System Performance

Tablets have always been devices where performance can be pushed further than a smartphone. There's much more thermal headroom and bigger batteries to drive high performance SoCs. Both Apple and NVIDIA have SoCs that cannot feasibly be put in a smartphone due to their heat and power usage, and these chips find their way into tablets where these factors can be managed and the additional performance can be utilized by more sophisticated applications. At the same time, some vendors opt to use the same silicon in both phones and tablets. In the case of the Galaxy Tab S2, Samsung has decided to use their Exynos 5433 SoC which previously shipped in the Galaxy Note 4 Exynos.

The CPU side of Exynos 5433 is a quad core Cortex A57 cluster with a max frequency of 1.9GHz, and a quad core Cortex A53 cluster with a max frequency of 1.3GHz. The GPU is ARM's Mali-T760 MP6 GPU with a max frequency of 700MHz. On average the results should be similar to the Galaxy Note 4 Exynos, although software improvements to both the browser as well as Android itself will obviously have an impact.

As always, the first group of tests are our web browser tests to characterize JavaScript performance, followed by BaseMark OS II and PCMark to evaluate the CPU and other aspects of a device's performance.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2013 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2015 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Android, and most specifically Chrome's lackluster JavaScript performance is something we've been commenting on for a while now. On top of that, the Galaxy Tab S2 simply doesn't have Samsung's latest and greatest SoC, and these factors combined together give results that aren't very impressive when one considers how much better the iPad Air 2 performs despite being over one year old at this point.

Galaxy Tab S2 Stock Browser vs Chrome

Looking at the Javascript performance in Samsung's stock browser provides some interesting but not unexpected data. It's clear that there's a much higher degree of optimization for Samsung's SoCs in their own browser than in Chrome, which isn't surprising. However, Samsung's browser isn't without its own issues. It actually crashes in the zlib test of Google Octane, and although the incomplete score of 7354 is higher than what Chrome achieves, the fact that the JavaScript code couldn't be properly executed points to some more concerning issues than performance

The other problem with using a device's stock browser for comparisons is that Android devices shipping with Google Mobile Services also include Chrome, and in my experience users are far more likely to utilize Chrome based on their awareness of the Chrome brand than they are to use the included OEM web browser. In short, while stock browser results may give a better idea of what kind of JavaScript performance a device is technically capable of, the Chrome results are more relevant when examining the performance and experience that the average user will have.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

When examining the overall score in BaseMark OS II one may think that the Tab S2 performs extremely poorly. However, when looking at the sub tests it becomes clear that the overall score is being brought down by very low storage and graphics scores. What's surprising is the large gap between the graphics resuIts on the Tab S2 and the Galaxy Note 4 Exynos which uses the same Exynos 5433 SoC. I re-ran the benchmark several times to see if there was anything strange going on but there doesn't appear to be any problem with the testing, and I'm not quite sure why there's such a large gap between the two.

Moving past storage and graphics, the Tab S2 gets fairly good scores in the web and system tests. However, it still lags very far behind the iPad Air 2, and there's really no way to excuse this when both devices cost the exact same amount.

PCMark - Web Browsing

PCMark - Video Playback

PCMark - Writing

PCMark - Photo Editing

PCMark - Work Performance Overall

PCMark is still an Android only benchmark so the results here will strictly be comparing to other Android tablets. Overall, the Tab S2 does well. Upon examining the sub tests it can be seen that the Tab S2 is always fairly close the top of the charts, with certain devices achieving extraordinary scores in some tests which makes the Tab S2 look comparatively slower than it would be with more devices for comparison.

Exynos 5433 is not Samsung's best silicon, and even Exynos 7420 would likely struggle to compete with an SoC designed exclusively for full sized tablets. In the end the Tab S2's performance is just not competitive with the iPad Air 2 or even the Nexus 9 which is priced at $399 and often sells for even less. If I were looking at the 8" Tab S2 I would probably consider its performance acceptable relative to the competition at that size and price, but the market segment of full sized flagship tablets costing $500 or more is a completely other story.

I think Samsung definitely needs to reconsider their process of designing tablets, and part of that has to involve using chips that befit the larger size and greater capabilities of a tablet compared to a smartphone. It's in everyone's best interest to not have one company holding an enormous performance lead in any market, and if there's any company that has the capabilities, integration, and resources to fight with Apple over the tablet performance crown I would think it would be Samsung.

