At a time when most new high end smartphones are being made with screens that are at least 5" in size, it may seem somewhat strange for Samsung to be producing a sub-5" premium model. But that’s what it has done with the Galaxy Alpha – a compact handset with a 4.7" display.

The other feature of the Alpha that represents a gamble by Samsung is the cost. With a price tag north of €500, it will be going head-to-head with the big boys of the class – the iPhone 6, Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and Xperia Z3.

So how does it weigh up?

On the face of it, it looks like an attractive handset. The metal frame certainly gives it a premium feel, which is complimented by the curvy edges and thin bezel.

The removable soft plastic back cover looks OK, but does detract a little from the rest of the smart finish. At less than 7mm thick and weighing in at 114g, it’s up there with the best in terms of its vital statistics.

It actually looks and feels a lot like an iPhone 4, which is no bad thing, given that it comes from a smartphone family where design hasn't always been the number one priority.

Once turned on, the 4.7" HD Super AMOLED display is bright and sharp. Some users have dwelt on the fact it is a mere 720p, in a class where 1080p or higher is now the norm.

However, in a sub-5" handset, the lower resolution is fine – if screen quality is not a massive priority for you. It also helps with the speed of the handset and battery life too.

The camera more or less meets the mark, with 2.1MP on the front and 12MP to the rear (the S5 has a 16MP rear camera).

It comes armed with a range of modes and tools, including Beauty Face, Shot and More, Dual Camera, Virtual Tour and High Dynamic Range.

It all adds up to a handset that takes quick and sharp images for those who just want to point and shoot, with plenty of further scope for experimentation for anyone with an interest in doing more. Another asset is that the Alpha records Ultra High Definition 4k video, which gives it one up on the iPhone 6. 

Inside the Alpha comes with a choice of either an Octa Core chip (a single chip with a Quad 1.8Ghz processor that ropes in a second Quad 1.3Ghz when required) or a Quad Core 2.5Ghz.

We tested the former, and it performs well.

Everything zips along quickly, with no sign of lag or stutter. The device runs Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) with the Samsung TouchWiz user interface on top of it.

User interfaces are a matter of personal opinion and choice. I’ve never been a huge fan of Samsung’s efforts at refining the Android OS, but with time it is improving and this version is perfectly adequate, particularly for those who have a history of using Samsung Galaxy phones.

The handset comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which may be a little modest for some... Particularly when there’s no microSD storage expansion slot.

The 1860mAh battery claims up to 11 hours of talktime, and 10 hours of video playback, though already some users are complaining that it’s a little light for the demands that may be asked of it.

There is Ultra Power Saving mode in an emergency – but who wants it to be an emergency at the end of every day?

Other features include a fingerprint scanner, which is a little finicky and not as refined as the iPhone’s Touch ID system, as well as the heart monitoring sensor and S Health app – all of which is borrowed from the Galaxy S5.

There’s Quick Connect for sharing content to other devices and Private Mode for keeping personal information secure.

In summary, it all amounts to an impressive package that certainly gives the Alpha credibility.

Whether it is enough to make an impression in a market so heavily dominated by existing flagship handsets, remains to be seen. But it could prove attractive to those looking for a compact sized smartphone that packs a punch, if they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.