Galaxy S7 Vs iPhone 6S Performance Showdown Shows Samsung Has The Upper-Hand

The immediate comparisons are inevitable. Apple and Samsung are the two most dominant smartphone manufacturers in the world right now, commanding an overwhelming combined market share that dwarfs their competitors. So, when one of these mobile juggernauts releases a new flagship device, analysts, press, and consumers alike want to know how that new competitive product performs versus the other brand's current offering. The interest and buzz is logical. New doesn't always mean significantly more powerful or more innovative. Some product launches are mild refreshes, while others are major overhauls.

Samsung Galaxy S7 With Box
To look at Samsung's new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, on the surface, you might might think it's the former--a modest uplift of features, bells and whistles, and perhaps just a light rebuffing of the phone's design language. But beauty, as they say, is skin deep and one of the primary new features of the US-targeted Samsung Galaxy S7 is its underlying power plant -- Qualcomm's hot off the fab line Snapdragon 820 system-on-a-chip (SoC).

snapdragon 820 chip

The Snapdragon 820 is based on Qualcomm's new custom ARM-based core architecture called Kyro. Kyro marks an evolution beyond Qualcomm's venerable Krait core architecture that the company claims offers 2X the performance and power efficiency of their previous-gen Snapdragon 810. In addition, the Snapdragon 820 has a new beefed-up Adreno 530 graphics engine on board as well. Where the Snapdragon 810 was a power hungry octal-core chip, the Snapdragon 820 scales back to a quad-core architecture with higher ICP (instructions per clock) throughput per core to get more with fewer resources and at lower power consumption.

The Snapdragon 820 has only made a sneak-peek preview to this point, taking residence in a phone from Letv back at CES 2016 in January, so the 14nm Samsung fab'ed chip has been a rarity of sorts until the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S7.  As such, we were eager to see what the new Snapdragon could do when GS7 samples arrived, and of course how it stacks up versus Apple's A9 power plant in the iPhone 6S Plus.

We're working on our full, detailed evaluation now, but thought a rundown of the performance metrics we've seen thus far would make for an interesting quick-take view of what to expect from Samsung's new flagship and how it ranks versus Apple's finest iPhone as well.
Galaxy S7 GFX TRex

Galaxy S7 GFX Manhattan

We plan to circle back on GFXBench and look at Manhattan ES 3.1 graphics performance as well, but note that we've run the offscreen version of both tests above. This allows the test to run flat out regardless of screen resolution ensuring a level playing field. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Snapdragon 820 lay the competitive field to waste and bests the iPhone 6S Plus by a margin of 12 - 18 percent.
Galaxy S7 3DMark IceStorm Total

3DMark, on the other hand, paints a somewhat different picture with a much tighter field of results and scores. The Samsung Galaxy S7 still takes the top slot here (yellow bar for total IceStorm score) but the iPhone 6S is nipping at its heels and Samsung's previous generation Galaxy S6 Edge+ with its octal-core Exynos chip, isn't too far behind.

Galaxy S7 GeekBench

GeekBench is a synthetic, raw CPU throughput calculation benchmark that offers a look at both single-threaded and multi-threaded workloads and how they perform on a give architecture. Looking at the multi-core test (multi-threaded workload), all of the octal-core architectures are on top, including Samsung's 8-core Exynos in the Galaxy S6 and the ARM Cortex-A57-powered octal-core Kirin 950 chip in the Huawei Mate 8. What's interesting here is that the quad-core Snapdragon 820 in the Galaxy S7 and of course Apple's efficient dual-core A9 chip actually put up a good fight versus all but the octal-core Kirin 950. When it comes to single core performance, the IPC throughput per CPU core in the Snapdragon 820 and Apple A9 allow them to blow past all other architectures, though Apple has a nip-tuck lead here over Samsung and Qualcomm with about a 9 percent advantage.
Galaxy S7 JetStream

JetStream is the replacement follow-on benchmark to SunSpider and it focuses on browser performance as well as javascript processing. Here we're seeing an outlier and it looks like the Galaxy S7's software setup needs a bit of optimization. Apple's iPhone 6S Plus smokes all contenders by a wide margin as well, suggesting great efficiency in their software stack.

Galaxy S7 browsermark
Rightware's BrowserMark test ranks performance of modern mobile web browsers, along with device processing engines, in terms of how well they handle web page loading, screen resizing, and web graphics rendering workloads. In this test, the Samsung Galaxy S7 just edges out the Snapdragon 810 octal-core equipped Google Nexus 6P and the iPhone 6S but is surpassed by the octal-core Kirin 950 by a small 5% margin. And again, it's impressive to see how the Apple A9 and Snapdragon 820, with 2 and 4 cores respectively, compete versus the octal-core chips. Performance scaling per core certainly isn't linear.

Update 3/11/2016:
We have since refresh Samsung's previous generation Galaxy S6 Edge and Edge+ numbers here and have updated the chart. It was determined the previous scores had anomalies and the new scores show the octal-core Exynos-power GS6 series scores quite well in this test. 

The MobileXPRT benchmark runs through a variety of tests to evaluate the responsiveness of a device, along with its ability to handle many everyday mobile workloads, use cases, and applications. It's a total system platform test inclusive of memory and storage subsystem performance measurements as well. This test offers trace-based workloads and is fairly real-world in its approach.

Galaxy S7 Mobile XPRT
MobileXPRT Benchmark Results

We only have Android devices available in this test, since it's an Android-only benchmark that's available on Google Play. On the left side of the results table above, you'll see scores (except for the Overall score) that are listed in time to complete, so lower scores are better. With the Overall score, a higher score is better. On the right side of the table, higher scores are better as well for the various test groups. As you can see, the Samsung Galaxy S7 with its Snapdragon 820 SoC take the top score by a very healthy margin but show some shortcomings on the right side user experience metrics. Again, since the device is fairly new to market, it's likely that Samsung is still optimizing and updating software on the phone, so this could rectify itself over time.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Back
To be candid, it's impressive to see how well Apple's A9 dual-core processor has held up with only two CPU cores at play. It's a true testament to how efficiently Apple has engineered its silicon and software solution combined. However, the Samsung Galaxy S7, at least with respect to graphics performance and multi-core throughput, looks to have an advantage over the iPhone 6S, and in some tests by a sizable margin. It will be interesting to dive in a bit deeper with Samsung's latest Galaxy, so be sure to stick around in the days ahead for our full review.