A Brief Comparison of UX Speed and UI Smoothness: Honor 20 Pro, OnePlus 7 Pro and Galaxy S10+
The world of Android prides itself upon the choices it can offer to the end-user, presenting diverse options across the spectrum year after year. While the existence of a choice is good by itself, variations in core hardware can lead to situations where the experience offered by the phones are often not comparable despite the similarities, and variations, on the spec sheet. This disparity was largely visible on older hardware with older Android versions and OEM skins, when even the mightiest of flagships would end up stuttering their way through the Google Play Store.
How true does the statement stand now?
To see how the current situation is across key flagship hardware on the latest version of Android, we decided to run our suite of UI and UX smoothness tests on the Samsung Galaxy S10+ (Snapdragon), the OnePlus 7 Pro, and the Honor 20 Pro, each of them representing some of the best hardware decisions from their respective OEMs.
OnePlus 7 Pro vs Honor 20 Pro vs Galaxy S10+ UX Speed
These three devices make for an interesting comparison when it comes to app launch times: the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and the OnePlus 7 Pro both feature the same Snapdragon 855, but the OnePlus 7 Pro is fitted with UFS 3.0 storage, which flexes up to double the bandwidth per lane compared to the three-year-old UFS 2.1 solution found in the S10+, making for significantly faster sequential read and write speeds. As everyone already knows, Samsung’s user interfaces have traditionally been on the bloated side, and while this has brought them performance inadequacies in the past, the trend has been reversed and corrected with recent releases. The OnePlus 7 Pro, on the other hand, is the heir to a legacy of reliable top speeds that OnePlus has been nothing but proud of, even adopting the speedy capabilities as a prime marketing talking point for their flagship phones. Finally, the Honor 20 Pro running Magic UI 2.1.0 offers no shortage of advantages, with improved software (including performance-centric improvements that we’ll detail in an upcoming article), the competitive Kirin 980 chipset and UFS 2.1 storage. How do these devices stack up when opening some common applications? We’ve put them through our app opening test to answer that question with some clear numbers.
Methodology: We measured the cold-start launch-time performance of Gmail, Play Store, and YouTube apps on the Honor 20 Pro, OnePlus 7 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S10+. Keep in mind that we are not measuring the time it takes for an app to be fully rendered with all its elements drawn on the screen. Rather, we are using a proxy by recording the time it takes for the app to create the main activity of the application. The time measure we include encompasses launching the application process, initializing its objects, creating and initializing the activity, inflating the activity’s layout and drawing the application for the first time. It ignores inline processes that do not prevent the initial display of the application, which in turn means the recorded time is not affected by extraneous variables such as network speed fetching burdensome assets. Also keep in mind that the phones tested either tend to or are forced to immediately top up their CPU frequencies whenever an application is launched, minimizing CPU bottlenecks.
We cycled through the three applications, and opened each of them 150 times, to look at how these phones’ app-launching capabilities perform over time. All devices were configured to run at 1080p resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate after a factory reset, running the latest versions of each application, and the tests began when the internal temperature hit 30°C/86°F. The usage scenario featured in this test is unconventional and we’ve pushed the phone way past the limits you would encounter in real-world use-case scenarios (at least as far as app-opening goes), but even then, none of the phones are afflicted by severe performance degradation throughout this test.
|Device||OnePlus 7 Pro||Honor 20 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S10+|
|YouTube (avg. ms)||591.4||547.1||891.9|
|Gmail (avg. ms)||296.5||316.9||436.1|
|Play Store (avg. ms)||501.4||515.5||713.6|
This first set of results closely matches my subjective experience when using these three devices. The Honor 20 Pro and the OnePlus 7 Pro are closest together, with the former having a slight upper hand when opening YouTube, but losing in the Gmail and Play Store tests by a small margin. For the most part, the results of the 7 Pro and Honor 20 Pro are practically identical. The same cannot be said for the timings posted by the Galaxy S10+, which are below those of the Honor 20 Pro and the OnePlus 7 Pro on all accounts. Despite featuring the same chipset and storage, the Snapdragon Galaxy S10+ and OnePlus 7 Pro showcase different times, though both are still quick enough as to not present any particular nuisance during daily usage. Moreover, given that both devices come with plenty of RAM, most of the time you will not be cold starting your favorite apps, but rather retrieving them from memory.
While their resulting app opening times differ, however, they feature a very similar temperature climb as the test progresses, with a linear rise that does not cross 30°C/102.2°F. The Honor 20 Pro’s temperature climbs with discrete steps that correspond to extremely low app opening speeds, and these extraneous outliers in turn slightly disturb the variance of the test scores. Without taking into account the outliers, though, the Honor 20 Pro features app opening time stability similar (and even superior) to that of the other two devices. That being said, the phone did get considerably hotter, surpassing the 42°C/107.6°F mark. This matches our experience operating the phone for extended periods, though not to this degree given that, as previously mentioned, the test pushes app opening beyond conventional use cases.
There’s definitely a lot more to fluid user experiences than just raw hardware potential, something that’s been showcased time and time again in Android’s history. Bloated OEM ROMs have typically been criticized for offering sub-par performance, be it slow app launching speeds or serious stutters in scrolling and transitions. Nowadays, we have extremely powerful hardware and Android versions keep getting more optimized at the core, yet we are still able to rank smartphone “real-world performance” across devices. Samsung, for instance, was at one point known for sluggish performance and stuttering animations, but improvements in hardware and the new Samsung experience offered by One UI has largely remedied these shortcomings. OnePlus, while known for offering quick devices, has not always offered the smoothest phones, but the OnePlus 7 Pro offers a 90Hz display which by itself grants it a substantial perceptible boost in UI fluidity. However, note that in this article we’ll be testing the OnePlus 7 Pro at 60Hz to better compare these phones’ performance on equal footing. More comprehensive analysis down the line will explore the performance benefits of higher refresh rate displays and compare them to the 60Hz standard. Finally, the Honor flagship series has not disappointed with smoothness, and this latest software largely continues that trend, something that’s reflected in our testing. Here is how these devices stack up in third-party apps.
