The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has come at an excellent time. Provided that Samsung is clearly feeling the pressure because of the impending Apple iPhone 6, launching a phone that has design chops that might impress even the most seasoned Apple fan was a shrewd move by the corporate.
I managed to get my hands on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha at IFA 2014 and was smitten by its feel and look. The whole design of the handset is punctuated by premium.
The chassis is tremendous slim and the metallic frame is much like that on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which implies we may see much more devices from Samsung with such a design.
In the hand it feels wafer thin. Its specs show that at simply 6.7mm thin the Galaxy Alpha beating both the Samsung Galaxy S5 (8.1mm) and iPhone 5S (7.6mm) with room to spare.
Inevitably the metallic body is the main talking level here, but it is the weight – or lack of it – that basically makes the strongest first impression. It weighs simply 115g, making it lighter than the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 (129g), the S5 Mini (120g) and solely slightly heavier than the iPhone 5S (112g). That has lots to do with the truth that there’s still plenty of plastic to balance out the costlier materials.
Samsung still makes use of a dimpled soft-touch again, although the dotted sample’s more discreet and softer than it’s on the S5 and the S5 Mini. Here is where you will find the heart-rate sensor, next to a 12MP camera and LED flash.
Up front, the bezel around the sides of the display screen is good and slim, whereas the dotted theme from the again continues quite prominently on the front. You may not notice it, however we could not assist feeling it was slightly naff and would have been better left plain. The home button with its metallic trim is a well-recognized sight and in addition supports the fingerprint-recognition technology that was first launched on the S5.
And so to the metallic. Samsung makes use of an aluminium frame around the edges of the Alpha, together with the buttons and volume rocker, changing the usual faux-metal plastic trim. It is tough to not instantly think of the iPhone if you get your hands on it. The metal has a cold, flat really feel with an anodised end to provide it a similar metallic sheen to Apple’s phone. The corners are gently raised to help gripping it in landscape mode, and it actually does the trick of making this a way more attractive phone.
The issue, however, is that there is still quite a lot of plastic here, and subsequent to HTC’s metal phones it is probably not in the same league. It is a beautiful handset to grip, though, and 4.7 inches appears to be the magic number for a so-called ‘smaller’ phone. In that respect, the Alpha is more manageable in a single hand, although the corners can dig in ever so slightly.
The comparisons with the iPhone do not finish there. The volume rocker is on the left edge and the speaker is on the bottom edge subsequent to the micro-USB charging port. Just like the S5 Mini, the Galaxy Alpha misses out on USB 3.0 support.
The Alpha is simply 6.7mm thick, so it’s a slim phone as nicely, however it’s not water- and dust-resistant just like the S5 and the S5 Mini.
The back is still detachable, as is the smaller-capacity battery, although there is no microSD card slot, and now you will want a nano-SIM. It is those kinds of design inconsistencies throughout the Galaxy phones that may be actually irritating at times, though on this case it does make it easier to switch from an iPhone, which was maybe Samsung’s aim.
The premium look of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is unfortunately not matched in terms of the screen. Samsung has decided to put a 720p display screen on the device which is a little bit of a disappointment.
There is a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display on board and boasts a resolution of 1280 x 720.
That is significantly lower than what’s found on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5S. However as it’s Super AMOLED at least colours ping like they should.
The Alpha runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat – at the least until the Android 5.0 Lollipop update – overlaid with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, which has advanced into a a lot cleaner and not-so-bloatware-filled place in recent times.
Swiping left reveals the new My Magazine UX, which is basically a Flipboard rip-off, the new-look, jam-packed Settings menu can be in place. It is all the time good to have full management over as many aspects of the phone as possible, however some will find it an amazing place to hunt around initially.
Samsung still manages to squeeze in a few of its own apps to accompany the choice of Google and Google Play apps already pre-installed. The My Galaxy app store, S Planner, S Health and Siri-rival S Voice are all present. Some are invariably extra useful than others, however the key is that they are not thrust upon you. In the 32GB version, 6GB of that storage is taken up by software required to run the phone, so with no microSD slot to increase it, there is actually around 26GB to play with.
Similarly, as is the case with the S5 Mini, not all the software options make it onto the Alpha. Most are gesture-based, which you’ll live with out, and modes that take full benefit of a much bigger screen. That is largely the identical experience as found on different Galaxy phones. Things run slickly and you would be hard pressed to feel like you had been greatly lacking out on anything.
