Samsung Galaxy Alpha assessment: Samsung’s most lovely telephone but
When an organization names certainly one of their merchandise after the primary letter of the Greek alphabet, it means enterprise. Take Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha: The identify alone exudes confidence. Though the time period sometimes signifies the primary in a collection, the Alpha clearly is not Samsung’s inaugural Android telephone; fairly, it ushers in a totally new design course for the corporate. It isn’t a prime-of-the-line flagship gadget on the within, however what issues is that it truly seems to be like one on the surface, because of its premium aesthetics, metallic body and modern physique. Samsung has each purpose to be assured within the Alpha’s design. As all the time, nevertheless, there’s extra to a tool than meets the attention.
- Lovely and stylish
- Fantastic efficiency
- Compact measurement makes it snug, straightforward to make use of
- Priced too excessive
- Lacks a number of options discovered within the Galaxy S5
- Battery life is nothing particular
The Alpha is Samsung’s first telephone with a metallic body, and it is probably the most aesthetically pleasing Galaxy telephone we have ever seen. Sadly, it is priced at a premium and does not have the identical set of options which you can get on the Galaxy S5 for a similar worth.
The Galaxy Alpha is probably the most lovely Samsung system I’ve ever dealt with. It is the very first gadget to reap the benefits of the corporate’s model-new design language, which options polished aluminum sides, chamfered edges, a skinny profile and a polycarbonate (plastic) again; the identical design is used on the Galaxy Notice four and Galaxy Word Edge (and arguably, the iPhone 5/5s and final yr’s HTC One), however the Alpha is the primary to truly make it off the manufacturing line. It is easy, but elegant; minimal, but profuse. That includes a four.7-inch body and 6.7mm thickness, the Alpha is greater than sufficiently modern and svelte.
Because of its slim, compact body, I had completely no drawback hanging onto the Alpha. Not solely can I wrap my hand round the entire thing, but in addition its straight sides supply my fingers loads of area to grip. It is also extremely mild, weighing four.06 ounces (115g); that is half an oz lighter than the iPhone 6. Actually, it virtually feels prefer it is not substantial sufficient; in my palms, I am typically reminded of a dummy telephone — pretend variations of the actual factor that producers ship to retail shops.
I might be tempted to think about the Galaxy Alpha as a GS5 mini, if the identify weren’t already taken; in lots of respects, it is a smaller model of Samsung’s present 5.1-inch flagship smartphone. It packs the identical Snapdragon 801 chipset (although an Exynos choice can also be out there in sure markets), so it ought to be equally highly effective, and it additionally comes with a fingerprint scanner, coronary heart price monitor and Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. However whereas the Alpha simply beats the GS5 in fashion (whereas matching it in oomph), the remainder of the spec sheet is not as spectacular. It isn’t waterproof; it lacks a microSD slot; the battery is smaller; it makes use of a decrease-res digital camera; and it does not include an IR blaster. It additionally includes a decrease-res 720p Tremendous AMOLED show.
Since it isn’t designed to easily be a miniature GS5, these omissions theoretically should not be an enormous situation. It nonetheless packs loads of a punch, in any case, and even the 720p show is taken into account prime-of-the-line for equally sized units. (Additionally, with smaller telephones, producers do not have as a lot area to cram in additional elements.) The issue is that you simply’re paying a premium worth for the premium look; you will get the Alpha on AT&T within the US for $200 on-contract, or $613 with no contract hooked up. This is identical on-contract worth because the GS5, and solely $37 cheaper at full retail. To be truthful, AT&T’s Galaxy S5 solely comes with 16GB inner storage, whereas the Alpha will get 32GB, in order that explains a number of the distinction. Even so, the GS5 at the least has a microSD slot for expandable reminiscence.
What’s even weirder is that whereas the Alpha does not include any waterproofing or water-resistance of any sort, iFixit did a teardown of the telephone and found that it comes with most of the gaskets and different inner elements crucial for preserving water out. In different phrases, Samsung did not end what it began.
