Samsung Galaxy A51 Review
Priced at around $350, the Galaxy A51 is affordable and will without a doubt be among the most popular phones that Samsung sells in 2020, but is it as good of a deal as the Galaxy A50 and how does it compare against the camera extraordinaire Google Pixel 3A?
We have been using and testing the Galaxy A51 in the past week, so let’s find out.
What you get in the box:
- Galaxy A51
- 15-watt fast charger
- USB-C to USB-A cable
- On-ear wired headphones (3.5mm connection)
- SIM tool
- User manuals
Design, Size and Materials
One thing you should know from the get go is that this phone looks beautiful but it’s also made from plastic. We don’t mind, but just know that plastic has the upside of being almost impossible to break, yet still scratches easily.
Looking at the phone, you have the power and volume buttons on the right side, while on the bottom you will find the USB-C port for charging as well as the headphone jack. The big highlight is the camera bump on the back which is big and houses four different cameras, but more on that later. At the front, you have a punch hole front camera, a change from the teardrop notch on the A50, and it looks more elegant and discreet. Samsung is very well aware of the punch hole and it even included a wallpaper with Minnie Mouse playfully pointing toward it. Nice little touch!
What you see on the photos is the black color option, and you also have the choice of either a white model or a blue one.
In terms of protection from the elements, there is no dedicated IP rating for water protection, so you should be careful not to drop the phone in water.
You also have the option to fine tune the colors on the A51 screen. If you go into Settings > Display > Screen Mode, you can select between a "Natural" screen mode with more balanced, toned down colors and a "Vivid" mode which has more saturated and eye-popping colors (which might be a bit over the top for some people).
Built under the screen is an optical fingerprint scanner.
Performance and Benchmarks
But look under the hood and you will find probably the weakest part of the Galaxy A51: the phone is powered by the Samsung made Exynos 9611 processor paired with 4GB of RAM (there is a version with 6GB RAM as well). The chip on the A51 is a mid-range one comparable to Snapdragon’s six series, and experience is not quite as smooth and fast as you would have on a phone like the Google Pixel 3a, for example. There is a bit of a stutter whenever the phone faces a more challenging task, and while not a deal-breaker, this is definitely noticeable.
Interface: Android 10 and One UI 2.0
On the software front the A51 comes with the latest Android 10 and on top of it is Samsung’s One UI interface, also in its latest form.
For all else, this is pretty much the same interface that you get on even more expensive Samsung phones like the Galaxy S10 series.
Camera: Photos and Videos
- 48MP main camera with f/2.0 lens, 26mm, 1/2.0" sensor, 0.8μm pixels and phase detection AF; can now record 4K30 video
- 12MP secondary, ultra-wide camera with f/2.2 lens, 13mm
- 5MP dedicated macro camera with f/2.4 lens, 40mm
- 5MP ToF depth sensor with f/2.2 lens, 1/5.0" sensor, 1.12μm pixels
- Front: 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm, 1/2.8" sensor, 0.8μm pixels with 1080p video support
You can see that there is a slight difference in the colors when using the main and the ultra-wide cameras, and you get far more detail when using the main camera:
You also have the Live Focus mode on board which is useful when you want to blur the background and shoot portraits.
Since you do not have a telephoto lens and the camera does not apply digital crop, the Live Focus mode is best used for people further away and does not work well if you want to capture a picture of somebody's face. You can see this in the third image above where my head looks out of proportion and definitely not flattering.
Up front, you have a 32 megapixel camera on the Galaxy which captures decent looking selfies and can also record 1080p videos. You can shoot selfies in a wide mode if you want to fit more people in the frame, or you also have a zoomed mode which is more suitable if it's just you in the picture. Here are a few examples:
You can now record in 4K, but with some important limitations
The most notable upgrade in the A51 is the added capability to record 4K video at 30 frames per second using the main camera on the back of the device, while the 2019 model, the A50, could only record video at a maximum of 1080p resolution.
Overall, there are quite a few limitations that make the camera on the A51 not ideal for video enthusiasts, but let's also keep in mind that this is an affordable phone and you cannot expect everything on it.
Sound and Loudspeaker
Battery Life and Charging
The Galaxy A51 comes with a 4,000mAh battery, the same size as on its predecessor, the A50, and the battery life is solid.
We were getting a full day of use without any worries and if you don’t use the Always-On screen option and are not glued to your phone, you shall be able to last a day and a half or even two days off the charger.
We have also run a number of battery tests to be able to precisely determine the expected battery life on the A51.
Battery Test #1: Web Browsing
Battery Test #2: Video Streaming
Our second test involves playing back YouTube videos, something that many people enjoy doing on a daily basis. For video streaming, the A51 scored 8 hours and 35 minutes of non-stop video playback. This beat the Pixel 3a by two hours, and it was also 15 minutes longer than what the Pixel 3a XL lasted.
Battery Test #3: 3D Gaming
Finally, our third test shows how long the phone will last for 3D gaming. These are the most demanding types of games including titles like Fortnite and PUBG. Here, the Galaxy scored 6 hours and 40 minutes, which is also a great score. It was longer than the Pixel 3a, which scored 6 hours and 7 minutes, but slightly shorter than the 6 hours and 55 minutes that the 3a XL edition lasted. Overall, our tests show that the Galaxy A51 definitely scores way above the average in terms of battery life.
PhoneArena Total Battery Score
You also get a 15-watt fast charger in the box which helps fuel up a drained battery a bit faster. How fast you ask? Take a look below:
- in 15 minutes: you get a 16% charge
- in 30 minutes: 31%
- 45 minutes: 47%
- 1 hour: 63%
- 1 hour and 45 minutes: 100% Full Charge
Unfortunately, there is no support for wireless charging on this phone and you will need to rely on the cable to juice it up.
Price and Alternatives
Priced at around $350, this phone costs as much as Pixel 3a or iPhone 7
The Galaxy A51 begins selling in January 2020 at a starting price of around $350 (360 euro), while its predecessor, the A50, remains on sale at a discounted price of 280 euro.
But the most notable rival of the Galaxy A51 is Google’s Pixel 3a, a phone with a flagship-grade camera, sold at about the same price. The Pixel 3a not only has the advantage of a superior camera, it also has smoother performance and a cleaner interface that will get Android updates on time.
- Read our Google Pixel 3a review here
At about the same price of the A51, you can also buy an iPhone 7, a phone that was originally launched in late 2016, but still features a faster processor and has access to the Apple ecosystem. The A51 offers a much higher quality display and longer battery life, but the difference in camera and performance is actually in favor of the iPhone 7.
- Read our Apple iPhone 7 review here
Conclusion and Final Score
While the original Galaxy A50 offered an incredible value for the money last year and sold in the millions across the globe, the new Galaxy A51 is a very slight upgrade that doesn’t offer much reason for an upgrade and doesn’t impress that much.
Yes, it’s a nice-looking phone that offers a beautiful AMOLED display and very good battery life, and we don’t mind the plastic build at all, but the new cameras don’t offer much of an improvement and are far less capable than the cameras on the rival Pixel 3a, or even iPhone 7. Worse yet, the performance is underwhelming and the phone often stutters when presented with a slightly more difficult task.
At the end of the day, the Galaxy A51 is merely a decent mid-range phone that feels a bit pricey for what it is and definitely not a threat to the Pixel 3a.