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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  • realbabilu - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    I wish AT can check the touchscreen latency between these mobile. Sometimes you got powerful chip but still some lags noticeable.
    I want to see where the real apps excluding the benchmark app that can utilize all Cores and where the cpu can use smart management where the app need use all power and which not. Simple that sometimes a 2D games like
    Air attack 2 could raise temperature very high. Smart management cpu may decrease the power that doesn't needed for those apps.

    Good review. And nice to review high end to cheap Chinese phones, so we can now where it pays..
  • Magicpork - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    So it took them 4 months to write up an Apple Biased review... no wonder the reputation of anandtech has fallen so much recently..
  • KoolAidMan1 - Sunday, July 10, 2016 - link

    This comment section taught me that reality is biased.

    Instead of being mad at Anandtech that a GS7 got BTFO by an iPhone SE, maybe you should demand more from Google and OEMs to improve their hardware and operating system.
  • Ihabo - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Galaxy S7 Edge Wins In:

    +IPS68 Water & Dust Resistant
    +Quad HD Super Amoled Screen ( brighter under sun light ) and immersive
    +Dual Pixel New Technology Camera - Very Fast in Auto Focus & Low Light
    +3,600mAh Battery last one day easily of heavy usage
    +Exynos8890 Better than SnapDragon 820 in Battery Performance.
    +Wireless Charging
    +No Heat while fast charging

    Phone of the Year no Doubt
  • - Monday, July 11, 2016 - link

    now only if they'd bring removable battery back... then i'd be all over it.

    still keeping my s5 for the time being.
  • AJP - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Regarding the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Review, when comparing benchmarks please take into account the APPLE Iphone screen resolutions are much lower. That will bias the results in their favour and should be considered before making any comments.
  • blackcrayon - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Did you even read the review? For as long as I can remember, they've been showing both onscreen and offscreen GPU benchmarks for this very reason. And they specifically mention it in the review that the iPhone GPU keeps up on-screen because of the lower resolution.
    As for the CPU benchmarks, it comes down to Apple's really high single core performance and optimized browser engine. One advantage of designing both the hardware and all of the software in tandem.
  • JoeDuarte - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Does anyone know what the author means by Google's optimizations - or lack thereof - for Chrome on Android? What optimizations? Does Google normally do something special? I don't understand what he's referring to.

    Also, what does he mean by Samsung's lack of optimization of the UI? Is there a standard set of optimizations that OEMs do on Android phones? Is he talking about low level C code, or ARM assembly or something?
  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    In the case of the browser, there's optimizations other browsers can and have done for specific SoC, it used to be a lot more common before Chrome for Android being the stock browser tho it's still prevalent... I'm guessing for whatever reason Google has never implemented such hardware specific optimizations.

    In the case of the UI, there's a lot of Samsung elements added atop the base OS that do drag performance down, other OEM have scaled back their OS customizations or fine tuned then over time (namely Moto and HTC to an extent)... Samsung's approach is still pretty heavy handed.
  • UltraWide - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    "Samsung is better than anybody else at learning from its competitors. "A market reader is sort of the classic fast follower," explains Barry Jaruzelski, senior partner at Booz&Co and the co-author of the Global Innovation 1000. "It doesn't mean they ignore their customers, but they're very attuned to what competitors are doing and what other people are bringing to market first and observing what seems to be gaining traction, then very rapidly coming up with their own version of that innovation."

    That's always been Samsung's strength, it will take time to change the whole corporation's mantra.

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