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Samsung Galaxy Alpha SM-G850F Smartphone Review

Michael Moser, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 11/01/2014

Alpha leader. Samsung only used plastic even for its premium line in the past. This is now different, and it launches its Galaxy Alpha smartphone with an aluminum bezel. The phone places a claim on the smartphone crown with its strong components, but that still belongs to its company brother - Galaxy S5.

For the original German review, see here.

The cellphone manufacturing giant Samsung insisted on plastic as the material of choice - in the past. Now Samsung states, the Galaxy Alpha sets the new standard for smartphone design. And that is based on metal. However, it is not allover metal because, unlike the competitor products, only a metal bezel is used. It has apparently been subtly inspired by Apple. Nevertheless, the manufacturer goes its own way in design. The hardware of Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is good, but is not the premium standard in the flagship category. A 4.7-inch HD Super AMOLED screen with only 1280 x 720 pixels and an even weaker SoC than in Samsung's Galaxy S5 speak a clear language.

And thus, the Galaxy Alpha has to stand up against established contenders, such as the Apple iPhone 6, HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z3, and the in-house Samsung Galaxy S5.

Case

Samsung Galaxy Alpha color options
Samsung Galaxy Alpha color options
Source: iFixit
Source: iFixit
Source: iFixit
Source: iFixit

The casing of Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is made of a mix of plastic and aluminum, as well as glass. While the screen cover is glass, and the removable back cover is made of rubberized polycarbonate, the bezel is comprised of aluminum. Like Apple's iPhone 5s, the edges have been slightly beveled, and the sides have a slightly deeper indent. That alongside the Galaxy typical dotted looks on the front and back cover makes the design unique. The smartphone is pleasant to hold, and its dimensions of 132.4 x 65.5 mm and thickness of 6.7 mm make it extremely slim and compact for a 4.7-inch device. The weight of just 115 grams underlines that. While Apple's iPhone 5s weighs 3 grams less with some smaller dimensions, Apple's iPhone 6 is not quite as compact and also 14 grams heavier than the review sample. The other contenders are somewhat bigger and heavier. An interesting detail: like the iPhone 6, the camera lens of our review sample also juts out of the casing's back by approximately one millimeter.

The stability of Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is on par with the good iPhones, and can also shine with an impeccable build. The review sample did not yield under our pressure test, and it did not produce cracking noises either. The user's only maintenance and upgrade options are limited to the removable battery. Even HTC's metal One M8 features a micro-SD slot, which almost standard in Android devices, but Samsung follows Apple's example and omits it. To make things worse, there is presently only one storage configuration with 32 GB available. The iFixit pros only reward Samsung's Galaxy Alpha with 5 of 10 points, like previously the Galaxy S5.

Upper edge: microphone, 3.5 mm jack
Upper edge: microphone, 3.5 mm jack
Right: power button
Right: power button
Lower edge: speaker, micro-USB 2.0, microphone
Lower edge: speaker, micro-USB 2.0, microphone
Left: volume rocker
Left: volume rocker
146.36 mm / 5.76 inch 70.6 mm / 2.78 inch 9.35 mm / 0.3681 inch 160 g0.3527 lbs146.5 mm / 5.77 inch 72 mm / 2.83 inch 7.3 mm / 0.2874 inch 152 g0.3351 lbs142 mm / 5.59 inch 72.5 mm / 2.85 inch 8.1 mm / 0.3189 inch 145 g0.3197 lbs138.1 mm / 5.44 inch 67 mm / 2.64 inch 6.9 mm / 0.2717 inch 129 g0.2844 lbs132.4 mm / 5.21 inch 65.5 mm / 2.58 inch 6.7 mm / 0.2638 inch 115 g0.2535 lbs123.8 mm / 4.87 inch 58.6 mm / 2.31 inch 7.6 mm / 0.2992 inch 112 g0.2469 lbs

Connectivity

As mentioned, the storage configuration of Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is limited to 32 GB, and only approximately 25 GB net are available for the user. Incomprehensibly, Samsung does not install a micro-SD slot for easy expansion. The installed SoC is a proprietary development called Samsung Exynos 5430 Octa, which is an eight-core SoC. It uses four Cortex A15 cores with a clock rate of 1.8 GHz and four Coretex A7 cores with a clock rate of 1.3 GHz. The integrated ARM Mali-T628 MP6 takes care of graphics. The 2 GB of LPDDR3 working memory is also up-to-date.

