The Samsung Galaxy A51 was officially released in Malaysia in the earlier half of the year and has enjoyed a host of hardware and firmware upgrades that keep it both updated and competitive compared to similarly priced competition in the market. To date, according to Strategy Analytics, the Galaxy A51 is currently the world’s best selling Android smartphone for Q1 2020, accounting for a whopping 2.3% of all smartphones shipped globally in that period.
While it was first launched in Vietnam sometime last year, we took a first look at them at CES 2020 sometime this year in January and it arrived in Malaysia shortly after. Sometime in May, Samsung issued an upgraded variant of the Galaxy A51 with 2GB more RAM for a total of 8GB in the market while keeping the rest of its features similar. A few days before we wrote this, they introduced an impressive update that beefs up the Galaxy A51’s cameras with new features aplenty.
In Malaysia, the Galaxy A51 only comes with a 4G LTE configuration though some other regions enjoy a 5G variant. You also get two slightly different variants with an earlier launched version with 6GB RAM and a more recent version with 8GB RAM though with otherwise identical hardware. Our test unit is the former with the latest firmware update.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Build and Design
Externally, the Samsung Galaxy A51 bears some aesthetic similarity to the premium Galaxy S20 series in terms of its squarish rear camera array and overall design but this illusion is immediately broken on close inspection on account of a plasticky chassis that bears an extremely shiny finish which unfortunately cheapens its appearance when viewed from the back. The reflective backplate also means it’s a terrifyingly good fingerprint magnet.
On the bright side, that plasticky backplate means that the Galaxy A51 is more durable than its peers and while it’s not rated for drops, it’s more durable than a more premium phone made of glass. Alas, it’s not rated for water resistance.
The front of the Galaxy A51 looks pleasantly top-shelf. You get a large 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 2,400 x 1080 pixel resolution. Breathtakingly thin bezels grace every edge, granting the phone an impressive 87.4% screen-to-body ratio. The slit for the earpiece is barely discernible in its proper place at the top of the phone just above the selfie camera.
To house the front-facing 32MP selfie camera, they’ve opted for a tiny punch-hole in the display to maximise screen real estate. The phone also has an under-glass fingerprint reader to unlock the phone.
Unlike cheaper offerings in their line-up, the Galaxy A51 has their vaunted Samsung Knox security baked into the phone and their Samsung Pay service for cardless payment using the phone and the aforementioned fingerprint reader for authentication.
The right side of the phone comes with a power button and volume rocker while the left side hosts a triple card tray that lets you simultaneously mount two nano SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time.
On the base of the Galaxy A51 is the obligatory USB Type-C port, a grille for the sole mono speaker and, interestingly enough, a feature that even high-end Galaxy S-series phones lack – a 3.5mm audio jack.
When held the Galaxy A51 defies expectations with a sturdiness befitting a flagship class phone with the lightness afforded by a polycarbonate chassis melded with an even heft that makes it very viable to use one-handed. The fact they’ve managed to achieve this lightness while still retaining a substantial 4,000mAH battery is quite a feat of engineering..
Add in several features that even flagship phones in Samsung’s stable lack like a triple card tray and a 3.5mm audio jack and the Galaxy A51 looks like a compelling proposition indeed.
Galaxy A51 Performance and Benchmarks
Our test unit of the Galaxy A51 is the earlier generation with 6GB RAM which means that it theoretically would fare slightly poorer at multitasking versus the upgraded variant that has recently been introduced with 8GB RAM. Regardless, all variants of the Galaxy A51 for Malaysia only have 4G LTE connectivity.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Specifications
Price RM1,299 (6GB) RM1,399 (8GB)
Display 6.5-inch Super AMOLED, 1080 x 2,400 pixels
Processor Exynos 9611
OS Android 10
Memory 6GB or 8GB RAM/ 128GB storage + microSD card
Camera 48MP F/2.0 + 12MP F/2.2+5MP macro +5MP depth sensor (rear) / 32MP (front)
Battery 4,000mAh w/ 15W fast charging
Size/Weight 158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9mm/ 172g
The Exynos 9611 is a midrange octacore processor built on a 10nm process with four large Cortex-A73 cores running at 2.3GHz and four Cortex A53 Cores running at 1.7GHz that compares favourably with midrange processors seen in competing phones in its price range. Under the hood, the Galaxy A51 runs Android 10.1 overlaid with Samsung’s own One UI 2.1 with the latest firmware update installed.
