Samsung is known for having an impressively rich portfolio of Android smartphones, but a truly premium-made handset was missing until recently. The void was filled by the Samsung Galaxy Alpha – one of the best-looking Samsung phones that we had seen in a while. How does it stack up against Samsung's flagship, however? Well, to give an answer to this question, we put the two side by side for a preliminary comparison.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is a phone built to impress, and the first thing you'll probably notice once you pick it up is just how slim it is. Its thickness of just 0.26" (6.7 mm) makes it the thinnest Galaxy smartphone yet. Add its metal-made frame to the equation and you end up with a truly premium-feeling phone. Moreover, the soft, grippy back side sports a delicate dotted pattern that seems neither too boring, nor too flashy. And thanks to its size, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is easier to wield single-handedly than the Galaxy S5. The latter, in comparison, is not a bad-looking phone by any means, but it feels a tad more plasticky. It just isn't as exquisite of a phone as the Galaxy Alpha. Nevertheless, the Galaxy S5 has the advantage of being a water-resistant phone, while the Alpha is not.
One of the features that both phones have to offer is a fingerprint reader – the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy Alpha have one embedded in their physical home buttons. Its main purpose is to replace your lock screen PIN, but other apps can take advantage of it as well. Another trait common for the two handsets is the heart-rate monitor present on their back sides. With its help, fitness junkies can measure their pulse while exercising.
This time around, it seems that the Samsung Galaxy S5 has the upper hand. At least from a technical standpoint. It is equipped with a 5.1-inch, 1080 by 1920-pixel screen, while the Alpha comes with a 4.7-inch, 720 by 1280-pixel panel. Both are made using Super AMOLED technology and appear to have very similar color reproduction, at least to the naked eye. Nevertheless, users who go with the Galaxy Alpha instead of the Galaxy S5 should not be disappointed by the former's screen as it is sufficiently detailed for its size.
No surprises here, folks! Powered by Android 4.4 KitKat with a layer of TouchWiz on top, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and the Samsung Galaxy S5 deliver an identical user experience when it comes to software. The two have pretty much the same set of apps and features in their arsenals, including Multi Window, S Health, My Magazine, Kid Mode, and Ultra Power Saving Mode. And while TouchWiz is not exactly perfect in all respects, it still ranks among the most feature-rich custom Android UIs out there.
Processor and memory
So, it turns out that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is both good-looking and powerful. Inside it ticks the Exynos 5430, which is an octa-core solution – four high-performance cores run at up to 1.8GHz, while the four 1.3GHz cores activate when less power is required. Still, with its 2.5GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC (or Exynos 5 Octa 5422 in some markets), the Galaxy S5 could be slightly faster, at least in theory. But in reality, we did not see any differences in performance between the two. In fact, the Alpha could be better at certain tasks, including playing games and running graphics-intensive apps, thanks to its lower resolution. In terms of RAM, both handsets have 2 gigs inside of them, which is still sufficient even though Android handsets with 3GB of RAM have been around for a year.
While the Samsung Galaxy Alpha has 32GB of built-in storage, it lacks a microSD card slot. In other words, you can't expand its storage beyond the 32GB point. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S5 can work with microSD card slots of up to 128 gigabytes, all the while offering 16 or 32 gigs of on-board storage space.
In general, Samsung's top phones come with very capable cameras. And they're good not only on a technical level, with support for phase-detection auto-focus and real-time HDR, but also when it comes to the software used to capture the image – Samsung's camera apps are rich in options, scenes, and modes. In the case of the Galaxy Alpha, we're given a 12MP camera sensor with a single LED flash and support for 4K video recording. But while the Alpha's camera is probably going to be a good one, the Galaxy S5's 16MP camera is likely to be even better thanks to its higher pixel count. Of course, only a proper camera shoot-out will show whether that's the case.
Having a slim phone has its drawbacks, and one of them is that its maker can't fit a large battery inside of it. That's why the Samsung Galaxy Alpha has a cell rated at just 1860mAh, and even a typical mid-range phone can hold more juice than this. So unless Samsung has done some magic by tweaking the software of its phone, chances are you'll get much better battery life out of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and its 2800mAh cell.
So overall, we did not run into any surprises during our first comparison between the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy S5. Both phones are looking great, it is just that different traits make them stand out. Folks whose top priorities are compactness and design are likely to find more value in the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, while the Galaxy S5 will satisfy those demanding superior hardware capabilities. Of course, we'll be able to draw a bigger picture once we get to spend more time with the two handsets.