The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of Samsung’s biggest mid-range entries for 2020. This is the first time Samsung’s A-series has been available in the US, arriving as an affordable option for people who want a Samsung smartphone but don’t want to pay $1,000 to get one. With so much competition in the mid-range, is it a good option for the price? Find out in Android Authority’s Samsung Galaxy A51 review.
The Samsung Galaxy A51 costs $399 / £329 / AU$599 so it’s a fairly affordable phone, and it competes most with the OnePlus Nord at £379 (around $480, AU$680), the Moto G 5G Plus at £299 (about $375, AU$535), the 2020 model iPhone SE at $399 / £419 / AU$749 and the Google Pixel 4a at $349 / £349 / AU$599.
It’s worth pointing out the first two of those are 5G phones, while the latter two, and the Galaxy A51, aren’t.
Samsung subsequently released a 5G version for $500 / £429 (roughy AU$700). While it’s pricier than the 4G version, it’s not too expensive as 5G phones go.
You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy A51 in most countries Samsung sells phones, although the 5G version isn’t available in Australia. This is curious, and we don’t know if that’s a permanent state of affairs or just temporary.
2. Samsung Galaxy A51 Design
158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9mm, 172g
Clad in plastic but with a distinctive look
Black, white, blue, and pink finishes
The Samsung Galaxy A51 offers some of the design traits of Samsung’s higher-end phones. But there are a few giveaways that it is not part of the pricey Galaxy S series.
Display borders are slim, and the front camera sits in one of Samsung’s ‘Infinity O’ punch-holes. However, the back is plastic rather than glass and the front camera does not merge into the front glass anywhere near as well as most.
Sure, the front glass covers the selfie camera. But the layers below are far more reflective, making the Samsung A51’s selfie camera stand out like a tiny little monocle.
3. Samsung Galaxy A51’s performance
With a mid-range Exynos chip and just 4GB of RAM, we didn’t expect performance to be great on the Samsung Galaxy A51. After using the device for a while and running our benchmarks, we confirmed our fears.
I haven’t said this about a phone for a while, but the Samsung Galaxy A51 is slow. You can feel a delay opening apps and multitasking, and there would often be stuttering while swiping around the UI. The phone used 1.9GB of the 4GB of available RAM even with all apps closed, which is a pretty bad sign. In some testing late last year, we concluded that modern versions of Android need about 6GB of RAM to run smoothly, and that was verified by this device.
4. Battery life
No wireless charging
The Samsung Galaxy A51 has a fairly large 4,000mAh battery. With a low-powered CPU and a small amount of RAM, you’d hope the device would get killer battery life. And honestly, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as great as it should have been. The phone lasted about 29 hours, from 8am one day to 1pm the next day. This certainly isn’t as good as phones with bigger batteries like the LG V60, but I’m glad it can at least last a full day. I got about four and a half hours of screen-on time on this device.
The A51 supports 15W charging, which isn’t the fastest. Considering the original Google Pixel supported 18W charging in 2016, this feels a bit sluggish for 2020. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S20 devices charge at 25W by default these days, so I would have liked to see 18W at the minimum on the Galaxy A51.
5. Samsung Galaxy A51’s cameras
Main camera: 48 MP, f/2.0, 26mm, 1/2.0-in, PDAF
Wide-angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 123-deg.
Macro: 5 MP, f/2.4
Depth:5 MP, f/2.2
Front-facing: 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm, 1/2.8-in
For a sub-$400 phone, the Galaxy A51 has some decent cameras and quite a few of them to boot. There’s a main 48mp sensor that bins down to 12MP images, as well as wide-angle and macro lenses, a depth sensor, and a 32MP front-facing camera.
Dynamic range seemed good on this camera set, though it did feel like the photos were a bit underexposed — probably to avoid blowing out highlights. That being said, some camera systems can force the shadows up too much for the sake of dynamic range, which produces an annoying gray haze in the shadows. Samsung phones have traditionally done this, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the A51 did not.
Colors were generally good, but the A51 tended to oversaturate specific colors such as blue and green far too much. This is likely to make the sky and plants pop, but it made some images look a bit cartoony. Samsung has always done this with its camera systems, though, so I’m not exactly surprised.
The selfie camera was quite good as well, with decent dynamic range and color. Sharpness was pretty good, though it still over-saturated colors like green and blue.
6. Samsung Galaxy A51 Software
Samsung One UI
The Samsung Galaxy A51 runs Android 10 with the Samsung One UI software on top. This means it looks very similar to a Galaxy S20.
It is one of the most coherent and confident-looking custom interfaces around, although we strongly recommend increasing the number of app rows and columns used as standard. The Samsung A51 has a toy-like look when you first turn it on thanks to the wide icon spacing.
To change this, long-press an empty part of a home screen and select ‘Home Screen Settings’. You’ll find the relevant controls there. We’d already made the change before taking the photos seen in this review.
The basic layout of One UI is perfectly good, if different to standard Android. Its apps menu uses pages rather than one long scroll of app icons, but you can also arrange them into folders should you like to keep your phone organized.
The Samsung Galaxy A51’s software looks like that of a top-end Samsung, but it doesn’t feel the same. There’s significantly more lag here, apps take longer to load, and there are some pauses we were a little surprised to see in a phone at the price.
7. Who’s this for?
We can see through this Samsung Galaxy A51 review that it is for those after a relatively affordable phone who would rather own a Samsung than an Android from Motorola, Oppo or Xiaomi.
Those companies tend to offer a little more for your money, but the draw of the Samsung Galaxy series is strong.
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