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 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Close... I wish Anandtech would get back to the "tech" part. It used to be about tech and now as you even agree, its about clicks and paying the bills.
  • BurntMyBacon - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    @dsumanik: "heres proof:

    I kinda see what you're getting at here, but these numbers are from October of last year. Though, I couldn't help but note that according to these numbers, Windows is actually persisting in most markets. The numbers aren't great, but enough to be a significant presence. Even the U.S. is 3.5%. I thought we were seeing articles around this time period about how the Windows market share was sub-1%, insignificant, and dead to rights. Question is, are we sure these numbers are accurate? Or is it that tech review websites are preaching Windows doom and gloom to generate clicks? I suppose the second option would fit the mold that M2K is suggesting.
  • Byte - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Apple rules the mobile roost right now. Just look at the sales, app ecosystem, users. Why aren't you crying that Apple has all of that? Don't even get started at tablets, there isn't even any contest. One day though, maybe soon, it will come crashing down, just like what happened to Blackberry, what will you cry about then?
  • Geranium - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Apple's CPU performs better running Apple optimized benchmark.
  • jlabelle2 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    - There is something wrong with you if you think of people as with you and against you -
    I think it is pretty clear that the editorial line has changed since departure of Anand ( Apple "cough").
    For instance, when speaking of the camera, there is a mention that the resolution of the 12Mp S7 is not better than the 12Mp iPhone 6S (strange?) but when speaking of low light, as the iPhone is not anymore a contender (as the images show), then we mode the reference to LG or HTC. And this is constant all around Apple products review just to make the Apple shine when they should and when they are not, just move the discussion elsewhere.

    I mean, qualifying the S7 design of average? Really?

    - Look at the CPU performance and you see that the 820 and Exynos both struggle to hit the top of the charts. -
    This is the ONLY area where iPhone are constantly shining. The iPhone 6 CPU was the best thing after slice bread here on this site: "the A8 SoC performs admirably ... It remains to be seen if other SoC manufacturers will catch up in their CPU architecture at one point or another, but for now Apple seems to be quite far in the lead in CPU performance".
    But now that the S7 is having the same performance, you have: "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 ..." and "I have to install either a variant of Snapdragon Browser or Samsung's stock browser in order to get remotely acceptable performance".
    So the performance is not enough and not remotely acceptable when it is not an iPhone?

    And then come the GPU where it is very competitive and of course... the iPhone is nowhere to be seen.

    Honestly, those kind of reviews are a reference for journalist school as the bias is becoming quite too much.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    "There is something wrong with you"

    retrospooty and his brand obsessiveness in a nutshell
  • pablo906 - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Have you thought that maybe it's because Apple is doing amazing things with their hardware currently. They have the highest performing underlying storage of any phone by a wide margin, they have the fastest mobile SoC's out right now, and they have a very tidy app ecosystem with a very cohesive GUI that receives focused improvements in usability and performance. The other phone makers are measured in many categories against the bar that Apple sets. That's just a fact at this point. It's also impossible to discuss smart phones today without talking about iPhone vs. Android as that is literally the competition in the space today. iPhone vs Android.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    The iPhone 5s came out almost 3 years ago. I think we can move on.
  • The Garden Variety - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Nope, some people apparently cannot. For retrospooty and a huge number of other regular visitors to Anandtech, ferreting out their bias boogeymen are an all-consuming passion. They honestly believe it's a "justice" issue—right and wrong, good and bad. It's instills the same feeling in them that religion or politics does in others.

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs at work.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    No, its not justice, its like i said in another comment below "That is OK, it's not like there aren't other Apple-centric sites out there and it is perfectly within the sites rights to run things the way they want to... But if you are looking for unbiased reviews on any products that compete with Apple, this site is no longer one of them, so browse accordingly." - It's just sad that this once well respected tech site is no longer trustworthy. I kid you not, Anandtech was my homepage, my first stop every time I launched my browser from 1998 to 2014. That is how often I was here. Now it is just another page in my feedly feed. Still pop in now and then to see whats up, and still sad to see the site has lost it's heart.

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