A few weeks ago, Samsung launched the update to its A Series range with the release of the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71 smartphones. This follows on from the refresh of the range in 2019, which saw the merging of the previous A and J series ranges. While last year’s launch saw the announcement of seven new smartphones, the latest saw only two updates, alongside the Note 10 Lite.
With just eight months between launches, Samsung has seemingly pushed up their release schedule. That said, with its updates on the Note 10 range, the technologies were bound to start filtering down mid-range units eventually. In this case, updates to the cameras and batteries are the two main updates on the Samsung Galaxy A51.
Build and Design
Samsung has always done a really great job a bringing something fresh to its newly released smartphones, irrespective if the release dates are around a year apart. That said, those design overhauls have always been for the flagship units. With the A51, there is very little difference between its design and that of the A50. Unless you were to pair them side by side, you’d be mistaken for thinking it’s the same device. That said, the A50 had a solid design, looking just as much the part as the more premium Galaxy smartphones.
The changes Samsung has made to the A51 is found on the rear, packing in a bigger, four-lens camera, as well as including a pearl-looking finish. It may not be the glass finish we’re used on the S-range, but it still looks great.
On a more technical note, the A51 has the same height as the A50, with the former being slightly smaller in terms of its width. The A51, however, is a tad thicker, although only 0.2mm, due to the new camera on the rear. The same reasoning has been used for the additional 6g packed on.
As with many other mid-range smartphones, the A51 doesn’t have any water and dust-proof features. This, however, isn’t a huge deterrent, as I’ve found even while many phones do carry the relevant IP ratings, people still won’t be intentionally putting it in water.
Screen and Display
Even while being a mid-range smartphone, the screen was never going to be something we would worry about on a Samsung device. It’s not a great overhaul over the A50’s screen, but it is a bit of an improvement. The A51 sports a slightly larger 6.5″ Super AMOLED screen (compared to 6.4″) with a 1080x2400px resolution display. The screen has an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio and 405ppi pixel density. All these specifications are improvements over the A50, even while some a slight.
One of the most noticeable improvements is the reduced size of the front-facing camera. As seen on the Note 10 in 2019, the smaller form factor – the Infinity-O pinhole – has started to filter down to all other units in the Samsung Galaxy range. Many people would have preferred the camera still in the corner to make it a little less conspicuous. That said, if not for fancy wallpapers, it would still be noticeable. The camera position doesn’t add anything in the way of selfies or video calls, so it’s simply a matter of preference then.
The screen itself is great. The colours are a bit vivid and oversaturated initially, but can be adjusted accordingly. It’s crisp and clear, making viewing of movies and other content great to consume on the device. Its touch-sensitivity is also great, one of the most impressive mid-range screens to date.
Performance and Battery
Again, for a mid-range smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy A51 packs a punch. The unit sports Samsung’s Exynos 9611 SoC, which has an Octa-core CPU – x4 2.3 GHz Cortex-A73 and x4 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53 – along with a Mali-G72 MP3 GPU. There are three variants of the A51: 64GB 4GB RAM, 128GB 4GB RAM and 128GB 6GB RAM. We received the mid-level unit with 4GB RAM and 128GB for review.
For the most part, the unit breezes through any of your daily tasks without any issues. It isn’t immune to issues under load, however. During the testing, there were several instances of lag, which presented itself as a small freeze roughly 1-2 seconds over a period of time whenever you perform any function. Many of this occurred when using non-Samsung apps which consume quite a chunk of resources, such as Instagram and YouTube.
The device comes shipped with Android 10.0 with Samsung’s One UI 2. There’s a lot to love about the new firmware as well as Samsung’s take on the Android UI, which I’ve used and loved on my daily driver, the S10+. With only 4GB of RAM, however, and only about 800MB available at any given time, the issues caused under load which reduces performance may be a direct result of an unoptimised OS. The good thing here is that it can be fixed with an update, as most Samsung apps are already optimised and don’t cause any of the same issues.
During the first week of testing, I was worried that the non-removable, Li-Po 4000mAh battery wouldn’t be sufficient on the unit, as it didn’t survive nearly as long as any other Galaxy smartphone between charges. Thankfully, after a few charges, I can confirm that there aren’t any concerns in this regard. Under heavy testing, the smartphone still managed to last 4-5 hours and under normal usage as a daily driver would easily pass the 24-hour mark, even while spending quite some time on social media apps.
No doubt the focus of the Samsung Galaxy A51 release has been the newly-improved camera, now sporting four lenses. The lenses include a 48MP primary lens, a 12MP Ultra-wide lens, a 5MP macro camera, as well as a 5MP depth sensor. The four-camera setup added some bulk to the rear of the device, as well as a new challenge for designers in the form of the layout of the four lenses, as well as the flash. The first three lenses are positioned on the left-hand side of the rectangle, with the depth sensor and flash on the right-hand side. It doesn’t look the greatest, but not ugly either. I wouldn’t want to be the designer whose job it is to make this look an attractive asset.
When it comes to actual image quality and features, the results are a tad mixed. Under good lighting conditions, the camera is superb, especially using the different options available. One of my favourite inclusions is the new macro lens, bringing a whole new range of shooting opportunities on a mid-range smartphone, we’ve only seen on higher-end models previously.
Issues arise, however, when you change up the conditions and specific features. For example, the HDR inclusion doesn’t add much in the way of colour improvement, at times making it a bit worse with washed out or oversaturated colours. In low-light conditions, the A51’s camera also doesn’t do a great job compared to other units. The camera on the Hisense Infinity H30 does a better job of it, as well as my S10+ with its 3-lens setup.
The macro lens does a great job when it comes to focusing on close objects, allowing users to get up close with some great detailed shots. Video recording is also quite impressive, even when copying over the file over to another device that doesn’t have the Super AMOLED screen. The A51 is capable of shooting 4K video, which also includes a Super Steady mode, creating sharp, colourful and steady content.
At the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy A51 has improved quite a lot over its predecessor, the A50, in almost all aspects. While the camera may not live up to expectation with the current firmware, there’s still a lot it can do, along with new features across the board. At a retail price of R6,999, it costs slightly more than other mid-range units, but packs quite a bit more weight behind its punch overall. With a few software tweaks of the software, the A51 can be a really great smartphone at its price point.
Samsung Galaxy A51
If you're looking for a mid-range smartphone with all the bells and whistles, the Samsung Galaxy A51 ticks all the right boxes. With a few software tweaks to improve optimisation, the smartphone would be the clear favourite in its price category.
- Super AMOLED display
- Macro-lens photography
- Battery life
- Bang for buck
- Software needs optimisation
- Some lag under load
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