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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  • lilmoe - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    No...................... (wiping eyes)
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    OK, now that I've read the whole review (and some parts twice), I can come to two conclusions.

    1) The author is sort-of unhappy with Samsung's decision to dual source the SoC.
    2) Lots of testing metrics (and data) don't match my personal experience with the phone (Edge, Exynos version), nor the hundreds of videos and reviews online. The only significant issue I have is with the front facing camera compared with other new hardware; it could be a LOT better (but I'm not a huge selfie person).

    The Exynos variant is significantly better than the SD variant this time around, probably because Samsung's software leans more to higher core count, but also because it takes advantage of the *better* co-processors on Samsung's silicon. The Exynos variant has better image/video post processing, better audio, better and more sustained performance, better RAM management and significantly better battery life compared to the SD variant. Too bad all the hype Qualcomm has been selling for the additional parts didn't live up.

    That being said, I do agree, to some extent, about the radios. They're definitely better than previous models (after the migration to metal design), but my wife's Note4 has noticeably better reception. Not huge, but noticeable. In that regard, nothing beats good ole' plastic designs.
  • cknobman - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    The Apple bias you get from this site is annoying at best.

    Everything in this review is laced with a undertone of how iPhone is just as good or better.

    Camera on the S7 is actually pretty danged amazing and easily better than what iPhone has right now. Other sites and reviews have posted their figures and results and they all show it but for some reason here the camera is just ok?

    Battery life on the S7 is actually quite amazing and noticeably better than past Galaxy iterations.

    The design is well executed and I did not see any mention of the water resistant feature which is a nice inclusion most other manufacturers dont even have.

    I'm a Windows phone user but I did recently upgrade my son to the S7.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    While Anandtech is getting better at moving away from esoteric benchmarks to show "in the lab" performance...these reviews were not holistic.

    How can you write a review comparing the iPhone 6s to the Galaxy S7 and NOT mention water resistance?

    I think it's because, in the end, performance is what matters to Anandtech above all else. If the device doesn't perform well in day-to-day use, then whatever other benefits it may have are always painted against that background.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Why can't we edit? Yeesh. "Doesn't perform well compared to its equally-priced peers"...
  • DERSS - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    iPhone 6s/Plus already has water resistance, Apple covered the mainboard with special foam, and there are other measures. It is tested in videos, and it works. So the degree here is that SGS 7/Edge has better water resistance. The practical difference, though, is debatable.
  • pablo906 - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    I dropped my 6s in the sink full of water. Pulled it out shook it off, sucked the water out of the speaker holes, charging port holes, and headphone holes and it was fine. I've never had an iPhone survive that. They're not water proof, but their water resistance is certainly far better than it used to be and can survive day to day spills and accidents unlike the older models. That's nowhere near as good as the waterproof Samsung phones I've seen go underwater fully submerged for more than a few seconds in videos and come out alive, but it's an improvement. I agree with you here. If you want to compare water resistance among phones, then you have to take the non water resistant Android and get it wet measure the effects and then do the same with the Apple phones. I think that's a pointless road to go down. It's better to just mention the water proofing in the description or not at all and move on.
  • theduckofdeath - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    I hope you don't live by that belief, DERSS. most mainboards has a protective coating, including the one in your PC. Mostly for dust and humidity protection. The ports, camera, sensors and most other things on the iPhone aren't water resistant. So... You might get lucky to survive getting it wet, but it most likely won't work properly after it.
    My previous (wireless) keyboard survived a glass full of Coke spilled all over it once. No issues, I just rinsed it off and let it dry off for a couple of days. Somehow I managed to spill another glass on in a month later (yay! I guess I subconsciously wanted a new keyboard) and it instantly fried.
  • theduckofdeath - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

  • Bigbank - Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - link

    Go get wet sinker

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