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Samsung Galaxy Alpha review: Still a desirable smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Alpha
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 275
inc VAT SIM-free (as of 5th May 2016)

Excellent build quality, great performance and an amazing screen, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha was a true trailblazer for the modern 'A' series

Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.8GHz Exynos 5 Octa 5430 (+ quad-core 1.3GHz), Screen Size: 4.7in, Screen resolution: 1,280×720, Rear camera: 12 megapixels, Storage: 32GB, Wireless data: 4G, Size: 132.4×65.5×6.7mm, Weight: 114g, Operating system: Android 5.0.2

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Camera

A 12-megapixel camera has been fitted, which is a slight step down from the 16-megapixel model in the Galaxy S5 on paper. In reality, there’s hardly anything separating the two. With 12-megapixels, you’ve still got plenty of resolution and our shots outdoor looked great.

They were well exposed and had plenty of detail in them, as you can see from the sample shot below (click to view fullscreen). In low light packing all of those pixels onto a relatively small sensor means that pictures can look a little noisy. However, resize them to screen size and you don’t have much of a problem.

The video mode is impressive, too, with the Alpha able to shoot 4K UHD video. At this resolution, everything looks incredibly sharp. Our one minor complaint is that the compression smooths out some of the finer detail, as you can see from the brickwork in the sample shot below (click to view fullscreen).

Samsung Galaxy Alpha 4K grab

Android and TouchWiz interface

The handset has now been updated to Android 5.0.2 (KitKat), along with the usual Samsung customisations. These generally aren’t too intrusive. We quite like the My Magazine home screen, which pulls in latest news and updates from your social networks. Some of the additions feel a little redundant now, though, such as S Voice, which essentially does the same job as Google voice commands. Thanks to the powerful processor, the Alpha can handle the OS well, with smooth transitions and scrolling throughout. It even manages complex web pages well, with barely a stutter when scrolling through them.

Fingerprint reader

As with the S5, the Alpha has the same fingerprint reader built into the home button, which you use by swiping your finger or thumb across. With the Alpha you can register three individual fingers, plus for each finger you use you can add the corresponding thumbprint, too. In effect, you can register three fingers and both thumbs, for a total of five prints. The reader is extremely accurate and definitely the easiest and best way to unlock your handset. It can also be used to authenticate PayPal transactions.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha fingerprint reader

Heart rate monitor

On the back is a heart rate monitor, which records to the S Health app. It’s pretty easy to use (you just put your finger on the sensor), but we wonder how often and how useful this really is to most people.

Storage

Pretty much every single Samsung Android phone that we’ve reviewed has had a microSD card slot, so that you can upgrade the base memory. With the Alpha that option is gone and you have to make do with the installed 32GB of storage. While a microSD card would be nice, plenty of phones don’t have this option and 32GB is plenty for most people. 

Samsung Galaxy Alpha microUSB port

Conclusion

The Galaxy Alpha was a huge step forwards for Samsung, a trailblazer for its new metal chassis designs, in much the same way that the Galaxy Note Edge was a test run for curved screens. But while the Note was quickly seen as an oddity, the Galaxy Alpha is still a pretty decent handset with a smaller than usual display. It’s no longer widely available to buy new of course, but it’s well worth checking out secondhand if you’re in the market for a classy-looking handset for less.

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Hardware
ProcessorQuad-core 1.8GHz Exynos 5 Octa 5430 (+ quad-core 1.3GHz)
RAM2GB
Screen size4.7in
Screen resolution1,280×720
Screen typeSuper AMOLED
Front camera2.1 megapixels
Rear camera12 megapixels
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassNo
Storage32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)None
Wi-Fi802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
NFCYes
Wireless data4G
Size132.4×65.5×6.7mm
Weight114g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 4.4.4 (KitKat)
Battery size1,860mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Detailswww.samsung.com/uk
Part codeSM-G850F

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