The underside fringe of the system homes a micro-USB 2.zero connector — Samsung’s moved away from the ugly three.zero ports that take up additional room — together with a speaker grille and mic. On the left is a quantity rocker, which seems to have acquired the identical quantity of consideration to design as the remainder of the telephone. There is a three.5mm headphone jack on prime and an influence button on the appropriate. Moreover, the highest and backside of the telephone function a pair of antenna stripes, that are widespread on metallic telephones as a result of they supply a spot to ship and obtain mobile and wi-fi alerts.
The Alpha additionally comes with a detachable again cowl with a textured polycarbonate again that is just like what you will discover on the Galaxy S5. On the Alpha, nevertheless, the dimples are a lot tinier and the matte floor does not really feel as slick; the Alpha undoubtedly presents extra friction. There is a 12-megapixel digital camera within the prime-middle, and because the module is thicker than the telephone itself, there is a hump to make the transition between the digital camera and again cowl appear a bit extra gradual. (Certainly one of my largest points with the iPhone 6’s design is that the digital camera abruptly stands proud from the remainder of the body.) The LED flash and coronary heart fee monitor are to the digital camera’s left, organized in a vertical trend, and the logos embrace simply the AT&T globe close to the highest and the telephone’s identify close to the underside. Beneath the again cowl, you will discover a detachable 1,860mAh battery and nano-SIM slot.
The brand new location of the guts fee monitor works out okay in the event you maintain the telephone in your proper hand, however it may be troublesome for those who choose your left; the digital camera hump will get in the best way, and I needed to maintain taking a look at my finger to ensure it was in the fitting place. Which brings me to a different level: The Galaxy S5’s sensor was positioned on the backside of a cavity, whereas the Alpha’s model is almost flush with the remainder of the again. This makes it harder to seek out the sensor with out peeking across the telephone to ensure I am truly in the suitable spot.
An aluminum body comes with commerce-offs. Positive, it appears nice, feels strong and has an aura of top of the range, however as I noticed with the iPhone 6, the fabric is not resistant to blemishes; after just some days, I began seeing scratches and even a pair dings alongside the chamfered edges. Because of this the way it takes care of a yr of use will depend upon the way you deal with it. If it is continuously rubbing up towards different onerous supplies, it isn’t going to fare nicely.
As talked about earlier, the Alpha has a four.7-inch 720p Tremendous AMOLED panel. On paper, this does not sound excellent since many new flagships have Quad HD shows. For a handset of its measurement, nevertheless, 720p continues to be acceptable: The primary Moto X was of the identical high quality. Ditto for the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, which is one-tenth of an inch smaller. The iPhone 6, in the meantime, is barely higher at 1,334 x 750 (326 pixels per inch). With the Alpha, you will get a pixel density of 312 ppi, which continues to be respectable. In fact, the Tremendous AMOLED panel ensures that colours are extra saturated than most IPS choices, and the viewing angles are merely common and nothing particular. When you’re in search of a compact telephone, the show will neither make nor break the choice for you — it is completely fantastic, so long as you do not thoughts some barely inaccurate colours.
Admittedly, the software program part goes to be as small because the system itself, since there’s little or no to distinguish it from the Galaxy S5. The variance in display measurement does not influence the consumer expertise, nor does it imply you will take pleasure in fewer options. The Alpha makes use of TouchWiz layered on prime of Android four.four.four KitKat, which continues to be technically the newest shopper-dealing with model of Google’s cellular OS (it’s going to quickly get replaced by Android L, however Samsung’s lineup ought to get the brand new replace not too lengthy after it turns into publicly out there to the plenty).
This model of TouchWiz is what you’d anticipate: It is in keeping with each different model of TouchWiz. The UI is strictly the identical as on the Galaxy S5, with an enormous notification panel, bubbly settings menu and suite of preinstalled Google and Samsung apps. There’s additionally My Journal, which is a function that is been on a number of Galaxy units during the last two years. (You may as well take away it, when you do not need to use it.) It is primarily an additional residence display panel that gives actual-time information and social feeds, and appears rather a lot like Flipboard and HTC’s BlinkFeed. Multi Window can also be current, so you possibly can nonetheless view two apps directly in a cut up-display mode, regardless of having such a small display. You will additionally get Air View, which helps you to take a look at additional particulars about calendar appointments and bigger thumbnails for footage and movies simply by hovering your finger over the show.
