Samsung Galaxy S 6 and S 6 Edge: Preview

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Yesterday we received our Galaxy S6 and S6 edge review units. We’re still working on the final review but I wanted to share some early results from both devices. For those that are unfamiliar with these two phones, the Galaxy S6 range represents the result of Samsung’s “Project Zero”. In fact, the phones seem to have the internal name of Zero, which can be seen in terminal, and the build properties of both devices. For Samsung, these phones represent their attempt at completely rethinking how Samsung makes phones. There is a strong emphasis on a new unibody design, which has no visible gaps or screws. Rather than the plastic that previous Samsung phones have been known for, the new design is composed of metal and glass. Samsung’s design team has been given unprecedented control throughout the process of making this phone and the result of this is a Galaxy phone that looks unlike anything else they’ve ever released.

Even if design is important, it isn’t enough to make the phone. Samsung has also outfitted the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge with their latest technologies, from a new AMOLED display to a new camera module. The specs for both phones can be seen below.

  Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
SoC MSM8974ACv3 2.45 GHz Snapdragon 801 Exynos 7420 2.1/1.5GHz A57/A53 Exynos 7420 2.1/1.5GHz A57/A53
RAM/NAND 2GB LPDDR3
16/32GB NAND + microSD
3GB LPDDR4-1552
32/64/128GB NAND
3GB LPDDR4-1552
32/64/128GB NAND
Display 5.1” 1080p
SAMOLED HD
5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED
5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED, Dual Edge
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6 LTE)
Dimensions 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm, 145 grams 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm max, 138 grams 142.1 x 70.1 x 7.0mm max, 132 grams
Camera 16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing with 1.12 µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size, 31 mm (35mm effective), f/2.2 16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing w/ OIS, f/1.9, object tracking AF 16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing w/ OIS, f/1.9, object tracking AF
2MP Front Facing 5MP Front Facing, f/1.9 5MP Front Facing, f/1.9
Battery 2800 mAh (10.78 Whr) 2550 mAh (9.81 Whr) 2600 mAh (10.01 Whr)
OS Android 4.4
w/TouchWiz
Android 5 (64-bit) w/TouchWiz Android 5 (64-bit) w/TouchWiz
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 +
BT 4.0 (BCM4354),
USB3.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC
2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac +
BT 4.1 (BCM4358),
USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac +
BT 4.1 (BCM4358),
USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
Wireless Charging N/A WPC 1.1 (4.6W) &
PMA 1.0 (4.2W)
WPC 1.1 (4.6W) &
PMA 1.0 (4.2W)
Fingerprint Sensor Swipe Touch Touch
SIM Size MicroSIM NanoSIM NanoSIM

Both the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge have Samsung System LSI’s newest SoC, the Exynos 7420, which has a cluster of four Cortex A57s clocked at 2.1 GHz, and four Cortex A53s clocked at 1.5 GHz. Compared to the Exynos 5433 of the Galaxy Note 4, this brings a new 14nm LPE (low power early) process, an upgrade to LPDDR4 memory, and a Mali T760 GPU with two additional shader cores. Outside of the SoC, the new display is advertised to bring a higher 600-nit brightness and a higher 1440p resolution. The front and rear cameras are both different from the Galaxy S5 as well, although the rear camera sensor may be shared between the two as the camera sensors are of similar spec. For this preview, we’ll focus on the system performance and display of these new devices, but as one can see from the specification table there is far more to look at for the full review.

For our system performance benchmarks we’ll start with our browser tests which can give a rough proxy for overall CPU performance.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT (Chrome/Safari/IE)

The Exynos 7420 is about on par with the Snapdragon 810 in these benchmarks. Strangely enough both tend to do worse than the Huawei Honor 6 in these tests, which clearly can't be correct. As we've previously discussed, the stock browser will often give far better results due to OEM and SoC vendor optimizations. As a part of our updates to the benchmark suite for 2015, we'll take a look at Basemark OS II 2.0, which should give a better picture of CPU performance in addition to overall device performance.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

The browser benchmarks seem to hide some pretty enormous variability as the Galaxy S 6 edge (which is comparable to the Galaxy S 6) sets a new record among Android devices. The only challenger is the iPad Air 2, which uses the A8X SoC with three Enhanced Cyclone cores and the semi-custom GXA6850 GPU.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

This system test contains a floating point and integer test, in addition XML parsing, which means that this test mostly stresses CPU and RAM. Interestingly enough, the Exynos 7420 pulls far ahead of both the Exynos 5433 and Snapdragon 810 in this test, and approaches the A8X. The difference between the 5433 and 7420 is likely a combination of the higher clocks on both the A57 and A53 clusters for the 7420 (1.9/1.3 on the 5433, 2.1/1.5 on the 7420), in addition to the ability to stay at a high 'overdrive' clock due to reduced leakage from the 14LPE process. The One M9 likely falls a bit short here due to HTC's governor settings restricting the use of all 8 cores simultaneously.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

While one might guess that the memory test of 'Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory' is of RAM, this is actually a test of the internal storage. Once again we see the S6 edge come close to leading the pack due to the use of the new UFS (Universal Flash Storage) standard. Casual examination reveals that the S6 edge has a queue depth of 16, and that it identifies itself with the rather cryptic model name of KLUBG4G1BD-E0B1.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

For the web test, it uses the built-in WebView rendering engine rather than Chrome and paints a distinctly different picture, especially because these tests are focused on HTML5 and CSS rather than JavaScript. Here we can see that the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 continue to hold their lead, but the Galaxy S6 is pretty much the king of the hill when it comes to Android devices.