purpose tasks. However, with that said the Snapdragon 820 variant is noticeably slower, and the software stack seems to be less optimized for whatever reason even after multiple post-launch OTAs and all the latest app updates. Given that these devices have locked bootloaders it's difficult to really go deep and try to figure out exactly what's causing these issues, but it's likely that Samsung Mobile has the engineering staff to do this and resolve these issues as a 600 USD phone really shouldn't be performing worse than a 400 USD phone. On the bright side, the Exynos 8890 variants perform quite well here, with performance comparable to top devices and often beating out Snapdragon 820 devices, although usually not by a huge margin.

Introduction and Battery Life Revisited System Performance Cont'd
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  • virtuastro - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Exactly. My friend bought the S7 for the camera. We tested together between the S6 16mp F/1.9 (my phone) and S7 F/1.7 12mp 1.4 µm. Autofocus is indeed faster on S7 than the S6. Still Image quality and Low-Light still better on S6 for the most part. The LG G4 and G5 both still use 16mp and great in low-light as well. I am not going to upgrade GS7 but waiting for next year. Hopefully Samsung need to back at 16mp F/1.7 to F/1.9 might add more faster autofocus. P.S. English is not my first language.
  • lilmoe - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Provided sensor technologies are similar, the size of individual photosites don't matter really, what ultimately matters is the size of the sensor (the total amount of light captured) and the speed of the lens.

    Lower resolution images are better for faster and more fine-tuned post processing.
  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Buying any high end phone largely on the basis of it's camera, particularly if you already have a decent 1-2 yr old flagship phone, is a huge waste of money IMO. The same kind of money gets you so much more in a dedicated camera, whether it's a P&S, DSLR, or compact mirrorless ILC.

    Smartphones killed low end small sensor P&S cameras, that market was essentially gutted (and with good reason as it was quite stagnant), but they're still far far behind anything else.
  • beginner99 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    "There are clear points of differentiation between the Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3 or Mi5 in terms of features, but I don’t think it’s enough to be worth the $300"

    True but it's war from $300 if you look at real prices at which you can buy the phones especially international version. I was very interested in the Mi5 but now that it is finally available here much less so. The 64 GB variant is about $30 cheaper than the 32 gb S7 (international). The later however is water-proof, has an sd-slot and more importantly also more LTE bands, better screen and camera plus it's less risk in general and higher resale value because Samsung. (The 32 gb mi5 has a slower SOC). Even though it kind of hurts me to go Samsung which everyone else has here that doesn't have an iPhone, it's the phone that suits me best. What also concerns me, is that benches you show here don't show the whole truth. Look at below comparisons. The S7 is just way faster in real-life:
  • tansnhands66 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    I never had the 6 but there were a lot of little things I miss from the 5 and the Note Edge. Texting lost a lot like no delayed sending, no "send now" on scheduled texts, no editing scheduled texts,and no repeat timed notification reminder . And for the calendar, no timed snooze setting (10,15, etc. minutes) and no "go to date" option. And don't get me started on the ONLY tone for the timer. It sounds like "Bedonkadonk, Bedonkadonk". Very annoying.
  • Meteor2 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    For some reason I decided to read the comments before the article and... are we reading the same review? Joshua, this is a well-balanced, accurate and fair review. I don't like iOS but bottom line is top-drawer Android is well behind Apple. I love my Nexus 5X for its display, UI, and value. Flagship Android phones are poor value right now.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Sunday, July 10, 2016 - link

    Anandtech always has been and remains one of the most unbiased, objective sites out there.

    Some people see that a GS7 gets BTFO by even the iPhone SE and their brains break. It just doesn't compute that "Crapple" continues to deliver with the best hardware so they have temper tantrums and call AT biased shills.

    Its so childish. If these people would use empirical data instead of their personal emotional bias they might learn something.
  • darkich - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    "when themes can have noticeable effects on performance and battery life".. WHAT KIND OF BS IS THIS, AT!?!?
  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Surprised by this?
    Try using your head then, it helps.
  • darkich - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Oh really..
    Themes affect the performance and battery life in such minor extent that pointing it out on a supposedly the most professional tech site is utterly ridiculous.
    I used themes on my phone since Symbian OS! And even then the effect on battery endurance and performance has been unnoticeable.

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