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Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: What's different?

Andrew Williams


Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: What's different?

Samsung Galaxy S5 or Galaxy Alpha?

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is official and with a September launch date, looks set to land at the same time as the iPhone 6. As big as these tech giants are, they aren’t averse to a few juvenile playground tactics.

Of course, the real question is whether the Galaxy Alpha is worth considering over the Galaxy S5, not the iPhone 6. So what is Samsung’s new Android phone all about, a stop-gap until the Galaxy S6 or something completely different?

As it turns out, the Galaxy Alpha has more in common with its smaller brother the Galaxy S5 Mini than the big daddy of Android. But what do we have to look forward to?

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: Boxy edges for a new feelOrange

The most dramatic difference between the Galaxy Alpha and Samsung’s existing line-up is design. Virtually all of Samsung’s phones try to be as thin as possible, using curved edges to make them feel even thinner than they actually are.

However, the Galaxy Alpha has a much boxier design, with more rectangular, bevelled edges that are the spit of those on the iPhone 5S. Remarkably, the Alpha appears to be even thinner than the iPhone, measuring in at 6.7mm thick.

This could be a good improvement for future Galaxy phones, including the Galaxy S6, as the naff contoured silver plastic sides were things we didn’t really like in the current Galaxy S5.

The Alpha doesn’t see Samsung performing a full 180 here, though. You still get the dimpled plastic back, a Samsung-style camera lens and a front-on profile that’s just like the company’s other Android phones. It’s only the sides that have stepped out of line.

Galaxy Alpha

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: Metal in place of plasticOrange

But what are those sides made of? They’re metal, and will give the phone that bit of high-end design gloss that has to date been missing from Samsung’s Android phones.

Leaked pictures correctly confirmed that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha has a ring of metal that snakes around the phone, effectively replacing the plastic surround used in the Galaxy S5.

As with the Galaxy S5, the back panel pops off and will still be made of skinny plastic, so only the extreme edges are going to benefit (potentially) from the cool and hard feel of aluminium.

But would it even be aluminium? We’ve seen few good products made using magnesium alloy recently, which is lighter than aluminium while still being tough. Check out the Surface Pro 3 and Xiaomi Mi3 for a couple of good examples of this in action. Whatever metal it is, it has to be better than the shiny chrome plastic used in the Galaxy S5.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: A smaller, lower-res screenOrange

The possibility of a part-metal design makes the Galaxy Alpha sound like a step up from the Galaxy S5, but it actually isn’t one in other respects. It’s more like an upper-mid-range phone that slots in between the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy S5 Mini.

It uses a 4.7-inch 720p screen while the Galaxy S5 has a 5.1-inch 1080p display. The S5 is head and shoulders above the Alpha.

Thanks to the AMOLED screen tech used in both phones, the Galaxy S5 is going to seem doubly sharper than the Galaxy Alpha. As Samsung uses PenTile-style screens, any slight lack of pixel power is quite obvious.

One worry is that Samsung might not give you the option to manage the colour saturation in the screen. In other mid-range phones of this year, such as the Galaxy K Zoom, you’re stuck with over saturated OLED colours, where top-end phones like the Galaxy S5 let you tame them to make them more accurate – and less of a strain on the ol’ retinas.

Galaxy Alpha

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: No SD slot this time aroundOrange

Samsung seems to be experimenting with a few things in the Galaxy Alpha. Even the name itself makes it sound like a prototype.

We like the use of metal on the phone’s body, but we’re not sure about another change – the Alpha doesn’t feature a microSD slot. Samsung has been one of the few companies to routinely include a memory card slot on all its major phones, so we’re disappointed to see it lopped off the Alpha.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has one, after all.

Instead, you’ll have 32GB or 64GB of storage to play with instead. 64GB versions of the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S4 are very rare in the UK for a simple reason – why would you pay the extra when a 64GB memory card costs less than £30 these days?

There are reasons – external memory isn’t as flexible as internal memory with an Android device – but this issue has pretty much nixed the sales chances of 64GB versions of Samsung’s phones.

A non-expandable Alpha will let Samsung see how much people really want 64GB phones, as well as testing the kind of backlash it’d receive for – say – leaving one out of the Galaxy S6.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: Exynos vs SnapdragonOrange

Samsung’s phone’s often use Snapdragon processors these days. The Galaxy S5 uses a Snapdragon 801 processor, the same family used by the Xperia Z2 and HTC One M8. The Alpha joins the S5 in packing the same Snapdragon-based CPU with 2GB RAM and runs on Android 4.4 KitKat.

It will also come in a octa-core version although that version is unlikely to be seen here in the UK.