One thing the Galaxy Alpha is not short of is energy. It is the first Samsung phone to include a Exynos 5430 octa-core processor made up of a quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex A15 core configuration & a 1.3GHz Cortex A7 core. Basically, 4 of those cores are there to handle extra demanding tasks similar to gaming, whereas the other 4 are there to help use the power extra efficiently. It is equipped to deal with higher-resolution 2K displays – not relevant for the Alpha – and to handle 4K video capturing, which is one thing the Alpha can do.
There’s a Mali T628MP6 GPU to accompany it and 2GB RAM, so it is effectively equipped for many duties and a bit extra. General navigation and getting round has a nice zip to it, and games run with none hitches.
The benchmark scores again up just how a lot power is on board right here. In the Geekbench 3 benchmark test, the Alpha delivers a blistering 3124 multi-core score, placing it way forward of the S5 Mini (1134) and the Galaxy S5 (2830). When you match that with the way it works in real terms, there is most likely more power than the Alpha actually wants, and it does not actually tap into its full potential.
In typical Samsung fashion, even the default camera app is overburdened with options. There are a lots of manual options for the extra serious photographer but you may also simply tap to take photos if that is what you need. Other than the Auto mode there are other modes like Shot and more, Beauty face, Panorama, Virtual tour and Twin camera. Many extra might be downloaded from the Galaxy Apps store.
The 12-megapixel rear camera performs as well as, if not higher than, a flagship smartphone just like the Samsung Galaxy S5 in daylight situations. We managed to seize crisp particulars in almost all modes. In close-ups, the lens permits for some good depth-of-field, which looks dramatic and good. The captured colours were natural and warm but we observed a slight reddish tint. Our landscape photographs additionally captured good details in topics that were actually far away. Even at 100% crops the loss in detail was low. Moreover, there is no barrel distortion or chromatic aberration.
However, the camera struggles in low light. The pictures are noisy and it does not actually capture too many details. It isn’t bad at all but there are various phones on this price range that may and do perform higher in low light conditions.
The rear camera can also capture 4K video, which appears quite crisp. We checked the quality of the captured video on a FHD display and noted that every one the details seemed crystal clear with none display tearing whatsoever. Note that eighteen seconds of 4K video took up 118MB of the limited internal storage space. The two.1-megapixel front camera does a good job too and it has a beautify choice with various levels by default. However, people who take loads of selfies might have preferred a lens with a wider angle.
One thing the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t inherit from the Galaxy S5 or even the S5 Mini is the battery life. There is a detachable 1860mAh battery, which is smaller than the one inside the cheaper S5 Mini (2100mAh), no doubt to accommodate the Alpha’s extra slimline design. Whereas it is able to getting you thru a day, it struggles to match the S5’s two-day stamina.
Samsung does still include the useful Ultra Power Saving mode in this to push issues further, but it surely does not take a lot gaming or video streaming to bite into the battery life.
Generally use, gaming, checking on Twitter, browsing the web, and watching video, the Alpha can safely make it into the evening time and may max out at a day and a half. In more excessive testing, running an HD video on loop, it manages on average ten hours, which is about an hour lower than the S5 Mini under the identical conditions, and about the identical as the iPhone 5S manages.
From a 30-minute charge when the battery is completely flat, it’ll top up by around 25%, so it is at least a reasonably swift charger.
When what Samsung is capable of delivering, it is a disgrace the Alpha does not fairly give you the identical excellent battery life.
Call quality is common. Not bad, however not great, both. Samsung does embrace a noise-reduction feature within the Call Settings to supress background noise throughout calls, but even with out that we found name quality to be fairly clear and without any dropouts.
Samsung’s mixed things up on the speaker front, shifting it from the rear to the underside edge subsequent to the charging port, a lot as it’s on the iPhone. Holding it in landscape mode does imply there’s nonetheless a tendency to cover it and muffle some of the sound. What is more disappointing is that it does not show any actual enhancements on the S5 or the S5 Mini. It is still loud above anything, however does not come near HTC’s BoomSound speakers for warmth or bass.
After a short while with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, it has to be said that there’s a lot to like about the gadget. When you can forgive its display screen shortcomings and the lack of expandable memory, what you’re left with is a superbly designed phone that’s up there with the likes of the HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 5S.
It is a handset that proves Samsung is pushing the boat out in terms of style. It is design prospers have lots in common with the recently introduced Samsung Galaxy Note 4 which points to more design flourishes to come in future handsets.