The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is an odd handset that comes at an odd time in Samsung’s historical past. Back in 2013 Samsung might do no incorrect and had begun to appear to be the pure inheritor to Apple’s throne, outselling everyone throughout the board, and displaying no indicators of slowing down. But then 2014 occurred, and gaps in Samsung’s armour started to appear, calling into query its earlier successes and, in some circles, its entire strategy to design.
A lot of 2011-2013’s success, as many have already identified, was constructed on the again of report advertising/promoting spending (one thing that would not proceed advert infinitum) and never, essentially, really nice merchandise –– was the Galaxy S4 THAT a lot better than the HTC One or LG G2… or did Samsung simply have extra out there assets to persuade individuals it was? I’m extra inclined to agree with the latter after testing all three. But that’s simply my opinion.
With worse-than-expected Galaxy S5 gross sales and the now very actual menace of two very robust iPhone handsets to do battle with in Q4, Samsung –– extra so than ever earlier than –– MUST increase its recreation if it needs to stay a critical thorn in Apple’s aspect within the foreseeable future. Apple, by the best way, is predicted to shift one hundred million iPhones earlier than the shut of the yr. And as a way to do that, Samsung has come into Q4 armed with two new units: the Samsung Galaxy Note A and, the main target of this evaluation, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review: Design
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is absolutely all about Samsung’s new strategy to design which sees the corporate break the behavior of a lifetime and change out the gross, low cost-feeling plastics of previous in favour or one thing, nicely, just a little bit extra premium. Yes, we’re speaking about THAT aluminium body, which, as you possibly can see under, actually does add a sure je ne sais quoi to the entire thing.
A LOT of individuals have stated the brand new metallic body used on the Galaxy Alpha, with its chamfered edging, appears slightly too just like the design Apple championed on its iPhone H and iPhone 5s in 2012 and 2013, respectively. And there's greater than a grain of fact to those claims; the Galaxy Alpha does look somewhat just like the iPhone 5s. But the actual query right here is: ought to this hassle you? And the reply is straightforward: completely not.
If we take the Galaxy Alpha as a standalone handset, one might argue that Samsung has tried to reimagine its present flagship, the Galaxy S5, with a smaller, extra premium design in a bid to supply a viable Android various to Apple’s lengthy-rumoured A.7in iPhone S. And within the hand the Alpha actually is an enormous leap ahead from the squiffy, plastic-incredible Galaxy S5 of early 2014. I choose the whole lot about this system (the dimensions, the show, the texture, and the chassis). It FEELS like a flagship, whereas the Galaxy S5 simply felt, properly, uninteresting.
And that is the place issues will get bizarre, as a result of the Galaxy S5 –– which ever means you take a look at it –– is meant to be the higher of the 2. It’s the FLAGSHIP and has a greater show, a bigger battery, extra processing energy and superior imaging know-how to show it. But right here’s the factor: if I had to decide on between these two handsets proper this second, I’d decide the Alpha each single time. That says quite a bit concerning the state of Samsung’s Galaxy line, and is probably why the corporate appears extra focussed on its Note collection nowadays.
And this brings me round to my preliminary level: the Galaxy Alpha is an odd handset that has appeared at an odd time for the corporate. I imply, realistically, who's going to decide on this handset over the suitably wonderful and shortly to be extensively out there Galaxy Note A? If Samsung’s your factor then the choice looks like a no brainer: the Note A wins out each time.
And in case you view it as a transfer by Samsung to offer shoppers one other choice to Apple’s iPhone S, then the Galaxy Alpha appears all of the extra bizarre. Had Samsung included all of the hardware and specs one finds inside its present Galaxy S5, as Sony does with its Compact collection of units, then it may need appeared like a shrewed strategic transfer, however with out these attributes it feels, more and more, like a rushed afterthought, very similar to the corporate’s rising variety of Gear wearables.
At least plainly approach on paper, however when you spend a while with the handset and dig slightly deeper into its nuances and quirks, one thing bizarre begins to occur –– you start to understand that Samsung has truly created one thing fairly particular right here, and suddenly you overlook concerning the dip from 16MP to 12MP for the digital camera and it not having a 1080p show.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review: Display
The Alpha’s A.7in Super AMOLED 720p show is a satisfying setup to make use of in all method of settings, being completely proportioned for one-handed use (making calls and IM), in addition to different, extra trendy issues like gaming and media consumption. It is a 720p panel and never fairly as sharp because the Galaxy S5’s 1080p setup, however the outcomes are excellent throughout the board with crystal clear element, close to-good blacks and wonderful brightness ranges. You actually gained’t discover the distinction.
I’ve lengthy suspected A.7in to be the candy spot for smartphone shows and after utilizing the Alpha for every week or two it now appears that, for corporations designing a real mass-attraction handset, that is certainly the best way ahead. Why else would Apple, an organization famend for its borderline-OCD strategy to shopper analysis, go for this EXACT measurement on its iPhone S? I relaxation my case.
The additional advantage of getting a 720p show is to do with battery. All these upcoming QHD panels are all nicely and good, however their have an effect on on battery life is HUGE and as a way to actually negate that influence you want a equally sizeable battery cell in your handset –– that’s why we solely ever see QHD panels inside phablet units (and, almost definitely, why Apple gave it a miss on its iPhone S Plus). The battery contained in the Alpha is smaller than the one contained in the Galaxy S5, so displaying some restraint on this regard was undoubtedly smart. Speaking from expertise, as a Nexus H consumer, I know all too properly concerning the pitfalls of 1080p shows and small battery cells.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review: CPU, RAM and Connectivity
The Android group is obsessive about specs, and that poses one thing of an issue for the Galaxy Alpha as its spec sheet isn’t fairly as spectacular as a few of its friends’; nevertheless, as Apple has proven us time and time once more, specs aren’t every part on the subject of efficiency – and the Galaxy Alpha is a primary instance of this.
