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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Speedy 5G support
Great value for price
Unlocked won’t work on Verizon/AT&T 5G
No water resistance
We purchased the Samsung Galaxy A51 5G so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review."
The Galaxy A50 proved that Samsung could keep enough of its flagship flash intact when making budget-friendlier phones, and it was a mid-range hit as a result. A standard LTE-capable A51 followed suit, and now Samsung has released a Galaxy A51 5G model to try and capture the growing market for modestly priced phones that can tap into speedier 5G coverage.
Sure enough, the Galaxy A51 5G is another fine option, pairing a stellar screen with solid speed and extensive battery life. It has a very strong rival in the form of the Google Pixel 4a 5G at the same price, but aside from the Pixel’s reliable camera advantage, these $500 phones are neck and neck in terms of overall quality and appeal.
A lot of phones in this price range opt for cost-effective plastic backing and frames, including the Pixel 4a 5G, but Samsung finds a good middle ground with the Galaxy A51 5G. The aluminum frame gives the phone a bit extra heft and feels more premium than plastic, but the glossy rear of the phone itself is undoubtedly plastic. Samsung has outfitted it with a subtle prismatic effect on the top half that proves to be a nice riff on the A50’s gleaming, reflective approach.
The Galaxy A51 is nearly all screen on the front thanks to a tiny punch-hole camera cutout at the top center. It’s actually smaller than the punch-hole on the very similar Galaxy A71 5G, although the A51 5G has a thicker bezel around the screen itself. And while the phones look almost identical at a glance, the Galaxy A51 5G is also thicker and heavier than the A71 5G despite having a smaller screen. It’s almost like Samsung lent the A71 5G a smidge of additional refinement that the $100-cheaper A51 5G didn’t get—but it’s barely noticeable.
Given the large 6.5-inch display, though, the Galaxy A51 5G doesn’t feel overly large or difficult to manage for a big-screen phone. At 2.9 inches wide, 0.34 inches thick, and 0.41 pounds, it’s more manageable in the hand than the wider Galaxy A71 5G. Surprisingly, it’s also the same width as the Pixel 4a 5G, which has a smaller 6.2-inch display but packs in extra bezel around its screen.
Unlike Samsung’s flagship phones, you still get a 3.5mm headphone port on the Galaxy A51 5G, which is always appreciated. Likewise, the microSD slot for expandable storage is extremely welcome, especially since the new $800+ Galaxy S21 phones lack one. You get a solid 128GB of internal storage here, which will probably be enough for a lot of users, but the ability to expand that tally later is very handy. All that said, the Galaxy A51 5G doesn’t come with any sort of dust or water resistance assurances or IP rating, as is common with phones in this price range.
The Galaxy A51 5G doesn’t come with the kind of super-smooth refresh rate seen on Samsung’s pricier flagship phones these days, but even without that perk, it has a very nice screen. This 6.5-inch AMOLED display is crisp and detailed at 2400x1080 resolution, gets reasonably bright, and carries the usual OLED benefits like strong contrast and deep black levels.
Samsung’s Galaxy S screens are brighter and punchier, along with silky animations from the boosted refresh rate, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything with the A51 5G’s screen.
Samsung’s Galaxy S screens are brighter and punchier, along with silky animations from the boosted refresh rate, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything with the A51 5G’s screen. The in-display fingerprint sensor here isn’t lightning-fast, but it recognized my thumb the vast majority of time and usually opens up without much delay.
There’s nothing out of the ordinary or particularly complex about setting up the Samsung Galaxy A51 5G, so even if you haven’t set up a new phone in years or this is your first Samsung, nothing should throw you for a loop.
Simply hold in the power button on the right side of the phone and then follow the on-screen prompts. They’ll walk you through steps such as connecting to a Wi-Fi network, signing into a Google account (and optionally a Samsung account), and deciding whether or not to copy data from another phone or a saved backup in the cloud.
The Galaxy A51 5G uses Samsung’s own Exynos 980 processor with 6GB RAM alongside, while contemporaries like the A71 5G and Pixel 4a 5G opt for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chip instead. Despite different silicon sources, performance is about the same: solidly smooth the vast majority of time, thankfully, and only occasionally sluggish in tiny spurts. That’s expected for a mid-range chip at a mid-range price, so there are no real surprises here.
Expensive flagship phones will typically feel more consistently lightning-quick in their responsiveness, but the Galaxy A51 5G doesn’t feel hobbled or under-equipped: it’s just enough power for your everyday needs and even does fine with gaming. I played smash hit battle royale shooter Fortnite on the A51 5G, and while it’s certainly muddier-looking than on the pricier Galaxy S21 flagship, it ran at close to 30 frames per second throughout. That’ll do the trick.
Benchmark scores are similar to those other mid-range phones mentioned above. The Galaxy A51 5G put up a PCMark Work 2.0 score of 8,294 compared to 7,940 on the Galaxy A71 5G and 8,378 on the Pixel 4a 5G—not terribly far apart. Meanwhile, the GFXBench results showed 17 frames per second (fps) on the demanding Car Chase demo and 58fps on the T-Rex demo, both of which are close to what the Galaxy A71 5G posted in our testing.
