Another day and yet another Galaxy M series phone has been launched by Samsung. By my estimation, we are now seeing the sixth phone in the lineup this year, and with each model, it seems that the line between budget and mid-range segment is getting a little blurred. The Galaxy M series started off as a budget solution to compete with Chinese rivals, but is now overlapping with the more premium Galaxy A series in terms of pricing, making the Samsung lineup a bit confusing. However, the company has made it a point to retain the core M series values such as robust build quality and a huge battery. In fact, the Galaxy M51 is the first smartphone in India to boast a battery rated at no less than 7,000mAh.
Samsung had announced the Galaxy M51 last week for a starting price of Rs 24,999 which puts it in the OnePlus Nord (review), Redmi K20 Pro (review), and Realme X3 territory. The device also competes in-house with the Galaxy A51 (review), and Galaxy M31s (review) as well. With a lot of options to choose from, the Galaxy M51 has a point to prove that it can punch above its weight class. Let’s find out in this full review if the M51 has managed to do that.
What you get with the Galaxy M51 is exceptionally good battery life, unlike any phone can offer at its price. On the side, you get decent performance, cameras and an expansive display as well. An average user will quite easily be satisfied with the M51 as a daily driver, but for a more performance-loving audience, the Realme X3 or the OnePlus Nord might be better suited.
Design and display
- Display: 6.7-inch FHD+
- Refresh rate: 60Hz
- Panel: Super AMOLED
- Connectivity: USB Type-C
The Galaxy M51 is quite possibly the largest phone in the M series that I have seen till now and also, understandably, the heaviest. It’s not every day you get to test out a phone with a 7,000mAh battery but I’m quite impressed by how Samsung has kept the thickness of the M51 to about 9mm. Also at 213g, the M51 can be a little weighty in the hand but it still has a comfortable grip thanks to the curved back panel, a staple for smartphones nowadays. The body is made from a polycarbonate ‘glastic’ material which does make the device prone to scratches. However, the M51 does not come with a clear silicone case, which is a bummer.
There is a side-mounted fingerprint sensor on the right side of the phone which doubles up as a power button, and this is a feature that has made its way on to a lot of smartphones as of late. As a matter of fact, I really like this positioning because it is in a perfect spot for my thumb. For left-handed users, the index finger should reach the sensor easily as well. There is the volume rocker buttons present alongside the sensor and at the bottom, you will find a Type-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a single speaker grille. The dual-SIM plus microSD card slot is present on the right of the device. Samsung has provided me with the Charcoal Black colour variant for review, but I have to say it looks closer to a silver-greyish colour that can very conveniently act a part-time mirror thanks to its extremely polished finish. I do love a glossy look but I prefer the kind of matte-like finish employed on the OnePlus Nord, which makes it easy to take product shots and also avoids a lot of smudging.
A 6.7-inch Super AMOLED panel makes for an immersive viewing experience on the Galaxy M51 and between the massive screen size along with a weighty design, you will not be holding the phone with one hand for very long. This is an Infinity-O Panel, which is Samsung’s terminology for a punch-hole display. Other aspects include an FHD+ resolution, peak brightness of 420nits, and 20:9 aspect ratio. Samsung has long perfected the art of a capable display, be it any category of smartphones and it seeps into the M51 as well.
There will hardly be any difference between the display quality of the M31s and the M51, except for the size of the screen. The M51’s panel has all the advantages of being AMOLED such as perfect viewing angles, nearly zero colour shift, deeply pronounced blacks and in general better colour reproduction than an LCD panel. Customisation options include changing the colour temperatures from a vibrant Vivid mode to a more realistic but slightly dull Normal mode. You also get the ability to change the theme to Dark Mode and also employ a Blue Light filter. All in all a well rounded, A-grade display with zero complaints other than the fact that it misses out on a high refresh rate. As for protection, the M51 has the older Corning Gorilla 3 for preventing damage to the screen.
- Rear cameras: 64MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro sensor and 5MP depth sensor
- Front camera: 32MP
The Galaxy M51 packs in the same quad-camera hardware which is present on the M31s announced a few months back. There is the 64MP Sony IMX682 sensor supported by a 12MP ultra-wide lens along with dual 5MP cameras for depth sensing and macro shots. While the hardware remains the same, what has changed is the new ISP found on the M51’s Snapdragon 730G SoC as opposed to the Exynos 9611 SoC. There’s a slight but noticeable change in photo quality.
The main sensor on the M31s offers punchy and contrasty photos. On the M51, the photos are slightly more enhanced in details and the saturation level is toned down for a more natural hue to the scenery. Apart from that, autofocus on the M51 is almost instantaneous which is quite nice to see especially when you are shooting a video. Overall the sensor gets in a lot of light and also has great HDR capabilities which can be enhanced by the automatic AI-scene detection. For extra detailing in a shot, you can go with the UHD 64MP mode.