It’s a terribly impressive-sounding octo-core processor – yes, one with eight cores. However, it’s not going to be twice as fast as the Samsung Galaxy S5’s CPU.

Four of the cores are performance cores, designed to kick in when the Galaxy Alpha is doing something a bit strenuous. The other four are more power-efficient cores, there to help keep battery life solid. Last time we saw one of these 8-core processors, the phone could only use four at a time. But we’ve been promised the next-gen versions will be able to use all eight at once.

The fast cores run at 1.8GHz, the slower ones 1.3GHz. However, the different is more to do with architecture than clock speed.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: 12MP versus 16MPOrange

One other little snip we’ll see in the Galaxy Alpha is the camera. It’s rumoured to have a 12-megapixel main sensor while the Galaxy S5 uses a 16-megapixel one with fancy ISOCELL sensor tech. This is something Samsung has devised.

There's a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera and a HDR mode to help brighten up images. The Galaxy Note 4 is rumoured to have a 12-megapixel sensor as well, along with OIS. And that phone won't have a bad camera.

There’s no sign of the Alpha adopting OIS too, but a 12MP sensor with stabilisation would have made a pretty handy combo. Still, we expect the Galaxy S5 to be superior, especially as it uses a fairly large 1/2.5-inch sensor.

Galaxy Alpha

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: Battery takes a hit Orange

As it has a smaller, lower-resolution screen, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha can afford to use a smaller battery than the Galaxy S5. It reportedly has a 1,860mAh battery, up against the Galaxy S5’s 2800mAh.

It’s way smaller in the Alpha, and we do have to wonder whether you’ll be able to get the sort of 2-day stamina that’s possible with the Galaxy S5 on a Galaxy Alpha. We’ll have to wait to see it up close to find out.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5: Heart rate sensor and fingerprint scanner are inOrange

For all the phone’s cuts, the Alpha hasn’t gotten rid of all the Galaxy S5’s extra bits.

The fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor introduced by the Galaxy S5 are still in place in the Galaxy Alpha. We didn’t find them to be particularly worthwhile additions in the S5, but perhaps they’re dead cheap to implement anyway, now that Samsung has made tens of millions of the things.

Early Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is not a replacement for the Galaxy S5. In many respects it’s a lower-end phone, sitting in-between the Galaxy S5 and S5 Mini in terms of spec.

However, it looks like the phone is going to be used as an experiment with a few new ideas. Using real metal in the body and testing out reactions to an SD card-free phone are all things worth watching. With some specs that don’t really excel above phones that will probably end up being much cheaper, like the Motorola Moto G, though, we’re not convinced this is going to be an all-out smash hit.

Next, read our Galaxy S5 tips and tricks round-up


August 12, 2014, 4:38 am

Samsung's latest exynos already able to use all 8 cores simultaneously with their heterogeneous multi-processing technology, as seen in their Galaxy S5 exynos 5422 version.


August 12, 2014, 11:25 am

We've not tested that one ourselves, though! Will be interesting to see how this one fares.


August 13, 2014, 5:14 pm

Is it pentile or non pentile like the Galaxy tab s line?


August 14, 2014, 9:12 am

What ? Galaxy Alpha specs are mostly high-end and saying that it sit between Galaxy S5 and S5 Mini is wrong

1- Exynos 5430 is the 1st 20nm ARM CPU in the world, and it consume less power than any of the older Exynos chips. Also, it has HEVC hardware decoder. Snapdragon 801 doesn't have decoder for HEVC (newer snap 805 does however)

2- Benchmarks show that Galaxy Alpha is overall competes with other flagship phones like galaxy S5, and it even wins in some cases.

3- Galaxy Alpha might not have micro-SD, but it has 32GB internal storage. 32GB is not something that low-end or mid-ranged phones have

4- 720p is perfectly fine for 4.7 inch display. Not to mention that modern AMOLED display have better color accuracy and brightness than older ones. Display quality should better than galaxy S3 even if both are 720p

5- As for camera. 12MP is certainly not low-end specs. Also, MP is not good way to compare camera. Wait for review that uses real world camera tests

6- 1,860mA battery is small. But keep mind that galaxy Alpha should probably consume a lot less power than S5. It is smaller in size and has new power efficient 20nm CPU.

George Washington✓

August 15, 2014, 7:03 pm

Samsung joined the HSA Foundation with AMD, Imagination, etc two years ago. It's using their Heterogeous Computing Platform API's to operate both chip architectures (actually all three including GPU) concurrently. This chip is supposed to sip power and longer than any Galaxy phone to date. Since it's screen is 320 PPI and not typical Pen Tile of ages past, it will be very sharp Retina like! .....besides you people are who rail against Pen Tile are so deluded in the first place. I owned several Galaxy S3's and I nor anyone that ever seen my phones ever complained about the screen for God's sake! This Phone is being discounted before it even appears on the market or even gets in writer's hands for review! .....that's a shame!!!

