System Performance

Following our more in-depth review of the SoCs powering the S21 family, today we’re focusing more on the general system performance and user experience. In many instances, this aspect of a device is defined by the software making good use of the available hardware capabilities more than the actual hardware itself.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

In the PCMark results, both the Exynos and Snapdragon S21 Ultras showcase massively impressive results. While the Snapdragon 888 variant of the S21 isn’t all that much of a massive upgrade compared to the Snapdragon 865 powered S20 series phones, the new Exynos 2100 S21’s are very much leaving its predecessors far behind.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView

JetStream 2 - OS Webview

The web-browsing tests are showcasing similar results, with the Snapdragon S21’s showcasing smaller generational boosts, while the Exynos S21 sees massive performance uplifts.

General Performance - Outstanding

In general, the performance of the new Galaxy S21 series this year is nothing short of outstanding. In terms of software optimisations and general responsiveness of the devices, they’re practically perfect, and essentially the way the phones now behave is as optimal as can be achieved whilst still remaining reasonable with every-day power efficiency.

While the 120Hz mode last year came at a great cost in power efficiency, and I even personally opted to use 60Hz in everyday usage because of that, the new adaptive refresh rate displays on the S21 series, particularly the superior implementation on the S21 Ultra, means that most people will be able to enjoy this highly user-experience augmenting feature without any major drawbacks this year.

Introduction & Design GPU Performance
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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    It's not, the software rendering part is extremely minor and has never had any significant impact on battery life. Reply
  • snowdrop - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    So s21/s21+ > s21u for camera experience and s888 > e2100 for image quality. This strongly implies that the s21/s21+ with s888 would offer the best overall camera implementation of all the variants, but unfortunately this combination isn't featured in the article.

    Any hope of adding some shots from a s21/s21+ with s888 to the comparison?
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    The SD888 isn't definitive in having the better image quality.

    And no, I'm in Europe so getting Snapdragon Galaxies is hard, I have no plans to further attempt anything beyond the S21U.
    Reply
  • snowdrop - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    To me the s888 ultra shots all looked notably better (sharper, better shadow / mid / highlight detail, improved lens correction) with the occasional exception of better highlight detail when the e2100 chose a darker exposure and the one shot where the s21u s888 wasn't in focus. The grass / foliage processing on the e2100 is particularly terrible so it could just be that the scenes you chose exaggerated the e2100's weak spots.

    It looks like samsung used the stock qualcomm image processing stack for s888 models and is testing beta internal software on the e2100 ones.

    I enjoy your excellent commentary on the computational photography capabilities of phone camera systems in your phone reviews. Have you considered including supplementary commentary from someone who has done dslr / lens reviews though to add a more photographer centric perspective though?
    Reply
  • s.yu - Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - link

    Uh pretty much from the first sample the Exynos was doing better, far better texture, though the SD caught up in a few subsequent samples, so this generation I say the processing is too close to call. Generally the SD variants had a better track record though. Reply
  • JoeDuarte - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Can anyone confirm whether the S21 with the Snapdragon has dual frequency GPS? Sorry if I missed it in the article. Dual frequency GPS is supposed to yield a huge accuracy boost, and maybe time to positioning too. Reply
  • JoeDuarte - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    All the benchmark graphs are missing the S21, but Andrei is talking as though they include the S21. The graphs only show variations of the S21 Ultra, not the regular S21. Can we get the S21 results included? Reply
  • JoeDuarte - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Does Arm plan to succeed the A55 low power cores with a credible upgrade? Experts here have talked about this before, how the A55 is hopelessly outclassed by several generations of Apple low power counterparts at this point. Why have they iterated the A7x cores but not the A5x?

    Does anyone have insight into why Samsung's SoCs are so bad? It doesn't make sense for a company that owns the fabs, gets to develop the process nodes, and design the SoCs to be so far behind, spanning maybe a decade now. Is there no advantage, no synergies or co-optimization opportunities, in such complete vertical integration? It's supposed to be an advantage for Apple to design its own SoCs and cores. Why is it not an advantage for Samsung to do that and to*also* have the fabs and node development? Is there a talent issue? I wonder if maybe there just aren't enough engineers operating at the necessary level of skill to populate all these companies. The actual human cognitive science of how these teams do what they do is a black box, and apparently TSMC and Apple are able to do things that Samsung, Intel, and GF are not, and the difference is surprising.
    Reply
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, February 25, 2021 - link

    I think the Cortex-R82 points to further improvements to the efficiency cores being possible. Or Apple's own take on efficiency cores.

    Maybe we'll find out about an A55 successor within the next few months, before TSMC 3nm kicks off.
    Reply
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, February 25, 2021 - link

    Also, I think the "Helios" Neoverse E1 is better than A55, even discounting its SMT capability. Reply

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