The South Korean giant’s latest smartphone boasts a killer design and great features.
FOR a long time, Samsung phones have been synonymous with all plastic bodies, but that is about to all change with Samsung’s latest smartphone.
The Galaxy Alpha marks a major shift in Samsung’s phone aesthetics with a strong focus on design.
A great looking phone
The new Alpha is without a doubt Samsung’s best looking phone to date and there is plenty to like about it.
It has a simple yet elegant design that is reminiscent of the Galaxy S5’s but greatly improves upon it with a polished aluminium side, smooth edges and ultra thin profile.
Physically, the Alpha is smaller than Samsung’s top end S5 and even the new Galaxy Note 4, measuring a very slim 6.7mm thickness and weighing a featherweight 115g that will hardly weigh your pocket down.
Though it does not feature a unibody design, the Alpha’s new metal design feels very solidly built.
Every element — from the buttons to the speaker holes — have been neatly manufactured and given due consideration, lending it a professional and premium touch.
Despite the plastic rear panel, the rubberised material lets you hold the phone firmly without risking it slipping out of your hand.
The Alpha carries over several of the S5’s features including the fingerprint reader that is built-into the home button, and the heart rate sensor that is located next to the rear camera.
It, however, does not incorporate the S5’s water- and dustproof design, so don’t expect to take a dip in the pool with the Alpha.
Another missing feature from the S5 is the absence of a microSD card slot. This means you are relegated to the onboard 32GB of memory, which unfortunately means that you probably won’t be able to store as much content and as many apps as you might like.
The Alpha’s 1,860mAh battery is significantly smaller than the Galaxy S5’s 2,800mAh battery. We found that it held up for at least a full work day during regular usage — checking your email, surfing Facebook and browsing the Web.
If you are a heavy user however, you would need to recharge it before the day is done.
We were a little disappointed that the Alpha’s 4.7in Super Amoled display was not full HD resolution, which is a shame considering the Alpha’s near premium price tag.
Though not as pretty as we would have liked, the 1,280 x 720 resolution is still not a bad looking display as it is very bright, enough to be seen in daylight.
Samsung’s Super Amoled technology does bring out rich colours, great contrast and pure blacks that surpass any regular LCD panel.
However, the Alpha’s Amoled display is still guilty of over saturating colours, so much so that it sometimes appears a little too good to be true.
Nevertheless, it is still a treat to watch videos and images on the Alpha despite its smaller screen size.
The Snapdragon 801 chipset does not disappoint in terms of performance and it handles Android 4.4.4 KitKat well with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface.
We had no problems running multiple apps on the Alpha, and games like Dead Trigger and Asphalt 8 ran without any hitches.
As the TouchWiz experience is more or less is identical to what you get with the Galaxy S5, you get all the usual Samsung extras.
These include a Multi Window mode that’s handy when you want to run two apps at once, the Flipboard powered My Magazine app that comes up when you swipe to the left of the home screen, and the S Health app that monitors your calories, number of steps and even your heart rate via the heart rate sensor.
Samsung’s health monitoring app works as it should and the step counter did encourage us to take more steps in a day in addition to keeping track of our performance during a run.
While S Health is not as accurate as a dedicated running app like RunKeeper, it is good enough if you are a casual user who wants to keep track of your steps and calories burnt per day. The fingerprint reader that is built-in to the home button offers the convenience of signing into your phone with just a swipe of your finger.
We, however, disliked the fact that Samsung still preloads its own browser, calendar, app store and e-mail client apps that mirror Google’s, thus creating unnecessary clutter.
Nonetheless, Samsung fans will probably welcome an alternative to Google’s suite of built-in apps.
The 12-megapixel camera of the Alpha may not sound as impressive as the S5’s 16-megapixel camera but in the world of smartphone cameras, more megapixels don’t necessarily mean better photos.
In general though, the Alpha’s camera performance is good — it was simple and easy to use, producing bright and pleasing colours.
The autofocus is quick enough for casual photography when you are taking pictures of landscapes, people and food.
You can also snap a decent picture in low light situations, though you can expect slower autofocus speeds and noisier pictures as the built-in flash unfortunately does not improve image quality by much.
On the bright side, the Alpha does carry over the S5’s brilliant HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode that nicely brings out details that are otherwise lost in the shadows or blown out by bright light.
Admittedly, it does make our photos appear a little unrealistic at times and there are occasions where a picture would still look as nice sans the HDR mode, which is a testament to the Alpha’s decent camera.
In our opinion, the Galaxy Alpha is a major step forward for Samsung, particularly in the area of design.
Keeping an ultra slim body with a fancy 4.7in Super Amoled display, the Alpha boasts good features on top of rocking a great new look.
The Alpha is almost like a miniaturised version of the S5, borrowing many features like its fingerprint scanner, heart rate monitor and many others.
We were, however, a little disappointed by the lower resolution screen, smaller battery, and lack of expandable memory considering the phone’s near premium price range.
Despite this, the Alpha is an attractive phone that any Android user would be proud to own.
Pros: Great new design; quality camera; good overall performance.
Cons: Lower resolution screen; not so terrific battery life; memory cannot be expanded via microSD.
NETWORK: 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+, GSM/WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 4.4.4 KitKat
DISPLAY: 4.7in Super Amoled (1,280 x 720 pixels) at 312ppi
CAMERA: 12-megapixel autofocus rear camera, 2.1-megapixel front camera
CONNECTIVITY: Micro USB
PROCESSOR: Octa-Core processor (Quad-core 1.8Ghz Cortex -A15 and Quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex A7)
MEMORY: 32GB internal memory, 2GB RAM
EXPANSION SLOT: None
OTHER FEATURES: Heart rate monitor, Fingerprint reader
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 132.4 x 6.7 x 65.5mm
RATING: 3.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Electronics Malaysia, 1-800-88-9999