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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  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Eh... It's not like Samsung's focusing makes it a particularly great camera for shooting hardcore action (no smartphone within the current climate is gonna manage that)...

    So I'd actually argue that AF doesn't really take such top billing, in fact depending on what you're shooting it can be somewhat irrelevant. On a technical level it's super interesting tho.

    The fact that they've got a dual pixel arrangement working at such a high level almost makes it puzzling that they haven't implemented it on a larger sensor and never tried carrying it over to their now dead camera division.
  • lilmoe - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Yea, fanboys would have an argument like yours too... Tim Cook knows exactly how important the autofocus system is.
  • Impulses - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Not sure what brand I'm supposed to be a fan boy of, heh... I've never bought neither a Samsung nor an Apple phone, and probably never will unless Samsung drastically changes their software strategy or GPe comes back.

    My point was coming from a snobbish "I wouldn't use a phone for THAT" (vs a dedicated camera) pov. ;)
  • lilmoe - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Snob... Fanboy... All the same.

    Case in point, you don't need to be shooting fast action to realize the benefits of great autofocus. If you're taking pictures of your kids or buddies on a trip, then it means either getting the shot or not. If it's blurry, then all that snobby pixel peeping won't help you much.
  • FourEyedGeek - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    Judgemental dickwad.
  • johnnohj - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Exactly, how much better was the performance on the browser benchmarks with the Snapdragon browser or the Samsung stock browser? Why didn't you include them?
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Snapdragon Browsers are great; I use one on my OPO and it's a huge boost in scrolling, page loading, and overall speed. Using Chrome vs Tugabrowser on my OPO is like using Firefox vs Chrome on my PC. It's not even close.

    But, they don't ship with the device. It's a 3rd-party app you have to download onto your phone.


    Samsung Browser...yeah, no idea why they didn't include that. That should've been in there. They test Safari on iPhones, why not test SB on Samsung phones?
  • kurahk7 - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Samsung sent everyone Verizon versions which until a couple months ago didn't support the Samsung browser. But since this review was so late, they should have included it and talked about the functionality of it.
  • JoshHo - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    I tried shortly after the Samsung stock browser was made available and a number of our benchmarks wouldn't complete or performed worse than Chrome so I didn't include those results.
  • asfletch - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Hmm that is odd. On my Note 4 Exynos, the Samsung Browser runs Jetstream, Vellamo, Kraken et al just fine, and way faster than Chrome (esp now Adblock Plus is officially available for it - so good). Feels far faster in use too, as mentioned in this review. Maybe it's the SD820 - could Andrei test the 8890 version with Samsung Browser please?

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