Lastly, you will get different widespread Samsung options like Straightforward mode, Blocking mode and Personal mode (the latter of which hides and secures delicate info so your random buddies will not discover it), in addition to Sensible keep and the ever-current toolbox of custom-made app shortcuts that constantly floats on prime of the display.Digital camera
The Alpha is thinner than the GS5, which suggests the digital camera module is not fairly as giant. As an alternative of a sixteen-megapixel sensor, you will get a 12MP shooter on the again with an aperture of f/2.2 and focal size of four.8mm (the identical as on the GS5). So, do not anticipate a radically totally different imaging expertise right here. The consumer interface hasn’t modified, both: Separate shutter buttons for stills and video sit alongside the mode-choice button and gallery hyperlink, and settings and shortcuts reside on the other sidebar. You get the identical default modes right here as you do on the GS5 — the standard Panorama, Twin Digital camera, Magnificence Face and Shot & extra modes — and you may obtain additional modes, like Animated Photograph (add animation to your footage), Encompass Shot (Samsung’s model of Photograph Sphere), Sports activities, and Sound & shot (audio accompanies the picture). The GS5 will get an additional mode for sequence photographs, whereas the Alpha allows you to select which modes truly present up in your menu — for those who solely use one or two, you’ll be able to eliminate the additional muddle.
The settings listed here are similar as nicely. HDR, selective focus (in which you’ll be able to select to concentrate on the foreground, background or each), ISO (as much as 800), audio zoom and loads of results are featured, though there is no approach to manually change white stability, publicity or shutter velocity.
Identical to on the GS5, the Alpha has a number of decision choices. Whichever you select will have an effect on the facet ratio. If you’d like the very best decision potential, you are going to need to accept sixteen:9 (widescreen), whereas the most effective normal four:three photographs you will get will come out at eight megapixels.
The digital camera sports activities Samsung’s ISOCELL tech, which I detailed in my GS5 evaluation. Briefly, it is designed to enhance sharpness and ship higher low-mild efficiency and extra correct colours. On the GS5, I famous that efficiency was certainly higher, albeit barely, and I received almost the identical sort of outcomes from the Alpha. The truth is, except for the distinction in decision (and thus, fewer particulars and fewer leeway for digital zoom), the Alpha’s pictures have been similar to ones I took with the flagship. It does nicely in daylight and produces sensible colours, and is general a dependable digital camera, however it’s not excellent at taking footage of shifting issues. I had a troublesome time snapping photographs of automobiles or individuals with out blurring.
It is also not excellent in low-mild conditions, however that is nothing new for Samsung telephones — the corporate’s struggled with this for a very long time, and ISOCELL is designed to make it higher. Sadly, there’s been no enchancment right here from the GS5; quite the opposite, it’s kind of worse. Even when my night time photographs turned out (I say “when” since fairly a couple of have been hopelessly darkish), they have been noisy, missing in sharpness and never value sharing with associates or household. I am not saying it is unattainable to get a strong low-mild shot, however it’s not as straightforward correctly. (Click on right here for a gallery of all my pattern photographs.)Efficiency and battery life
The US model of the Alpha makes use of the identical Snapdragon 801 chipset because the one discovered on the GS5, which is comprised of a quad-core 2.5GHz Krait four hundred CPU, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Earlier than I started testing the system, I anticipated to see the identical sort of efficiency that I’ve loved on its massive brother. Positive sufficient, I wasn’t disenchanted: Most apps loaded up shortly, and video games like Asphalt eight and Seashore Buggy Racing ran easily. I did discover the occasional body skip, however this was the exception, not the rule. If you take a look at the benchmarks, it is clear there’s little or no distinction between the 2 when it comes to general efficiency.
The Alpha additionally has a small 1,860mAh battery, which was my main concern going into the evaluate. Might it deal with my on a regular basis calls for and nonetheless get me by means of the day? In any case, if I can not go a full day with out worrying about discovering an outlet earlier than I can get house, it isn’t value utilizing as my day by day driver — particularly when loads of different units are as much as the duty. The Alpha barely makes it to the top of the day with average utilization; on heavier days once I’m streaming music, studying e-books, taking footage, staying social and maintaining with nonstop emails, I get round thirteen hours.