If these specifications look rather familiar to you, you’re on the money as they’re almost akin to last year’s Galaxy A50s that has a similar Exynos 9611 processor running the older Android 9.0, an equal amount of RAM and storage (for this older version of the Galaxy A51) and a similarly sized battery with 15W quick charging but the A51 edges out with newer firmware for the cameras and operating system as well as the addition of a new 5MP macro camera to the older A50s’s camera triple camera array.
When subjected to benchmarks, the phone offered results with roughly equivalent benchmarks as the A50s which isn’t a bad thing:
PCMark Work 2.0 5716 points
GeekBench 5.2.0 SIngle Core score 346
GeekBench 52.0 Multi-Core scob 1,315
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 1,590
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan 1,549
The newer Galaxy A51 8GB variant should outperform these benchmarks on the Galaxy A51 6GB by a modest margin and exhibit better multitasking but our present 6GB sample proved more than capable of tackling most day to day tasks.
The phone was capable of handling the usual multitasking with swift swapping between Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and a dozen open tabs in Chrome. Getting about is a swift, intuitive affair also helped in part with Samsung’s recent refinements to their One UI user interface.
There’s a content feed and notification aggregation feature dubbed Samsung Daily that supersedes Flipboard seen in older phones that lets you see what’s happening on your social media feeds and what’s new on Netflix at a glance. There’s also a concerted effort to hack down the bloatware with a pleasant lack of them bar the most absolutely necessary ones like Google’s Chrome and other likewise associated services.
Gaming was a pleasantly smooth affair and the phone was able to tackle Asphalt 9: Legends and Call of Duty Mobile on high settings without undue trouble though initial load times were a bit slower than the usual..
In keeping with Samsung’s other Super AMOLED displays, the Galaxy A51’s touchscreen is capable of serving up good detail and colour rendition with fair clarity under sunlight. Colour reproduction veers on the vibrant side of things which look appealing onscreen. The colour settings are set by default to vivid.
If this doesn’t quite appeal to your aesthetic sensitivities, you can further tweak it in the settings as needed. Unfortunately, the display is capped at 60Hz so it isn’t exactly intended for hardcore gaming but it’s a shortcoming that’s not apparent in day to day use. The display also has a Always On mode that has minimal drain on the battery but which lets you see a digital clock and other notifications onscreen.
Alas, like many other midrange phones, the Galaxy A51 only has a single bottom-firing mono speaker which has serviceable but unremarkable performance with sufficient volume to get through an episode of the Mandalorian without having to read the subtitles and enough detail to let you figure out roughly which direction that incoming rounds are being fired from in CODM.
The 4,000mAh battery in the Galaxy A51 isn’t the largest integrated into a midrange phone but it’s more than sufficient for a quoted 20 hours of video playback time and about 32 hours of talk time.
Under normal field test conditions with a combination of WiFi and 4G, web surfing and social media along with an hour worth of video calls, a couple of hours of Netflix and several hours gaming, the Galaxy A51 managed to last a good day or so which is fair.
In PCMark’s battery test, it got a very respectable 11 hours and 7 minutes of usage. Charging it took quite a bit of time with just over 2 hours on the 15W charger for it to get to full after being drained dry.
