Samsung is bolstering its A-series lineup with brand new models, starting with the Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51, which it announced earlier this month. The Galaxy A51 has already been launched in India at a starting price of Rs. 23,999. This new smartphone brings some iterative updates to the current Galaxy A50s (Review) in order to keep the series fresh and relevant.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy A51 is among the first phones in the series to sport an Infinity-O display and a macro camera. Apart from these highlight features, it has many of the same specifcations as its predecessor, including its AMOLED display, processor, and design aesthetic. There isn't a lot of competition at this price level, other than the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) and Redmi K20 (Review), which could be an advantage for Samsung.
So, is this new lower mid-range offering worth considering over the current competition? Let's take a look.
The body of the Samsung Galaxy A51 has a similar design to that of the Galaxy A50s. We have an all-polycarbonate body, which is fairly light at just 172g, and quite slim too, measuring just 7.9mm in thickness. The glossy body is prone to picking up fingerprints but they're not too visible on our Prism Crush Black unit. The finish of the rear is a little slippery too, but thankfully Samsung provides a case in the box.
The biggest change is the Infinity-O display, which we're seeing for the first time on a Galaxy A-series phone. It's essentially a single hole in the upper middle of the display, similar to what we saw on the Galaxy Note 10+ (Review). Samsung might not have changed the design of the body too much, but having a hole-punch display does give this phone a premium look, which we appreciate. The Galaxy A51 uses a Super AMOLED panel with a full-HD+ resolution, which produces punchy colours and good sharpness. It looks striking from the front, thanks to slim bezels all around.
Button placement is ergonomic, and on the right side, we have a tray for two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card. At the bottom, we have the usual headphone socket, USB Type-C port, and speaker grille. The back of the Galaxy A51 has a familiar-looking camera bump, but there's now a fourth camera. The bump doesn't protrude too much, which is good.
The Galaxy A51 ships with the usual accessories, which are a 15W fast charger, a Type-C cable, a headset, a SIM eject tool, and a case.
Samsung has stuck with the same Exynos 9611 processor as the Galaxy A50s, which in 2020 and at this price, feels a bit weak. The Galaxy A51 is available with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and both variants have 128GB of internal storage. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, GPS, NFC, and FM radio. The usual sensors are present, and this phone also has Widevine L1 certification. The Galaxy A51 supports Samsung Pay, so you can use it for contactless payments.
The software running on this phone out-of-the-box is Samsung's One UI 2.0, which is based on Android 10. The new version looks and feels similar to previous versions of One UI that we have used before, but Samsung has made some tweaks to improve the user experience. It's now a lot easier to change the wallpaper as there's a dedicated menu for this, instead of getting redirected to the Themes app.
Other little changes include the positioning of permission access notifications from apps, which now show up at the bottom of the screen instead of the middle. The ‘Device care' sub-menu has a new look too; battery usage can now be tracked for the past seven days and not just from the last time the phone was fully charged; and you can now change the lockscreen app icons, swapping the default dialler or camera shortcuts for DnD or flashlight toggles.
There's still some bloatware pre-installed, including third-party apps and some of Samsung's own apps such as Samsung Shop, but most of them can be uninstalled. Samsung has also added some India-specific features to the Galaxy A51, such as the ability to organise your SMS messages in the form of visual cards, multilingual predictive typing, and Smart Crop, which claims to detect the most relevant part of a screenshot and lets you crop it with a single tap. We found that the Smart Crop feature works best if there's an image within the screenshot.
The Galaxy A51 feels very similar to the Galaxy A50 when it comes to day-to-day usage. The slim and light form factor is something we really liked. Navigating the interface was relatively quick, but it didn't feel very fluid. There were some instances when we noticed a little lag in the system animations. Benchmark performance was decent; along the lines of what a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 or 665 SoC would achieve. At Samsung's asking price for this phone though, that's a bit underwhelming.
In AnTuTu, we got a score of 1,86,220 points, while in GFXbench's T-Rex test, we managed 42fps. The back of the phone did get a bit warm when gaming and running stressful apps, but never uncomfortably so. Thankfully, the Exynos 9611 SoC is pretty competent at graphics. PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends both ran well, with good framerates.
Biometric authentication works well but it's a little slow. The in-display fingerprint sensor takes a while before it authenticates you and unlocks the phone, and it's the same story with facial recognition.
The Galaxy A51 supports Dolby Atmos but only if you have wired headphones plugged in. Audio quality is strictly average with the bundled headset, but this phone sounds better with a higher grade of after-market headphones. The bottom-firing speaker isn't very loud but is sufficient for personal listening. The display is one of the best aspects of this phone. Brightness is very good and colours look lively, which makes watching any content very enjoyable.
