Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review

by Chetan Bhawani 59

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review Box

Samsung has been recently criticized to a big extent, and the electronics giant finally had to ditch its own chapter from the book and move ahead with some new plans, in designing its smartphones. The difference isn’t huge, but what Samsung did to make the Galaxy Alpha smartphone, was enough for the critics to appreciate it, and accept this as a fresh idea from the company. The metallic frame on the sides of the device easily makes the Galaxy Alpha a clear beauty in the Samsung’s Galaxy lineup.

We in fact didn’t totally hate the Galaxy S5‘s design, because although it is a fact that Samsung’s smartphones are all the same in design, but we never felt that the company has to bring about any changes because these were all designed for ease of use, handling and to be good in comfort. The design was a sole reason though, for many to skip buying this, and the Galaxy Alpha now comes with the same reason being the USP for it.

The phone is awfully smaller than the Galaxy S5, and slimmer as well. But that is what makes this a perfect piece in the hand. The beveled edge on sides, raised corners on the real metal frame, and the different smooth but ditched texture on the back, each of it add to the comfort and good feel while holding the Alpha.

Hey, but is the Galaxy Alpha the best of the smartphones out there? Samsung has made a lot of compromises, unlike the other brands that have accepted the fact that although the specifications don’t make a huge difference most of the times, the spec sheet is what the users tend to check before deciding the purchase. Even Motorola had to do that, and thus the new Moto X came in with the latest best specs. Samsung has taken one step right, with the design. But they put the foot in a wrong place, when specs are taken into consideration.

The display size is kept to 4.7-inch, but Samsung has given it an HD resolution, and similar is a case about the camera compromise as well, as the company packs in a 12-megapixel rear camera on the Galaxy Alpha. There is no MicroSD card slot as well, although 32GB internal storage is packed in. Samsung has managed to give the phone enough power to keep it one among the best in terms of performance, because the US model has the Snapdragon 801 chipset, while the International one comes with the Exynos 5 Octa-core processor.

This is one such rare attempt from Samsung where they are trying to sell a device, more for its design than anything else. The attempt hasn’t gone wrong, because the compromise with the specs isn’t very huge and the Galaxy Alpha is able perform well, without breaking a sweat, thanks to the good internal power it has got.

One who has been a fan of Apple for the iPhone design and size, and Samsung for the brand value it has, would easily be able to relate between the Galaxy Alpha and the iPhone 5s. There are chamfered edges, metallic frame, a rectangular side profile and also, a fingerprint scanner in both. But the striking similarities aren’t taking the Alpha away from Samsung’s flavor, as the company has still used the same polycarbonate material for the back cover, and the front design is no different from the earlier Samsung smartphone designs.

The dimpled back what we saw in the Galaxy S5, is not seen here but the dotted texture is still there on the removable back cover, and it feels better. It is not again the first time that we are seeing some textured pattern on the front, below the glass panel. The power key on the right, volume key on the left are both hard to press and thus, you get a better comfort while operating them, to find that the button is actually pressed.

The Alpha possesses a heart rate sensor on the back, alongside the LED flash for the camera. And just like in the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, there is a Finger scanner in the home button. The bottom is slightly wider towards the MicroUSB port area, and that alters the corners of the back cover as well, and the bottom frame has the speaker grill and a microphone as well. The secondary mic is located on the top, just beside to the headset jack. And because the back cover is removable, you don’t see any SIM slot on the side.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Display

The 4.7-inch display on the front is a perfect size for one-handed operation, for those who had complained about the hard-to-use 5.1-inch size on the Galaxy S5, or any competitor phone. The user can easily reach to the corners of the screen, and talking about the quality of the display, it is a 720p Super AMOLED one with some brilliant output of colors, good viewing angles and under the sunlight, the brightness is good as well.

In fact, the display was even brighter and easier to read on, when compared to some flagships such as Xperia Z3 and LG G3. But, the pixel density is less, though not noticeable, but a factor that keeps it low-key when comparing. There is one issue that Samsung users have been complaining of, in the recent times. It is the color saturation, where the bluish tone is more than natural, and although Samsung gives some options to change the color mode, that bluish color isn’t going away. The same is seen even in the Galaxy Alpha, although reduced by a large extent, making it almost similar to the color output on Sony Xperia smartphones, which come with perfect white balance.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha OS Version

No surprises there, Samsung has layered the TouchWiz UI over the Android KitKat OS, and it is similar to that on the Galaxy S5, with the differently designed quick settings and Settings sections, and many differences from the standard TouchWiz UI. The “My Magazine” news aggregator takes up the place of first home screen, and there are multiple home screens for the user’s advantage, to place shortcuts or widgets. Pulling down the notification panel, there are a lot of quick settings and the user can edit and rearrange them.

