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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  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Apple has consistently made great CPU's (at thier times) for their iPhones at least since the iPhone 4 if not longer. The CPU is great and the integration makes it even faster. Now getting past that one single measure of a phone that really matters very little anymore (its like saying my Lamborghini si faster than your Ferrari). The OS is outdated, you still dont have alt key mappings in 2016, the battery life on many of them is lacking (of course not hand picked review samples). , the Bezels are huge, the screens are still low res except for the 5.5 inch models, You still cant have more than 4 icons in a row... Even on the immense 12+ inch iPad pro, you have only 4 icons. Still a default app issue, still limited in many ways. None of that is ever mentioned. Nor is the MASSIVE list of missing features that IOS lacks. In the past 3-4 years they have "borrowed" many features from Android, Web OS, and others, but still many are missing.
    - Uh oh, I said negative things about Apple, waiting for the rebuttal because I know its unacceptable to say anything negative about Apple. /shrugs
  • felipecn - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Sure, there are lots of reasons to dislike iOS, but it's still faster on some stuff.
    More icons on the home screen wouldn't change the benchmarks, would they?
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    No it wouldn't. I am just saying the fastest CPU in a benchmark isnt the only measure of a good smartphone. They are all fast. Even a snapdragon 800 from 3 years ago is plenty fast. Comparing the A9 , SD820 and Exynos 8890 is like comparing a Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati. They are all fast and all good - once tested, one would eventually be the fastest, but that doesn't make it the best car overall... More to point it doesn't mean a car enthusiast site should favor one over the other.
  • mrochester - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    What you're basically demanding is that everyone should think the same as you. You don't get to demand that.
  • fanofanand - Monday, July 11, 2016 - link

    Try reading it again, he demanded nothing, he simply pointed out that raw CPU speed does not solely define the user experience, just like top speed does not solely define the experience of driving a supercar.
  • Geranium - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    What do you mean??? I am telling that comparing two platform is unfair. And cross platform benchmark don't give accurate results.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Wow, and only 4 months in the making. This would have been great to read 3 1/2-4 months ago. Its almost fun to come back to Anandtech every so often just to see how late the reviews are. looking forward to the Note 7 review in January 2017 - marked my calendar already ;)
  • 10basetom - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Maybe the S7 got slow after four months of heavy usage ;).
  • Geranium - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Different browsers on same hardware gives different results, let alone different operating system.
  • Razzy76 - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Weird. I have a regular S7 - Chrome is quite fast - not painfully slow. Facebook is smooth as it can be. And other sites as well. Overall the phone is snappy to me.

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