Samsung has done a 360 on design with Galaxy Alpha, which keeps most of the features of Galaxy S5 but adds a sharp metallic flavor to it; currently at $0* on 2-yr contracts. Does it make Samsung Galaxy Alpha a more premium smartphone than its older sibling Galaxy S5? We find out in our review, catch the details after the break.
Let’s dive straight into the hardware. Samsung Galaxy Alpha’s body is predominantly made of plastic and only the frame around the body is made of aluminum. We have seen this design approach several times earlier, Moto X and Microsoft’s Lumia 930 and 830.
Samsung has got the part about machining the metal frame right. The chamfered edges simply evoke a feeling of premium from the first look itself. You can notice a slight sloping at the top and bottom of the frame on both sides, which gives an edgy yet elegant character to the design. Even the volume keys have a similar sloping look to them.
Though an all-metal body looks great, the plastic-metal combination works pretty well in the case of Samsung Galaxy Alpha. The plastic is relegated to only the rear casing of the smartphone, so you don’t get to see much of it but you can feel its slightly rubbery texture every time you hold the device. And it doesn’t feel cheap.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha’s octa-core processor (four 1.8GHz Cortex A15 cores and four 1.3GHz A7 cores) is certainly not the fastest in the market, but it is still pretty fast. The smartphone packs 2GB RAM, thus making it a potent combination that can easily perform any task thrown its way. If you are upgrading from a 2013 model, you would really notice the difference, but compared to Galaxy S5 the difference is not too much.
Samsung has used the same soft plastic material in Galaxy Alpha that it used in Galaxy S5. It has a matte finish, so smudges and marks are hard to come by. Plus the dotted pattern on the back renders pretty good grip so that the sleek smartphone does not slip out of the hand easily. Our review unit is white in colour, which of course goes very well with the silver-colored aluminum frame.
The most remarkable thing about Samsung Galaxy Alpha, however, is not the design. Its most distinguishing feature is its weight. At 115gram, it is easily among the lightest smartphones out there today. However, the weight distribution across the body is such that it won’t weigh you down even after hours and hours of usage.
Galaxy Alpha can be best summed up as one of the best ways Samsung could have shut up critics who have long said that it can’t get the design part right.
Galaxy Alpha uses a Super AMOLED screen. The 4.7-inch panel has 720p HD resolution. Yes, you read it right — 720p HD, not 1080p Full HD. This combination of screen size, resolution and panel type results in a display that is not the best around, though the untrained eye would find it hard to spot the problems.
Alert: there is NO water- and dust-resistance, microSD card support and the infrared. Camera resolution is 12MP, while battery capacity is 1,830mAh. Finally the microUSB is 2.0.
Galaxy Alpha has a 12MP rear camera. The photos taken by the phone show excellent details both indoors and outdoors, with little to no noise due to a little overprocessing. The color contrast is pleasing though not as natural as you would like it be. Same can be said about the color accuracy, as the hues appear a little oversaturated. Night-time shots are also good, with relatively less noise compared to many other smartphones today.
There’s more on the software side, but it feels a little more cluttered compared to what we would like. Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, though a lot leaner than last year, is still not the best proprietary skin we have used on a smartphone. It is filled with many apps that we ignore because Google Play has better apps, but we can easily hide them from the menu so that they don’t clutter the app drawer. Typing on the Samsung keyboard is a little problematic as the small dimensions leave very little gaps between the on-screen keys.
Let’s talk about the 1,830mAh battery that concerned us the most. As you would expect, the battery life does take a hit from the decrease in capacity, but thankfully we could eke out almost a day of juice on one charge consistently for two weeks. You can even go more than a month of usage with the ultra power saving mode.
There’s a lot to like in Samsung Galaxy Alpha, and that’s enough to overlook its (few) shortcomings. The smartphone has a beautiful design, fast processor, good camera, decent display and frills like fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor. It also has its flaws, like the below-par battery life. Of course, you will lose out on waterproof body, higher-resolution camera and display if you take Galaxy S5 in comparison, but the design itself alone makes up for it. We give it a handsome 8.5 / 10 rating.