Samsung has used a 4,000mAh battery for the Galaxy A51, and it posted a decent runtime of 14 hours and 55 minutes in our HD video loop test. We easily managed to get a full day's worth of regular use, with enough power left over to get us through another half day. There is fast charging, and we managed to charge the battery to 67 percent in an hour. Charging it completely took a little more than two hours. It's relatively quick, but not as quick as others in this segment such as the Redmi K20 Pro, which charges up to 80 percent in an hour.
Samsung has added a new 5-megapixel macro camera to the three types of cameras that were on the Galaxy A50s. 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 reworked a bit, and now has slightly different-looking icons. Most of the shooting modes are also now clubbed together in the “MORE” menu, but you can add them to the main viewfinder interface if needed.
The main camera captures oversampled 12-megapixel photos by default but you can shoot at the full 48-megapixel resolution if needed. This option is hidden away in the aspect ratio menu. Under good light, the Galaxy A51 managed to capture detailed shots of objects that were in the centre of the frame. However, objects towards the edges typically looked a little blurry and were comparatively softer.
In low light, the primary camera captured very good colours, and details were fairly well represented with not a lot of noise. There's a dedicated Night mode, but we didn't find it to make a significant difference compared to shots taken in the standard photo mode, as the Scene Optimiser automatically adjusts parameters when it detects low light.
The wide-angle camera captures a lot more of any scene in the frame but it does introduce some pretty bad barrel distortion. Even after enabling the “Ultra wide lens correction” option, some shots still looked unnaturally warped. Photos shot with this camera in low light looked visibly darker and had poorer details. Night mode doesn't help much here either.
Live-focus mode blurs out backgrounds for a more dramatic look. Image quality is good and the depth camera helps the Galaxy A51 do a decent job of edge detection. You can adjust the level of blur here, but additional effects for this mode such as spot colour, etc that we've seen on other Galaxy phones, are missing.
Close-ups turned out quite good too. Focusing speed is adequate under good lighting and we managed to capture some pretty good shots. You can get a lot closer to your subject when using the macro camera. Colours were not bad and the sensor picks up a fair bit of detail.
The Galaxy A51 can shoot video at up to 4K, but without any stabilisation. Video quality is not bad if shot under good light, but in low light, clips are grainy and details are weak. You do get stabilisation at 1080p, but as a result, there's also a noticeable shimmer effect when walking about. Continuous autofocus is also a bit sluggish. This shimmer effect is amplified in low light, and looks jarring. You can use the ‘super-steady' shooting mode, which uses the wide-angle camera to record video. The stabilisation is better, but details are weaker.
The front 32-megapixel camera captures 12-megapixel or 8-megapixel oversampled shots, depending on the perspective you choose. Selfies generally weren't very clear. Skin tones were smoothened a bit too much and shots ended up looking a little dull overall. Details were good in low light, but with a slight lack in sharpness.
Other shooting modes include Pro, Panorama, Food, Hyperlapse, Super slow-mo, and Slow motion, which we have seen before on Samsung phones. You can access Bixby Vision and AR Emojis through the camera app. The Galaxy A51 also supports AR Doodle, which we first saw on the Galaxy S10 series.
Samsung has launched the Galaxy A51 at a slightly higher price than the Galaxy A50s (Review) when it first debuted. For this extra money, you get a fourth rear camera, a more modern-looking hole-punch display, and more RAM. Currently, Samsung has only launched the 6GB variant in India, priced at Rs. 23,999. The company's website however mentions the existence of an 8GB RAM option, but that doesn't appear to be avialable yet.
Power users will immediately argue that the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) offers much better performance for just Rs. 1,000 more, and has the same amounts of RAM and storage — and they wouldn't be wrong. The Redmi K20 Pro gets you a flagship-grade processor, an HDR display, more premium materials, and better cameras. If you'll be gaming a lot, then yes, the Redmi K20 Pro would be the more sensible choice. In fact, for a bit less money, you could also get the Redmi K20 (Review), which is also very capable.
However, there is something quite likeable about the Galaxy A51, and despite its not-so-great pricing, it will appeal to those looking for a polished experience. You get Android 10 out-of-the-box, a slim and light body, Samsung Pay, solid battery life, a crisp enough display, and of course the Samsung brand. We would have preferred a more powerful processor at this price; the biometric sensors aren't the quickest and the overall camera performance is a little underwhelming.
Even the Samsung Galaxy A50s offers good value now at its new starting price of Rs. 19,990. However, if you're looking for something a little more future-proof, it would make sense to skip the Galaxy A50s and go for the Galaxy A51 instead.