Battery Life: Good (60Hz) to Average (120Hz)

Last week we had published our initial battery life report on the S20 series, with some interesting findings. First of all, what needs to be mentioned again is that the new 120Hz display modes on the phones come with a quite large battery life impact. The behavior is exhibited on all our S20 models at hand and I think it’s likely due to the panel itself or the DDIC. Samsung had included various display refresh modes varying from 48, 60, 96 and 120Hz, however we have yet to find evidence of any mechanism that actively switches between the various modes. 

Device-On Black Screen Power Consumption (Airplane Mode)

As such, even on a black static screen, running at 120Hz comes with a quite steep power penalty that’s always present whenever the display is on, costing around 160mW of power.

I had noted that I found our variant of the Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20 Ultra to have worse idle power than our Exynos phone version. Initially I had attributed this to possibly the SoC or even the nature of the external X55 modem, but since then I’ve also received an LG V60 and that device’s idle power is perfectly normal. The only other thing that differentiates our S20 Ultra here is the fact that it has the extra mmWave antennas and RF systems. It would be interesting to see if non-mmWave variants of the Snapdragon S20 Ultra behave any differently (Tip at our Chinese or Korean readers).

I also had made mention that the “Performance” mode of the Exynos S20 phones seemingly behaved quite overzealously in terms of its scheduling settings, and there was a quite drastic increase in power draw for what was not nearly an as drastic increase in performance. I’ve rerun the battery tests in the “Optimized” settings which doesn’t have the “Increased system speed” option enabled, and I’ve confirmed my suspicion as the battery life figures did improve by some notable amounts. I’ve also tested the Snapdragon in the “Optimized” setting and the runtimes only differed by 2% - for users having the Snapdragon versions it’s thus safe to simply leave that enabled.

Web Browsing Battery Life 2016 (WiFi)

In our web test, the new S20 series end up right about where you’d expect them to. The Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20 Ultra at 60Hz fares the best amongst the tested models, and now represents Samsung’s longest lasting flagship device. Slightly behind it we find the Exynos S20 Ultra at 60Hz. The difference between the two phones here isn’t very big in this test, and I attribute this to the higher constant idle power draw of the Snapdragon phone which counteracts the much higher compute efficiency of the SoC. The Eyxnos S20+ ends up slightly behind the S10+ phones, but still lasts a good 12.65h in this test.

Once we turn on the 120Hz display modes, the battery life results on all the phones drops quite notably. The Snapdragon S20 Ultra goes from 14h to 11.3h, a 20% drop. The same applies to the Exynos S20 Ultra, with a 20% drop, but for some reason the S20+ sees a larger drop of 25%. In the systems performance section I did mention that there’s some software configuration differences between the Exynos S20 Ultra and S20+, maybe some of that plays part here in the results.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Battery Life

Overall, the conclusion on battery life isn’t quite as black & white as we thought it would be. The key point is to stay away from the seemingly broken Performance mode on the Exynos chipset and you’ll have roughly similar battery life results between the two SoC variants of the S20. Naturally, that’s only being achieved by the fact that the Exynos does showcase worse performance, saving energy by using the more efficient lower performance states more.

What’s valid for all variants of the phones is that the 120Hz display mode is quite the power hog. Samsung probably has the opportunity to improve this by introducing a better managed variable refresh rate mode that actually changes between the different refresh rates based on content, something that seemingly isn’t happening right now. Also switching to lower refresh rates when showcasing static content would be a huge power saver, but I’m not sure if Samsung would be able to actually deploy such a mechanism.

Display Measurement Camera Architecture: Huge New Sensors
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  • iphonebestgamephone - Sunday, April 5, 2020 - link

    Oh and what does a pro like you use? Reply
  • sanjeev.k - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    Hi Andrei,
    Thanks for your detailed review. Any change Anandtech will be reviewing the note 20 later in the year (as Anandtech have not reviewed the note xx series past few years) ?

    Reliable leaker @IceUniverse hints that Note series will implement an optimised solution for 120 Hz refresh rate - so I am assuming that to mean that power inefficiency issues at 120 hz refresh rate will be fixed in the note series.
    If you are going to review the Note series, at least we will know whats the improvement like as compared to Galaxy S series. Then I can decide if I want to import the Snapdragon 865 Note series or import S20 865 series and bear with the 120 Hz power consumption issue
    Reply
  • abufrejoval - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    I bought the first Galaxy Note for its size: My hands are much more capable than my eyes up close. I stuck around for the Note 3 and then abandoned the brand as they went off into Absurdistan with too much glass and metal replacing replaceable batteries (both Notes still work today with 2nd and 3rd sets of batteries).

