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Galaxy S7 Has A Serious Performance Problem

Do you know what the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge have in abundance? Speed. And yet do you know what is set to cause the biggest problems for both these phones? Speed…  
The problem comes down to one key thing: inconsistency. In new benchmarks published by respected speed testing software Antutu, the company found CPU performance varied by a perfectly acceptable 5% but the difference in graphics performance between models was as great as 32%.
So what causes this? In short: Samsung’s decision to use different chipsets in different Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones around the world.
Snapdragon 820 equipped Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones have dramatically better GPU performance than Exynos 8890 versions. Image credit: Antutu
Snapdragon 820 equipped Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones have dramatically better GPU performance than Exynos 8890 versions. Image credit: Antutu
Unlike the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, which only used Samsung’s Exynos 7420 chipset, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are split between the Exynos 8890 (the 7420 successor) in some regions and Qualcomm QCOM +1.23%’s Snapdragon 820 in others. And as the benchmarks show, while CPU performance is close, the Snapdragon 820 has dramatically superior graphics performance to the Exynos 8890.
I won’t be giving my detailed opinion on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge until later this week, but having run the benchmarks on both my review phones I can confirm Antutu’s findings.
CPU performance differences between the Exynos 8890 and Snapdragon 820 are minimal. Image credit Antutu
CPU performance differences between the Exynos 8890 and Snapdragon 820 are minimal. Image credit Antutu

Reality Vs Perception
Of course the important question to ask here is: How much does this matter?
At release I’d say little given the Exynos 8890 is still extremely fast, but it is something that is likely to haunt Exynos variants in time as mobile games become increasingly demanding.
Perhaps more to the point, however, is the simple notion that owners of two supposedly identical phones would not expect to see some have 32% greater graphics performance than others. This damages confidence in the buying process and may even lead to a grey market opening up in regions where the Snapdragon 820 version is unavailable.
So, if you are concerned about the performance difference, how do you ensure you buy the Snapdragon 820 model? It’s actually very difficult.
5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge (left) and 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 (right). Image credit: Samsung
5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge (left) and 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 (right). Image credit: Samsung
Historically Samsung has sold Exynos powered Galaxy phones in its Asian home markets and Snapdragon phones internationally, but that’s been mixed up this time. Only last week the UK was confirmed to get the Exynos-based Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge models and Europe is thought to be the same. Meanwhile the US will primarily get Snapdragons, though even that may vary based on carrier.
Will this impact sales until a pattern to the variants is worked out? Probably not to mainstream users, but only time will tell. We also don’t know what the reaction will be by owners who belatedly discover the difference. Will they suck it up or complain and demand to change phone/carrier as a result?
Yes, the potential problems are as much in perception as performance.
Interestingly this isn’t the only issue caused by Samsung using both the Exynos and Snapdragon chipsets either. The Exynos chipset doesn’t support Quick Charge 3.0 (a Qualcomm innovation) so Samsung has disabled it on the Snapdragon 820 models as well. Quick Charge 3.0 isn’t noticeably faster than Quick Charge 2.0, but it does consume up to 40% less power while charging.
Silver Linings and History Repeating
Those looking for silver linings here would do well to remember what happened when the Galaxy S6 only used the Exynos 7420 last year: it again lost the graphics battle to the Snapdragon 810 (though only by 15%) but it proved to be a more efficient chip in terms of both heat and battery consumption. Whether that plays out again remains to be seen.
The Galaxy S7 is a great upgrade which is still packed full of new features and upgrades. Image credit: Samsung
The Galaxy S7 is a great upgrade which is still packed full of new features and upgrades. Image credit: Samsung
Another obvious question to ask is: Why didn’t Samsung throttle Snapdragon 820 graphics performance so it more closely matched the Exynos 8890?
I suspect because many rivals will also use the Snapdragon 820 and Samsung wouldn’t want its phones to be seen as underperforming with the chip. Meanwhile dropping the Exynos chip altogether would be perceived as a major step backwards for Samsung’s chip unit after the success of the 7420 in 2015.
Of course it is still possible to end on a positive note and that is: this speed inconsistency issue may prove the greatest problem for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge only because almost everything else about them is so impressive.
My experience with the two phones so far is they fix almost all the complaints I had about the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. But that is something I’ll only share in detail with you in my reviews later this week…

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