Though Samsung never really acknowledged it did anything wrong vis-à-vis artificially boosting benchmarks in the past, last week brought the surprising and refreshing news of sneaky code being removed from Galaxy devices with Android 4.4 KitKat upgrades.
Technically, this should greatly increase the credibility of “synthetic tests” on Samsung-made Android gadgets, as well as for the entire ecosystem, albeit truth be told, benchmark scores are never to be taken excessively seriously, regardless of their theoretical accuracy.
Remember, everyone, it’s all very abstract, in theory, on paper. As such, especially when dealing with minuscule gaps, you’re unlikely to notice them in real life. Oftentimes, rankings are overturned, due to certain optimizations that performance-measuring software can’t possibly evaluate.
Bottom line, yes, benchmark scores can still be misleading, deceiving, confusing. But right now, they’re a tad more credible than a week ago. So here we are, ready to pit the spanking new Samsung Galaxy S5 against the equally as fresh Sony Xperia Z2 and mighty but aging Apple iPhone 5s. It’s all in good fun, yet it may also answer a few key controversies.
Is the GS5 truly “more of the same”? At least as far as its raw speed is concerned. Does Sony have a shot at the mobile gold medal this year? Should Apple hurry up with iPhone 6 development, or is the 5s in a position to fend off up-and-coming rivals despite its age? Let’s see.
GFX Bench 2.7 1080p T-Rex Offscreen
Sony Xperia Z2 – 27.7 fps
Galaxy S5 – 27.2
iPhone 5s – 26.2
Since we’re looking at a graphics reviewer and both the GS5 and Z2 pack the same exact GPU – Adreno 330 – we expected very close, maybe even identical scores. And that’s exactly what we got. Yet there is a small gap here, and it’s quite puzzling, as if anything, we anticipated the S5 would come out on top, thanks to its higher-clocked 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 chip.
The iPhone 5s? It’s not far behind, but it’s starting to struggle. And mind you, GFX Bench is a lot more reliable than, say, AnTuTu, as well as nearly impossible to game.
GFX Bench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen
Galaxy S5 – 11.6 fps
iPhone 5s – 10.9
Sony Xperia Z2 – 10.1
Okay, this is confusing. Though the two GFX tests gauge performance from the same standpoint, graphics, their findings are anything but conclusive or stable. What’s up with that? To be perfectly honest, I have no idea.
What’s obvious is the three beasts are neck and neck, so I’ll avoid naming an overall winner. Oh, alright, if you insist, the S5 seems to (barely) edge out its opponents.
SunSpider (lower is better)
Galaxy S5 – 408 ms
iPhone 5s – 415
Sony Xperia Z2 – 952
Oh, wow, Sony, you really screwed the pooch in browser performance, which is much more important than graphics for many mobile users. Well, it looks like it, but I wouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet. Unlike the GFX Bench results, which came from the horse’s mouth, S5 and Z2’s Sunspider marks were reported in preliminary hands-on previews at Barcelona’s MWC.
Not only were there too few to grade them trustworthy, they likely counted on pre-release prototypes. Probably, a highly advanced S5 prototype and a much clunkier Z2 variant. So no, I don’t think Sony’s big guy will be quite as laggy once it officially rolls out. Meanwhile, the S5 is ready to overtake the iPhone 5s in essentially the latter’s best benchmark, so kudos Samsung.
iPhone 5s – 1,015 points average; 20,220 in Basemark X 1.1 Medium
Galaxy S5 – 986 average, 23,501 in Basemark X 1.1
Sony Xperia Z2 – 25,172 in Basemark X 1.1
Rightware’s otherwise conclusive and reliable database lacks the Z2 at the moment, so its mind-blowing Basemark X 1.1 score is preliminary and undependable. Which is not what we can say about the iPhone and S5. Only their results are fairly muddy and confusing.
Overall, as you can see on Rightware’s homepage, the iPhone 5s is the fourth best phone in the world, behind the Asus PadFone Infinity 2 (?), Pantech Vega Secret Note (?!), and Nexus 5 (?!?), but ahead of the S5.
Break it up by chapters though, and Apple isn’t leading Samsung by a very comfortable margin. In fact, the two each put a couple in the win column, in system and web speed and memory and graphics respectively, so in a way, they’re tied.
3DMark Ice Storm
Samsung Galaxy S5 – 18,438
iPhone 5s – 14,000
Let’s not beat it around the bush anymore. Galaxy S5’s Adreno 330 GPU, aided by the quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip and possibly software optimizations, trumps iPhone’s PowerVR G6430. Ice Storm proves it, as does GFX Bench and even Basemark. So if you want rich, outstanding graphics, the “next big thing” is your guy.
Or maybe it’s Sony’s Xperia Z2, not yet rated in Ice Storm, not fully evaluated in Basemark but looking pretty close to the S5 in GFX Bench.
Galaxy S5 – 35,500 points
Xperia Z2 – 35,000
Ah, the infamous, notorious AnTuTu! Always dodged by Cupertino, but embraced by all Android OEMs as it’s one of very few tools around focusing on more than a couple of aspects. Sure, it’s extremely easy to trick, but assuming the shenanigans are over, let’s remember it rounds up CPU, RAM, GPU and I/O (input/output) performance for one big score.
Predictably enough, there’s little to choose between our two flagships, as the S5 rocks the ever so slightly zippier processor, whereas the Z2 packs an extra gig of RAM. The GPUs are identical, so there you have it: two overall cutting-edge slabs of silicon.
Galaxy S5 – 23,400 points
Xperia Z2 – 17,600
Another benchmark ignored by Apple and its fans, Quadrant is a little more dependable than AnTuTu, but not as comprehensive. It focuses on CPU, I/O and 3D graphics, leaving RAM aside, and like Sunspider, it shows that there might be something very wrong with Z2’s on-board software.
Either that, or there was something wrong at one point during the manufacturing process, because once again, the tests may have been executed on unfinished, glitchy devices. Regardless of how the Xperia Z2 will end up performing, the S5 is undoubtedly hard to beat. Almost impossible, which puts a few things into perspective.
For instance, should we still care the phone’s rear is as ugly as sin? Can we continue to bitch and moan Samsung didn’t truly upgrade the Galaxy S4 when it’s clear the S5 is the fastest smartphone in the world? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.