As a result of increased pressure from Chinese rivals, Samsung revised its fiscal strategy last year. The underperformance of the Galaxy J-series had disappeared, and the Galaxy A lineup mostly took its place. Samsung limited the Galaxy A series to the mid-range price category, but now the devices are marketed from $120 to $600. The newly found change in focus also came with better product releases. This is our Samsung Galaxy A51 Review.
The Galaxy A50 was one of the budget phones you could buy in 2019, with excellent hardware, a fresh design, and decent cameras. In typical Samsung fashion, the company introduced a renewed model in the Galaxy A50 six months later, and now we have the A51. The Galaxy A51 is an example of what Samsung has been doing in this segment over the past 12 months. There are a few tempting changes – especially on the camera side – but the basis is unchanged compared to last year.
80% of what I mentioned in my Galaxy A50 review previous year is relevant to the A51 because the underlying hardware has not changed much.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Review: Design
No other brand is rolling out iterative updates like Samsung, and in the past five years, it has succeeded in transforming iteration into an art form. The Samsung Galaxy A51 takes a lot of cues from the A50’s, which in turn were based on the A50. So basically, a lot of the internal hardware you get in the A51 is over a year old at the moment.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any new features on the A51. Let’s begin with the back: the Galaxy A51 has two diagonal lines across its surface that break the design. However, this time, the re’s a gradient effect that can be seen when the light hits the surface. That gradient effect is essential for the device’s colors, with the Galaxy A51 available in Prism Crush Black, Prism Crush White, and Prism Crush Blue.
The lower part of the phone also features subtle lines that further distinguish the design, and the overall result is that the A51 is one of the best looking phones Samsung has released so far. I use the blue option, and the vibrant color makes the phone stand out. The back is made of plastic, just like last year, but the glossy finish gives the phone a smooth feel. Best of all, it doesn’t swipe as easily as a glass back, and it is more durable.
Another significant change on the back is the camera housing. The rectangular camera body is identical to that of the Galaxy S20 series, and it is clear that Samsung is trying to make a design identity here. Although the camera housing is not attractive, it is consistent for all Samsung 2020 devices.
The significant design change at the front is the Infinity-O cut-out for the front camera module. Last year’s A50 and A50’s had the Infinity-U cut-out, and the cut-out on the A51 is smaller and better integrated into the design. The edges are wafer-thin this time, which makes using the A51 much more tempting.
The design is rounded off by the power and volume buttons on the right-hand side and the 3.5mm jack, much appreciated USB-C charging port, and a single speaker on the bottom. Samsung has also distanced itself from the 3.5mm jack on its flagships, so it is good to see that the analog jack is intact on the A51. The SIM card drawer is on the left side, and you get the option to insert two SIM cards and a Micro-SD card. The variant of the A51 sold on the global markets will probably have a single SIM slot.
At 172g, the Galaxy A51 is amazingly light for a phone with a 4000mAh battery, and it feels sturdy in hand thanks to the subtle curves on the back. At 73.6mm wide, the phone is also narrow, and although it’s not suitable for single-handed use, it’s at the bottom of the scale to phone sizes up to 2020.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Review: Display
The Galaxy A51 has a 6.5-inch (Full-HD+) Super AMOLED display that’s best in the class, I must say. The colors are vibrant, you get decent viewing angles, and no problems were using the screen in bright sunlight. You can choose between Natural or Vivid picture modes, and there is no option to adjust the color balance of the screen manually. But you do a blue light filter that can be changed to run from sunset to sunrise. You also get other scaling and font options that are standard on all Samsung devices.
The screen is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, another area that is unchanged from last year. This applies to the quality of the panel itself – except for the switch to an Infinity-O cut-out and a small 0.1-inch screen magnification, there is no difference with the A50 or A50. But that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, because the screen will hold up fine in 2020.
One of the major highlights of the Galaxy A51 is that it comes with Samsung’s One UI 2.0 based on Android 10. That wasn’t always the case with previous Samsung’s budget phones, so it’s great to see the manufacturer offering its latest UI on all its 2020 phones. One UI 2.0 integrates the system-wide dark mode of Android 10, and you also get the opportunity to choose from the standard navigation gestures of Android 10 or Samsung’s take.
Samsung’s gesture includes designated zones at the bottom of the display from which you can swipe upwards. It’s an elegant solution, and it’s easier to acclimatize when you switch from the old navigation keys. But the fact that you also get the latest Android 10’s gestures – with the swipe-in from both sides to go back and swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go to the start screen – makes it so much more tempting.
Samsung has always offered a good list of customization options, and that’s no different on the A51. You now get the Edge screen, with the ability to configure pull-out Edge panels and set Edge illumination for notifications and calls. Edge lighting means that phones no longer have LED notification light these days, and the re’s just plenty of customizability to choose from.