Inside you’ll discover Samsung’s very personal Exynos H Octa 5430 chipset operating alongside 2GB of RAM and, BOY, does it pack a PUNCH! A lot of that is to do with ARM’s huge.LITTLE know-how, whereby you might have the primary quad-core 1.8GHz CPU doing all of the demanding stuff (gaming, video, imaging) and a smaller, 1.3GHz quad-core CPU taking good care of much less demanding enterprise.
How this setup compares to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 (and the newer 805) is pretty superfluous within the grand scheme of issues, so we gained’t go into an excessive amount of technical element right here, aside from to say the Galaxy Alpha positively FLIES, dealing with just about something you possibly can throw at it (excessive-finish gaming, imaging processing and multi-tasking) with fairly a little bit of surplus left over.
In this respect, trendy CPUs are bit like supercars. They’re all insanely highly effective however it is extremely uncommon that you simply’ll truly get to make use of all their latent energy in on a regular basis use "on the street", so to talk. Interestingly, that is the primary Exynos handset I’ve examined and, as you possibly can in all probability collect, I am extraordinarily impressed with the extent of efficiency it presents.
The Galaxy Alpha ships with 32GB of inner storage and no SD-card help which is type of an odd transfer for Samsung, given that almost all of its handsets so far have featured expandable storage. Still, 32GB must be greater than sufficient for many (particularly with the 50GB Dropbox area you get when activating the handset), supplying you with ample room for apps, video games and movies. A 64GB choice would have been good, positive, however given the price of this mannequin (£549) and the truth that 64GB variations of Samsung's precise flagships have, up to now, merely stagnated on cabinets, it’s straightforward to see why that choice doesn’t exist.
The Galaxy Alpha runs the standard gamut of Wi-Fi choices (a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot) in addition to LTE (CAT A) and HSPA+, which means you’re coated for each 4G and HSPA+ cellular knowledge with speeds topping out at 150mbps on LTE.
Android A.A.A KitKat is the OS of selection right here and there'll little question be an replace to Android L sooner or later earlier than the shut of the yr. Powering every thing alongside is an 1860mAh (detachable) battery cell. You additionally get Samsung’s largely ineffective fingerprint scanner and coronary heart-fee monitor, as seen aboard the Samsung Galaxy S5, too.
And that’s about it for the important thing specs.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review: Camera
Samsung has all the time been probably the greatest OEMs on the planet close to a balanced imaging expertise, and the Galaxy Alpha is not any exception. Again, the setup you get right here isn’t fairly as compelling because the gear packed into the Galaxy S5 (or the forthcoming Galaxy Note A, for that matter), however as a easy, level-and-shoot unit (i.e. what ninety nine.N% of punters need) it’s fairly rattling strong, as you possibly can see within the picture samples under:
Exact specs are as follows: 12MP sensor on the rear, full with LED flash, and Samsung’s now-commonplace, blink-and-you-miss-it autofocus. It additionally advantages from Live HDR (as seen aboard the Galaxy S5) and Samsung’s wonderful Camera app that basically is likely one of the greatest setups within the enterprise, with its mixture of helpful options and its straightforward-to-use nature.
Oh… and the Galaxy Alpha can even shoot 4K video which, you realize, is a reasonably respectable get together trick (now you simply want to seek out one thing with a 4K show to observe them on).
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review: Battery
If you take a look at the dimensions of the battery contained in the Galaxy Alpha, you’d assume that efficiency may depart fairly a bit to be desired; 1850mAh is teeny by trendy requirements, even for a equally sized handset. And Samsung might have included a much bigger battery within the Alpha too, it simply opted to not as a result of –– as I stated within the opening paragraph –– this handset is ALL about design, so it needs to be tremendous, tremendous slim.
Thankfully, Samsung’s consideration to different areas of the gadget –– specifically the selection of CPU and the show measurement and determination –– imply that this measurement battery, though small, gives the identical degree of efficiency, pound for pound, because the bigger cell discovered contained in the Samsung Galaxy S5. I didn’t consider this is able to be the case myself, however after testing it for every week I can't, for the lifetime of me, run this factor down in a single working day. Compared to my Nexus H, which may get right down to round 14% by P:30pm, the Galaxy Alpha is in one other league completely. And the rationale for that is Samsung’s cautious hardware decisions and its now-wonderful mastery of Google’s Android OS.
I gained’t go into the small print of Samsung’s proprietary Android overlay, Nature UX, right here for the sake of brevity. But do you have to want to discover out extra about its options, USPs and design, you'll want to take a look at our Samsung Galaxy S5 review, which covers off every thing from J-Health proper right down to the design modifications Samsung made to be able to make the software program extra light-weight.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review: Conclusion
To sum up in a single sentence: the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, regardless of my preconceptions, actually does stay up its identify. The gadget seems to be higher, feels higher and in lots of respects seems to carry out higher than its bigger, flagship brethren, the Galaxy S5.
Whether I’d be tempted to purchase this handset over the quickly to be out there Galaxy Note A (or the iPhone S, for that matter) is one other factor totally… in comparison with the Galaxy S5, nevertheless, there actually is not any competitors and if this can be a signal of issues to return from Samsung, then the longer term seems very vibrant certainly for the world’s second largest know-how model.