Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review Scoring Summary
|Style & Handling|
Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s most visually stunning smartphone yet and for the most part it has specs to match, but a few cut corners hold it back.
Full Review and Specification for the Samsung Galaxy Alpha
Samsung has long been lambasted for the build quality of its smartphones. The plastic covering which each handset received was a glaring fault when matched to the high end specs and wealth of features that phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 delivered.
Finally Samsung is taking the hint and releasing a phone with a build worthy of its specs, so is this the perfect Samsung phone? Or has the company dropped the ball elsewhere? Read on to hear our first impressions.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha’s screen is a mixed bag. It’s a 4.7 inch 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 312 pixels per inch. So it’s only 720p rather than full HD, which is a surprising move by Samsung as it instantly marks the Galaxy Alpha as not being a top end phone, since almost all high end handsets have 1080p displays or better.
Having said that, while it’s not quite as sharp as we’d like it’s actually not bad at all. At 312 pixels per inch it’s still fairly crisp and the use of Super AMOLED ensures that images are bright, vibrant and natural. There was a time when Super AMOLED used to mean oversaturated images, but Samsung has worked hard over the years to find a balance between vivid and true to life colours and it’s clearly paid off.
We also have to applaud the fact that this is a 4.7 inch screen, rather than a 5 inch or larger one. The smaller size makes the 720p resolution less of an issue, but it’s also a nice change to get a high end handset with a relatively compact display. It’s a decision which was likely made to make it more comparable to the iPhone 6, but whatever Samsung’s reasoning we approve.
The real highlight of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is its design. For years Samsung has put faux-metallic bands around its phones but now for the first time it’s used an actual metal frame. You can tell the difference just by looking at it and it’s even more apparent when you actually hold the phone. Along with a slim 6.7mm thick build it makes the Galaxy Alpha the most premium and stylish smartphone Samsung has ever made.
And it's also very lightweight at just 115g, which makes it significantly lighter than the Galaxy S5 (145g) and only slightly heavier than Apple's iPhone 5S (112g).
It’s not a total victory though as the Galaxy Alpha still doesn’t look quite as good as the iPhone 5S or the HTC One M8, mostly because it still has a plastic back. Still, it’s a giant leap in the right direction and bodes well for future Samsung phones.
There aren’t many octa-core phones available in the UK but the Samsung Galaxy Alpha ranks among them. Don’t get too excited though, as while it has eight cores it only actually uses four at any given time. So for demanding tasks it will use four 1.8GHz cores, while for less demanding things it will use its four 1.3GHz cores, in order to save battery.
In practice that all means that it’s not actually quite as fast as say the LG G3, or even the Samsung Galaxy S5, as despite having twice as many cores it doesn’t use them all at once and they’re clocked at a slower speed.
The Galaxy Alpha is still plenty powerful though and it has 2GB of RAM, so it’s not lacking there either. This isn’t quite the fastest phone around but it feels like a flagship and while some other phones are faster the differences are pretty small.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has a good but not great camera. It has a 12 megapixel sensor, which is notably lower than the 16 megapixel one on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and indeed the actual performance of the camera doesn’t seem quite as good, but it can still take some above average photos by smartphone standards.
It impresses a little more for video, as it can shoot 2160p footage at 30fps and 1080p footage at 60fps and there’s an adequate 2.1 megapixel camera on the front, which feels slightly limiting in this selfie-crazed world, but is no worse than the front facing snapper on the Galaxy S5.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha inherits two of the Galaxy S5’s biggest features- its heart rate monitor and its fingerprint scanner and both of these help it stand out from the crowd. If you care about keeping track of and regulating your heart rate then the built in monitor will be a serious boon, though bear in mind that it’s not accurate enough to be used for medical purposes.
The fingerprint scanner is also useful as it can replace a password when unlocking your phone and even when making purchases. It can be a bit awkward to use and sometimes fails to read your print, but it’s still generally slightly faster than typing out a password.
Battery life, memory and connectivity
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has an 1860 mAh battery, which is on the small side for a phone of this power. The power efficient processor and the addition of an Ultra Power Saving Mode certainly help matters but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to have the best longevity around. Expect average to just above average performance.
Storage is an interesting one as every Samsung phone in recent memory has had a microSD card slot yet the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t. That’s presumably because of the metal frame, but then the all-metal HTC One M8 managed to work one in so you’d think Samsung could too. Thankfully it does at least have 32GB of storage built in, so there’s quite a lot of space to work with.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC, so it’s a well-equipped handset.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha impresses in a lot of ways, thanks to a premium build, high end specs and a bunch of extra features, but it’s not quite the definitive Samsung smartphone. In fact all things considered we’d say it’s definitively worse than the Samsung Galaxy S5.
We wanted a metal clad S5, or maybe even something better, but what we got is smaller, less powerful, has a worse screen and other drawbacks, such as a smaller battery and no microSD card slot.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is still a great, high end phone and if you want a Samsung phone with a premium design or a smaller screen than the Galaxy S5 then this is a good choice, but it just makes us even more desperate for a true flagship with a premium design. Because Samsung has shown as all the pieces now, it just hasn’t put them together into one phone.
You might also be interested in:
This review will be updated with our full comprehensive review very soon!
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Specification
Dimensions : 132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7mm
Weight: 115 grams
Screen size: 4.7” Super AMOLED (720 x 1280)
Screen Resolution: 720 x 1280 display resolution
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 312
Processor: 1.8GHz Quad core and 1.3GHz Quad core application processor
RAM: 2 GB
On-board Memory: 32GB
Camera: 12MP (rear) 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps (2.1 megapixel front-facing)
Operating system: Android 4.4.4
Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes/ Yes
Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ Yes
Battery capacity: 1860mAh
Colours: Charcoal Black, Sleek Silver, Dazzling White, Frosted Gold, Scuba Blue
Launch Date: September