Samsung Galaxy A51 Review: Big screen, poor performance
The Samsung Galaxy A51 is a relatively affordable Android phone that you can buy if you can’t upgrade to the Galaxy S20 or buy a Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite in your region.
A lower price comes with obvious markdowns on Samsung’s more expensive phones. The back is plastic rather than glass, the cameras aren’t that great (even if there are five), the chipset is less powerful, and there are no nice extras like water resistance.
The classic Samsung features that you get in the Galaxy A51 include a bold AMOLED display and software that looks like the one on the Galaxy S20 series.
At $ 399 / £ 329 / AU $ 599, the Samsung A51 looks like a sure hit. However, there are more obvious performance issues here than alternatives like the Moto G8 Plus and Oppo Reno 2Z. Android moves a little too slow. Some parts of the camera app sometimes do it too. Fortunately, games are not affected that much – PUBG fans, don’t worry.
Bright and colourful OLED display
It has a headphone jack
Good build quality
It feels slower than most at this level
Poor fingerprint scanner
Unusually prominent perforated camera
Don’t expect miracles from cameras, either. As with many affordable quad-camera phones, it feels more like a dual-lens phone with a few half-done extras, although its tertiary macro camera is better than most in this class and offers a different way of taking photos.
Since we reviewed this device, Samsung has also introduced a slightly modified version called the Galaxy A51 5G. We have yet to test that device properly, but the big difference is that it features a different chipset with additional 5G connectivity.
Price and availability
The $ 399 Samsung Galaxy A51 launched on April 9. You can buy it unlocked directly from Samsung or through various carriers, including Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and Xfinity Mobile. Amazon is also selling the unlocked version.
There’s only one configuration of the Galaxy A51 available in the US, and it comes with 4GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of storage. If you need even more space, you can add a microSD card up to 512GB in size.
While $ 399 is a reasonable price for a phone with all the features that the Galaxy A51 offers, Samsung is running a series of promotions to make it an even better deal. The company provides up to $ 220 in credit for a Galaxy A51 if you trade in a Galaxy S9, Note 9 or earlier; iPhone X or earlier; or Pixel 3, 3 XL or 3a. You can also pay for an unlocked Galaxy A51 for 24 months at zero percent interest, at $ 14.58 per month with an eligible exchange. Samsung is even offering a free pair of first-gen Galaxy Buds for a limited time with every A51 purchase.
A word of advice for buyers: be wary of alternative Galaxy A51 models circulating in web retailers. If the price seems too good to be true, you are probably looking at the Latin American or international variant rather than the American edition tuned for national networks.
The Samsung Galaxy A51 offers some of the design cues of Samsung’s high-end phones. But there are some freebies that it’s not part of the expensive Galaxy S series.
The edges of the screen are thin, and the front camera sits in one of Samsung’s ‘Infinity O’ perforated holes. However, the back is plastic rather than glass, and the front camera doesn’t blend into the front glass as well as most.
Sure, the front glass covers the selfie camera. But the layers below are much more reflective, making the Samsung A51’s selfie camera stand out like a bit of monocle.
Samsung has always done an excellent job building lightweight phones that still feel well made, and the A51 is indicative of that. Its 6.5-inch screen is nearly two inches larger than the 4.7-inch panel inside Apple’s new iPhone SE, and yet the A51 only tips the scale at 0.8 ounces heavier. Holding them each in one hand, you can tell that the Galaxy is a bit more serious, but not as much as you might assume.
The side buttons are also made of plastic. The result? The construction of the Samsung Galaxy A51 is closer to that of a Motorola Moto G8 or Oppo A5 2020 than to that of a high-end Samsung.
However, it does have a somewhat distinctive rear end. Like other recent A-series phones, the Samsung Galaxy A51 has a lines finish that crosses over, cutting shapes at the back, each looking slightly different. The underside has a delicate striped texture, for example, under the top plastic layer.
This is a relatively subtle look, but when the Samsung Galaxy A51 catches the light, you’ll see bright rainbow hues that tend to cluster in laser streaks across the curved edges.
You can pass for an expensive Samsung from a distance, especially since the sizeable quad-lens camera housing on the back looks advanced. This phone is also reasonably sized, made for media, and broader than the Galaxy S20.
Like most phones at a price, the Samsung Galaxy A51 does not offer official water resistance. But it does have a 3.5mm headphone port, which is helpful if you haven’t made the jump to Bluetooth headphones yet.
It also has an in-display fingerprint scanner, another attempt to make the Samsung Galaxy A51 look like a high-end phone. However, this is not a great scanner. It is slower than most, and you will not recognize your fingers if they are slightly wet or if you are not very careful about the position of the thumb.
Cheaper phones with less modern rear reading pads unlock faster and more reliably. Screen
One of the best things about last year’s Galaxy A50 was its AMOLED display, a luxury generally reserved for more premium devices. The new Galaxy A51 retains that dazzling panel, except this time it measures 6.5 inches from corner to corner while maintaining Full HD resolution.
The Samsung Galaxy A51 has a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1080 x 2400. This is an instant win on paper, as many phones at a price have LCD screens.
OLEDs tend to offer much deeper colours and have better contrast than LCDs because they use illuminated pixels rather than a universal backlight. However, this is not one of Samsung’s best OLED panels, and there are a couple of obvious problems.
Less advanced OLED panels take on a slightly blue tint from an angle, usually when a phone’s screen is turned to the left or right. It’s rarely a significant issue because we all stare at our phones head-on.
But this effect comes from the other direction on the Samsung A51. Hold it relaxed and inclined, and the top of the screen has this blue tint. It’s only apparent when essential parts of the screen are white, like on web pages, for example, but it instantly shows that this isn’t one of Samsung’s best OLEDs.
The Samsung Galaxy A51 gets the other usual benefits of an OLED screen. Its optional Vivid display mode looks very saturated, and the contrast in a dark room is much better than LCD phones for the price.
The screen brightness is pretty good, too, if not in the same league as the Galaxy S20. Peak brightness seems conservative when used indoors, but the Samsung Galaxy A51 kicks in when shot outdoors on a bright day. It also plays with colour and contrast to increase visibility under challenging conditions.
It’s not bright enough to allow you to watch movies in direct sunlight comfortably, but the interface and web pages look pretty straightforward.
The Samsung Galaxy A51 is also certified for Netflix HD since its launch, but it does not support HDR video.
Issues aside, this is a good phone for video streaming, though anywhere except indoors, the reflective (albeit small) hole-punch camera is doubly distracting.