Even though it has an “Octa Core” application processor and an extremely high resolution display, the new Galaxy S6 fails to beat the performance of Apple’s iPhone 6 in GPU-intensive apps and games.
Galaxy S6 performance falls flat against iPhone 6
The first benchmarks that show the performance from Samsung’s new phone highlight that Samsung is perhaps making poor engineering choices. In its bid to win the so-called ‘spec war’, Samsung has in recent years increased the screen resolutions in its most expensive handsets ever since Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone 4’s Retina Display as far back as 2010. Before that, Samsung was more focused on small devices and not larger, higher resolution screens.
Apple on the other hand has tended to change the iPhone screen resolution every 2 years – first making the iPhone 5 taller and then with the iPhone 6 / 6 Plus making them larger and more pixel dense.
The result of Apple’s approach is that developers have found it much easier to manage the changes in resolution, so they can instead focus on new features and apps instead of having to test across dozens of different screen size variations. That’s most evident in the fact that almost all new apps and games appear on iOs first, and then arrive on Android when they’ve proven to be popular in Apple’s App Store.
Unfortunately for Samsung, by increasing resolution sizes so quickly (without considering whether having more pixels makes a noticeable difference to the quality), Samsung’s screen technology has outpaced its own processor capabilities, resulting in poor performance in HD.
The Galaxy S6 and the similarly high-resolution Note 4 both achieve graphics benchmarks significantly lower than Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, and less than half of last year’s iPhone 5s. And as far as frames per second scores, the latest benchmarks show that the new “Exynos 7” powered Galaxy S6 drops to just 15 fps, which is 78% the frame rate of the iPhone 6 Plus in the same test.
A tick on the spec checklist…?
If you look at the theoretical scores of the GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) that Samsung uses (which have higher clock rates and more RAM) it seems the devotion to higher resolution is more of a spec checkmark (not a feature that benefits users) and is the reason for poor real life scores when rendering 3D scenes in OpenGL.
So Samsung’s chips might theoretically match Apple’s iPhone 6 if they were not also having to power lots of additional pixels that don’t benefit users – you can think of it as a fairly powerful engine that has been installed in a monster truck with massive wheels that it can barely turn.
Samsung is marketing its Exynos 7 chip as Octa Core – because some people are fooled into thinking the number of cores is a meaningful indicator of power. The CPU (based on a stock ARM design) only uses four cores at a time: there are two sets – four cores that run at full speed, and then four baby cores that power the device when it’s in standby. Running all 8 together is nonsensical. The Galaxy S6’s chip is an ARM “big.LITTLE” design pairing sets of four A47 cores and four A53 cores, each working at different clock speeds. So saying that Samsung’s Exynos is “8 core” is a bit like calling a truck 4-wheel drive when it can only power two wheels at once.
On the other hand, Apple has purposely avoided ARM’s stock big.LITTLE design in its own Cyclone A7 and A8 core designs, which both use fewer cores and more advanced management to deliver better performance at lower power than the ARM technology Samsung is using.
Ultimately, the Galaxy S6 is a great phone and seems fast, but it fails to outperform Apple’s iPhone 6 models despite being a newer chip that uses the latest 14nm manufacturing process.