Samsung Galaxy A51

Design

With its glass-ticky rear panel, the Galaxy A51 doesn’t look or feel like a mid-range handset, the plastic construction feels more forgiving in the hand in that there are no sharp edges like you sometimes get on phones with back panels made of glass. The subtle design element on the rear panel is a nice touch and adds a touch of personality to the A51. And where sometimes the branding on cheaper phones can be a touch overdone at times, the Samsung logo is discretely placed.

You’ll notice the presence of a centrally located punch-hole camera which, for whatever reason, is made more noticeable by what appears to be a metallic ring around it that attracts your attention.

Audiophiles will rejoice in the fact that there is an audio jack located on the bottom edge, sitting alongside the USB-C charging port and the speaker chamber.

The top of the phone houses a single microphone while the right-hand edge has the power button and volume rocker with the SIM tray place on the other side. Overall it’s a tidy, if inoffensive looking handset that slips nicely into a normal-sized trouser pocket with ease.

Hardware

 Samsung Galaxy A51
AnnouncedJanuary, 2020
SoftwareAndroid 10, One UI 2.0
Display6.5-Inch Infinity-O Super AMOLED, FHD+ Resolution (1080 x 2400),
Punch-holeYes, Central
ProcessorExynos 9611 Octa-core
Memory4GB
Storage128GB
MicroSD card supportYes, up to 512GB
Rear Cameras48MP Main, F/2.0; 12MP ultra-wide, F/2/2; 5MP wide/dedicated macro camera, F/2.4; 5MP depth sensor, F/2.2
Front Camera32MP, F/2.2
IP RatingN/A
Dual SIMYes
Audio JackYes
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/c/n/ac (2.4GHz + 5GHz)
SecurityIn-display Fingerprint Sensor, Face Recognition, Samsung Knox
Battery4,000mAh, 15W Fast Charging
Wireless ChargingNo
Dimensions158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9mm
Weight172g
ColorsPrism Crush Black, Prism Crush White, Prism Crush Blue
Price£329/ $399

Performance

The Super AMOLED display is as good as you would expect from Samsung, the colors are vibrant and viewing angles are superb. There’s very little to quibble about other than it’s a little dim (but still readable) in direct sunlight and not conducive to viewing content on, even with the brightness turned up to 100%.

This is where reviewing flagship phones such as OPPO’s Find X2 Pro and the OnePlus 8 can be a hindrance in developing a balanced perspective of a mid-range handset such as the Galaxy A51. The Exynos 9611 processor is simply not going to match up to the Snapdragon 865 processor in any way, and going from the former to the latter is a shock to the system until you eventually understand that the Galaxy A51 is a mid-range phone and accommodations need to be made.

Make no mistake, the Galaxy A51 can be laggy at times and I was sometimes left wondering if the phone had registered my touch when attempting to open an app or share something. Frankly, its a level of lag that I haven’t experienced for a few years, even on cheaper phones such as the Honor 10 Lite that costs a measly £140. As for the in-display fingerprint sensor, suffice to say that Samsung should have rather put it on the rear panel because I experienced a success ratio of roughly 50% when trying to unlock the phone before ending up typing the pin code in.

I’ve run the Galaxy A51 through the 3D Mark, GeekBench, and Antutu benchmarking apps, with the results embedded below:

Battery

With a normal day’s tasks, the Galaxy A51 manages to get through the day with around with ~10% left in the tank at midnight, although there were a couple of days where it needed a top-up during the evening after heavier usage. The 15W Fast Charging means that the phone can be charged from 0-100% in around two hours, with a quick 30-minute charger taking the phone up to 30%, which is acceptable but hardly exciting at this price point.

Software

The Galaxy A51 comes with Android 10 out of the box with Samsung’s much improved One UI 2.1 on top that is both feature-rich and so much lighter than the much-maligned TouchWiz of old. You can customize it to suit your tastes, and there are features built-in such as the Link to Windows function that uses Microsoft’s Your Phone app to connect to PC’s where you can access your texts, notifications, photos, and more without picking up the handset. It’s certainly a handy feature that allows you to concentrate on work without missing calls and other notifications on your phone. At the time of publishing this review, the handset had just received an update that included the April security patch.

Samsung is one of those companies that insist on your using its own take on Google Discover when you swipe right on the phone’s display. Samsung Daily, as it’s called, isn’t terrible by any means, and it does try to tailor its offerings to suit your preferences, but it isn’t as intuitive as Google and leaves you feeling frustrated that you aren’t able to change it to your preferred feed.

Something that is always great on Samsung devices is the choice of customization, both of the free and paid variety. The Galaxy Store has tons of options available to personalize your home screen icons, wallpapers, and Always-on-Display. While much has been made of the inclusion of a system-wide dark mode in Android 10, Samsung has included it on its AMOLED-equipped devices for years already. Something that does bug me about One UI is the inability to change from swiping right on the app drawer to navigate and not being able to simply swipe up to scroll through the apps.

I’ve already mentioned that Vodafone UK loaned us the Galaxy A51, and I’m pleased to report that there is little in the way of carrier bloatware present other than the My Vodafone app, so kudos to the carrier for that one.

Camera

It’s a mid-range smartphone, so snapping pics of the quality taken by the Pixel 4 or Huawei P30 Pro is not a realistic expectation. That being said, the Galaxy will take photos that are fine for social media, it’s just that there is a little lag between activating the shutter and the image being taken. The rear camera setup consists of a 48MP main sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide, a 5MP dedicated Macro lens, and another 5MP sensor that helps provide the popular bokeh effect. The 32MP selfie camera sits in a central punch-hole on the top of the display.In good lighting scenarios, the 48MP main sensor produces some great pics that show the finer details and a good level of sharpness, along with bright colors that aren’t too over-saturated. Portrait and selfie pics turn out pretty well consistently, despite the best efforts of my quarantine hair.

When it comes to shooting in low-light conditions the Galaxy A51 performs just as you might expect for a mid-range phone in that it isn’t going to miraculously turn night into day as the Huawei flagships do. For the most part, you’ll get a usable image with an acceptable level of lost details and a good balance of highlights. The ultra-wide lens is useful in that it lets you shoot a wider field-of-view but the edges are a little fuzzy. The dedicated macro lens produces clear, sharp images of objects sitting a few centimeters from the camera, and in this area, the A51 can punch well above its weight.

If you consider the camera to be the most important feature when buying a smartphone you may be better off looking at the similarly priced Pixel 3a although the Galaxy A51 perhaps offers more versatility with its dedicated macro and Depth-of-Field sensors.

Verdict

The Galaxy A51 is a well-made smartphone with an interesting if unobtrusively pattern on the rear panel with all-day battery life, a fabulous AMOLED display, great customization options, and a dependable camera. Sadly, it’s let down by the sluggish processor and over-shadowed by handsets with similar price-points that have better cameras and more powerful chipsets. It’s a case of a decent phone being let down by an Exynos processor, a scenario that we’ve seen play out on much more expensive Samsung smartphones over the past couple of years.

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