Samsung Galaxy Alpha is the OEMs first phone that marks a change in direction when it comes to design philosophy and user experience. Both of these are catalyzed by the fact that the Alpha is the company’s (first high end flagship) phone that is less than 5 inches in size, after a very long time and that the Alpha has a metal frame.
The Galaxy Alpha rests between the two big S5 models – the Galaxy S5 and the S5 mini. At 4.7 inches in screen size, the Alpha is not a screamer, its a rather modest phone that looks quite sharp. Our review unit was of the ‘Frosted Gold’ color and it is a total charmer. For long there has been a need for an excellent Android device that isnt a bit too big and the Alpha might just take the crown here.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha – Design :
The Galaxy Alpha is all about the metal when it comes to design.It is really surprising, in a pleasant way, how much of a difference in build quality as well as perception does adding a metal frame make. It not only feels exotic in it’s own right, but also looks handsome and yes, very premium indeed.
The Alpha fits nicely into any pockets and yes, you wont have to buy new jeans to accommodate your phone. The in-hand feel, while using the phone while is a bit different, since we are all so used to phones much bigger in size; one starts appreciating the size of the Alpha as days pass. It feels like a natural extension of something that best fits in the hand. Going back to bigger devices then would feel weird. In a way, the Alpha engulfs you in the experience it delivers out of the long hours of using it.
The Aluminium frame feels cold to the touch when picked after a night and the combination of the faux leather – which feels rubbery and grippy to the touch, makes usability much easier. Everything from the frame to the buttons has chamfered edges and reflects light of the frame to catch attention.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha – Screen :
The display on the Galaxy Alpha is a 4.7 inch Super AMOLED display. As expected, out of a high end panel, the details are sharp, yes its not a 1080p display – but it doesn’t have to be! Reading text on a webpage is easier and as expected. Watching movies or just general browsing all are aided and delivered well with this display. Details therefore are all present and sharp. Colors are extremely contrasty – coming from staring at any other LCD panel, AMOLED comes across as saturated, while that isn’t bad, we would have definitely appreciated a bit subtlety in calibration.
However, that’s hardly even anything to complaint about since the device offers the user a choice of selecting color profiles. A basic profile tones down the contrast so that everything appears much more muted. Most of the times though we stuck to the settings out of the box. Viewing angles are crazy good and at 315ppi the display can be categorized as crisp.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha – Hardware And Software :
The Galaxy Alpha runs on Android KitKat 4.4.4 and in our review period of 30 days the phone got 3 OTA updates. Nothing major when it comes to features were added, but each update promised performance and battery optimizations. It is really good to see Samsung putting effort in the commitment it has made to keeping devices updated. Apart from that experience the Alpha brings can be termed as ‘Buttery Smooth’. Everything from boot times to app opening times are plenty fast. Switching between apps is no issue with bundled 2GB of RAM.
The camera on the back is a 12MP sensor – the same one found on the Galaxy S5. On the front we have a 2MP selfie cam. Both cameras produce attractive sharp results. Nothing that can compare to the Note 4 – and it would be unfair to since the Note has OIS and a different sensor. However, you wont notice the difference if you don’t compare them side by side.
This is no surprise that the Alpha performs so well – powering this beast is a Samsung Exynos 5430 Octa-core CPU which is a combination of two quad core CPUs : a Cortex A15 clocked at 1.8GHz and a 1.3GHZ Cortex A7. The ARMs big.LITTLE architecture governs them i.e. the CPU intelligently switches between high performance clusters and power saving clusters as and when required by the tasks that the user is performing. A Mali T628MP6 GPU keeps all the graphics rendered nice and clean. This enables gaming at high frame rates. Although the device heats up while gaming for a period of around 30 mins- this isnt anything new and is common across the board between all devices. The heat is dissipated well since the metal picks it up.
Geekbench 3 shows a score of 3124 in Multi-core performance which a humongous 1000 points away from other industry leaders. This represents that the chip is capable of some serious horsepower. Something that keeps the alpha from becoming a media powerhouse is the speaker at the bottom, while it isn’t low in volume, it definitely isn’t as loud as we would have liked.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha – Fingerprint scanner and Sensors :
Like with the Galaxy devices in its category, the Galaxy Alpha is equipped with a fingerprint scanner in its home button. The home button can be used for the usual set of functions as well but the fingerprint scanner built into it enables you to unlock your Alpha securely and conveniently. The fingerprint capture process requires you to swipe on the sensor for around 10 times and then you’re all setup. We found the scanner to be pretty reliable with 9 out of 10 scans resulting in a success.
Another nifty feature is the heart-rate monitor on the back. Samsung introduced this with the Galaxy S5 and it has been a standard add-on. Samsung makes sure to specify that this isn’t the most accurate reading and shouldn’t be considered as well but it works fairly well. The built in S-Health app tracks the users steps and also suggests activities which is neat.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha – Battery Life :
With the size of the Alpha, it is obvious that Samsung couldn’t have managed to fit a humongous battery inside. The battery onboard is a 1860mAh battery which by todays standards, is considered smaller than average. To our surprise, it isn’t lacking or worse by any means. On a regular day it lasts around 12-15 hours with a screen on time of around 4 hours which isnt really bad. What is great is that since it is smaller in size, one doesn’t have to spend a lot of time charging it, although we would have loved to see Quick Charge 2.0 here.
There are the usual power saving modes included here, there is a standard power saving mode with the ‘Ultra Power Saving mode’ as well. This virtually scales up battery life to days by minimizing the number of things you can do with your phone.
Final Verdict :
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is a dream come true for not just Samsung purists, but also anyone who is looking for a small phone which doesn’t come with big compromises. While argue that it isn’t affordable when it comes to pricing, it packs quite a punch to justify its cost. It is a smaller sibling of the Galaxy Note 4 that we will be reviewing shortly.
The Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s best foot forward in the sub 5 inch category – a space where there is hardly any competition for the device. The Alpha ticks all the right checkboxes in the departments above and overall is definitely a phone that we recommend if you must have a phone that looks classy and brings the best performance of what can be achieved today.
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