Samsung Galaxy Alpha hands-on


The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has made an official appearance a few weeks ago ushering in a new era for Samsung: that of beauty and style, of sturdy metal rather than plastic. Has the world turned upside down?

In a way - yes. At least, the mobile world of devices. The Galaxy Alpha is gorgeous and powerful, and those might be the new things that you think about when seeing the Samsung logo on the back of a device. We got to spend some time with Samsung’s latest at IFA 2014, and right below, you’d find our first-hand impressions.

Design


Design is the biggest focus of the Galaxy Alpha. The 4.7 incher marked the beginning of a new era for Samsung. The company that was once the very emanation of plastic gadgets, has turned to premium look and feel for the Alpha. The crux of that strategy is the new metal frame that is also in the Note 4: it’s elegant, sturdy, with meticulously chamfered edges. The buttons are also crafted brilliantly with attention to every little detail and with nice click and travel.

The back cover is the only remnant of plastic - you have a faux-leather cover similar to the one in the Galaxy S5, but this time around rather than featuring a dotted pattern, it’s got a cross-stitch decoration.

In terms of size, the Alpha is very compact and could even be used (with a little stretch) single-handedly, which is great.

Display


Samsung takes a page off the book of Apple rumors and has equipped the Galaxy Alpha with an iPhone 6-anticipated 4.7-inch display. We’re saying this because one of the two new iPhone 6 devices that Apple is expected to announce measures exactly 4.7 inches.

The Galaxy Alpha sports a 720 x 1280-pixel resolution, which works out to a pixel density of 312ppi. That’s definitely enough to have a fairly sharp experience, but pixel perfectionists will notice that if you stare up close you can actually some slight pixelization.

In terms of actual technology, the Galaxy Alpha uses a Super AMOLED panel with deep blacks, excellent contrast, and it also enables functions like the awesome Ultra Power Saving Mode. We’re yet to get the phone through our display benchmarks, so we’ll comment on the color accuracy in the final review that’s coming up (stay tuned).

Interface


Android 4.4 KitKat with the TouchWiz UX is probably a better known version of Android than the stock version of the operating system that Google preaches. After all, Samsung sells the majority of Android devices out there.

The Alpha is no exception, it’s got the TouchWiz-infused variety of Android, with colorful icons, wallpapers, and it’s full-packed with features big and small in a typical Samsung manner. Some like it, some don’t, but at the end of the day the TouchWiz functionality remains its biggest advantage, and its slight but consistent across apps lag - a downside.

Processor and Memory


The Galaxy Alpha sports an Exynos 5 octa-core processor pushed to clock speeds of up to 1.8GHz and running alongside 2GB of RAM. It’s a fairly fast chip that performs admirably, and makes the Galaxy Alpha look good not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Internal storage comes in at the quite plentiful 32GB, but in a typical Apple-rivalry fashion, Samsung has decided to skip the microSD card slot, so you cannot expand on that initial allowance.

Camera


Samsung has equipped the Galaxy Alpha with a 12-megapixel CMOS image sensor of its own making with the ISOCELL technology and a native 16:9 aspect ratio.

ISOCELL is a technology that took years in development and it made a debut in the Samsung Galaxy S5 on a 16-megapixel Samsung sensor. Now, in the Galaxy Alpha we’re looking at some of the same features: ISOCELL (but on a 12-megapixel scale, and unknown sensor size) and phase-detection auto-focus.

In its official blog, Samsung promises that images taken on the Galaxy Alpha will come out “sharper than ever with natural colors.” Skipping the PR talk, though, we should say that ISOCELL brings a couple of important advantages over non-isolated photo cells used in traditional BSI sensors: first, crosstalk is reduced from 19% to 12.5% in ISOCELL, next, luminance signal to noise ratio improved from 150 lux to 105 lux, and finally, full well capacity increased from 5,000e- to 6,200e-.

Those are all the technical details, but they would not matter if the camera did not perform well.

Expectations


The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is definitely an impressive piece of technology with reasonable size, great looks, and all it takes to capture a loyal following. Except that it won’t be launched on the same massive scale as most flagship phones of the company. It will instead arrive to only limited markets and it is telling that Russia will be one of the biggest launchpads for the gadgest. For all else, though, the Alpha is a premium looking powerful gadget that signals about the beginning of new times in tech.


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