Samsung apparently does not believe that the target group for its Galaxy Alpha is into multimedia because the infrared transmitter known from the Galaxy S5 for use as a remote has also been omitted. Unfortunately, the USB jack is also once again only a micro-USB 2.0 port. Like the Galaxy S5, a fingerprint sensor is located below the "Home" button. The finger is wiped across the counterpart in the review sample, and it did not always function reliably. The issues ascertained in the Galaxy S5 have not been eliminated in the Galaxy Alpha. Apparently, Samsung's engineers currently just cannot get it to work by simply placing a finger on it. Meticulous data protectionists will perhaps not be as enthusiastic about saving up to three fingerprints, but the fingerprint sensor in the review sample is one of the safest methods for protecting the smartphone and stored sensitive data against unauthorized access.

Android 4.4.4 KitKat
Android 4.4.4 KitKat

Software

Samsung relies on the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat operating system that is refined with the in-house TouchWiz interface, like in the Galaxy S5. It enhances the scope of useful features, its use is more intuitive, and all important settings are quick and easy to access. All features described in Samsung's Galaxy S5, such as the Glove Mode, Private Mode, and multi-tasking Multi-Window mode, are again available. And thus our verdict is again: A very complete operating system that can provide a lot of fun.

Communication & GPS 

The review sample provides the expected, state-of-the-art full equipment. On board we find swift Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for local, wireless data transmission, and Bluetooth 4.0. We classify the Wi-Fi reception as very good; Samsung's Galaxy Alpha connected swiftly and absolutely stably to a router 10 meters away and through several walls in the test.

Users who want to browse on the go will be pleased about UMTS/3G and LTE/4G, which enables lightning-fast data rates. Up to 300 Mbps downstream and a maximum of 50 Mbps upstream are possible in the LTE hepta-band (800/850/900/1800/1900/2100/2600 MHz). Furthermore GSM quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and UMTS quad-band (850/900/1900/2100 MHz) do not leave anything to be desired. The Galaxy Alpha achieved a bandwidth of 42 Mbps (downstream) and 5.76 Mbps (upstream) in the HSPA+ net standard in the latter.

GPS Test
GPS Test

The A-GPS module did its job just as reliably, and connected to multiple satellites very fast via the GPS Test app. Of course, Samsung's Galaxy Alpha also had to compete with the Garmin Edge 500 in our navigation comparison, and it fared quite well here. Admittedly, we recorded a deviation from the route in difficult parts like through the woods or a serpentine road over a bridge. However, there was only a difference of 0.43 km in the comparison. Thus, the review sample is overall quite suitable for navigating.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha - total
Samsung Galaxy Alpha - total
Samsung Galaxy Alpha - bridge
Samsung Galaxy Alpha - bridge
Samsung Galaxy Alpha - woods
Samsung Galaxy Alpha - woods
Garmin Edge 500 - total
Garmin Edge 500 - total
Garmin Edge 500 - bridge
Garmin Edge 500 - bridge
Garmin Edge 500 - woods
Garmin Edge 500 - woods
Phone app
Phone app

Telephony and Speech Quality

The phone app only has a hint of the TouchWiz UI, and scores with good handling and all important features. The speech and audio quality in calls was excellent in the practical test, which our contact also confirmed in a test call. The hands-free feature is loud enough to make calls even in busier surroundings.

Cameras & Multimedia

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha sports a primary camera with a CMOS sensor and 12.0 megapixels, as well as auto focus and LED flash. It even records videos in UHD 4K in 3840 x 2160 pixels with 30 fps. Furthermore, a front-facing camera with a resolution of 2.1 megapixels is installed for selfies and videoconferencing. It records videos in Full HD. The front lens has some minor weaknesses. Pictures exhibit high image noise, poor sharpness, and meager color reproduction especially when shot in poor light. The rear-facing module is sooner apt for snapshots. The superb image sharpness and decent color reproduction of well-illuminated objects are on its pro side.

Although the primary camera is overall convincing, it is defeated by the camera in the iPhone 6 in the direct comparison of contenders - despite the nominally lower resolution on Apple's side. Nevertheless, the image sharpness is high and image noise is very low. Only the image brightness could be a bit higher.

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Accessories

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is shipped with a modular power supply alongside a USB cable, a quick start guide, and warranty card. Also a very good in-ear headset - for included accessories conditions - with interchangeable earplugs and a ribbon cable is in the box. Strange: The accessories were all completely white although the review sample was black.

Just released in the market and Samsung already offers various optional accessories. That ranges from the protective Flip Cover for about 35 Euros over the S View Cover with a window for almost 50 Euros up to the S Charger Cover, a replaceable battery lid with induction charger, for roughly 100 Euros (weight: 24.5 gr, charging station S Charger Pad available separately).

Warranty

Samsung includes a 24-month warranty for its Galaxy Alpha. The accessories and battery are covered for 6 months.

Input Devices & Controls

Keyboard: portrait mode
Keyboard: portrait mode
Keyboard: landscape mode
Keyboard: landscape mode

The Galaxy Alpha has inherited the touchscreen's excellent operability up into the corners from Samsung's Galaxy S5. The well-known gesture control and Glove Mode are also installed. Furthermore, features that allow interacting with the screen using a hovering finger, such as Air Browse or Air View. The screen also rotates in the right direction without lags. The virtual keyboard is also appealing, and provides multiple settings and input options. Typing is not quite as comfortable on the slightly smaller screen as on the Galaxy S5, but writing is still relatively reliable. The QWERTY keyboard reserves approximately half the screen in portrait mode, and two thirds in landscape mode. Although that limits the visibility of the displayed content, typing functions quite well.

Display

Samsung Galaxy Alpha: 4.7" S-AMOLED screen with 1280 x 720 pixels
Samsung Galaxy Alpha: 4.7" S-AMOLED screen with 1280 x 720 pixels

The 4.7-inch screen has a HD resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. Thus, the review sample is the taillight in the comparison. The slightly bigger rivals score with a Full HD resolution, and solely the iPhone 6 has a marginally higher resolution using the same screen size. Nevertheless, the representation convinced us with a subjectively high image sharpness and crisp colors.

In the comparison with the contenders, the average brightness of 335.1 cd/m² is as typical for S-AMOLED rather low. It is however enough for virtually all application scenarios. The Galaxy Alpha has a maximum brightness of 348 cd/m². The review sample is compelling in the other fields.

348
cd/m²
336
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
342
cd/m²
334
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
342
cd/m²
331
cd/m²
331
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 348 cd/m² Average: 335.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 94 %
Center on Battery: 334 cd/m²
Contrast: ∞:1 (Black: 0 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 2.57 | 0.6-29.43 Ø6
ΔE Greyscale 1.87 | 0.64-98 Ø6.2
Gamma: 2.43
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
Mali-T628 MP6, 5430 Octa, 32 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy S5
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AC, 16 GB eMMC Flash
HTC One M8
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AB, 16 GB iNAND Flash
Apple iPhone 6
PowerVR GX6450, A8, 128 GB eMMC Flash
Sony Xperia Z3
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AC, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Screen
-50%
-44%
-16%
-91%
Brightness middle
334
358
7%
474
42%
520
56%
702
110%
Brightness
335
364
9%
486
45%
511
53%
671
100%
Brightness Distribution
94
82
-13%
93
-1%
88
-6%
90
-4%
Black Level *
0.54
0.61
0.72
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
2.57
5.28
-105%
5.86
-128%
3.92
-53%
8.92
-247%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
1.87
4.65
-149%
5.2
-178%
4.33
-132%
9.59
-413%
Gamma
2.43 91%
2.48 89%
2.29 96%
2.46 89%
2.75 80%
CCT
6492 100%
7690 85%
7218 90%
7384 88%
9408 69%
Contrast
878
852
975

* ... smaller is better

For example, Samsung's Galaxy Alpha outclasses all rivals with its extremely homogeneous illumination of 94%. The mathematically infinite contrast and almost absolute black level are also virtually perfect. That results in a very vivid color reproduction and really deep black.

Color Management: Standard
Color Management: Standard
Color Management: Photo
Color Management: Photo
Color Management: Cinema
Color Management: Cinema
ColorChecker: Standard
ColorChecker: Standard
ColorChecker: Photo
ColorChecker: Photo
ColorChecker: Cinema
ColorChecker: Cinema
ColorChecker AdobeRGB: Photo
ColorChecker AdobeRGB: Photo
Grayscale: Standard
Grayscale: Standard
Grayscale: Photo
Grayscale: Photo
Grayscale: Cinema
Grayscale: Cinema

Like the Galaxy S5 flagship, our review sample also offers various profiles under the menu item "Screen Mode". "Adapt display" automatically optimizes the color spectrum, saturation, and sharpness for some apps. "AMOLED Photo" lets pictures look most natural, "AMOLED Cinema" enhances the colors but they look a bit unnatural. "Standard" is a mode without impact, but it looks somewhat pale.

Our CalMAN assessments partly exhibited big differences between the single profiles. The "Standard" mode came closest to the ideal of the sRGB color space, which the almost perfect color temperature of 6492 K and a gamma of 2.43 impressively prove. Furthermore, the DeltaE of 2.57 in ColorChecker is very low and the color saturation is most accurate, and the grayscale is best reproduced here. The colors look natural and rich subjectively.

Although the maximum 348 cd/m² are enough for outdoor use, the highly reflective glass cover makes it very difficult to read the screen in the open air. However, the smartphone's very high contrast allows outings almost without restrictions in indirect light.