    But I’ve always longed to see another feature become mainstream usable, that these Notes started, albeit with serious functional limitations: Desktop or docking mode.

    The Note 2 dock also worked with the Note 3 and it was the first that I tried to use for extra light business travel with a foldable BT keyboard even a BT mouse on an HDMI connected big screen. Mixed DPI support wasn’t quite up to snuff, even with custom ROMs that added Ethernet connectivity (security constraints mandated that in some cases).

    In terms of computing power everything since the 820 has been enough for me in mobile use: If I really want to crunch numbers, I use HPC servers which I access via SSH, RDP or VNC and gaming is much more fun with an RTX 2080ti.

    Phones as a VR headset replacement died far too quickly for my taste, my Le Max2 with its Le VR “luxury cardboard” companion still works pretty well, certainly for 3D movies.

    So, the only reason I would even remotely consider buying one of these overpowered smartphones is if they could do double-duty as mid-line laptop replacements. Unless Corona’ed I switch countries every week and taking a €1200 smartphone instead of a €1200 laptop along for the ride, while enjoying a 43”@4k desktop in both offices has a great appeal, especially since RAM (16GB), storage (500GB) and compute power are similar enough to satisfy me.

    I need both to handle the typical office/productivity stuff, surfing and the ability to access the big systems, be they compute farms or GeForce Now if I am in need for a monster kill. Yes, I love to be able to even run a Docker container in case I want to code something on the quick and up to chroot() that works pretty well with Android’s Linux kernel, even if it’s not quite as podman ready as the laptop.

    Last Samsung I got was a Tab S5e a month ago and its DEX qualities are really much improved. It has perhaps 25% of the power and capacity of these phones (at 50% price) but shows what could obviously be done here. Yet I see no mention of DEX on the S20 and I fear that Samsung’s product management is…

    The mere existence and perseverance of Exynos SoCs and rounded display edges prove that these people must be insane: Very sad, when you consider what the hardware could actually do!
    In the mean-time I am holding on to a very nice OnePlus 5 as daily driver, lovingly protected with a silicon sleeve that sports an elevated ridge around a flat display thus kept from drop’s harm with grip and buffer space. When I take it out for a bit of soap and water treatment, it looks like new.

    Chassis materials, colors, design, finger tip smudges? I couldn’t care less and the Note 1-3 removable plastic covers were plain perfect for longevity and flexibility.
    Reply
  • Rorange68 - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    Great review.. somehow I haven’t seen these in the past but will watch for them now. Quick question... the chart on the first page shows all of the versions with dual sims.. a nano and esim. I was thinking of going for the Exynos because it’s been the only one listed as having dual sims but given the issues with 5g compatibility and the review you give it that seems like a really bad idea But if they all have dual sim it would make it a lot easier to leave my 10+ and get the 20+ or even splurge on the ultra on the chance they improve some of it via software updates. Reply
  • Rorange68 - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    *5g comparability between for the Exxon’s version and US carriers Reply
  • MarcSant - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    Outstanding! The Anandtech articles are simple the best, the definitive tech guide for all tech lovers. Keep up with the high level of these tech articles that in my opinion are the "must go" for all people that are interested in buy a gadget and see the "behind scenes" information that manufactures will not tell you. Reply
  • airdrifting - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    No thanks on overpriced, never last, slow update, buggy software Korean garbage. Reply
  • surt - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    Do they have a reputation for not lasting? I'm considering this for an upgrade from my Galaxy S6 which is still working fine but I'd like a better camera. Reply
  • airdrifting - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    I haven't tried the newer ones, but I owned Galaxy S1, Galaxy S3, LG G2 and G3, none lasted 2 years (G2 being the best one imo.). I switched to Oneplus after that. Oneplus 3T lasted almost 3 years, now I am rocking a Oneplus 7 which I paid $400 for on eBay. Reply
  • shabby - Sunday, April 5, 2020 - link

    Lol how about you get a newer phone before bashing it. Reply

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