|Style & Handling|
|+ Metal frame||- Average battery|
|+ High powered||- Not full HD|
|+ Bright, compact display||- No microSD card slot|
Verdict: The Galaxy Alpha might not quite be an iPhone 6 killer, but it’s definitely an iPhone 6 alternative and a great phone in its own right.
It certainly made a promising first impression, but can it stand up to longer term scrutiny? Read on to find out.
The design is arguably the most important part of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, so let’s start there. Its metal frame is the highlight, it was the first Samsung smartphone to include a metal frame and though the Galaxy Note 4 is following in its footsteps it’s still one of only two.
So if you want a Samsung with a premium design this is pretty much your only option, but even moving away from Samsung phones it undeniably looks good. Its 132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7mm build means it’s compact and slim too, which is also rare on Samsung flagships.
The back of the phone is still plastic so it’s not a totally premium overhaul but it’s a huge leap in the right direction. If there’s anything negative to say it’s that the Galaxy Alpha isn’t dust or water resistant, even though some Samsung phones are and it’s still not as good looking as the iPhone 6 or HTC One M8.
Another surprising aspect of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is its screen size because at 4.7 inches it’s large but not massive, especially when you consider that Samsung’s other flagships, the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4, are 5.1 and 5.7 inches respectively, so it’s nice to see Samsung combine a smaller screen with high end specs.
Though the screen isn’t actually one of Samsung’s best. It’s a 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 312 pixels per inch, so it’s fairly sharp but could definitely be more so. At that size it would undeniably benefit from being 1080p.
The resolution is its only downfall though as it’s a bright, vibrant display that’s a joy to use, whether browsing the web or watching videos.
With a 1.8GHz quad-core and 1.3GHz quad-core processor alongside 2GB of RAM the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is certainly powerful. Octa-core phones are still fairly rare but they definitely have their advantages, as in this case, where the Alpha will use the fastest four cores for demanding tasks and the slower ones for lightweight tasks, so as to conserve battery while delivering all the power and performance that’s needed.
It works well and while it’s overshadowed by the beastly Galaxy Note 4 this is still a very slick and powerful smartphone.
It supports Cat4 4G as well with theoretical download speeds of up to 150Mbps, so it’s incredibly fast at streaming, downloading and loading websites too, leaving you in no doubt that this is a truly high end phone.
The 12 megapixel snapper on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha might not sound as impressive as the 20.7 megapixel Sony Xperia Z3 or even the 16 megapixel Galaxy S5, but it’s certainly up to the job of taking some good photos.
It’s also fast to launch and has a similarly speedy autofocus, which is always appreciated given that photo-worthy moments can often be fleeting.
If you do have time to spare though there are a lot of modes and settings to play with, such as HDR, background defocus and Beauty Face, which aims to remove imperfections.
The Alpha can also shoot 2160p video at 30fps and there’s a 2.1 megapixel camera on the front.
Above and beyond its core specs the main features of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha are a fingerprint scanner and a heart rate monitor. The fingerprint scanner is a theoretically quick and convenient replacement for passwords when unlocking your phone or using apps, but it doesn’t always work.
The heart rate monitor meanwhile does always work and you get a reading from a sensor by the camera flash. However while it works it’s not accurate enough to use if you need an exact reading for medical purposes and we’d be surprised if it gets that much use from many other people, but it’s there if you want it and an interesting novelty even if you don’t.
With its 1860 mAh juice pack the Samsung Galaxy Alpha isn’t exactly equipped for marathon stints between charges. Compare that to the 2800 mAh battery in the Galaxy S5 and it really is very small, even considering the power efficient processor and the smaller, lower resolution display on the Alpha.
The end result is that battery life is pretty average. Not terrible, it should see you through a day unless you use it heavily, but you’ll need to have plugged this thing in by midnight almost without fail.
If you really can’t get to a charger then there is a power saving mode which keeps it going a lot longer, but it does that by severely limiting what you can actually do on the phone, so it’s something you’ll want to use in emergencies only.
There’s 32GB of built in storage but sadly there’s no microSD card slot so you can’t expand on that. It’s well equipped though, with Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is a good first stab at a smartphone with a premium design and the fact that it’s got high end specs coupled with a smaller screen size is appreciated too as it’s increasingly rare to see that, especially from Samsung.
It’s got all the power you’d hope for, a good camera and a number of extra features which you won’t find on every handset, such as its heart rate monitor. But it’s not a total victory, the battery life is distinctly average and the screen is on the low resolution side for a high end phone, which this clearly is given its £549 RRP.
The lack of a microSD card slot is disappointing too and it’s a shame Samsung only gave it a metal frame rather than a full metal jacket.
Still, if you want a compact, stylish flagship there are few alternatives. The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and Z1 Compact both give it a run for its money and the iPhone 6 is undeniably superior if you’re ok with iOS, but the Galaxy Alpha is still an impressive phone in its own right and well worth considering if you’re an Android fan.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review SpecificationDimensions : 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 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ Yes Battery capacity: 1860mAh Colours: Charcoal Black, Sleek Silver, Dazzling White, Frosted Gold, Scuba Blue Launch Date: Out now Price: £549