Methodology: To test real-world fluidity, we won’t just be presenting GIFs or screenshots showing GPU profiling bars, but instead we will show you the extracted frame times plotted in histograms across devices under the same usage scenario. We put together a tool to extract and parse the frame data, and a UI automation system that allowed us to build macros that mimic real-world use cases by simulating touch input — scrolling, loading new activities or windows, and compound tests with complex UI navigation. These tests were run across the Honor 20 Pro, OnePlus 7 Pro and Galaxy S10+ at 1080p resolution and 60Hz refresh rate; this does mean that the OnePlus 7 Pro is not benefiting from its 90Hz refresh rate, but this configuration allows for direct comparisons across plots and easy data interpretation. We made sure the tests were perfectly synchronized across devices, measuring the same actions at the same time, with multiple tests across each device to validate our results. Repeated tests continuously show minimal variance in the number of frames captured, though the number of total frames captured on each test varies significantly across devices. This is because these devices behave differently in their scrolling acceleration/final velocity, and set different baseline speeds for many actions and transitions (even at the same 1x setting).
First, we will look at our traditional list scrolling tests on the Play Store’s Top Charts and Gmail’s email list. Not much has changed since previous analysis, besides these apps getting slight visual upgrades. The Play Store’s long lists full of thumbnails have been my go-to spot to test a new phone’s fluidity, given at one point in time it showcased notorious stutters even on the latest hardware. Luckily, that’s not the case any longer, with the Galaxy S10+ and the OnePlus 7 Pro effectively eradicating dropped frames in this test, a feat that is almost universal across flagships today yet at one point was seemingly exclusive to our Pixel test results. The same cannot be said for the Honor 20 Pro, which still shows the same frame time spike pattern we noted in two-year-old devices like the Note 8 and OnePlus 5. When it comes to Gmail list scrolling, all devices performed admirably with virtually no dropped frames.
Moving on to more complex UI navigation, our composite Play Store UI test surfs the app by moving across tabs, scrolling up and down list, inflating app listings and visiting the reviews section, accessing the sidebar and other similar typical user interactions. This is arguably a much more accurate representation of proper UI interaction than simply scrolling down a pre-loaded list at a fixed speed, and as such we place a lot more weight on this particular test. The good news is that all devices performed excellently across this test, with consistently smooth results across the multiple testing runs as well. There are still slight disparities, though, with OnePlus sitting at 2% dropped frames, while the S10+ follows with 3% and the Honor 20 Pro with 5%. This also matches our subjective experience, and it is worth noting that given the clustering of dropped frames along with particular UI interactions (for example, the transition that occurs whenever one expands an app listing), the disparities in the jank percentages are slightly more significant than what the numerical delta might suggest.
The last composite test takes place on the newest Gmail app, and navigates across inboxes, down lists, opening and closing emails with embedded elements and images in a fairly natural way. This time, we see the Galaxy S10 in a much more favorable position, with just 2% dropped frames across the fairly elaborate test. The Honor 20 Pro finds itself last once again with 5% dropped frames, which while better than the results we obtained for premium flagships in previous years, still sits behind the competition. Overall, however, all devices feature excellent performance across these common apps and their varied transitions, with the emerging ranking matching our subjective experience once again.
Below you can find a table summarizing the percentages of dropped frames shown above. While we did not have the opportunity to run more comprehensive tests across broader use cases this time, these samples put the Snapdragon 855 devices on essentially equal footing, with the Honor 20 Pro trailing slightly behind. It’s worth recalling, once again, that the OnePlus 7 Pro was not tested on its 90Hz setting — while the histogram numbers themselves might not have been too different while testing on the 90Hz setting, it offers a substantial UI smoothness improvement that’s perceptible side-by-side, and it is so significant that it is hard to go back to 60Hz whenever one becomes accustomed to 90Hz or higher refresh rates on smartphones. We hope to revisit the subject of higher refresh rate panels in more comprehensive analysis later on.
|Device||OnePlus 7 Pro||Honor 20 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S10+|
|Scrolling – Play Store (jank %)||0||0||0|
|Scrolling – Gmail (jank %)||0||3||0|
|Play Store – Composite (jank %)||2||5||3|
|Gmail – Composite (jank %)||3||5||2|
After spending some time with each of these phones and putting them through some of our tests, we concluded the obvious: these powerful flagships all offer stellar performance, with marked improvements over previous years in most instances. That said, our results show they trade blows in some categories, with the Honor 20 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro outperforming the Galaxy S10+ in our app opening test; the Honor 20 Pro, however, climbed to higher temperatures throughout the same workload. When it comes to UI smoothness, all devices performed rather well in the scrolling tests, though the Honor 20 Pro has the same shortcoming in the Play Store scrolling test that we got used to seeing in older flagships. Across the composite tests, the OnePlus 7 Pro and Galaxy S10+ trade blows while the Honor 20 Pro trails slightly behind.
Overall, though, all the phones are competitive, each in their own regard. When factoring in the 90Hz refresh rate, the OnePlus 7 Pro emerges as the clear winner when it comes to day-to-day user experience. However, there’s more to performance than navigating user interfaces, so be sure to check out our gaming reviews for the OnePlus 7 Pro, Honor 7 Pro and Galaxy S10+ as well as our benchmarks comparison between the 855 and Kirin 980.