Admittedly, the Galaxy S5 was a little bit of a disappointment when it came out, mainly because of its technical characteristics being a bit too close to its predecessor, the Galaxy S4. The same criticism was leveled at the Galaxy S4 when it appeared following the Galaxy S3. We can already hear the pitchforks being readied against the Galaxy Alpha as it has failed to materialize as the super-premium device some were expecting. But there are differences here beyond number crunching.
The biggest difference is of course the metallic frame of the Galaxy Alpha. Samsung has opted for a smaller screened device with aluminum beveled edges that are distinctly reminiscent of the iPhone. The back panel is however, still made of a soft touch plastic with another kind of textured surface but it is also removable, revealing a replaceable battery below. One of the most striking features of the design of the Galaxy Alpha is the slightly flared corners – or the recessed sides, depending on how you look at it.
The Galaxy S5 follows the same standard Samsung design style, but has a metallic-look plastic trim that looks kind of cheap in comparison to the real metal found on the edges of the Galaxy Alpha. This is perhaps the first indication of how the build material makes a difference right up front. The corners are a little more rounded on the S5 and there's a water-resistant flap over the USB connector, which the Galaxy Alpha does not share. The speaker on the S5 is on the back, whereas the Alpha shifts it to the bottom edge. Pretty much all of the design changes are focused on the edges.
- Read our Galaxy S5 review.
We look forward to testing the Galaxy Alpha in real life, but we've already seen some interesting things on paper and in benchmarks. On paper, the Galaxy Alpha has a slightly slower clocked octa-core processor compared to the Galaxy S5, but considering the lower resolution screen it seems to post very good results. Depending on the benchmark it either scores just above or just below the S5.
|Samsung Galaxy Alpha||Samsung Galaxy S5|
|System||Android 4.4.4 TouchWiz||Android 4.4.2 TouchWiz|
|Display||4.7 inch Super AMOLED, 1,280 x 720 pixels||5.1 inch Super AMOLED, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels|
|Processor||Octa core Exynos 5 (5430) (quad-core 1.8 GHz + quad-core 1.3 GHz), Mali-T628 GPU||Quad-core Snapdragon 801, 2.5 GHz, Adreno 330 GPU / Octa-core Exynos 5 (5422) (quad-core 1.9 GHz + quad-core 1.3 GHz), Mali-T628 GPU|
|RAM||2 GB||2 GB|
|Internal Memory||32 GB||16/32 GB + microSD (up to 128 GB)|
|Battery||1,860 mAh, removable||2,800 mAh, removable|
|Camera||12 MP (rear), 2.1 MP (front)||16 MP (rear), real-time HDR, 2 MP (front), 4K video|
|Connectivity||GSM/HSDPA/LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB 2.0||GSM/HSDPA/LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB 3.0, IR blaster|
|Dimensions||132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7 mm||142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm|
|Weight||115 g||145 g|
|Price||599 €||679 €|
Beyond clock speed, it is pretty clear that the two devices are playing in entirely different leagues. The display, camera and battery found in the Galaxy S5 are much better than those in the Galaxy Alpha. Without having had the chance to do a camera shootout with the two devices we'll just have to go on the specs table, but with significantly lower resolution, and barring any major photographic developments, it would seem certain that the Alpha will be a sub-par shooter when put side-by-side with the S5. If the Alpha truly is meant to be an iPhone competitor, a rock-solid camera would be a necessity.
Both devices are running Android KitKat, for now 4.4.2 on the S5 and 4.4.4 on the Galaxy Alpha. The update to the latest KitKat build is clearly not too far away for the S5 though. Both are running the new look TouchWiz and share features like Download Booster, Quick Connect, Private Mode and Ultra Power Saving Mode.
Based on the European pricing for the Galaxy S5, which was 679 EUR at launch, the Galaxy Alpha comes in a shade cheaper at 599 EUR. The US pricing of the Galaxy S5 ended up being 599 – 649 USD for an unlocked device, depending on your carrier. We're expecting the Galaxy Alpha to come in at much the same price tag: around 599 USD. This puts up a very interesting comparison: just how important are specs to you and how important are looks? Apple fans love the recognisability of their iPhones, and metal builds cost a little more, but is the styling of the Alpha enough to make up for the mid-range specs if it costs the same as an S5?
To sum things up, we can simply say that these two devices are not competitors at all. They are clearly aimed at very different audiences: the Galaxy S5 at the typical Android fan that likes good specs, large screens and Samsung's traditional material choice alongside microSD expansion and a great camera and battery. The Galaxy Alpha, by its appearance, is being directed at the iPhone crowd: sexier build material, cool styling, smaller screen, and a high price with specs that don't matter so much. As I mentioned above though, Samsung really needed to splash out on the camera to effectively compete with Apple, and ditching microSD is not likely to win many fans either. The question is simply put: do you prefer specs or looks?
Which device do you prefer and why?