Review: Samsung Galaxy Alpha smartphone (video)

26 Sep 20143 Shares

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We take a look at the new Samsung Galaxy Alpha 4.7-inch smartphone, which will compete directly in the market with the Apple iPhone 6 smartphone.

If Apple makes phones for rich, middle-aged men who read newspapers and listen to U2, then Samsung with its new Galaxy Alpha smartphone is aiming at a younger, more connected and urbane digital cohort.

The Galaxy Alpha is a 4.7-inch smartphone with a 12-megapixel camera that is probably the most visually impressive device to come from Samsung.

The device is a concoction of plastic, glass and metal. It comes in two colours, Charcoal Black and Frosted Gold, and is Samsung’s answer to the threat posed by Apple’s new 4.7-inch iPhone 6. No doubt the next Note device to come from the Samsung stable will take on the new 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

My first impression of the Galaxy Alpha is really how neat it looks, surrounded in a nice shimmery silver metal. I used to be at odds with Samsung’s continuous use of plastic – it’s a cheaper material – but in the case of the Galaxy Alpha, while the back of the device is still encased in a plastic shell, it feels very luxurious and looks very sophisticated. If anything, the plastic at the back gives the device very good grip in your hand – something to consider if you’re investing in a device.

The phone, which weighs just 114 grams even with the battery in it, is just 7mm thick.

Dynamic range

Powered by a powerful combination of two quad core processors that Samsung calls Octa Core, the Galaxy Alpha runs Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) and it performs solidly on the device. I remember the first time using an Android device from Samsung running the earliest Android OS and it was full of bugs and froze a lot.

KitKat gels seamlessly with Samsung’s take on Android, ushering your attention towards services such as My Magazine, a Flipboard-esque way of accessing digital content, as well as S Health. It’s worth noting the device is optimised to connect with the latest Samsung Gear Fit, Gear Live and Gear 2 wearables.

Where the Galaxy Alpha falls down in its fight against the cruel legions of Apple is potentially in its display.

The Galaxy Alpha has a 4.7-inch HD Super AMOLED 1,280 x 720 display that is not going to provide you with scientifically crisp images, such as Retina’s 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution on the iPhone 6.

Siliconrepublic Review | Samsung Galaxy Alpha

But this is mostly numbers, a bit like comparing apples with oranges – or Apples with Samsungs – because the human eye will only notice so many pixels and depth on a 4.7-inch device. For HD photos, the resolution on the device is perfectly adequate.

The real game-changer the Galaxy Alpha presents is in its camera, a 12-megapixel affair with some nifty features, such as Beauty Face, Dual Camera, HDR, Panorama, Selective Focus and Virtual Tour.

I was particularly entranced by the HDR (high dynamic range) feature, which creates a greater dynamic range of luminosity than what is possible using standard digital-imaging techniques.

Without HDR

With HDR

Video enthusiasts will also be thrilled to learn the device can record video at 4K resolution.

For consumers who don’t have the time or the aptitude to be fumbling with exposure and light settings, HDR is a godsend insofar as it automatically corrects and transforms what could be a dark, dowdy image into something bright and vital.

Connectivity wise, the Galaxy Alpha is optimised to work on 4G networks and is capable of enabling 300Mbps download speeds over LTE and 50Mbps uploads.

Verdict

With its nice rounded edges and luxurious feel you can’t help but feel Samsung is really getting it together on the good old industrial design front. The device is captivating to look at and hold.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was how quickly I became familiar with the device and began integrating it into my work and lifestyle. Sometimes smartphones will make an impression or they don’t and in the case of the Galaxy Alpha, the device certainly has staying power.

Drawbacks are few but they are there. While the device has a pretty decent 32GB of storage on internal memory and 2GB of RAM memory, the Galaxy Alpha does not come with a micro SD slot, which could be a bone of contention for some users.

The Galaxy Alpha is available in the market now from free at O2, Three and Carphone Warehouse stores.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com