Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha smartphone just launched, and it’s yet another compact version of a flagship phone with cut-down specs and slashed features. So how does it stack up on paper against rivals such as the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and the HTC One Mini 2, and should Apple be worried ahead of the iPhone 6 launch?
We were hoping that Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha would be a full-on premium beast, rocking the same or better specs as the Galaxy S5, but wrapped in a gorgeous new metal frame. Sadly, what we’ve got is another ‘compact’ phone. In other words, a stripped-down version of the Galaxy S5 in a slimmer, more portable package, similar to the recently revealed Galaxy S5 Mini.
We’ve already compared the Galaxy Alpha with the Galaxy S5 in our full launch coverage, but how does it stack up on paper against rivals like the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and the HTC One Mini 2 (which also boasts a metallic body)? And could it actually be an iPhone 6-beater, as many websites are claiming? Let’s have a gander.
Read next: HTC One Mini 2 vs Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs rival compacts: Design
Design is the biggest feature worth shouting about on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, as that new metallic edging finally adds a touch of solid class to the Galaxy brand. However, the phone isn’t an all-metal beast like the HTC One Mini 2, and you’ll still find Samsung’s favoured soft-touch rear in place.
Still, we like the look of the Galaxy Alpha so far, and it’s just as light as the One Mini 2 and Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact. The Alpha’s impressively slender too, at just 7mm (the One Mini 2 is a bulky slab in comparison at 10.6mm).
Our major bugbear is the Galaxy Alpha’s lack of water resistance, something found on the bigger Galaxy S5 and a result of the redesign. If you want a compact phone that you can fiddle with in the bath, the Xperia Z1 Compact is your only bet.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs rival compacts: Screen and media
Almost every compact phone we see rocks a 720p HD display, and the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is no different. However, while the HTC One Mini 2 has a 4.5-inch screen, and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact’s is a little dinkier at 4.3-inches, the Galaxy Alpha boasts a more spacious 4.7-inch panel. That’s more akin to mid-range devices such as the Sony Xperia M2.
The more spacious screen means the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t have as sharp visuals as its rival compacts, but at 312 pixels-per-inch it’s no slouch either. HD movies should still look pretty bloody marvellous, especially as the Alpha’s Super AMOLED screen is likely to rival the One Mini 2’s display for eye-popping visuals.
The HTC One Mini 2 boasts a sharp, vibrant screen that will rival the Samsung Galaxy Alpha’s
Unfortunately, if you want to lug around your entire media collection, the Galaxy Alpha is going to disappoint. The 32GB of storage space can’t be expanded by memory card, as there’s no microSD slot. And while the One Mini 2 and Xperia Z1 Compact both have less internal storage (just 16GB apiece), they both have memory card slots for a massive boost.
The One Mini 2 will also likely be better for enjoying your media without headphones, thanks to those awesome dual BoomSound speakers.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs rival compacts: Features
The Galaxy Alpha trims down the original Galaxy S5’s specs to something a little more mid-range, a common occurrence on compact handsets.
One victim is the Alpha’s camera, discussed below, and the screen resolution as already mentioned. That slashed memory card slot is also an annoyance, especially as the other compact phones here have one.
Thankfully the Alpha fares better than the other mini phones when it comes to other features. Its processor remains the same quad-core SnapDragon 801, for slick performance that should outlast the other mobiles here. And while the Alpha’s body is no longer water resistant, it still boasts a fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor like the original Galaxy S5, which aren’t found on the other mini phones.
All three compact phones pack 4G LTE support and built-in NFC.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs rival compacts: Camera
However, one feature that’s beaten hands-down by the Xperia Z1 Compact is the Alpha’s 12-megapixel camera. We’re sure it’ll prove a worthy snapper for everyday life, complete with flash for evening shots, but we’re still impressed that Sony managed to cram its full 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS camera into the Xperia Z1 Compact.
Not only does it capture beautifully detailed photos, but Sony’s fantastic Superior Auto mode does a great job of capturing bright, clear shots in almost any conditions, even when the light gets a little murky. The Galaxy Alpha’s going to have to work hard to produce better photos.
That said, the Alpha is the only phone here that can record in Ultra HD 4k. If you want future-proof home movies, that’s going to be a worthy feature.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs rival compacts: Verdict
Specs and features-wise, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha puts up a good fight against rival compact phones. Some battles it wins (more spacious screen, fingerprint scanner, processor) and some it loses (water resistance, camera specs, storage, screen resolution), so we’re looking forward to seeing how it really shapes up in our full review.
As for Apple, should it be worried ahead of its big iPhone 6 launch next month? Personally, we don’t think so. We’re expecting all of the Galaxy Alpha’s best features (such as the fingerprint scanner and 4k video recording) to be present in the iPhone 6. And on top of that, you should get a pin-sharp near-unscratchable screen, 64-bit processor and no doubt a few extra features that Apple’s kept secret.
Read next: Best compact phones of 2014
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