With the Alpha, Samsung included the identical fingerprint sensor that it used on the GS5, and it requires the identical swipe-down motion. Its efficiency on the flagship was mediocre at greatest — it typically took me a number of swipes to get the telephone to acknowledge my prints, and was even worse once I tried to do it at an angle. Sadly, I solely noticed minor enhancements right here, even if Samsung has had six months to enhance the sensor and its integration with software program. Admittedly, it is just a little higher once I swipe from totally different angles, nevertheless it nonetheless takes a number of makes an attempt even when my fingers and thumbs are straight on. There is definitely some follow concerned, and it does get higher over time as you study the sensor’s quirks (you need to do it at a sure velocity, and you must be sure to’ve coated the sensor with the suitable elements of your finger).
When making telephone calls, I had no hassle listening to the opposite finish of the road, however the exterior speaker did not fare properly. I pitted the Alpha towards BoomSound on the HTC One M8, which produced a a lot louder and fuller audio efficiency; I might hear extra bass and mids on HTC’s flagship than I might on the Alpha. The GS5 was additionally barely louder, although the distinction between the 2 was marginal — the audio simply wasn’t spectacular on both Galaxy.
Mobile connectivity will differ by market and operator. The AT&T mannequin I reviewed comes with 9-band LTE help (for bands 1, 2, three, four, 5, 7, 12, 17 and 29), tri-band HSPA+ (850/1900/2100) and quad-band GSM/EDGE. You will additionally get NFC, DLNA, WiFi Direct, Bluetooth four.zero+LE and twin-band 802.11ac help (together with a/b/g/n as nicely).The competitors
It wasn’t way back that the majority telephone makers used four.7-inch screens on their flagships, however now any prime-of-the-line telephone going smaller than 5 inches is simply unthinkable — until, in fact, you are Apple. For that purpose, it is nice to see Samsung come out with a premium-wanting system whose specs aren’t too far faraway from the identical-sized iPhone 6, which is on the market in 16GB for $200 on-contract and $650 off. (In case you’re on the lookout for additional space for storing, the Alpha tops the iPhone on the similar worth level.)
However these two telephones aren’t the one choices within the sub-5-inch area. The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is a four.6-inch 720p handset that options most of the similar specs as its greater flagship brother, and truly bests the Alpha in pixel density, battery, digital camera decision and exterior storage capability. As of this writing, the telephone is not out there within the US, so it is solely an choice for our readers in Europe and Asia — that’s, until you select to undergo on-line importers. You will discover that the Z3 Compact is an effective deal cheaper than the Alpha: On Expansys, the Z3 Compact goes for £420 ($530), whereas the Alpha is out there for £515 ($650). Regardless of the Alpha’s nice appears, it is troublesome to justify it over the Compact.Wrap-up
As lovely because the Galaxy Alpha could also be, its worth results in its final downfall. The one cause you’d need to decide this over the Galaxy S5, which is on the market for the same worth, is that you simply choose a smaller measurement or extra strong construct. However even then, this design is not a one-and-achieved; you’ll get the identical match and end on the Notice four and Word Edge (albeit with bigger screens). Moreover, it isn’t the most effective sub-5-inch Android gadget available on the market, because of the Sony Z3 Compact, which comes with higher battery life, digital camera and exterior storage.
Extra necessary is what this new design course means to Samsung’s future. Although the aluminum construct is not good, Samsung’s newest smartphones are the perfect-wanting handsets the producer has produced in years. For a corporation affected by slowing gross sales and in search of new methods to compete with the iPhone, units just like the Alpha are important. This makes it all of the extra unlucky that the unbelievable design is certainly one of few issues that helps it stand out from the gang. On the upside, although, that is just the start; extra good-wanting Samsung telephones are on the best way.
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- Key specs
- <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/samsung/galaxy/alpha/” title=”Samsung Galaxy Alpha evaluations” goal=”_blank”> Evaluations • 1 </a>
- Sort Smartphone
- Working system Android (KitKat [4.4])
- Display measurement four.7 inches
- Inner reminiscence 32 GB
- Digital camera 12&#one hundred sixty;megapixels
- Carriers (US) AT&T
- Weight four.06 oz
- Launched 2014-09-26