Samsung Galaxy Alpha review
|Review: October 2014|
In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy Alpha brings premium styling to the Galaxy smartphone range. It's a superslim, ultra-lightweight Android phone with good performance, but not quite in the superphone league.
Today's best buy: Samsung Galaxy S5 Alpha 4.7 ... from Amazon (£0)
Samsung's Galaxy phones have been the top-selling Android smartphones for a while now, but the criticism that's always made of them is that they are just lumps of plastic. This is of course a complete misunderstanding of what a smartphone is - they are pocket-sized computers with touchscreens - something that Samsung is extraordinarily good at creating.
Unless, of course, they are fundamentally fashion accessories and status symbols. The success of Apple might suggest that this is true.
So what we really, really want is a super-powerful smartphone with designer looks. This is the goal of the Galaxy Alpha. It's the first Galaxy phone with a full aluminium metal frame. And while critics may dismiss it as a crude iPhone wannabe, it's actually very much in the Samsung style. It's not all metal - there's still plenty of plastic on show, much like with the Galaxy S5 - but we think it succeeds in its prime objective of looking good.
It's a nicely-sized device - smaller than the Galaxy S5, and quite a bit slimmer too. In fact it's just 6.7mm thin at its slimmest part. It's much lighter too, at just 115g. That makes it a superslim and ultra-lightweight device, which is just how we like them at S21!
The smaller size is partly because the screen size is a touch smaller. Although, at 4.7 inches, it's not much smaller. The screen is an AMOLED display of the type that Samsung excels at. It's bright, with infinite contrast, good viewing angles and accurate colour reproduction. The only thing is that it's HD, not Full HD. This is perhaps a surprising decision for a premium product, but it's still a match for the iPhone 6 and we don't really have a problem with screen sharpness. The pixel density of 312 ppi is adequate, though unspectacular.
Both the Alpha and the S5 come with a fingerprint sensor and heart rate monitor. However, unlike the S5, the Alpha isn't water-resistant.
Hang on, calm-down, this isn't quite as fast as it sounds. While the Galaxy S5 uses a quad-core processor running at a speedy 2.5GHz, the Alpha makes use of 8 cores running at a slower speed. It's the same configuration that Samsung has used on its latest Note tablets - 4 cores clocked at 1.8GHz and another 4 running at 1.3GHz. This gives it good load-balancing potential and the opportunity to save power when running less demanding tasks. It's not as lightning fast as the S5, but for most tasks the difference isn't noticeable.
The Alpha comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage built-in, which is a good amount. There's no microSD card slot, however, and that's a real let down. Will 32GB of memory be enough for a smartphone user in 2014/2015? We're not sure, and we'd much prefer to have the option to add a memory card in case we run out of storage.
The Alpha runs Android KitKat 4.4 with Samsung's usual additions and customisations.
12 megapixel camera with UHD video
If you're starting to get the feeling that Samsung has trimmed the spec of the Galaxy Alpha compared with the S5, that feeling will be confirmed when you learn that the camera is 12 megapixels instead of 16. It's not a tragedy, as it's still a very respectable camera with features like real-time HDR and fast autofocus, but it doesn't record at quite the same level of pin-sharp detail as Samsung's flagship phone.
Video recording isn't compromised, with UHD 4K video supported. There's also a 2.1 megapixel selfie camera at the front.
The Galaxy Alpha comes with nearly all the connectivity options needed - Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, USB, Bluetooth, NFC and ANT+. It's just missing out on DLNA.
Hmm. One of the reasons the Alpha manages to be so superslim and lightweight is the fact that it packs a much smaller battery than most high-end smartphones. It's rated at 1860mAh, compared with the 2800mAh of the Galaxy S5 or the 3100mAh of Sony's Xperia Z3. Now the Alpha has a smaller screen with fewer pixels, and its octa-core processor is energy-saving too. Samsung quotes between 9 hours and 11 hours of continuous use, which isn't too shabby. But it's fair to say that battery life isn't a strong point of the Galaxy Alpha.
We like the Galaxy Alpha very much. An ultra-slim ultra-lightweight phone with plenty of aluminium and premium styling on show can't be bad. Pricing is good too, with the phone being available for about the same price as the Galaxy S5.
But Samsung has trimmed the specs to make it happen and we're sad about that. We're OK with the smaller screen, although it's a shame not to have Full HD resolution. The lower camera spec isn't a problem either. We're even comfortable with the slower octa-core processor. What hurts us most is the lack of a microSD memory card option and the under-sized battery.
If you're not a heavy user and find the Galaxy S5 too big, then the Galaxy Alpha might well be the right phone for you. It has class, it's correctly priced, and it has a spec that's just high enough to keep it in the same league as the big boys. But if you crave high-end performance, you should stick with the Galaxy S5 flagship or consider the HTC One M8 or iPhone 6.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha features include:
- 12 megapixel camera with LED flash, autofocus, face detection, smile shot, digital zoom, UHD 4K video recording
- 2.1 megapixel front camera with 1080p HD video recording
- Display: Super AMOLED, 16 million colours, 1280 x 720 pixels HD (4.7 inches) capacitive touchscreen
- Music player
- Integrated handsfree speaker
- GPS, Glonass, Beidou with Google Maps
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, instant messaging, email
- Processor: Octa-core (1.8GHz, 1.3GHz)
- Memory: 32GB, 2GB RAM
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, micro USB 3.0, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC, ANT+
- Sensors: HR Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Fingerprint Sensor, Hall Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Accelerometer, Light Sensor
- Multi-region LTE 4G, HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100MHz), EDGE / GPRS (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz)
- Size: 132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7 mm
- Weight: 115g
- Battery: 1860mAh battery
- battery life: up to 11 hours internet use (Wi-Fi)
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Samsung Galaxy Alpha user reviews
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Average rating from 4 reviews:
Reviewed by Kiran Gupta
on 6th Jan 2015
This phone is recently launched by Samsung.This new smartphone is undoubtedly one of the best gadgets by samsung. The incredible features of this phone will surely leave you mesmerized.It has HD display screen, 12 MP camera ,latest version of android ,Unbelievable processing speed,2 GB RAM and 32 GB internal memory.For more details you can refer Samsung India site. My friend has bought this phone and she said this phone is amazing.
Reviewed by Andy
on 2nd Dec 2014
Had this phone a couple of weeks now and I am very happy. As far as specs go I can't really fault it, ok the S5 is water resistant, has memory card slot and has a higher quality 1080p screen VS 780p, S5 also has a bigger battery. Pros with Alpha, it's slightly cheaper, nice size with 4.7" screen and very slim design that looks and feels much more premium. With 32GB on board storage why would you need a memory card? Camera is very hard to tell the difference between them because it's the same just a different sensor, a very good 12MP shooter. With the octa core processor and 2GB of RAM this phone out performs the S5 in benchmark tests. The screen looks very good and the my only slight concern was the battery life from the small 1860mAh battery, this has also proved to be good in my opinion and lasts more than 1 day with heavy to average usage. Must try not to drop it down the toilet otherwise I will wish I had chosen the S5.
Reviewed by Adel
on 26th Oct 2014
Excellent smartphone.light mobile. I like alfa very much
Reviewed by Lee
on 10th Oct 2014
No SD card slot - no FM radio (which is pretty standard nowadays on Samsungs)..my votes on Sony.