Intro and Design System Performance Cont'd: GPU and NAND
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  • WorldWithoutMadness - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Pardon, is it typo on intro and design table, 'Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.4" ', is it really S2 or Samsung went wonky with this tablet line?
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    That was indeed a typo. Thanks!
  • donnieevans - Saturday, November 14, 2015 - link

    I have a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro and this is the best table I've ever had! It's 32GB, can open multiple apps at the same time. The display is also amazing! Found at:
  • GodHatesFAQs - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    I bought a Tab S 8.0 earlier in the month, but had to return it over PenTile pixel arrangement which caused everything to look fuzzy and was not sharp at all. Display just didn't have the wow factor of last year's model. I think around 400ppi on RGB or 600ppi on RGBG PenTile is the real limit (at least for my eyes) for a display to be really sharp.

    I really hope Apple moves to 3072x2034 (3x rather than 2x) with iPad Air 3 with locally dimmed backlight like the iPhone 6s/Plus. It won't be as deep black as AMOLED displays, but I'm not willing to sacrifice sharpness for deep blacks.
  • Solandri - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    The whole point of pentile RGBG is that you don't need 600 ppi RGBG to equal 400 ppi RGB. The green resolution for that pentile display would be 600 ppi, while the red and blue would be 300 ppi.

    Your eyes are sharpest in green, with blue being really bad, and red only slightly better. Pentile attempts to match that (or put another way, RGB has way more R and B subpixels than it needs. Just look at the images on this site where the R, G, and B channels have been reduced to 1/3 and 1/4 their original resolution. The image with the reduced blue channel is nearly indistinguishable from the original. The one with the reduced red channel is barely distinguishable. While the one with the reduced green channel is absolutely terrible.

    In other words, if the individual pixels are smaller than the resolving limit of your eye (about 0.5 arc-minutes), then 400 ppi RGB can be replicated with 400 ppi RGBG pentile. If you don't believe me, consider that every color video format uses this trick to reduce bandwidth by reducing blue and usually red resolution. You've already been looking at the equivalent of pentile images on TV your entire life.
  • krumme - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Look at samsung galaxy s2 rgb next to a s3 pentile and its pretty obvious the s3 is far far sharper subjectively.
    As for the tab s2 beeing unsharp its damn nonsense to me and i regard myself as very sensitive and prefer higher than 1080p on a 5 display. I dont know how close the person above uses the tab s2 but for my part its very much like my note 3 and it means the tab s2 looks sharper to me.
    Now the s2 is damn light. Only a bit more than a s6plus lol so you use it more like a smartphone but never is it closer than 40cm for my usage. Its a 8 inch.
  • Wwhat - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    NTSC was a very bad example of a color format, and you switched cause and consequence around, they had too little bandwidth, so they used desperate tricks to cram color into it, that's not an ideal situation.

    The same thing is still done but now to save cost and chip/PCB bandwidth, but that doesn't mean it's equal to the real thing.
    Plus they go for the average person, which means that there can be a large number of people for whom it DOES make a difference.

    Hell, when they introduced MP3 they also said that 128Kbit (and joint stereo) was the same as CD quality 'basically' (sometimes they even claimed the same for half that bitrate). But such things are based on theoretical papers and on the average person and on 'good enough for now' thinking, and don't represent a perfect world.

    The difference between a person with very sharp eyesight and the average person can be astounding, some people have twice or even four times better eyesight than average. There are notable incidents in that with famous astronomers and jet fighter pilots demonstrating the difference in a pronounced manner. And it's a pure coincidence if you are such a person, but they do exist. But at the same time there are many people who truly could not tell the difference of course, but there is no reason to start denying each other's existence. Nor is there a reason to feel superior/inferior since we all have strengths and weaknesses in various areas.
  • thedons1983 - Saturday, October 17, 2015 - link

    I'm sorry, but there is something wrong with your eyes... The one thing that these tablets have going for them, is the incredible screen. If you can't appreciate the quality of it, then there is something wrong with your sight.
  • theduckofdeath - Sunday, October 18, 2015 - link

    Full time Apple trolls on the internet?! What a shocker!
  • lurker22 - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Issue with android tablets, will they get software updates in a year or two

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