There is not a big bloatware here, because you see just a few S apps apart from the Google play apps. The Samsung apps include Studio, Galaxy Apps marketplace, S Health, S Panner and S Voice. The S Health is again similar to the one on the flagships. The Finger Scanner on the Galaxy Alpha is more accurate than what we saw on the Galaxy S5, though that could be more because of the software tweaks than hardware. There is Download Booster, Ultra Power Saving Mode and Screen Mirroring options, while the smart features include Smart stay, Smart pause and Multi-window.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Finger Scanner

Samsung has also managed to pack in all the personalization features such as Easy Mode, Blocking Mode and Private Mode, apart from the gestures (including palm swipe to capture) and Air View.

The performance is swift, to say it in short. There was no such app or section where we saw the phone to lag even a little. Even the high-end games played like they were being played on any flagship smartphone, and why won’t they, the processor and GPU combination is one of the latest best, and 2GB RAM was good enough to handle multitasking pretty well.

That does take some toil on the battery, and as expected there is some quick battery drain we observe especially when the screen is active and when graphics are played. Well, did you expect the 1860 mAh battery to stay good for long? Though, this was the case when we tried to check purposefully. The Alpha does run well on basic usage with very little data network connectivity. The major part of concern is only when you play videos or play games on the phone, or else all is good with the battery which seems low on capacity, given that the phone has a HD AMOLED display and some heavy core powering.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Back Camera

The 12-megapixel camera on the Galaxy Alpha was another compromised feature, but again we understand these are bound to happen, but the 12MP camera doesn’t disappoint at all – in both photo and video capturing. The photos captured with crisp, clear and had a good color reproduction, even when previewing the same on larger screens, and having the 4K video recording capability although doesn’t seem anything great, it is a point to note that Samsung has tweaked the software quite well to take full advantage of the 12MP camera module.

Though there was a good output in bright conditions, the Alpha camera did struggle a bit in low light conditions. There was loss of details, focusing on an object takes more than usual and the shutter gets too slow. The other problem with the Alpha and the 4K video recording, is the storage space. Just a minute of capturing 4K video takes up to 420 MB, and given the limited storage space on Alpha, that becomes a concern for regular shooters.

As always, the camera app is loaded with options, effects for the user to play around with. Some modes include Beauty face, Shot and more, Panorama, Virtual tour and Dual camera. The camera review would be up soon for you to check out the quality.

Some Noticeable Pros and Cons

Because we said this is a metal frame device, don’t expect the entire smartphone to be rock solid. It is indeed one by looks, but the back cover is still made of polycarbonate and is similar to the ones you have seen in the past on Samsung smartphones.

S Health app in the Galaxy Alpha is the same you would find on the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, and it works pretty fine, though not the best in accuracy. Also, we won’t suggest to rely on the Heart Rate Sensor on the back of the device, as we always feel that to be far from being accurate.

The good part about the Galaxy Alpha was down to connectivity, where this smartphone doesn’t drop calls or doesn’t disconnect even on low network, unlike some other smartphones we noticed doing it to shift to lower band network, and that was quite annoying. The Alpha did a good job in connectivity, not just with the calls but also in data network and Wi-Fi. Having a plethora of options is not great, but actually doing well with the performance of them is what one would want, and the Alpha excelled in that.

The battery in Galaxy Alpha is a deal breaker if you are a traveler and don’t rely much on Wi-Fi networks, because browsing normally on data network too consumed quite some battery. The battery on Moto X (2nd gen) is at question as well, when it comes to flagship smartphones this year, but the latter fares a little better than the Galaxy Alpha in this case.

Speakers are aptly placed in the bottom of the phone, but the output level is low, and you cannot compare this with most of the flagships, which don’t fail in producing higher decibel levels and that too without a distortion. The quality is perfect, very crisp and clean sound but the sound level is kind of a disappointment.

Final Verdict

Again, the same question – is this one of the best smartphones till date? No, there are a few deal breakers, and many other smartphones excel in competition, but the Samsung Galaxy Alpha stays atop the list of the best Samsung smartphones (putting the stress on the word “smartphones” where the Note series gets ruled out). We’d never say this is better than the Galaxy Note 4, the phablet that beats every device out there with the performance, thus limiting this to smartphones, the Alpha is typically one of the best designed smartphones from Samsung.

