S6 Edge & S7 Comparison Testing
The S6 was known for over heating easily. Let's see how the S7 compares.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were announced on April 10, 2015 and were the second series of Samsung phones to support the Gear VR.
Given that the Gear VR with Note 4 was really meant for developers, rather than consumers, it's no surprise there were a few initial hiccups. A phone needs to work a lot harder to be a virtual reality headset than it does to be "just" a phone it's no surprise that the Note 4 would overheat relatively easily under all the load. It was hoped that the next generation of Gear VR, powered by the S6 series, would solve this issue. Unfortunately this was not the case.
The Note 4 was powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chipset, an upgrade from the 801 chipset used by the Galaxy S5. Initially the S6 series was planned to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. Ironically Samsung switched to their own Exynos 7420 Octo chipset due to the 810 over heating during testing. According to an article by The Verge, it's possible the switch to a fully metal back plate was the cause of some of these heat dissipation issues.
For Gear VR users, this meant having to wait another year (March 11, 2016) to get their hands on the Samsung Galaxy S7, the first Gear VR compatible phone that could actually handle the additional workload without running into thermal issues. The S7 series incorporated a unique liquid heat pipe system allowing the phone to stay cooler no matter how hard it was working. You can read more about how this technology was created in this article from Samsung Newsroom.
It's all well and good to talk about different chipsets and cooling systems, but how do the S6 and S7 compare in real life situations?
For these tests, we used a Galaxy S6 Edge and a Galaxy S7 set up as follows:
Samsung S6 Edge: Wi-Fi and location services off, NFC and Sync off, Bluetooth On (connected to a gamepad), screen at 50% brightness.
Samsung S7: Wi-Fi and location services on, NFC and Sync off, Bluetooth On (connected to a gamepad), screen at 50% brightness.
First test was done with an absolute classic - Smash Hits by Mediocre
The S6 failed after 25 minutes in the first run, and 22 minutes on the second run.
The S7 played for 1 hour and 5 minutes, and was still going.
We streamed an NBA game using Wi-Fi.
The S6 only lasted 3 minutes and 14 seconds before over heating.
Using a face-plate fan, the S6 lasted for 8 minutes and 10 seconds - more than double.
The S7 ran for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and was still going.
As a comparison we also tried Next VR on a Google Pixel Daydream setup.
With the phone case still on, it over heated in 11 minutes.
With the case off it over heated in 20 minutes.
A Thin Black Line
For our second test we ran the interactive documentary A Thin Black Line, developed by VRTOV and published by SBS Australia.
The S6 over heated in 7 minutes and 20 seconds.
The experience length is 13 minutes and 30 seconds, which the S7 ran for while only getting a little warm to the touch.
Let's see if this helps...
For the last two tests, we added an additional factor - a replacement Gear VR face plate with a built in fan.
The fan has a built in rechargeable battery, charges over Micro USB, and lasts approximately 3 hours and 11 minutes.
For the final test, we downloaded a 4k 360 video file and ran it on loop using the now delisted Oculus Video app.
At this point it was obvious the S7 would have no issues with this test, so we didn't bother.
The S6 ran for 14 minutes on the first run, and 13 minutes and 30 seconds on the second.
Adding the face plate fan reduced the S6 thermals to the point it was happily chugging along. That was until the fan battery died 48 minutes into the test. The S6 over heated 5 minutes later at the 53 minute mark.
The results are pretty clear. Despite Samsung's best efforts, its pretty safe to say when it comes to the Gear VR, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were a swing and a miss. The goods news, however, is that despite it's age the S7 handles pretty much everything the Gear VR can throw at it with room to spare. Needless to say the improved performance of the S8, S9 or S10 series can also handle the Gear VR perfectly - almost. But that's a story for another time.