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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  • LuoSKraD - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    So you agree because they are bad mouthing a company and a phone you don't like? They didn't cover macro shots or anything at all it was preference. It just seemed like another iPhone biased review, undersaturation poor depth of field, bad low light quality. These are just a few examples where Iphones fail at, this was not a thorough review at all it was just focused on being biased towards making a phone look worse than it actually is. There are much better wrote and explained camera reviews out there for instance.
  • victorson - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Don't know about AnandTech, but sure seems like you have a certain bias.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    I have been coming to Anandtech since 1998, and have always enjoyed it's great reviews... But for the past 3-4 years, they have become very Apple-centric. The comment from LuoSKraD above is pretty correct. It all made sense when Anand himself left the site to go work for Apple, but the clear bias exists, and this review shows it. That is OK, it's not like there aren't other Apple-centric sites out there and it is perfectly withing the sites rights to run thigns 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.
  • The Garden Variety - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Action, man! You're uncovering a great truth here, but we need action! Our opinion matters more than others—how do we make sure our anecdotes and opinions are enforced in all future reviews? We must keep visiting here, so how do we make sure this community only reflects our opinions? I think this is essential and I need your guidance here.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    I dont know if we can. The site was sold to "Purch" in 2014. The same parten company that owns Toms hardware. LOL. suffice to say they arent interested in the tech, but the clicks.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    damn typeslexia... Same "parent" company.
  • Meteor2 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    You're being trolled :)
  • victorson - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    AT is one of very few websites that tests phones and bases its opinion on rigorous testing than most reviewers. You are entitled to your opinion about bias (as always, without any factual backing), but it's extremely irritating how all of the popular blogs praised the Galaxy S7's camera without mentioning any of its obvious flaws. That's what I call bias: ignoring the objective reality, so that an opinion of the 'best camera ever' can be manufactured and repeated to infinity. The truth, however, is different: the Galaxy S7 has a very fast camera with amazing auto-focus, but the quality of its images suffers as a result.
  • lilmoe - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    The dual pixel focusing system alone makes the GS7's camera leaps and bounds better than the competition. If a reviewer ever so slightly undermines this aspect about the GS7's camera (or any camera in that regard), or believes it's just "OK" needs to work more on their photography skills and overall knowledge.

    There are DSLR and mirrorless manufacturers out there that release sequels to their "pro" line cameras with the only significant upgrade being the focusing system, and pro photographers actually upgrade to that new product.

    The focusing system, in short, either makes you take the image, or end up with a blurry shot where no post processing can ever help.

    If you're THAT worried about post processing, then you need to be shooting RAW. I'm perfectly happy with the post processing on my GS7, and when I KNOW I need all the detail I can get (portraits, landscape, sports) then I simply launch pro mode.
  • jospoortvliet - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Well, I am fascinated by how different people rate the extreme sharpening Samsung employs. I find it horribly ugly and I keep hoping for either a fix or a setting to disable it on my S7. the HTC one I owned before (m7) made it configurable... please Sammy, copy that.

    I was surprised how undersaturated that night pic was, mine look nice and I agree the fast focus is super important.

    But I do appreciate the test of the radio, that is interesting.

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