In fact, having no perfect smartphone that competes the Apple iPhone 5s with such a size, Samsung did lose a battle in the past, because the flagship series was all about increasing screen sizes. Also, the iPhone 6 too can see a good competitor in Alpha. This smartphone sits right in the perfect zone for those who were only comfortable with smaller phones, and wants a powerful phone with no compromises. We do know, except for the Sony’s compact series, none of those Mini versions were actually good in performance.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Xperia Z3 Compact

The Galaxy Alpha is a rare perfect device from Samsung, and the company now just needs to make these little changes a standard for the future lineup of smartphones as well, especially with the inclusion of metal to make the phones look premium, as it is high time they stop producing those cheap plastic phones worth all the criticism.

Samsung’s own Galaxy S5 launched with a hefty pricing initially, but later the pricing went down and now is almost the same price in which the Galaxy Alpha is being sold for. There are differences in both, but the S5 still isn’t a bad choice at all in this price, for a better display and camera. But at the same time, the Galaxy Alpha is not for everyone.

Chetan Bhawani

Chetan Bhawani is a dentist, a tech blogger and a passionate writer in the field of technology. He keeps himself connected to the web for the entire day, of course except when he's dozed off! Add +Chetan Bhawani on Google Plus for more!

  • Nebu Cherian

    Replaceable battery compartment has been Samsung’ s trump card for quite some time. But now they have given up gone for uni body design which does look cool. But the awful battery is a big minus for them… Maybe due to size or price point consideration I guess. Overall I liked the product in design aspect…

    • FYI, this is not a unibody one 🙂 It is still having the removable back cover and battery.

      • Nebu Cherian

        Oh I missed that

  • Joshua Akinsola

    i really like the build on this device. It still provides the ease of use like the devices beore it, and it has a slimmer look and will feel more compact. Im still not sure of the purpose of this phone between the s5, mini and huge note 4, but there is always room for one more on the line

    • Suraj Racharla

      I think the purpose of the phone is to introduce the new design factor into Samsung Compact phones line

      • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

        Samsung add already had a compact phone line its just that they added a high end one to it now

        • Suraj Racharla

          Actually i think this may be a new series. the s3 mini and s4 mini and s5 mini were just smaller versions of the phone

          • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

            yes i guess your right!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    Wow amazing review and i think that this may not be the best smartphone for 2014 but it is the best compact smartphone that i would love regarding design and UI. Also i think this phone is slighty over priced because in North America the phone is 699 and the S5 is 730. I mean you pay just another 30 dollars more and your getting a bigger screen better camera altogher better specs but for the galaxy alpha you are comprisising all that just for the design. Do you think it is worth the price?

    • Nikhil Narkhede

      You are right friend . May not be the best but surely one of the best looking smartphone of 2014 .

    • As said in the review, both are quite different. There are quite some compromises, with camera and battery included. But there were many who chose against the S5 for the design, because the competitors were all beautifully crafted.

      • Suraj Racharla

        But if the galaxy aplha was the size of the s5 i am guessing many people would pick up the alpha instead. i am just saying the design is so good that some people will still pick it up even if the screen foes smaller to 4.7 inches

        • My point was the same 🙂

          • Hi Mr.Chetan I want to know an alpha of beautiful design and an s5 with better specs were marked at equal price, which would choose?

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      i think its worth the price all because of the design!

      • Suraj Racharla

        Yeah it is worth the price. The phone may not be able to fit in my budjet but the design inpires me and i would love to own this device!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    Amazing phone and review. I really love how Samsung thought outside the box and came up with a brand new design for the galaxy alpha. Also the phone itself looks very durable and very sleek. It may not be the best phone of 2014 but it is definetly the best compact phone of 2014 in my opnion. Also i think this phone is just a tad over priced because here in North America this phone costs $699 but the S5 costs $730. Regarding the price i would definatly take the S5 because you are getting a larger screen, beteer screen,altougher betetr specs but some people will still buy the Alpha just for the design. Who would take the Alpha over the S5?

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      I would!!!

  • Shanky Yadav Jungly

    Eas shinny glowwy fast and lots more its metal body is too good but i had heard that it has signal problem is it true??

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      no one really cares about the signal problem tho. atleast for me…

      • Suraj Racharla

        umm actually the signal is important and i think the signal is like not known as in issue in smartphones but it is important

        • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

          yeah but it not a major issue

  • Subham Bapna

    Yes, It looks cool, but a 12 MP camera and what about the secondary camera, I didn’t find the details regarding that in the post, an Octa Core-Exynos phone would be a beast. But on the other hand the battery I guess won’t work out when used moderately. I wish to see a Higher-battery with a 16 MP Primary and a Good quality (3MP-8MP ) Secondary camera.

