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Google Pixel 4a vs. Samsung Galaxy A51: Which should you buy?

Pixel 4a Alex Back Outside Wall
Pixel 4a Alex Back Outside Wall (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Google Pixel 4a

Pixel 4a

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The Pixel 4a sets the standard for mid-range cameras. Google is offering almost the same caliber of photos as the regular Pixel 4, and that makes the Pixel 4a a standout option. You get three years of platform updates, a clean software interface with useful additions, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The compact design is ideal for one-handed use, and if you take a lot of photos, the Pixel 4a is the obvious choice.

Google Pixel 4a

Outstanding camera

Compact form factor
Fantastic camera
Clean software with meaningful features
Three years of platform updates
3.5mm headphone jack
Limited global availability
Plain design

Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51

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The Galaxy A51 excels at the basics, and the modern design allows the device to stand out in this segment. With a large 6.5-inch AMOLED screen, the phone is ideal for streaming videos and playing games, and the 4,000mAh battery lasts all day without any issues. The camera isn't as good as the Pixel 4a, but if you want a large screen and excellent battery life, the Galaxy A51 is a great pick.

Samsung Galaxy A51

Powerhouse

Gorgeous design
Vibrant AMOLED panel
48MP camera at the back
Excellent battery life
3.5mm headphone jack
Macro lens is mediocre
Camera not as good as Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a and the Galaxy A51 are two of the best options you'll find in the mid-range segment right now, but the two devices differ greatly in just about every area. The Pixel 4a delivers Google's singular vision of offering the best camera for under $500, while the Galaxy A51 builds on Samsung's latest design language and comes with a vibrant AMOLED screen that's great for streaming videos. Let's take a look at all the differences, and figure out if you should buy the Pixel 4a or pick up the Galaxy A51 instead.

Pixel 4a vs. Galaxy A51: Two entirely different philosophies

The Pixel 4a continues to further Google's ambitions in the mid-range segment and is one of the best cheap Android phones you can pick up today. The Pixel 4a has the same camera prowess as the regular Pixel 4 series, and that means you're getting a flagship camera for just $350, making the device a true bargain if you take a lot of photos.

The Pixel 4a has a plain design, but it is the ideal compact phone in 2020.

You won't find a lot of design flair on the Pixel 4a — the phone is available in a single Just Black option. That said, the form factor is ideally suited for one-handed use, making the device that much more enticing in a segment that's full of tall and unwieldy phones. The Pixel 4a also stands out because of the physical fingerprint sensor at the back, and there's even a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Samsung, meanwhile, went in a different direction with the Galaxy A51. The phone is 29g heavier than the Pixel 4a and has a modern design with a subtle gradient texture underneath the polycarbonate back. The 6.5-inch AMOLED screen is one of the best you'll find in this category and is noticeably bigger than the 5.81-inch OLED panel on the Pixel 4a. The larger screen on the Galaxy A51 just makes it that much more conducive for playing games or streaming media.

There's some differentiation when it comes to the internal hardware, with the Pixel 4a's Snapdragon 730 chipset sitting one tier below the Exynos 980 on the Galaxy A51. Google outfitted the Pixel 4a with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, and the base variant of the Galaxy A51 offers the same configuration as well. The Galaxy A51 also comes with dual SIM card slots and a microSD card slot.

Galaxy A51

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The one area where Samsung has a distinct edge is battery life. With a 4,000mAh battery under the hood, you'll easily get over a day's worth of use without any issues whatsoever. The Pixel 4a has decent battery life, but the 3,140mAh battery just doesn't deliver the same longevity as the A51.

The Galaxy A51 has more cameras, but the Pixel 4a takes better photos from its single 12.2MP sensor.

The Galaxy A51 has four cameras at the back, with a 48MP primary lens along with a 12MP wide-angle, 5MP macro, and 5MP portrait lens. The Pixel 4a has a single 12.2MP camera at the back, and as you'd imagine, Google's mid-range phone handily beats the Galaxy A51. You get decent shots in most lighting conditions from the A51, but it doesn't measure up to the Pixel 4a in this regard.

Google also has a clear-cut advantage on the software front. The Pixel 4a has a clean interface and will get three years of platform updates, and while Samsung recently stated that its phones will also get three OS updates, that's limited to its flagships. The Galaxy A51 will get two platform versions and security updates once a quarter.

CategoryGoogle Pixel 4aSamsung Galaxy A51
Operating systemAndroid 10Android 10
One UI 2.0
Display5.81-inch OLED
2340x1080 (19.5:9)
Gorilla Glass 3
6.5-inch Super AMOLED
2400x1080 (20:9)
Gorilla Glass 3
ChipsetSnapdragon 730
2 x 2.22GHz Cotex A76
6 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55
Adreno 618
8nm
Exynos 980
2 x 2.22GHz Cotex A77
6 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55
Mali-G76 MP5
8nm
RAM6GB6GB
Storage128GB128GB
MicroSD slotNoYes
Rear camera 112.2MP, f/1.7
4K at 30fps
48MP, f/2.0
4K at 30fps
Rear camera 2No12MP, f/2.2
Wide-angle lens
Rear camera 3No5MP, f/2.4
Macro lens
Rear camera 4No5MP, f/2.2
Portrait lens
Front camera8MP, f/2.032MP, f/2.2
ConnectivityWi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, A-GPS
Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, A-GPS
AudioUSB-CUSB-C
Battery3140mAh
Non-removable
4000mAh
Non-removable
ChargingUSB-C 3.1
18W
USB-C 2.0
15W
Water resistanceNoNo
SecurityRear fingerprintIn-display fingerprint (optical)
Dimensions144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
143g
158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9 mm
172g
ColorsJust BlackCrush Black, Prism, Silver, Blue, Pink

Pixel 4a vs. Galaxy A51: It all comes down to that camera

Pixel 4a

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Choosing between the Pixel 4a and the Galaxy A51 comes down to the camera quality. If you want the best camera that this segment has to offer, the Pixel 4a is the obvious choice here.

If you want the best mid-range camera, the Pixel 4a is the obvious choice.

There's also the fact that you get three years of software updates on the Pixel 4a, and that's a huge deal when you consider the phone retails for just $350. I prefer Google's software to One UI, and the clean interface combined with a few meaningful software features make the phone stand out.

The Galaxy A51 has a much better design, more vibrant screen, and better battery life. The camera is decent enough, but it's not on the same level as the Pixel 4a, but you will get the same number of Android version updates as Google's mid-range device. If you're used to Samsung phones and want a mid-range option that nails the basics, the Galaxy A51 is still a great choice. But if you're willing to switch and want the best camera in this category, I recommend the Pixel 4a.

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.