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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  • 10basetom - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    I would say the Exynos model is a little better than the SD820, but not significantly so.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    No. It's a lot better. Almost generational. I went on a weekend trip with a friend who has a SD variant, the differences were too significant to the point he bought the Exynos variant....

    Even the camera processing is better. The Samsung sensor is even better than Sony's as well.
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    As I read the article, I was sort of wondering at Samsung's rational for having two different versions. The Exynos seems to win a lot of the benchmarks and overall seems like the better SOC. I know I've been very happy with the 7420 in my Note 5.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    They may not be able to produce enough of them, so they dual source.
  • adramaleck - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    From my understanding the radio is part of the SOC on both chips. The US (Verizon and Sprint) is the only major market where CDMA is still in use. So in the rest of the world Samsung can sell one model which supports GSM frequencies and their own SOC. However, since Verizon (and I assume Sprint) require CDMA support in order for them to allow the phone on their network, Samsung probably find it more cost effective to use the Qualicom chip instead of adding support to the Exynos or producing their own.
  • lilmoe - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    What I was hoping for is a comprehensive deep dive of the differences in hardware of the GS7 series.

    The "true" GS7 models are equipped with Exynos SoCs and all-made-by Samsung parts (including camera sensor). The rest are mix and match units that are comparable to the rest of the "generic" premium flock of devices (including the G5 and HTC 10), in which share common components and only differ in design.

    I seriously wouldn't have minded a review that craps all over Samsung for this deliberate variety in handset hardware, but instead we get a rather lazy attempt of a review where the author is trying really hard to be underwhelmed. Totally not worth the wait...
  • SunnyNW - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    This^. I visit the site quite often but have to agree "Totally not worth the wait..." I was under the impression that the delay might be to give us a detailed deep-dive into the different SOC architectures, you know the Kryo core and the new custom M1 from Samsung. Instead I am having a hard time understanding why it took so long to deliver this review, considering it as a whole...
  • lolipopman - Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - link

    Are you just going to disregard the GPU benchmarks? Or the fact that the throttling on Exynos is far more horrendous?

    Amazingly delusional.
  • zeeBomb - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    Holy crap. About time...
  • rohanneo - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    OH MY GOD!! I can't believe it. Been waiting for this article since months!!
    Really unprofessional of you guys to take TWO months for TWO parts of ONE REVIEW!! Be better next time.

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