No matter how extreme the viewing angle on the screen, content is always color stable, bright, high in contrast, and absolutely convincing.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles

Performance

Samsung equips its Galaxy Alpha with an in-house development: Samsung's Exynos 5430 Octa with a clock rate of up to 1.8 GHz. An ARM Mali-T628 MP6 GPU is integrated in the octa-core SoC, and the combo is supported by 2 GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The SoC is currently at the front of the high-end league, and is roughly on par with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 MSM8974 chip that is also used in Samsung's Galaxy S5 and HTC's One M8.

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha proved that in our synthetic benchmark test with very good results. This becomes evident in 3DMark 2013 where the review sample outperformed some of its stronger rivals (HTC One M8), or could at least keep up with contenders like Samsung's Galaxy S5 or Sony's Xperia Z3. The Galaxy Alpha could even surpass the powerful iPhone 6 in AnTuTu Benchmark v5, but was defeated in BaseMark OS II. The review sample managed to reap in a slight lead on all contenders when all cores were used, but still lagged slightly behind in the single-core test of Geekbench 3.

Solely Apple's iPhone 6 takes a clear lead in the GFXBench 2.7 benchmark. Our review sample follows directly in second place. This becomes even more evident in the newer GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan where Samsung's Galaxy Alpha achieves an up to 56% better score, and is again only defeated by the iPhone 6.

The closing storage test via AndroBench 3 verifies that Samsung's Galaxy Alpha has a very swift flash memory that outruns the contenders in all exercises, and is only topped by Sony's Xperia Z3.

A final word concerning performance: Our review sample only achieved some of the impressive rates after several attempts. The SoC seems to throttle relatively fast. A short break was needed after demanding benchmarks in order to achieve realistic rates. However, we did not notice this shortcoming in routine use and we therefore do not deduct points for this.

3DMark
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
15934 Points ∼18%
Samsung Galaxy S5
15198 Points ∼18% -5%
Sony Xperia Z3
13674 Points ∼16% -14%
HTC One M8
9521 Points ∼11% -40%
Apple iPhone 6
9137 Points ∼11% -43%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
18360 Points ∼3%
Samsung Galaxy S5
19530 Points ∼4% +6%
Sony Xperia Z3
19606 Points ∼4% +7%
HTC One M8
15928 Points ∼3% -13%
Apple iPhone 6
22509 Points ∼4% +23%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
17675 Points ∼7%
Samsung Galaxy S5
18367 Points ∼8% +4%
Sony Xperia Z3
17882 Points ∼8% +1%
HTC One M8
13856 Points ∼6% -22%
Apple iPhone 6
16985 Points ∼7% -4%
AnTuTu v5 - Total Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
50004 Points ∼50%
Sony Xperia Z3
42125 Points ∼42% -16%
Apple iPhone 6
49093 Points ∼50% -2%
BaseMark OS II - Overall (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
944 Points ∼11%
Apple iPhone 6
1374 Points ∼16% +46%
Geekbench 3
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
3209 Points ∼4%
Samsung Galaxy S5
2885 Points ∼4% -10%
Sony Xperia Z3
2708 Points ∼3% -16%
HTC One M8
2785 Points ∼3% -13%
Apple iPhone 6
2889 Points ∼4% -10%
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
951 Points ∼20%
Samsung Galaxy S5
941 Points ∼19% -1%
Sony Xperia Z3
979 Points ∼20% +3%
HTC One M8
957 Points ∼20% +1%
Apple iPhone 6
1619 Points ∼33% +70%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
31.2 fps ∼0%
Samsung Galaxy S5
27.7 fps ∼0% -11%
Sony Xperia Z3
27.5 fps ∼0% -12%
HTC One M8
28.1 fps ∼0% -10%
Apple iPhone 6
42.6 fps ∼0% +37%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
48.4 fps ∼1%
Samsung Galaxy S5
27.8 fps ∼1% -43%
Sony Xperia Z3
29.4 fps ∼1% -39%
HTC One M8
30.2 fps ∼1% -38%
Apple iPhone 6
51.9 fps ∼2% +7%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
13.6 fps ∼2%
Samsung Galaxy S5
11.8 fps ∼2% -13%
Sony Xperia Z3
11.8 fps ∼2% -13%
HTC One M8
10.5 fps ∼2% -23%
Apple iPhone 6
17.8 fps ∼3% +31%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
25.6 fps ∼7%
Samsung Galaxy S5
11.7 fps ∼3% -54%
Sony Xperia Z3
12.6 fps ∼3% -51%
HTC One M8
11.2 fps ∼3% -56%
Apple iPhone 6
29.8 fps ∼8% +16%
AndroBench 3-5
Random Write 4KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
1.91 MB/s ∼1%
Samsung Galaxy S5
1 MB/s ∼0% -48%
Sony Xperia Z3
2 MB/s ∼1% +5%
HTC One M8
0.88 MB/s ∼0% -54%
Random Read 4KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
11.96 MB/s ∼6%
Samsung Galaxy S5
8.5 MB/s ∼4% -29%
Sony Xperia Z3
15 MB/s ∼8% +25%
HTC One M8
10.53 MB/s ∼5% -12%
Sequential Write 256KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
24.6 MB/s ∼4%
Samsung Galaxy S5
19.05 MB/s ∼3% -23%
Sony Xperia Z3
18 MB/s ∼3% -27%
HTC One M8
19.51 MB/s ∼3% -21%
Sequential Read 256KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
134.85 MB/s ∼9%
Samsung Galaxy S5
83.53 MB/s ∼6% -38%
Sony Xperia Z3
149 MB/s ∼10% +10%
HTC One M8
88.41 MB/s ∼6% -34%