Be warned: the “unlocked” version of the Galaxy A51 5G will not work with the 5G networks of either Verizon or AT&T, which is a bit perplexing. You can use it on either carrier’s 4G LTE network, but why bother splurging for a 5G phone if you can’t use the 5G? There are carrier-specific models available for each network, so just make sure you pick the right one.
Be warned: the 'unlocked' version of the Galaxy A51 5G will not work with the 5G networks of either Verizon or AT&T.
The unlocked version does work with T-Mobile’s 5G network, however, so I tested it using T-Mobile’s Simple Mobile prepaid plan. Sure enough, I saw the promise of 5G connectivity come alive with a top download speed of 356Mbps, which is several times faster than T-Mobile’s LTE network typically shows in my testing area just north of Chicago.
Much like the Galaxy A71 5G, Samsung has curiously opted to only utilize the bottom speaker for audio playback. Many phones pair their dedicated speaker with the earpiece above the screen to pump out stereo sound, but not this one. Given that, it’s no surprise that audio playback on the Galaxy A51 5G sounds flat and confined, which makes it disappointing for listening to music and watching videos. The speakerphone sounds just fine, at least.
The Galaxy A51 5G gives you three usable cameras: a 48-megapixel main wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 5-megapixel macro sensor, plus another 5-megapixel sensor for capturing depth data. In strong lighting conditions, the main sensor delivers stellar shots that pack in a lot of detail and are a bit more vibrant than you might see on a Pixel or iPhone, for example. That is Samsung’s calling card, and more often than not it makes photos look pleasingly punchy.
You lose a bit of detail with the ultra-wide camera, but it comes in handy when trying to capture landscapes without having to step back. The macro camera is meant to help with extreme close-up shots, but I never got particularly great results with it.
The main sensor is less consistent in lower or awkward lighting conditions, occasionally misjudging the white balance or showing a bit of blur, although the night shooting mode turns out pretty good results. Low-light shots suffer a bit more with the ultra-wide sensor, however. Ultimately, this is one area in which the rival Pixel 4a 5G reigns above any other phone in this price range, however, as it’s capable of handling low-light shots without breaking a sweat.
With the same sizable 4,500mAh battery pack as the Galaxy A71 5G, I saw similarly impressive performance in everyday usage. At the end of most days, I’d end up with a solid 40-50 percent of battery life left in the tank.
At the end of most days, I’d end up with a solid 40-50 percent of battery life left in the tank. Lighter users could potentially get two full days of use out of the A51 5G.
Lighter users could potentially get two full days of use out of the A51 5G, but for most users, it just means a lot of extra buffer for playing games, streaming media, or exploring the world without reaching for a charging cable. The USB-C charging speed is slower at 15W vs. the A71 5G’s 25W speed, however, so it does lose that perk as the cheaper phone.
The Galaxy A51 5G runs Android 10 as of this writing, and Samsung’s own skin atop the popular mobile OS is pretty smooth and responsive most of the time, as noted above. It’s attractive and feature-rich, with both Google’s Play Store and Samsung’s Galaxy Store providing access to a vast trove of apps and games.
Samsung has committed to providing three generations’ worth of Android OS upgrades for the Galaxy A51 5G, and the Android 11 upgrade is reportedly rolling out now, with the newly-revealed Android 12 also due at some point after the core release later this year. Eventually, it will get Android 13 too.
At $500, the Samsung Galaxy A51 5G feels like a great deal for what you get. It’s a well-built and solid-feeling phone with a large and crisp screen, excellent battery life, solid performance, 5G support, and pretty good cameras. Like Google’s Pixel 4a 5G at the same price, it feels like a bargain compared to today’s flagship phones.
At $500, the Samsung Galaxy A51 5G feels like a great deal for what you get.
The Galaxy A51 5G is also $100 less than the list price of the very similar A71 5G and you really don’t lose anything major in the process. I prefer the slightly sleeker A71 5G with its larger screen, but if money was a key concern, I’d take the A51 5G and save the cash. We’ve seen Samsung selling the Galaxy A51 5G for as low as $350 unlocked recently, too, which is an incredible bargain if you’re looking for an affordable 5G phone.
By and large, these two $500 phones are pretty comparable. You get similar performance and battery life between them, as well as the same level of 5G (sub-6GHz) support. The Galaxy A51 5G has a more premium-feeling build thanks to the aluminium frame and has the larger screen at 6.5-inch, while the 6.2-inch Pixel 4a 5G has an advantage with better low-light shooting and overall more consistent photography. It’s enough of an advantage that I’d pick the Pixel, myself, but it all comes down to personal priorities.
A great mid-range Galaxy phone.
If your smartphone budget caps out at $500, then you probably won’t feel short-changed by Samsung Galaxy A51 5G. It’s one of the best phones available at that price point, topped only by the Google Pixel 4a 5G and its superior camera. Still, if low-light camera quality isn’t near the top of your list and you’d rather have a larger screen and heartier build, the Galaxy A51 5G could be the better pick for you.
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