Samsung Galaxy A51 Review

Does Samsung's Galaxy A51 redefine mid-range phones? Not necessarily. But does it put a great foot forward? Absolutely.
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What is your favorite restaurant? Seriously, where’s your go-to spot you have to hit when you’re craving that meal that really satisfies you. Think about that for a moment, then answer this question: why? For me, it’s all about consistency. Not only do I enjoy the flavor profile of the meal and any accouterments, but I know I’m getting the same quality every time, and I look forward to it.

Samsung delivers this same high-quality consistency with the Samsung Galaxy A51. It has the level of quality you’re expecting and the satisfying user experience to go along with it.

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Display and audio quality

They say the presentation is everything. We eat with our eyes. The Galaxy A51, Samsung’s new mid-range phone is a feast and delight to our senses. Anchored by a good-looking 6.5-inch AMOLED display with a hole punch camera that’s front and center, this display is flat and a joy to look at—unlike some of Samsung’s other displays.

Samsung makes beautiful panels, and watching through my playlist on this device just shows how true that is. Even at sub $400, this display doesn’t need extras to give you great video quality. Sure, you can go into the settings and adjust the panel so that it gives you highly color-saturated images or more lifelike ones; that’s completely up to you. But, at the end of the day, the media is bright and watchable without having to adjust any of the default settings.

Unlike other displays I’ve looked at in this price range, this phone is bright and the colors are vivid. Even though this display isn’t HDR10 certified, you’re still going to get a wonderfully dynamic range of colors. While this phone doesn’t have the pixel density of other phones in the Galaxy line, its clarity and reproduction of detail at this price point imbues a visible amount of depth to videos.

I found only one issue with this phone: speaker volume. Number one, the speakers are down-firing, which makes the sound move away from you, not at you. Having no sound coming from the grill, you don’t have that to augment it. These speakers also could use a little more volume. I don’t expect the sound to be room-filling, but compared to other phones at this size and price point, I’ve heard louder.

Prism Crush Blue is a delight to look at, which is no surprise as Samsung regularly plays with a colorful palette of options for its customers.

Phone layout and storage capability

Around the perimeter of the phone you’ll find:

  • Power button
  • Volume rocker
  • Speakers
  • USB-C port equipped with 15-watt chargers
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Microphones
  • Nano SIM tray
  • Micro SD card slot, which can hold up to 512 GB of storage

On the front of the phone, you’ll get a 32-megapixel front-facing camera, which sits in a hole punch just below the speaker grill for calls. Also, on the rear of the phone is the quad-camera setup. You get a 5-megapixel depth camera, 48-megapixel standard camera, 12 megapixels ultra-wide, and 5 megapixels for that macro camera.

Looking at the rest of the phone, you’ll notice there is no dedicated Bixby button, which is a deviation from Samsung standard fare. I really enjoy the fact that there is no Bixby button on this phone because I’m not really a fan of those third buttons since I inadvertently end up activating them half the time.

Camera specs

That front-facing camera produces some solid standard photos and portrait mode photos. As with the majority of cameras, lighting will make a difference in the quality. But this camera does come with a night mode for the front-facing camera.

We’ve generally said that phones with physical depth cameras make a difference in Bokeh effects and the like, but so many phones are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as other technology like pixel binning, to create higher megapixel images and effects. That said, it seems to me that when you combine both software and hardware that you’ll get the best of both worlds and a better product.

As Samsung’s cameras tend to do, the saturation in photos is pronounced, but they’ve actually dialed that back in recent years, so the colors are truer to real life than they have been in the past. With the 48-megapixel shooter, details are pretty sharp and the same holds true for the ultra-wide. The five-megapixel shooter produces images with some noise, but on small displays, they look solid enough.

Night shots are going to be highly dependent on ambient light. I’ve done my extreme dark tests with these, and the higher-end Samsung devices show out better, but with ambient light, you’re going to get some decent looking shots. In pictures of the night sky, you’ll see some noise from the dark, but that only happens when you’re pixel peeping.

Battery

This phone features a 4000 mAh battery, which supports 15-watt fast charging. From a full battery drain, it took me around two hours to fully charge the phone using fast charging. This equates to roughly 25 to 30% battery charge in 30 minutes. That said, with the benchmark test, I pushed the battery to an 8.5-hour screen-on time with 13% battery remaining with 12 hours off the charger, which is excellent.

User interface

Overall, this phone is not my favorite in terms of user experience. The in-display fingerprint center is fine most of the time, but I do have some no-match responses more often than I’d like. Just like One UI on the bigger phones, the customization options on this phone are aplenty. I love the always-on display options, and I appreciate that you have robust options for tap-to-show versus always-on.

When you’re going through the menus in One UI, Samsung does a great job of showing you how the changes you’re making will affect your phone. Since Bixby wasn’t running by default on this phone and I never set it up, Google Assistant worked flawlessly for me, and that’s always been one of my knocks against Samsung devices and the tug of war between virtual assistants.

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