Legend

 
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Samsung Exynos 5430 Octa, ARM Mali-T628 MP6, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy S5 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Sony Xperia Z3 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
HTC One M8 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AB, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB iNAND Flash
 
Apple iPhone 6 Apple A8, PowerVR GX6450, 128 GB eMMC Flash

The browser-based benchmarks using the preloaded Android 4.4.4 browser did not turn out in favor of Samsung's Galaxy Alpha in the category comparison. The review sample could only show its strength in the Octane v2 benchmark, although Apple's iPhone 6 fared even better. Then again, it is the only device that our review sample could outperform in the Mozilla Kraken 1.1 benchmark. In the Sunspider 1.0 benchmark, the latter managed to push itself just before Samsung's Galaxy S5 and Apple's iPhone 6. It is neck and neck with Sony's Xperia Z3 in the Vellamo 3.0 benchmark. And finally, it had to let its rivals pass in WebXPRT 2013 where only Samsung's Galaxy S5 delivered a somewhat worse performance. We strongly recommend using the significantly faster Google Chrome browser for a good routine performance - it makes browsing fun.

Google V8 Ver. 7 - Google V8 Ver. 7 Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
5593 Points ∼29%
Apple iPhone 6
8384 Points ∼43% +50%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
5640 Points ∼11%
Samsung Galaxy S5
3875 Points ∼7% -31%
Apple iPhone 6
7478 Points ∼14% +33%
Sony Xperia Z3
5339 Points ∼10% -5%
HTC One M8
3131 Points ∼6% -44%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
5056 ms * ∼9%
Samsung Galaxy S5
6302 ms * ∼11% -25%
Apple iPhone 6
4597.1 ms * ∼8% +9%
Sony Xperia Z3
6502 ms * ∼11% -29%
HTC One M8
8990.4 ms * ∼15% -78%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
445.7 ms * ∼5%
Samsung Galaxy S5
408.7 ms * ∼4% +8%
Apple iPhone 6
340 ms * ∼4% +24%
Sony Xperia Z3
827.5 ms * ∼9% -86%
HTC One M8
594.2 ms * ∼7% -33%
Vellamo 3.x
Metal (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
1577 Points ∼42%
Sony Xperia Z3
1549 Points ∼42% -2%
Multicore Beta (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
1679 Points ∼37%
Sony Xperia Z3
1775 Points ∼40% +6%
Browser (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
2707 Points ∼36%
Sony Xperia Z3
2871 Points ∼38% +6%
WebXPRT 2013 - Overall Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
262 Points ∼12%
Samsung Galaxy S5
237 Points ∼10% -10%
Apple iPhone 6
570 Points ∼25% +118%
Sony Xperia Z3
345 Points ∼15% +32%
HTC One M8
271 Points ∼12% +3%

* ... smaller is better

Games

The SoC-integrated ARM Mali-T628 MP6 GPU alongside 2 GB of LPDDR3 RAM ensures a lot of 3D power. Even demanding Android games like Dead Trigger 2 or Trials: Frontier run smoothly. The user always has full control in every situation owing to the accurate and swift operation via the touchscreen, position sensor, and accelerometer. Naturally, Full HD videos are rendered effortlessly.

Dead Trigger 2
Dead Trigger 2
Gangstar 4
Gangstar 4
Minecraft PE
Minecraft PE
Trials Frontier
Trials Frontier

Emissions

Temperature

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is cool in every sense of the word in this exercise. The surface temperatures were always within acceptable limits in routine use. An average of 29°C was reached in idle mode. We ascertained the maximum rate of 30.9°C on the front in the area of Samsung's logo. Thus, the casing does not even get lukewarm. The surfaces heated up to averagely 35°C when the device was put under permanent full load. The device reached its maximum on the underside in the SoC's area. The power supply got very hot with 42.7°C when used, and air circulation should thus be ensured.

