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The Galaxy A51 has big shoes to fill. It takes the baton from the Galaxy A50, one of the most successful smartphones launched by Samsung in 2019. Samsung revamped the Galaxy A series throughout last year to be more competitive in the mid-range segment of the market. To that end, it has launched a slew of new devices, including multiple variants, in a span of months.
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This strategy seems to have worked for Samsung, and the company plans to continue it in 2020. It starts with the Galaxy A51, one of the most anticipated budget phones of the year. The new phone also carries on the legacy of the Galaxy A50, which introduced new features to the budget line for the first time. The Galaxy A50 brought an optical fingerprint sensor, while the Galaxy A51 introduces a macro camera to Samsung smartphones.
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There’s a lot to break down here, so let’s get right into it. How does the Galaxy A51 compare to its predecessor, and more importantly, where does it stand on its own merits? Is it worth your money? Our Galaxy A51 review will answer these questions for you.
It’s easy to tell the Galaxy A51 apart from its predecessor. Unlike the Galaxy A50 which had an Infinity-U display, the Galaxy A51 has an Infinity-O display. A centered punch hole for the front camera allows for a slim top bezel. It is made of the same “glassy” material as previous Galaxy A devices. It doesn’t feel cheap or obvious plastic, and it’s not slippery. Subtle curves on the back provide a comfortable grip during prolonged use.
A new L-shaped camera setup dominates the back, which is decorated with a prism-like criss-cross pattern. It’s much more subtle than a matte finish, and the light plays off it well. Full marks to Samsung. The 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port and speaker are located at the bottom. Given its location, you’ll often find yourself covering the speaker grill with your finger while playing a game or watching a video in landscape mode. It will be a bit inconvenient at first, but you will get used to your finger placement in time.
All physical buttons, of which there are only three, are placed on the right side of the frame, as in the predecessor. By default, holding the power button while the phone is on will launch Bixby. You can change it to open the shutdown menu in the menu
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Settings application area. Here you can also configure which app to launch by double-clicking the Power key.
Overall, the Galaxy A51 feels very well built and should serve as your daily driver for two years. We’ve seen all the four colors it has to offer and you’ll no doubt be spoiled for choice as they all look gorgeous.
The Galaxy A51 comes with a 6.5-inch Infinity-O Super AMOLED Full HD+ display with a resolution of 1080×2400 pixels and an aspect ratio of 20:9. It’s slightly taller than the Galaxy A50’s 6.4-inch panel. The bezels are slightly thinner than its predecessor, but there’s no edge-to-edge functionality here. It’s a flat panel that actually feels like a refreshing break if you’ve been using curved screens for a while. A screen saver is pre-installed.
Samsung offers great OLED displays without breaking a sweat. It’s clearly not a flagship-quality panel, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an OLED-screen competitor from another vendor that can claim it’s better. It looks nice and bright with great viewing angles, deep blacks and rich colors.
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The hole for the front camera is less obtrusive than the Infinity-U notch, so it won’t really bother you. One improvement we think Samsung should have made with the successor to the Galaxy A50 is to reduce the chin below the screen. This was done for the Galaxy A51.
There is also an optical in-display fingerprint sensor. In our Galaxy A50 review we highlighted that its performance was not ideal. It’s even better on the Galaxy A51. It doesn’t struggle like it did with its predecessor. I tested extensively, placing my finger on the sensor at an angle, only when the screen was off and placing it dead center and lightly touching it. The fingerprint sensor works most of the time.
There is a noticeable improvement in the sensor’s ability to recognize fingerprints. It’s not as fast as a physical fingerprint sensor; Even high quality ultrasonic sensors cannot match these. There’s a good 1/1.5 second delay between when you place your finger on the sensor and when the phone unlocks. And so it goes with the sensors on the screen. You will be warned not to use the screen cover when registering your fingerprint, so as to avoid false positive failures.
This is where the Galaxy A51 comes into its own element. The camera setup is the biggest selling point of this smartphone, and Samsung offers an interesting mix. The Galaxy A51 has a 48-megapixel f/2.0 primary camera and a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera with a 123-degree field of view. It retains the 5-megapixel f/2.2 depth camera of its predecessor. The Galaxy A51 also has the distinction of being the first Samsung smartphone to feature a 5-megapixel f/2.4 macro camera.
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The main camera does not produce 48 MP photos. It uses pixel binning technology to create 12 MP photos. Without going into too many technical details, pixel binning allows for more accurate exposure and detail of images as it combines 4 pixels into 1 superpixel. This superpixel contains four times the data compared to one pixel in a 48MP image.
The resulting images are nice and sharp with excellent color reproduction. Low-light performance is definitely better than the Galaxy A50. He doesn’t tend to overexpose shots in artificial lighting. The Galaxy A51’s main camera is more than capable of doing the job when the lighting isn’t great. It also allows for 8x digital zoom, but the image gets progressively worse with each increase.
The ultra-large camera was a big talking point for Samsung smartphones last year, especially when the company brought it to mid-range and affordable devices. The Galaxy A51’s 12-megapixel camera has a higher megapixel count compared to the ultra-wide cameras on recent mid-range smartphones. The increase in resolution makes a small difference, as the camera captures more detail and images are sharper, but those used to the 8-megapixel ultra-wide on the Galaxy A50 won’t notice it. It struggles a bit in the dark compared to the main camera, mainly due to its f/2.2 aperture.
The 5-megapixel macro camera is what most people will be interested in. That’s the “new” thing about this device. For those who don’t know, a macro camera allows you to take incredibly detailed close-up photos of a small subject because they can focus more on the subject than normal lenses. This allows you to fill the frame with your subject and thereby capture more detail. Despite the 5-megapixel resolution, the macro camera can provide good close-ups.
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Remember that you need to be closer than you think to get the subject in focus. It is recommended to keep the phone 3-5 cm away from the camera subject. However, you’ll need to have incredibly steady hands, as the lack of optical image stabilization means that even the slightest movement can result in blurry shots.
As you can see in the samples below, the camera is perfectly capable of capturing the flaky, buttery texture of a croissant in an indoor, low-light environment. The same goes for close-ups of other small objects. You can take great photos outside of them, so if you’re a nature lover who likes to take pictures of flowers in the foreground, the Galaxy A51 is the phone for you. However, recording videos using the macro camera is not possible.
Is a macro camera really useful? It depends on how you use your smartphone camera for photography. A macro is no substitute for a telephoto lens, and the latter can be more useful in a wide variety of situations. Samsung had cost considerations with the Galaxy A51, which is why it chose the macro. Its usefulness is limited as it can only take close-up photos. A macro camera isn’t even great for photographing your food, because most people want to capture the entire aesthetic, not a specific part of what’s on the plate. It won’t be something you use more than twice
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