Samsung Galaxy A51 cameras
The Samsung Galaxy A51 has a rear quad camera array that consists of a primary 48MP F/2.0 camera, a secondary 12MP camera with an ultra wide angle lens, a dedicated 5MP F/2.4 macro camera and a 5MP F/2.2 depth sensor to get better bokeh in portrait mode. This combination allows you to snag 12MP pixel-binned stills and 4K@30fps video. If needed, you can capture a 48MP still in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
The front comes with a 32MP F/2.0 fixed focus selfie camera capable of snaps and 1080P video. In keeping with cameras on phones in this price range, there is no OIS nor optical zoom.
It also benefits from several recent updates that grant it several abilities that were previously the domain of the premium Galaxy S20 series smartphones, which give it quite a bit of added value.
The biggest benefit with the latest firmware update for the Galaxy A51’s cameras gives you Single Take mode, which was one of the killer features of the Galaxy S20. WIth one press of a single camera button, SIngle Take mode captures a slew of shots with a variety of filters and modes to give you multiple creative options to choose from.
Another particularly handy upgrade resolves one of the biggest problems of the Galaxy A series as it grants the phone a full-featured Pro mode. In prior versions and just a short few days ago, the Galaxy A51 and its ilk had a heavily hacked down version of Pro mode that only let you tinker with ISO, white balance and exposure. After the new update pushed out to the Galaxy A51, you get to control not only that but saturation, temperature, contrast, shutter speed and more.
Firmware updates aside, the cameras perform in a decent fashion for a mid-range phone. It won’t hold a candle to last year’s flagship Galaxy S10e but among its peers in its price range, the Galaxy A51 gives a fair accounting of itself.
The ultra wide angle camera has a 123-degree field of view and does its best work in daylight but has a slight distortion on the edges of shots on account of the lens. The primary camera which handles most of the grunt work does a good job under bright lighting with fairly accurate white balance, decent contrast and good detail. The macro camera is surprisingly decent though you need to brace the camera to get usable shots.
Things go downhill after dark with more noise and loss of detail which is why Samsung has bundled in a Night mode that requires a slight delay time after pulling the trigger but which stitches a series of images with different exposures together into one to offer relatively good snaps though you need a tripod or a steady hand for best results.
Selfies from the front camera are competently handled with a front-facing Live Focus mode to offer an artfully defocused background and some basic beautificiation algorithms, but the Galaxy A51 lacks the more specialised portraiture modes that other competing brands have like face thinning, eye enlargement and the like.
Samsung Galaxy A51 Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy A51 offers a generously sized and vibrant AMOLED screen, a decent set of cameras and, in keeping with their insidiously catchy jingle, long-lasting battery life too. Bargain hunters will also appreciate a number of other subtler benefits like a 3.5mm audio jack, a triple card slot and Samsung Pay which make it a good all-rounder.
Granted, it’s a bit pricier than other mid-range phones but what you get is a solid mid-range smartphone without significant shortcomings or tradeoffs along with Samsung’s impeccable customer support network.
What we liked Vibrant display, good performance, Pro mode now available for cameras, triple card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, good battery life, Samsung Pay support
What we didn’t local versions lack 4G support, middling mono speaker, casing not water resistant
We say While the Samsung Galaxy A51is a bit pricier than other midrange offerings, but capably offers the essentials to a great mid-range smartphone experience without significant shortcomings in other areas. It brings to the table a vibrant Super AMOLED display, solid performance, long battery life and a great set of cameras that have been made even better with the latest updates that add in features from the Galaxy S20 series.
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. Available to buy at their official online store at https://www.samsung.com/my/smartphones/galaxy-a51-a515/SM-A515FZBHXME/
Samsung Galaxy A51
Samsung Galaxy A51
While the Samsung Galaxy A51is a bit pricier than other midrange offerings, but capably offers the essentials to a great mid-range smartphone experience without significant shortcomings in other areas. It brings to the table a vibrant Super AMOLED display, solid performance, long battery life and a great set of cameras that have been made even better with the latest updates that add in features from the Galaxy S20 series.