George Washington✓

August 16, 2014, 7:33 pm

Attempting to tell some Pro Applewellian iProle faux tech writer the truth is like talking to a wall. All they see are little 'i's followed by Big Lies mixed with plenty of Doublethink Propaganda and misinformation from Apple headquarters. They don't care about the truth you just posted. This writer probably won't even read our comments. Because just like all Brain Washed iProletariat members, their heads are too far stuck up Apple's pie hole to even conceive of the fact a non American company could ever actually have better ideas and mainly better technology.

But at least we know this Alpha is not just some Johnny Come Lately stab at competing against iPhones. Although we are about to see Samsung slam iPhones for the CHEAP DIE CAST SOFT POT METAL with only some Aluminum in it!

The marketing campaign will have Galaxy Alpha touted as REAL METAL for a reason. Most likely because it's some kind of Samsung SDI developed metal alloy. It could even be self healing Titanium Zinc Alloy. Since it's obviously not anodized like Cheap iPhone 5 and 5s that bend and CRACK Easily! Bare Aluminum only or soft pot metal aluminum would survive not being anodized!

By the way the 12MP is produced under Samsung's own ISOCELL fabrication techniques. It will have so they say... the fastest lens in smartphones. It will have Ir AF of .3 secs just like every other ISOCELL CMOS Sensor. It's HDR pre-view mode is not something you'd find in any low or mid range phone either. But again.... Apple fans will try to dress their PIG up with prettier lipstick! lol....


August 18, 2014, 9:45 pm

Pentile or not doesn't matter anymore with Samsung's diamond shaped pixel layout. You can't see any 'jagged' lines like some people say on the S3, even when using a magnifying glass. In fact, the Galaxy S4 has the sharpest looking display ive seen on any device (although I haven't seen the S5 in person). Download 300: Rise of an Empire in 1080p and you'd be astounded.

Daniel Ryslink

January 20, 2015, 12:40 am

Quite the contrary, pentile does matter, as it visibly degrades the display's quality, especially when displaying cyan to pink to purple hue transitions. The lower subpixel count and huge spaces between them make the image grainy, especially on lower brightness.


January 20, 2015, 12:46 am

That's simply not true at all with the current displays. Anybody who says otherwise either hasn't seen one or is flat-out lying.

Daniel Ryslink

January 20, 2015, 9:00 am

I have just bought Samsung Galaxy S5 plus after having Galaxy S2 for three years. Certain colors like shades of pink, cyan or purple are noticeably grainy, similar to spatial dithering on older TN LCD monitors. Objects have less defined borders, the whole impression is noticeably muddy and blurred, which kills the main OLED advantages - great contrast and wide color gamut. There is a noticeable color shift with changing viewing angles, head-on the image has yellow tint while from angles, it becomes much cooler and bluish, an effect also not present on SG2. The problem with grainy colors becomes worse with lower brightness.

If you realize how the diamont structure of subpixel looks, you will find out there are huge gaps between the subpixels, and that blue and red hues are rendered in fact at half the resolution.


January 20, 2015, 11:40 am

Google 'Galaxy S5 the best display we've ever tested' then come back to this thread and explain the results of Display Mate's extensive tests.

Daniel Ryslink

January 21, 2015, 4:11 pm

That very review was quite biased, based on technical data rather than actual experience by the people who know how to assess a display. Its conclusions were challenged by numerous parties.

Read here, for example:


Everyone who came from the deep, vibrant, consistent, fantastic colors of the Samsung Galaxy S2 or Note 2 that use classic RGB matrix to the blotchy, dithered, grainy, blurred mess of SGS5 know instantly, that a trick is being pulled on them - a trick general populace won't perhaps notice, but a trick nevertheless.

Or do you think you can remove one third of the screen's subpixels and stil maintain the same visual quality?


January 23, 2015, 4:27 pm

So when has someone's opinion held more weight than actual comparison data?...ok, Google 'Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G2: life in the fast lane' then sroll down the webpage to the comparison image of the LG G2 5.2" 1080p lcd display and compare it to the Galaxy S5 5.1" 1080p amoled display, as photographed under a microscope, while looking at the two from arm-lenght distance. Contrary to what you said, the lcd's display appears to show more of the background black color than the amoled between their pixels. Which conclusively prooves that the amoled pentile display on the S5 does in fact look sharper.

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