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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  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    No, it's not just you. That's one of the reasons I like custom ROMs, as most of them just include the OS, the apps needed to make it work as a phone, and to connect to the Play Store. Everything else is up to you. It's quite telling that most of the custom ROMs are around 250 MB, while the TouchWiz version of Android is 2 GB!!

    Sony and Motorola were on a nice path where the default OS install was quite small, and everything else was pre-installed from the Play Store, meaning you could uninstall them normally if you didn't want the app, and you could update the apps via the Play Store without upgrading the whole OS. HTC kind of started down that road, but never went very far.
  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    I'd buy a GPe S7 in an instant, even at $700. As it is now, I'd rather have the HTC 10 but I'm waiting to see what the next Nexus models bring.
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    No phone is worth $600 to $700. Personally I've never paid more than $100 for a phone...yup still on the two year contract treadmill. But I got my note 5 for $50 because of it.
  • michael2k - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    If you're on the 2 year contract then you're absolutely paying $700 or so for your phone.

    I switched to the Next plan because after I pay off my phone my monthly bill drops by $30/m. Over the 24 months we are paying then is $720 spent on our phone.

    With the 2 year contract, the difference is that your monthly payment doesn't go down after 24 payments.
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Stop lifting the curtain, the man behind it does not want to be seen.
  • Geranium - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Why you guys are putting Android and iOS benchmark in same table. Aren't they are two different platforms and running on different runtime and APIs?
  • michael2k - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Does it bother you that Apple created their own OS, CPU, and GPU API that makes it difficult for others to compete?
  • The Garden Variety - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    BIAS ALERT. I have flagged michael2k's post for clear Apple bias. Can someone supply me with some anecdotes I can dispatch against his verisimilitudes?
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    I can add that he has been here a long, long time, and is a well known Apple defender. It's one thing to like a company or their products, but totally another do do nothing but defend them year in and year out. m2k is the latter of those 2.
  • michael2k - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Are you saying I'm wrong and the A9 SoC isn't one of the more powerful parts out there? Or are your biases showing?

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