Samsung is strengthening its A-series with brand new models, starting with the Galaxy A71 and the Galaxy A51, which it announced earlier this month. The Galaxy A51 was launched in India at an entry-level price of US dollars. 23,999. This new smartphone brings some iterative updates for the current Galaxy A50 (review) to keep the series up to date and relevant.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy A51 is one of the first phones in the series to feature an Infinity-O display and a macro camera. Aside from these salient features, it shares many of the same specs as its predecessor, including the AMOLED display, processor, and design aesthetics. Apart from Redmi K20 Pro (test) and Redmi K20 (test), there is hardly any competition at this price level, which could be an advantage for Samsung.
Is this new offer of the lower middle class worth considering in the current competition? Let’s take a look.
Samsung Galaxy A51 design
The casing of the Samsung Galaxy A51 has a design similar to that of the Galaxy A50. We have a body made of pure polycarbonate, which is fairly light with only 172 g and also quite slim with a thickness of only 7.9 mm. The glossy body is prone to fingerprints, but these are not visible on our Prism Crush Black unit. The end of the back is also a little slippery, but luckily Samsung has a pocket in the box.
The biggest change is the Infinity-O-Display, which we see for the first time on a Galaxy A phone. It is essentially a single hole in the top center of the display, similar to what we saw on the Galaxy Note 10+ (review). Samsung may not have changed the body design too much, but a hole display gives the phone a first-class look that we appreciate. The Galaxy A51 uses a Super AMOLED panel with a Full HD + resolution that produces punchy colors and good sharpness. It looks striking from the front, thanks to the narrow bezels all around.
The buttons are placed ergonomically and on the right side there is a compartment for two nano SIM cards and a microSD card. Below we have the usual headphone jack, USB Type-C connector and speaker grille. There's a familiar camera on the back of the Galaxy A51, but now there's a fourth camera. The bump doesn't protrude too far, which is good.
The Galaxy A51 comes with the usual accessories, which include a 15W quick charger, a Type-C cable, a headset, a SIM eject tool, and a case.
Samsung Galaxy A51 specifications and software
Samsung has held onto the same Exynos 9611 processor as the Galaxy A50, which feels a little weak in 2020 and at this price. The Galaxy A51 is available with 6 GB or 8 GB RAM, and both variants have 128 GB internal storage. Other technical data include dual-band WiFi according to 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, GPS, NFC and FM radio. The usual sensors are there and this phone also has Widevine L1 certification. The Galaxy A51 supports Samsung Pay so you can use it for contactless payments.
The software that runs on this phone as delivered is Samsung's One UI 2.0, which is based on Android 10. The new version is similar to the previous versions of One UI that we used previously, but Samsung has developed some tweaks to improve the user experience. It is now much easier to change the background image, as there is a special menu for it instead of being redirected to the theme app.
Other minor changes concern the positioning of notifications regarding access rights for apps, which are now displayed at the bottom of the screen instead of in the middle. The "Device maintenance" submenu also has a new look. Battery usage can now be tracked for the past seven days, and not just since the phone was fully charged. and you can now change the lock screen app icons by swapping the standard dialing or camera shortcuts for DnD or flashlight toggles.
Bloatware is still preinstalled, including third-party apps and some Samsung-owned apps like Samsung Shop, but most can be uninstalled.
Samsung Galaxy A51 performance and battery life
The Galaxy A51 feels very similar to the Galaxy A50 in daily use. We really liked the slim and light form factor. Navigating the user interface was relatively quick, but didn't feel very smooth. There have been a few cases where we noticed a slight lag in the system animations. The benchmark performance was decent; Modeled on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 or 665 SoC. With Samsung's asking price for this cell phone, however, that's a little too little.
We reached 1.86.220 points in AnTuTu, while we reached 42 fps in the GFXbench T-Rex test. The back of the phone got a little warm when playing and running stressful apps, but never uncomfortably. Fortunately, the Exynos 9611 SoC is pretty competent on graphics issues. PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends both went well, with good frame rates.
Biometric authentication works well, but is a bit slow. It takes a while for the built-in fingerprint sensor to authenticate you and unlock the phone. It's the same with face recognition.
The Galaxy A51 supports Dolby Atmos, but only if you have headphones connected. The audio quality of the included headset is average, but this phone sounds better with a higher level of after-market headphones. The floor speaker is not very loud, but is sufficient for personal listening. The display is one of the best aspects of this phone. The brightness is very good and the colors look vivid, which makes viewing content very pleasant.