GFXBench 3.0 battery test: results
GFXBench 3.0 battery test: results
GFXBench 3.0 battery test: performance
GFXBench 3.0 battery test: performance
GFXBench 3.0 battery test: diagram
GFXBench 3.0 battery test: diagram

We additionally checked the integrated graphics card's stability with the battery test of the GFXBench 3.0 benchmark. The process: The T-Rex on-screen test is performed thirty times in succession, and both the battery state and frame rates are recorded. The frame rates dropped clearly quite soon, and decreased even more in the next run where it retained half of its performance for the remainder of the test. Thus, the ARM Mali-T628 MP6 exhibits thermal throttling down to half of its actual performance quite early. That also explains our varying outcomes in the graphic benchmarks and the forced cooling breaks. Users who want to play graphically demanding games for longer periods will have to be satisfied with low setting for lag-free entertainment.

Max. Load
 37.4 °C
99 F
36.6 °C
98 F
34.3 °C
94 F
 
 36.6 °C
98 F
36.1 °C
97 F
34.3 °C
94 F
 
 35 °C
95 F
35 °C
95 F
32.9 °C
91 F
 
Maximum: 37.4 °C = 99 F
Average: 35.4 °C = 96 F
33.7 °C
93 F
38.4 °C
101 F
34.9 °C
95 F
33.5 °C
92 F
36.8 °C
98 F
35 °C
95 F
32.7 °C
91 F
35.7 °C
96 F
34.4 °C
94 F
Maximum: 38.4 °C = 101 F
Average: 35 °C = 95 F
Power Supply (max.)  42.7 °C = 109 F | Room Temperature 23 °C = 73 F | Voltcraft IR-350
(±) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 35.4 °C / 96 F, compared to the average of 33.1 °C / 92 F for the devices in the class Smartphone.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 37.4 °C / 99 F, compared to the average of 35.5 °C / 96 F, ranging from 22.4 to 51.7 °C for the class Smartphone.
(+) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 38.4 °C / 101 F, compared to the average of 34.1 °C / 93 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 29.8 °C / 86 F, compared to the device average of 33.1 °C / 92 F.

Speakers

The mono speaker is located in the same place as in the iPhone 6, which is the right lower edge. The little speaker produces a infectious, fairly distortion-free sound with a maximum volume that is quite able to compete with the sound of the smartphones from Cupertino. However, the Galaxy Alpha is not completely exempt of category-typical drawbacks, such as the lack of bass particularly in high volumes. In return, the 3.5 mm jack is absolutely convincing with its low-noise sound and maximum volume.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

A highlight comes our way here. Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is more energy efficient than all rivals. With rates ranging from 0.4 to 1.3 watts in idle and 2.3 to 2.6 watts in load, the review sample wins the power saving medal. The rates of some contenders are twice as high especially during load. This arouses our hopes for a yet undiscovered marathon gene in the Galaxy Alpha.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 0.4 / 0.9 / 1.3 Watt
Load midlight 2.3 / 2.6 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

A look at the specs smothers these hopes because Samsung's Galaxy Alpha only has a 7.17 Wh (1860 mAh) battery – which is at least removable. Solely Apple's iPhone 6 has an even smaller battery (1819 mAh; 6.91 Wh). According to the manufacturer, the Galaxy Alpha should last for up to 9 hours in LTE browsing and up to 11 hours via Wi-Fi.

Our tests show that no contender – regardless whether Samsung's Galaxy S5 (10.78 Wh; 2800 mAh), HTC's One M8 (9.9 Wh; 2600 mAh) or Sony's Xperia Z3 (11.5 Wh) – can really compete with that proportionally despite considerably bigger batteries.

We ascertained 3 hours and 12 minutes in full load via the Stability Test app. Only Samsung's Galaxy S5 lasted about an hour longer here.

The smartphone shut down after good 7 hours in the practical Wi-Fi browsing test using a brightness set to 50% (150 cd/m²). The rivals with a higher battery capacity outrun that.

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha presented a maximum runtime of lush 22:37 hours, measured with minimum brightness, and all communication modules except Wi-Fi disabled in energy saving mode. It is on par with Apple's iPhone 6 and surpasses HTC's One M8 and Sony's Xperia Z3 by lengths. Only Samsung's Galaxy S5 manages a bit more here.

The video playback runtime test using the Video Looper app and the Full HD movie Big Buck Bunny stopped after approximately 11 hours on the review sample. Only Sony's Xperia Z3 can keep up with that.

