Samsung Galaxy A51 review: Oh, hey there good-lookin’

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7.5 Awesome

You know what? Samsung has managed to craft a very respectable mid-range mobile in the Galaxy A51. We like it. It looks good. It works well. And it doesn't cost R20k. You get a similar software experience to those pricey flagships and impressive media creds, without completely draining your savings. 

  • Battery Life 7
  • Design 9
  • Display 8
  • Camera 6
  • User Ratings (5 Votes) 6.2

Before you continue fawning over Samsung’s shiny new S20-range and the flippity flip phone, we’ve got an important PSA: Budget is beautiful too!

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to empty your banking app or sign your soul over to hella to own a brilliant smartphone. You can even go for a branded piece of tech in this case. Samsung’s latest mid-ranger, the Galaxy A51, serves up a similar experience to those flagships for less than half the cost.

And it doesn’t skimp on specs either. It’s fitted with a quad-lens rear camera, a very nice Super AMOLED screen and the latest Android 10 OS. This little dude offers far more than what you’d expect for a mid-ranger, lemme tell you. 

Going up against the Samsung Galaxy A51, is the Huawei Nova 5T. So has Samsung packed in enough smarts to make this one stand out?

Look into the rainbow

Obviously, Samsung had to cut back on some of its premium design features on the A51, which means we lose the near-bezelless display and the glass back design. But what you don’t lose is good looks. While this display lacks the enticing edge curves of the Galaxy S10, with a fully flat finish, at least those bezels are super skinny.

So, the display isn’t curved (and honestly we prefer the good ole flat screen), but that screen almost entirely fills the front end of the phone. Check out the back, and you’ll find the beautiful prism design, which spews out a rainbow of colours when light bounces off the glossy surface. We got to test the brilliant blue, and honestly — we’ve never felt this in tune with our millennial selves. 

The back is constructed from plastic rather than glass, which means it’s vulnerable to scratching. But, as with most handsets these days, you’ll find a fitted clear plastic cover in the box — that should take care of drop-protection and all that. 

Consume all the media!

If you’re somewhere between the ages of one and 92, you probs like consuming media. Whether it’s Netflix or Vetkoekpaleis on YouTube (it’s a thing), or crime podcasts or reading a psych textbook. Everyone’s got their thing. This little guy is perfect for media consumption regardless. 

Te Galaxy A51’s mighty Full HD+ 6.5in screen uses similar Super AMOLED tech to the flagship Samsung phones, so you can expect bright, crisp and punchy visuals. You can dial down the vibrancy if you prefer more natural colour reproduction, but that vivid setting looks hella good while not being too overpowering. 

Like the Note 10, you get an ‘Infinity-O’ punch-hole for the selfie cam up front, rather than a full-blown notch. We prefer this look, as your eyes quickly adjust to the tiny black hole. But you can hide it away with a black bar if you HAVE to. 

A single mono speaker pumps out audio on the bottom edge of the Galaxy A51. It’s pretty loud on top volume without hampering the clarity, and unlike those flagship phones, you actually get a headphone jack and dependable Bluetooth 5 support. Rejoice!

Sync hole

One of Samsung’s own Exynos 9611 chipsets is stuffed inside of the Galaxy A51, with 4GB of RAM to help keep your apps running kind of smoothly. Honestly, if you’re not used to the smooth processes on a flagship all the time, you won’t even notice the small stutters here and there when skipping through menus, switching apps and so on.

The only proper performance issue was some spotty syncing for emails and messages. We also had issues with WiFi connections occasionally not allowing the use of WhatsApp, which was strange. But issues seemed to sort themselves out. Occasionally notifications only seem to pop up when you actively unlock the phone or even open an app, rather than ticking through in the background like they should.

It goes on, and on, and on

Although this may be the norm about now, the 4000mAh battery generally still held some charge when we got to bed at night. Obvs it depends on your use — a full day of using the GPS in Midrand drained the A51, for example. But nothing you won’t get on another [phone with a 4,000mAh battery. 

 

You know what? Android 10 OS is pretty awesome. The UI on the A51 is complete with its own fresh One UI version 2. Samsung hasn’t added much new stuff or changed up the aesthetics with this updated launcher, but you still get a feature-packed user experience that’s almost identical to the flagship Galaxy phones. And that’s noice.

You even get an in-display fingerprint sensor and face unlock support, alongside the usual Knox security measures. The face unlock is not as responsive as we’d like (and honestly, we’re not too keen on face unlock… for security reasons). But the fingerprint scanner works perfectly, even if it’s not ultrasonic.

Then there’s a so-so camera

These days, even quite budget-friendly smartphones pack a bundle of camera lenses, and the Galaxy A51 is no exception. In the chunky rectangular housing, you’ll find a 48MP primary lens, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, a 5MP macro camera and a 5MP depth sensor.

But, that sounds impressive, right? Yeah, on paper. But in practice, the A51 takes so-so pictures. If the lighting conditions are good then you generally get sharp pics packed with detail, but moving subjects usually come out blurry. HDR conditions are a pitfall too, with bright skies often appearing washed out. It’s… all over the place. 

Samsung has at least added a night mode to cope with low light conditions, and while this feature is outclassed by rivals, it does help to brighten up your shots when needed. Still, the details are very grainy. 

But the portrait mode works a charm and that macro lens can capture very fine details from a distance of just a couple of inches. No complaints with the video output either, as those 4K home movies look sharp and colourful. Samsung’s Super Steady mode returns here and still works well, while you can even shoot Ultra HD video using the front-facing selfie camera.

Samsung Galaxy A51 Verdict

You know what? Samsung has managed to craft a very respectable mid-range mobile in the Galaxy A51. We like it. It looks good. It works well. And it doesn’t cost R20k. You get a similar software experience to those pricey flagships and impressive media creds, without completely draining your savings. 

The Samsung Galaxy A51 costs just around R6,800, depending on where you decide to buy it. There are also a few contracts available at major networks.

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Digital Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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