Apart from that, the ultra-wide, depth and macro sensors churned out shots that were also similar to the M31s. The 123-degree field of view gets in a lot of the subject into the frame but has the usual warping at the edges. Portrait mode or, as Samsung calls it, Live Focus, works well with the dedicated depth camera but the familiar problems of proper edge detection around the subject have still not been resolved. The macro sensor is of little usage and when called upon it does not deliver to its full potential. I would hardly call photos from the macro sensor as ‘social media worthy’. At night the camera will utilise the AI-scene detection to automatically get in more light in shots. The dedicated Night mode gives more clarity to shots, fills in colours more accurately and in general sharpens the focus on the subject. I stand by my statement of getting your money’s worth at night photography with the M51 as I had said for the M31s.
On the front there’s a 32MP selfie shooter and it works as well as you would expected it to. As with the M31s, you will see the pixel-binning to get detailed 8MP shots or you can shoot directly in 32MP although there appears to be very little difference between the two modes. Samsung again uses a lot of oversharpening of facial details but I’m happy with the colour choice it employs in skin tones. It also has the 4K video recording from the front of the phone, something very few phones in this price can do.
Performance and software
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
- RAM: 6GB and 8GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 128GB, expandable to 512GB
- Software: Android 10 with OneUI 2.0
Samsung has done away with the Exynos 9611 (used in the Galaxy M31s, M31, M21, A51, M30s, A50s) and gone with the trusty Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G. Now it is quite clear that for its price range and seeing what the competition offers, the Galaxy M51 is not winning accolades in terms of processing prowess. The OnePlus Nord offers the more recent Snapdragon 765G SoC which amongst other things is also 5G-ready while the Realme X3 has last year’s flagship Snapdragon 855+ SoC. Benchmark results point towards the same with the M51 scoring lower in all traditional tests such as Geekbench, AnTuTu and PCMark when compared to the Nord or X3 Superzoom. However, this is a comparison made for power users who wish to do intensive tasks such as heavy-duty gaming or video editing on their smartphone.
The Galaxy M51 happens to be excellent at multi-tasking, browsing, navigation and the general usage is fluid and fast. This is apparent when heavy apps such as YouTube or Instagram are open in the background, and switching between is almost seamless. There is no delay in the shutter speed of the camera or processing of images in the Gallery app. I have the 8GB RAM + 128GB version with me, although I would recommend the 6GB version of the device which sells for Rs 24,999. There is also the option to expand to 512GB using a microSD card.
On the authentication front, the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is quick and responsive but I have noticed that at times it takes a few attempts to register it. Apart from that, the face unlock is iffy in low lighting and even with the assisted lighting, I would not rely on the phone to get my face right. The bottom-firing speaker has no changes from the M31s meaning it sounds quite good for the price. Even so, it would be nice to see stereo support. Samsung has graciously provided Dolby Atmos through a pair of wired earphones/headphones so there is that. Call and microphone quality, like always, are up to the mark.
Here again, the OneUI 2.0 skin, proprietary to Samsung, has come into play and brings with it Android 10. The software aspect on M series phones and in general most of Samsung phones this year has remained unchanged. I have covered the OneUI 2.0 skin in greater detail during my review of the M31s and my colleague’s M31 review also talks about it in depth. In short though, here’s what you can expect: tons of customisation options, refined settings menu and notification tray, some Samsung bloat, and a smooth UI.
- Capacity: 7,000mAh
- Charging speeds: 25W fast charge
- 0-50 percent: 40 minutes
Ah, the pièce de résistance of the entire M51 ensemble is undoubtedly its mind-boggling 7,000mAh battery that is quite literally the biggest that I’ve seen on a smartphone in India. It shattered records for my standard smartphone battery test, which involves running a video at half brightness and volume on a loop, by staying on for a record 36 hours. You’ve heard of a 1-day phone or even a 2-day phone in extreme circumstances. The Galaxy M51 can push for an insane three days on a single charge if you keep the brightness of the device locked at half. It can do two days quite easily if you only watch a couple of hours of video streaming along with normal day-to-day usage. For more intensive tasks such as gaming, the phone has the ability to last the entire day without breaking a sweat, but will still need a charge only by the next day. In support for this mammoth battery is a 25W charging solution which will juice up the device in about 2 hours. Like the M31s, there is support for reverse wired charging since the M51 is basically like a power bank in itself.
Like previous iterations, the Galaxy M51 focuses on the core budget user experience which demands a stellar battery life and processing requirements that manage to get most of the work done. Add to that a capable camera setup and a class-leading display, the Galaxy M51 makes for a sumptuous choice.
However, if you consider the competition in this segment, the OnePlus Nord offers a cleaner software experience and a faster chipset. The Realme X3 also gets you a faster experience and a smoother 120Hz refresh rate panel. I guess the important decision to make while purchasing this device is whether you value good battery life, decent cameras and colour accurate display over aspects like pure performance and high screen refresh rate. Whatever be the case, the Galaxy M51 definitely deserves a closer second look for its humongous battery backup.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Insane battery life
- Vibrant, best-in-class display
- Robust design
- Bulky and gets scratched easily
- Snapdragon 730G is now a bit old
- Bloatware is still an issue