Overall, the review sample does a fantastic job here. An additional plus: A radical "Ultra Power Saving Mode" that then even displays content in black and white for a longer battery life is available when needed.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
22h 37min
WiFi Surfing
7h 08min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
10h 56min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 12min
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
Mali-T628 MP6, 5430 Octa, 32 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy S5
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AC, 16 GB eMMC Flash
HTC One M8
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AB, 16 GB iNAND Flash
Sony Xperia Z3
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AC, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Apple iPhone 6
PowerVR GX6450, A8, 128 GB eMMC Flash
Battery Runtime
20%
-27%
10%
-6%
H.264
656
556
-15%
385
-41%
682
4%
595
-9%
WiFi
428
613
43%
453
6%
672
57%
530
24%
Load
192
253
32%
102
-47%
132
-31%
128
-33%

Verdict

In review: Samsung Galaxy Alpha
In review: Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Samsung launches a strong piece of hardware in the competitive high-end market with its Galaxy Alpha. Though it adheres to Samsung's own Galaxy S5, clear concessions have to be made in comparison. The refined manufacturing process of the new casing and the larger, 32 GB flash memory is likely the reason that Samsung demands  50 Euros more with a price of 649 Euros for its Galaxy Alpha. The exterior excites with a stable metal bezel and elegant design in return. The innards are also very respectable. A very economic and yet sufficiently powerful eight-core SoC developed by Samsung does a very good job in conjunction with the swift GPU and lush 2 GB of RAM – although the Galaxy S5 features considerably stronger equipment. On the other hand, barely any compromises have to be made with the 4.7-inch, Super AMOLED screen. Admittedly, the resolution of 720p does not seem appropriate because it is slightly too low, but it proved absolutely sufficient in routine use. The intuitive handling owing to the TouchWiz interface and the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat alongside the multiple operation options really pleased us. The configuration generally proves very generous with high-speed Wi-Fi, NFC, and universal communication modules as well as a decent primary camera. The fact that the latter falters a bit in poor ambient light can be forgiven. In return, the long battery runtimes and a fingerprint sensor that provides security are appealing. The excellent voice quality is also commendable. The biggest point of criticism: Samsung axes the memory card slot in its Galaxy Alpha. Therefore, users who need more than roughly 25 GB (net), will have to use additional online storage.

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha is an overall interesting option in the flagship race. There are presently several alternatives especially in the premium smartphone sector. The most serious rival besides Apple's iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 likely comes from inside Samsung in form of the Galaxy S5. It is currently available for approximately 500 Euros. We can give a purchase recommendation to buyers who place value on a solid, compact smartphone with a metal casing that is also state-of-the-art – providing that the listed shortcomings can be tolerated.

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In Review: Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Test model courtesy of Cyberport.de
In Review: Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Test model courtesy of Cyberport.de

Specifications

Samsung Galaxy Alpha (Galaxy Series)
Graphics adapter
Memory
2048 MB 
Display
4.7 inch 16:9, 1280 x 720 pixel, capacitive multi-touch, 312 PPI, Super AMOLED, glossy: yes
Storage
32 GB eMMC Flash, 32 GB 
, 25.47 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm jack, 1 Fingerprint Reader, Sensors: Glonass, A-GPS, motion sensor, light sensor, proximity sensor, compass, heart rate monitor, fingerprint sensor, NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, ANT+
Networking
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (a/b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4/ac = Wi-Fi 5), Bluetooth 4.0, GSM quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz),UMTS quad-band (850/900/1900/2100 MHz), LTE hepta-band (800/850/900/1800/1900/2100/2600 MHz); net standards: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+, LTE-A; bandwidth: 300 Mbps / 50 Mbps (LTE), 42 Mbps / 5.76 Mbps (UMTS)
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 6.7 x 132.4 x 65.5 ( = 0.26 x 5.21 x 2.58 in)
Battery
7 Wh Lithium-Ion, 1860 mAh, Talk time 3G (according to manufacturer): 11 h
Operating System
Android 4.4 KitKat
Camera
Webcam: primary camera: CMOS 12 MP, AF, LED flash, videos: UHD 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) @30fps; front-camera: 2.1 MP (CMOS), videos: FHD (1980 x 1080 pixels)
Additional features
Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual, swype, Keyboard Light: yes, Google Chrome, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Google Mail, Google Play Store, Google Search, Google+, Google Play Music, Google Play Books, Google Maps for Mobile, YouTube, 24 Months Warranty, SIM card size: nano-SIM
Weight
115 g ( = 4.06 oz / 0.25 pounds), Power Supply: 55 g ( = 1.94 oz / 0.12 pounds)
Price
649 Euro

 

