Samsung Galaxy Alpha
The Alpha is one lovely looking handset

It's taken a while, but Samsung has finally come up with a premium metal design for one of its phones - and it's pretty darned good for a first attempt. True, the company has sacrificed a little of its box-ticking cutting edge allure in the process, but the result is the most balanced and pleasant-to-use handset in the range.

We liked

While it borrows liberally from the Apple design playbook, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha still feels like a notable progression for the company - and it still feels like a Samsung phone. Just a particularly classy one.

In scaling back to a 4.7-inch display, and framing it in a super-slim chassis, the Alpha takes its place as the nicest Samsung phone to wield - particularly in one hand.

Indeed, the Galaxy Alpha is brilliant in day-to-day use thanks to blazing performance and an accomplished 12-megapixel camera.

We disliked

While Samsung's TouchWiz UI is the leanest it's ever been, it's still a glaring weak point when you compare it to rival efforts. It should be next on the list for a radical overhaul by Samsung's designers.

Meanwhile, Samsung has evidently had to make certain compromises to facilitate that slim, premium design. One takes the form of a slightly less-than-premium 720p display. So-so battery life is the other notable downside to such a slinky handset design.

These shortfalls make the Samsung Galaxy Alpha's premium price point feel very steep - or at least it does if you don't value high-end external design as highly as cutting edge internal technology. It's a lot, lot more expensive than the S5, which has a much more impressive spec list.

Verdict

Samsung has created a truly desirable smartphone for the first time in... well, ever. Those who were fine with Samsung's plastic-heavy approach in the past may frown at perceived compromises in the Galaxy Alpha's spec list, but I'd encourage you to hold one in your hand before making any snap judgements.

This is a phone that's pleasant to use in a variety of situations, thanks to its lightweight design, just-right size, and impressively swift performance.

I'd have liked a 1080p display and stronger battery life, and ultimately Samsung's software design is holding the Alpha back from being a true iPhone 6 toppler. But this is a solid first step on a bold new path for Samsung - it's just hard to understand why on earth it's so expensive.

First reviewed: September 2014