Samsung used a 4,000 mAh battery for the Galaxy A51 and achieved a decent runtime of 14 hours and 55 minutes in our HD video loop test. We easily managed to get a full day for normal use, with enough remaining strength to get us through another half a day. It charges quickly, and we managed to charge the battery to 67 percent in an hour. It took a little over two hours to fully charge. It's relatively fast, but not as fast as others in this segment, like the Redmi K20 Pro, which charges up to 80 percent in an hour.
Samsung Galaxy A51 cameras
Samsung has added a new 5 megapixel macro camera to the three camera types of the Galaxy A50. They include a 48 megapixel primary sensor; a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera; and a 5 megapixel depth sensor.
In One UI 2.0 the camera app has been slightly revised and now has slightly different looking symbols. Most of the recording modes are now also summarized in the "MORE" menu. However, you can add them to the main viewfinder if necessary.
The main camera takes oversampled 12-megapixel photos by default, but you can shoot at full 48-megapixel resolution if needed. This option is hidden in the Aspect ratio menu. In good light, the Galaxy A51 managed to take detailed pictures of objects in the center of the picture. Objects on the edges usually looked a bit blurry and were comparatively softer.
The main camera recorded very good colors in low light conditions, and the details were presented quite well with little noise. There is a special night mode, but we couldn't find any significant difference to shooting in standard photo mode because the scene optimizer automatically adjusts the parameters when it detects dim light.
The wide-angle camera captures a lot more scenes in the picture, but leads to a pretty bad barrel distortion. Even after activating the "Ultra Wide Angle Correction" option, some pictures looked unnaturally distorted. Photos taken with this camera in poor lighting conditions looked visibly darker and had poorer details. Night mode doesn't help much here either.
Live focus mode blurs backgrounds for a more dramatic look. The image quality is good and the depth camera supports the Galaxy A51 in edge detection. You can adjust the level of blur here, but additional effects for this mode like spot colors, etc. that we saw on other Galaxy phones are missing.
Close-ups were also quite good. The focus speed is sufficient in good lighting and we managed to take some pretty good pictures. With the macro camera you can get much closer to your subject. The colors were not bad and the sensor picks up quite a lot of details.
The Galaxy A51 can record videos up to 4K, but without stabilization. Video quality is not bad when shooting in good light. In low light conditions, the clips are grainy and the details are weak. You get stabilization at 1080p, but this also creates a noticeable shimmer effect when walking. The continuous auto focus is also a little sluggish. This shimmer effect is intensified in poor lighting conditions and has a disruptive effect. You can use the Super Steady shooting mode, which uses the wide-angle camera to record videos. Stabilization is better, but the details are weaker.
The 32-megapixel front camera captures oversampled 12 or 8 megapixel shots, depending on the perspective you choose. Selfies were generally not very clear. Skin tones were smoothed a little too much, and the recordings looked a bit boring overall. Details were good in low light, but with a slight lack of sharpness.
Other shooting modes include Pro, Panorama, Food, Hyperlapse, Super Slow Motion and Slow Motion, which we have already seen on Samsung phones. You can access Bixby Vision and AR Emojis from the camera app. The Galaxy A51 also supports AR Doodle, which we saw for the first time in the Galaxy S10 series.
Samsung has launched the Galaxy A51 for the first time at a slightly higher price than the Galaxy A50s (test). For that extra money, you get a fourth rear view camera, a more modern punch display, and more RAM. Currently, Samsung has only launched the 6 GB variant in India. 23,999. However, the company's website mentions the existence of an 8 GB RAM option, but it doesn't seem to be available yet.
Power users will immediately argue that the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) offers much better performance for Rs only. 1,000 more and has the same amount of RAM and memory – and they wouldn't be wrong. With the Redmi K20 Pro you get a flagship processor, an HDR display, higher quality materials and better cameras. If you play a lot, the Redmi K20 Pro is the more sensible choice. In fact, you could also get the Redmi K20 (Review) for a bit less money, which is also very powerful.
However, the Galaxy A51 has a lot to offer, and despite the not so cheap price, it will appeal to those looking for a neat experience. You get Android 10 as delivered, a slim and light case, Samsung Pay, a solid battery life, a sufficiently sharp display and of course the Samsung brand. At this price, we would have preferred a more powerful processor. The biometric sensors are not the fastest and the overall performance of the camera is a little overwhelming.
Even the Samsung Galaxy A50 now offers good value for its new starting price of Rs. 19,990. However, if you are looking for a slightly more future-proof solution, it makes sense to do without the Galaxy A50 and instead opt for the Galaxy A51.