In review: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha – Samsung's first metal and not plastic smartphone – at least to a part.
In review: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha – Samsung's first metal and not plastic smartphone – at least to a part.
Samsung is not stingy with accessories and puts…
Samsung is not stingy with accessories and puts…
…a USB power supply and in-ear headset including interchangeable earplugs besides the battery in the box.
…a USB power supply and in-ear headset including interchangeable earplugs besides the battery in the box.
For comparison: Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy Alpha.
For comparison: Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy Alpha.
The similar exterior is perhaps to lure fans of Apple's design.
The similar exterior is perhaps to lure fans of Apple's design.
Apple owners willing to change will have the matching SIM at hand since Samsung uses a nano-SIM for the first time in its Alpha.
Apple owners willing to change will have the matching SIM at hand since Samsung uses a nano-SIM for the first time in its Alpha.
The build is all over high-quality.
The build is all over high-quality.
The back cover's design of the Galaxy Alpha looks familiar. It…
The back cover's design of the Galaxy Alpha looks familiar. It…
…can be removed via a small recess.
…can be removed via a small recess.
Underneath it,…
Underneath it,…
…we find the battery and…
…we find the battery and…
…the nano-SIM card slot. Unfortunately, there is no slot for micro-SD cards.
…the nano-SIM card slot. Unfortunately, there is no slot for micro-SD cards.
The Home button is also a fingerprint sensor. It works very reliably and increases the protection against unauthorized accesses.
The Home button is also a fingerprint sensor. It works very reliably and increases the protection against unauthorized accesses.
The Android buttons have been integrated unobtrusively, and are illuminated when desired.
The Android buttons have been integrated unobtrusively, and are illuminated when desired.
The 4.7-inch S-AMOLED has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels.
The 4.7-inch S-AMOLED has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels.
The screen's color reproduction is close to ideal in "Standard" mode.
The screen's color reproduction is close to ideal in "Standard" mode.
Multiple operating modes, such as Air View, are available for intuitive use.
Multiple operating modes, such as Air View, are available for intuitive use.
The primary camera has a resolution of 12 MP, AF, and an LED flash.
The primary camera has a resolution of 12 MP, AF, and an LED flash.
Like Apple's iPhone 6, the lens juts out of the back marginally.
Like Apple's iPhone 6, the lens juts out of the back marginally.
Therefore, the device does not lay evenly on a surface and increases the thickness a bit.
Therefore, the device does not lay evenly on a surface and increases the thickness a bit.
The webcam has a resolution of 2.1 MP.
The webcam has a resolution of 2.1 MP.
Like in the Galaxy S5, the Download Booster is preloaded. It can fuse Wi-Fi and LTE for faster downloading when required.
Like in the Galaxy S5, the Download Booster is preloaded. It can fuse Wi-Fi and LTE for faster downloading when required.
Galaxy Apps lists recommended applications and…
Galaxy Apps lists recommended applications and…
…apps specially made for Galaxy smartphones.
…apps specially made for Galaxy smartphones.
For example, Polaris Office 5.
For example, Polaris Office 5.
The application performance and overall performance of the Galaxy Alpha…
The application performance and overall performance of the Galaxy Alpha…
…is convincing.
…is convincing.
The speaker sounds good and can get loud.
The speaker sounds good and can get loud.

Similar Devices

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Samsung Galaxy A20e Review: Top equipment at a budget price
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Links

  • Manufacturer's information

Compare Prices

Pros

+Elegant design
+Very good build and stiffness
+Very compact and light
+Removable battery
+High-contrast Super AMOLED screen with stable viewing angles and good color reproduction
+Appealing performance
+All-encompassing configuration including fingerprint sensor & NFC
+High-capacity internal storage
+Great UI
+Swift and stable Wi-Fi
+Exhaustive communication modules
+Decent camera with UHD video recording
+Very good voice quality
+Decent battery life
+Good headphones
 

Cons

-720p resolution only
-Screen a bit dark
-No micro-SD slot for expanding storage
-Micro-USB 2.0 only
-Camera's low light performance disappointing

Shortcut

What we like

The elegant design and great screen.

What we'd like to see

A slightly higher brightness and a micro-SD slot.

What surprises us

That Samsung is Apple-oriented to such a great extent.

The competition

Apple iPhone 6

HTC One M8

Samsung Galaxy S5

Sony Xperia Z3

Rating

Samsung Galaxy Alpha - 10/27/2014 v4(old)
Michael Moser

Chassis
92%
Keyboard
62 / 75 → 83%
Pointing Device
94%
Connectivity
48 / 60 → 80%
Weight
95%
Battery
92%
Display
91%
Games Performance
63 / 63 → 100%
Application Performance
49 / 70 → 70%
Temperature
90%
Noise
100%
Audio
73 / 91 → 80%
Camera
76%
Average
79%
89%
Smartphone - Weighted Average
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Samsung Galaxy Alpha SM-G850F Smartphone Review
Michael Moser, 2014-11- 1 (Update: 2018-05-15)