The A51 also has a software-based face unlock, and while it’s not as secure as a fingerprint reader, it’s fast. Elsewhere, you get the feature to use two copies of an app at the same time, Bixby, off-screen gestures, and one-handed mode. Samsung has put a lot of effort into modernizing its UI in recent years, and the result is that Samsung’s One UI 2.0 feels modern and is far removed from the TouchWiz days.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Review: Performance
Samsung has been recycling hardware on its devices for several years, and that is no different on the A51. The device is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 9611, the same as the A50. The A50 had the company’s Exynos 9610, and while the 9611 is marketed as a new chipset, the only difference with the 9610 is that it can support the 48MP camera modules. Both the Exynos 9610 and 9611 use the same cores and the same Mali G72 for graphics, and they are both manufactured on a 10nm node.
If anything, Samsung is short of storage buyers this year, with the A51 offering UFS 2.0 storage, while last year’s A50 and A50s had UFS 2.1 storage. Let’s go back to the hardware because Samsung’s decision to use the Exynos 9611 in the A51 makes things slow in daily use. The chipset has four Cortex A73 cores at 2.3GHz and four energy-efficient A53 cores at 1.7GHz, and the re’s just not enough grunt to be able to perform even basic tasks like surfing the web.
You’ll notice delays sometimes even while navigating the user interface, with actions like opening the app tray, causing a negligible delay. Then the re’s the problem of gaming, and the Mali G72 just won’t hold up in titles like PUBG and Fortnite. If you’re serious about mobile gaming, you’d better choose a phone with a Snapdragon 730. The A51 is barely enough to even for everyday use – you shouldn’t be able to see a delay when leaving an app to go to the home screen.
The phone is available in India with variants of 6GB/128GB and 8GB/128GB, but in other markets, Samsung offers the A51 with an option of 4GB. There is a MicroSD slot suitable for cards up to 512GB, and you also get NFC with Samsung Pay, FM radio, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, and Wi-Fi ac. The optical in-display fingerprint sensor is quick, secure, and reliable, and I haven’t had any problems with it.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Review: Camera Performance
The highlight of the Galaxy A51 is the quad-camera array at the rear: a 48MP primary camera is now connected to a 12MP wide-angle lens, a 5MP macro-shooter, and another 5MP lens for portrait mode. You get a 32MP camera at the front, which is a small upgrade compared to the 25MP lens on last year’s A50. The camera interface should be immediately familiar if you have recently used a Samsung phone.
The most important shooting modes are placed in a ribbon at the bottom of the photos, and you can edit them as per your preferences. There are switches for the flash, timer, filters, and embellishment effects, and you can easily switch between the primary lens and the wide-angle shutter. The 48MP camera is a known name at this point, and it takes great shots in daylight. The resulting images have a lot of detail and a decent dynamic range, and you get those saturated colors that define Samsung’s cameras.
One of the most significant changes Samsung made in 2020 is the ultra-wide-angle lens, in which the shooter succeeds in shooting with the same level of detail as the primary camera. As good as the Galaxy A51 is in daylight conditions, shots in artificial light or low light are a blotchy mess. There is far too much noise, colors are washed out, and the final images are far from good enough to share on social platforms.
The macro lens has no autofocus and has difficulty dialing into busy subjects, such as a dial. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t focus it on the dial of my Promaster Skyhawk. Although the 5MP resolution is better than what you get with most other smartphones, the macro lens, for now, is very limited in its usability.
Another area where things are unchanged is the battery. The Galaxy A51 has the same 4000mAh battery with 15W quick charge, and I had no problems with battery life. The phone will easily last a day, and although the hardware itself hasn’t changed from the A50, I have better figures on the use of the battery on the A51. Overall, the Galaxy A51 has a battery that will last for the day for most of the users.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Review: Conclusion
The Galaxy A51 does not differ much from what Samsung offered last year in this segment, but the upgrades of the camera and the design make it stand out. The 48MP camera takes decent images during the day, the display is one of the best you can find in this segment, the battery life is fantastic, and you get the latest One UI 2.0 based on the newest Android 10. That said, the hardware setup is slow compared to the rest of the other phones, and you will see noticeable delays in daily use.
There is also no point in switching to the Galaxy A51 if you are already using the A50 or A50’s because, for the most part, this is the same phone that Samsung released last year. The Galaxy A51 doesn’t make much sense for the Indian market for now, because there are phones that provides much better value and beefier hardware in 2020. The Realme X2 Pro, Redmi K20, or the POCO X2 will be a better option if you are in the market for a phone under INR 25,000 ($350).
As for the US and other global markets, the smartphone is available for around $250. And at this price point, the Galaxy A51 is a decent deal for those looking for a budget smartphone with Samsung’s trust and best in the class OLED display. If you are looking for a high-end Samsung phone, then do check our Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Review
The Galaxy A51 has the same foundations as last year's A50 and A50. You get a 48MP camera, all-day battery life, a vibrant AMOLED display, 3.5mm connection and Android 10. However, the hardware won't last in 2020.
- 48MP camera
- Gorgeous new design
- Long-lasting battery
- One UI 2.0 with Android 10
- Aging hardware
- Laggy in daily use
- Low-light shots are unusable