    • Suraj Racharla

      Yes i was also very surprised when they used the 12 megapixel camera. But still with a 12 megapixel camera the photos turn out great. I think they kept the 12 megapixel camera because they wanted to keep the device slim and the design is the biggest role of the galaxy alpha. So you have to give some to get some. You have have to give away some good features and spec , but you get a A+ design!!

      • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

        I think the 22 megapixel camera makes the phone a bit thicker

    • So much is sacrificed for a great design. Some people will wonder if it’s necessary but for those who want a change up from Galaxys previous designs and don’t follow specs. They would gladly accept this phone as a daily driver!

  • Jugal Mudoi

    I agree this phone is not for everyone, but for those who wants a compact premium phone for easy one handed usage and always care about the design more than the specs it’s a perfect phone, also I guess except the battery it’s a good phone in every aspect. when talking about the high price that’s been Samsung’s way of selling their flagship devices but subsequently the price always drops, so as always a price drop is expected in this case too. Another detailed review BTW.

    • Android

      Yes i believe this is for the average consumer who looksat the decise outsode and buys it regarding the looks and design and also the branding….SAMSUNG. Definetly have to agree with you with saying that this the best compact phone with the most broadeat mind and best design. Samsung will probably implement this design in their upcoming smartphones too

      • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

        I cant wait for their upcoming devices. But which one do you prefer Suraj

  • Bastian

    The best of this smartphone is its beautiful design. In my country has a high price and has no microsd slot is a big flaw. Great review 😀

    • Yeah this is an slim profile phone with a design made for compact finish. It’s lack of expandable is a big knock but I think I’ll survive with 32 gigs and 50 gig cloud storage. Heck I’m surviving with a 1.44 gig phone right now! XD

  • Jugal Mudoi

    and hopefully that approach would be enough to stop the rising criticism against samsung about their design strategy

    • To those who criticize take a look at this phone!! Samsung cares!! Their not releasing the same plastic design over and over. They are indeed changing it up!

  • Suraj Racharla

    yes no micro sd card slot is a big flaw but i am guessing if they added it the device would be a bit thicker and the whole objective of the launch of the device is to show the consumers that Samsung Also can also produce a awe looking slim profile phone

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      yes you make sense!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    Yes micro sd is a big flaw but people who just want a phone for show and light use i am fuessing they would.prefer this phone. And i think only the tich would get this phone because someone on a low budjet like me cant sacrifice all those things for a better design. It up to an individuals opnion on what they think about the phone

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      Micro as card slot is not important tho

  • Joshua Akinsola

    The design is indeed great and and very compact. The metal is definitely refreshing from s5 plastic but this phones relying on internal storage

  • Joshua Akinsola

    This is a really high review for a high end phone. Samsung wants to change things up with this with a slimmer design and more metallic feel. Its a beautiful product, would love to have this

    • Suraj Racharla

      Yes the slim design is impressive and it near at the top of my list . I love the design of it!

      • me too i love so much and cant wait for more of it!

        • Suraj Racharla

          yes mee to!!!

  • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

    this phone is meant for light use and not heavy. The micro sd card flaw is not really important

    • Especially with it’s readily available 32 gb internal. Only thing your going to put on the micro is probably music and movies they can share storage with apps and data

  • Love this the most in its gold color. It looks like an insanely beautiful and premium phone in good almost to luxury. Great review as usual of an awesome beautiful device!

  • Suraj Racharla

    i think everyone would say that

  • Suraj Racharla

    i think you mean 12 and i think using the 12 megapixel makes the device a tad bit thinner. This was Samsung’s premium compact phone and it is meant for design. Comprimising the 16 megapixel and changing to 12 megapixel camera is a good trade off if it makes the phone thinner

  • Suraj Racharla

    I prefer the galaxy note 4 for life!!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    yes considering the designand light use with the device i dont you will need a micro sd card slot. But it would have been nice to have seen one!!

  • Jugal Mudoi

    Yeah, that’s it!

    • Suraj Racharla

      Next year its going to be shear metal!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    i would go with the alpha!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    Thanks!!

  • Suraj Racharla

    Thanks and i just wanted to say the Alpha series looks very promising!!

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      yup this is the new samsung

      • Suraj Racharla

        The new Samsung that has upgraded from Plastic and evolved into their way into metal!! The Note 4 and galaxy alpha are the best devices to sport this memory

  • At last samsung is going for premium build quality.Thats so awesome.