Samsung Galaxy Alpha review: Galaxy reboot

GSMArena team, 21 August 2014.
Pages: 1234567891011

Tags: Samsung, Android

Excellent display

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha uses a 4.7" Super AMOLED display with 720p resolution and 312ppi pixel density. That's a first for a Samsung phone - the Galaxy S III was a 4.8" 720p screen while the Galaxy S5 mini has a 4.5" 720p screen, both close but not the same.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review
A 4.7" Super AMOLED screen with 720p resolution

Anyway, the latest generation of Super AMOLED boasts improved sunlight legibility and color accuracy along with reduced power usage. As usual viewing angles are stunning.

The 300ppi may not be cutting edge these days, but it's enough by our books. It's really hard to actually see any imperfections though if you look close enough you can spot the telltale signs of the PenTile matrix.

It's the diamond pattern arrangement that Samsung has been using for a couple of generations of Super AMOLED, which does look better than the regular PenTile arrangement.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review

The Galaxy Alpha screen proved slightly brighter than the Galaxy S5 mini screen though not quite as bright as the big Galaxy S5. Outdoors in the summer sun, the brightness comes a bit short.

Black levels are perfect though resulting in an impressive contrast ratio.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has amazing contrast too and it's a potential competitor to the Alpha (though the upcoming Z3 Compact is where the real battle will be).

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 0 228 0 456
Samsung Galaxy S5 0 274 0 529
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 0 226 0 432
Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini 0 166 0 396
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - - - 0.34 626 1819
LG G2 mini 0.12 91 752 0.52 398 748
HTC One mini 2 0.19 220 1141 0.42 501 1196
Apple iPhone 5s 0.14 163 1145 0.49 596 1219


Super AMOLEDs rely on their low reflectivity for good sunlight legibility so even with an average brightness (compared to LCDs) the Galaxy Alpha screen is among the best we've tested in our Sunlight legibility test. It's practically as good as the Galaxy S5 screen or the Apple iPhone 5s screen.

Aside from Android minis, the Alpha will also fight it out with the new iPhone, so this is an important comparison. Of course the iPhone 6 is the real target and we have no measurements of that but if the iPhone 5s is of any indication, it should offer great sunlight legibility as well.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Colors are beautifully rendered on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha's screen but everybody have their own preferences when it comes to color saturation. The Screen mode option lets you pick between more saturated or more accurate options for the saturation.

There's a slider in the notification area to adjust the screen brightness. If you enable auto brightness that slider biases the automatic setting towards brighter or darker. You can enable an automatic screen tone adjustment, which promises to improve battery life by adjusting screen settings to the image it's displaying.

Another option is Smart stay, which prevents the display from locking while you're looking at it. This way you can keep the screen timeout at a short setting (say, 30 seconds) without the annoyance of having to manually keep the screen on while reading a longer article.

If you're wondering what's with all the battery saving tips, it's because the battery capacity of the Galaxy Alpha is lower than we're used to on a 4.5+ inch phone. The battery tests will reveal if those tips were necessary or not.

Battery life

The 1,860mAh battery capacity blinked like a warning beacon on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha spec page but we're glad the phone makes the best out of it. We've only tested the version with an Exynos 5430 chipset so far so keep in mind that the Snapdragon 801 version might have a somewhat different endurance.

The 52 hours endurance rating is on par with what an iPhone 5s achieves, though the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has a noticeably lead on both. It remains to be seen what the iPhone 6 and Xperia Z3 Compact, the true Galaxy Alpha rivals, will be like.

With the Alpha, talk time is solid but the tests that involve the full processing power and display staying on are somewhat unimpressive.

Adding the standby battery performance allowed us to come up with an endurance rating of 52h - that should be good enough for a day of heavy usage, two if you don't push it as hard.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review

You can compare the Samsung Galaxy Alpha against the competition in our Battery life table and find more details in our blog post. More details on how battery life is tested is available if you're curious.

Connectivity

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha comes loaded with wireless connectivity features. It starts with LTE Cat. 6 (up to 300Mpbs down, 50Mbps up) to match what the latest Snapdragon 805 can offer. Regular 2G and 3G connectivity is of course supported, too.

Local connectivity is no slower, the phone packs a MIMO (2x2) antenna setup for dual-channel connectivity. That's different from dual-band (which the Alpha also has), it means that it can use 80MHz of the Wi-Fi spectrum instead of the usual 40MHz for enhanced speed. Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac standards are supported as are Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast screen mirroring.

The Galaxy Alpha has the Download booster features - for native apps it can download simultaneously from Wi-Fi and from LTE to combine their speeds. Unless you're connected to a really slow Wi-Fi network we don't see much use in it though.

Additional local connectivity includes Bluetooth 4.0 LE and ANT+, both of which are low-power and can be used to connect with wireless sports accessories (to be used with the S Health app or third-party apps). NFC rounds off the wireless connectivity section.

The Galaxy Alpha relies on a standard microUSB 2.0 port for charging and wired data connectivity. USB 3.0 ports are rare and require a fairly large adapter. The port is USB OTG-enabled meaning you can attach USB accessories to it (e.g. a thumb drive). What we miss here is wired TV out either via MHL or SlimPort.

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