BLACK FRIDAY 2020
Get the best Black Friday deals on mobile tech here!

Samsung Galaxy A51 Review

We may earn a commission if you make a purchase from the links on this page.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Review
The Galaxy A51 is the newest mid-range phone by Samsung that replaces the extremely popular A50 from 2019 and it brings an updated, modern design with tiny bezels as well as a few improvements to the camera.

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

Buy Samsung Galaxy A51 from:
 

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.

Display Quality



Buying a Samsung phone like the Galaxy A51 means you also get an industry-leading, beautiful AMOLED screen. The one on the A51 measures 6.5 inches and it features a 1080p resolution and a 20 by 9 aspect ratio. It is perfectly sharp, colors are rich, viewing angles are good and it’s overall a beauty to behold, plus it’s covered with Gorilla Glass 3 for protection.

The A51 also supports the Always-on screen option, so you can easily take a glance at the time and notifactions without touching the phone. Keep in mind, though, that enabling this feature drains the battery a bit faster.

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).

Fingerprint Scanner


Built under the screen is an optical fingerprint scanner. 

It gets the job done most of the time, but you can definitely tell that it is not the fastest around as often there is a notable delay between the moment you press it and the moment the phone unlocks, and even the unlock animation feels a bit choppy.

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.



What is excellent however is that you get a generous 128 gigs of on-board storage, plus you have support for microSD cards should you want to expand that storage.

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.

The biggest new feature that you will notice is the new gesture navigation. You can switch to the gesture navigation by going into Settings, Display and Navigation Bar. With this new navigation you swipe up from the bottom to go to the home screen, swipe from the bottom and hold it for a moment to bring up your recent apps, and swipe from either side of the phone to go back one step.

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



One of the main upgrades in the Galaxy A51 over the 2019 model, the A50, comes in the camera department. There is a new, higher resolution main camera, this time with a 48-megapixel sensor, a higher-resolution ultra-wide camera, as well as a brand new macro camera lens. The main camera can now also shoot video in 4K, while the front camera is also improved to come with a better, 32-megapixel sensor. Here is a quick overview of the camera setup on the A51:

  • 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:



Video quality

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.

4K video on the Galaxy A51, however, is not really comparable to 4K footage from higher end phones mostly because you get a lot less detail despite the higher resolution. The big issue with the A51 for video shooters is the poor dynamic range, which is best exemplified when looking at brighter parts of a scene that will almost always be overblown and not look good. On a positive note, continuous auto focus seems to be doing a decent job and it's quite quick to acquire focus as it is using phase detection pixels for focusing.

One limitation to keep in mind is that once you have started recording video with the main camera, it is impossible to switch to the ultra-wide one. You can record video with the ultra wide, but you have to select it before starting the recording and then, when you have hit the record button, you cannot zoom in at all.

In terms of stabilization, like most Samsung phones, here you have two different options. The first one is not the most aggressive one, but it is enabled by default and it uses the main camera that will give the best possible image quality. If you have to prioritize stability, however, you can switch the wavy hand icon in the camera interface to enable the Super Steady mode, a very well-performing stabilizer, but if you choose to use it the video switches to a crop of the ultra-wide camera and you lose quite a bit in terms of detail.

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


The A51 features a single bottom firing speaker and... it gets the job done, but won't wow you in any way.

It lacks notably in the lower frequencies and the bass, and the sound quality is tinny. We have heard way better speakers, but admittedly, most of them are on more expensive phones.

We should also once again mention the presence of a 3.5mm headphone jack and even a set of basic on-ear headphones included for free in the box.

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 

hours Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A51
11h 35 min
Google Pixel 3a
9h 48 min
Google Pixel 3a XL
9h 54 min

First on our browsing test, the Galaxy A51 scored a really impressive 11 hours and 35 minutes, way above the average for most phones. In comparison, its direct rivals, the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL both scored around 10 hours on the same test.

Battery Test #2: Video Streaming

hours Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A51
8h 35 min
Google Pixel 3a
6h 30 min
Google Pixel 3a XL
8h 14 min


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

hours Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A51
6h 40 min


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

2 parts Browsing, 2 parts YouTube video streaming, 1 part 3D Gaming

hours Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A51
9h 4 min


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.


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.


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.

Pros

  • Beautiful AMOLED screen
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Elegant thin design

Cons

  • Stuttery performance with slightly more challenging tasks
  • Mediocre camera

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

User Rating:

7.7
3 Reviews

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless