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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  • phexac - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    "I heard iphone sales are an all time low. Are you suggesting Apple is still selling more iphones than Samsung is selling their Galaxy series?"

    Yes, by a lot.

    Not to mentioned, that "iphone sales have declined for the first time quarter over quarter" does not mean "iphone sales are an all time low," which would imply that iphone sales are zero since there were no iPhones pre-2007.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    "Yes, by a lot."
    - that is not correct. Samsung sells more phones than anyone. Samsung outsells Apple by a HUGE margin, not just a little. Apple sells the most of a single model, because they only have a few each year, but Samsung vastly outsells Apple in total, consistently every year without exception.
  • michael2k - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    The question was Galaxy vs iPhone, not Samsung vs iPhone. In terms of Galaxy S, their flagship phones are selling far fewer than flagship iPhones, per quarter. Not entirely sure about their entire Galaxy range, but Samsung doesn't sell many more phones than Apple in some quarters:
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    m2k, what are you even arguing here? Samsung outsells all other makers, consistently every quarter - always, without fail. They are huge. They are the Toyota of phones. FWIW, I dont think that is a good thing, but it is what it is and no amount of debate will change it.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    "Samsung sells more phones than anyone. Samsung outsells Apple by a HUGE margin"

    The majority of those phones are low end models, just like the rest of the Android ecosystem. If we're only comparing high end models like the GS6 and GS7 it is still far outsold by the iPhone. This is reflected in higher app revenue, higher web traffic, higher ad revenue, and so on coming from iOS as it always has.

    You are being intellectually dishonest as usual by omitting important information.
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Not really true that they are "at an all time low". See:

    Growth rate is at an all time low but that's true of smartphones in general. Its the same reason that PC sales leveled off a couple of years ago. PC's became fast enough/good enough to the point where there was just no reason to replace the one I already have. Example: I've got an i7 2600K system I built when that CPU was new in 2011 and its still overkill for most of what I do. Likewise, when I got my Galaxy Note 5 last November, I finally had a phone that was fast enough for anything and everything I do. Unless what I do with a phone changes radically (which I doubt will happen any time soon) I'll have no reason to replace it until the hardware dies.

    As far as Apple selling more phones than Samsung, that has really never been true unless you only consider the US market. Globally, Samsung has always sold more. Even in the US, Android overall has greater market share than iOS. Apple is the largest single company because its got a lock on iOS where Android is spread out among many companies.
  • HardwareDufus - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Huge Apple Bias. Evident by the fact there is not a single review of the Lumia 1520, the 'flagship' Windows phone for the better part of two years.

    However, I understand that and don't fault them for it. I just read each article predisposed to the idea that the writers are predisposed to favor the apple version of whatever they are reviewing. So be it.

    Anandtech objectivity slid about 2 years before Anand himself actually left. They're just mirroring the rest of the tech blogosphere.... writers/reviewers/editors have mouths to feed. Everybody is beholding to whoever is writing the check and each piece of content will reflect that. Our modern enlightened world. Same greed. Same game.
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Anand (who I still admire) showed the way, shill long enough and you will land a cushy job in Cupertino.
  • dsumanik - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Actually no.

    This site, like many other review sites, receives money directly, or indirectly for writing positive apple coverage, especially in the the articles of their fiercest competitors.

    Then marketing shills like you come on here and quote sales figures in the comment sections, again paid for directly, or indirectly by apple.

    Oh and instead of just making statements to justify your argument...heres proof:

    IOS is just a drop in the smartphone bucket, theres no internet BIAS, it's the author 100%.
  • michael2k - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    I wish Apple paid me for my posts.

    What you're seeing, as retrospooty correctly surmised, is that Anandtech is in fact biased, but not towards Apple or away from Samsung, but towards the readers that pay their bills via ad impressions and click through. What he wishes is that the site cater more towards him, even if he is a smaller part of the readership.

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