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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  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Somebody hasn`t lived in the nexus times then.
  • more-or-less - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    What has nexus got to do with themes?? your statements make no sense at all.
  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    I don't get it either, and I have a Nexus 5... Shouldn't a theme just be a replacement of a series of textures and color profiles that are basically static and loaded just the same regardless of how they're tweaked?

    I found the comment by Joshua kinda suspect too, maybe I'm missing something, BUT I don't see how themes really help with Samsung's UI foibles either.

    You might get rid of their color choices, at best, but it does nothing for all the substituted apps and extra UI elements you can't alter (never mind background processes and optimizations); those are the bigger issue with TouchWiz.
  • JoshHo - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    I'm not sure what exactly was done in the Android theming system but somehow some third party themes have noticeable effects on performance.
  • Artmi$$ - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    excuse me but where is the HTC 10 complete review ???
  • retrospooty - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    HTC 10 review? That isnt made by Apple, it wont come until 2017, if at all.
  • lopri - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    How AT can publish this low quality review after such a long wait is beyond me. It is almost as if the author, after many (justifiable) criticism directed to him, had decided to stick it up to readers in defiance.

    So very disappointed. Sort of editing and quality control by a seasoned reviewer is warranted, IMO.
  • R. Hunt - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Anandtech is slowly fading into irrelevance, this review being perfect proof of it: too late to matter, content not really warranting the long wait.
  • ntp - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    The Gear VR received no mention even though it's the best mobile VR and games like Anshar Wars 2 are insanely fun in multiplayer.

    The Vulkan API deserves at least some words, since it will increase performance significantly when proper implementations will come out.

    Waterproofing adds considerable value also, since it can make the difference between buying a working phone or a brick.

    And regarding cameras, how can you even compare Apple's F2.2 with F1.7?! They are in completely different leagues yet I see no mention of the advantages Samsung brought by having the fastest lens of any phone: lower exposure times (less handshake) or less noise. If you'd have used a DSLR camera you'd know that the F number is basically what you pay for in a lens, all other things being the same.

    This is not a biased review. It's just... unprofessional. Too bad it took AT so long for something so incomplete.
  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    There's a heck of a lot more to a DSLR lens than aperture, specially if you're not chasing shallow DoF (which a phone can't manage in most circumstances).

    f2.2 vs f1.7 is actually 3/4ths of a stop, which isn't nothing but it's not like night and day either... It means shooting at 1/40 vs 1/80 or less than one ISO stop higher.

    Nevermind that very often the f stop lies and it's not a true measure of light transmission, since it's merely and literally a ratio representing a physical iris measurement.

    Glass coatings and other factors can affect actual light transmission, which is why cine lenses have more accurate T stops... Then you gotta figure in sensor size and efficiency, etc etc.

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