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Samsung Galaxy A51 vs. Google Pixel 3a: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy A51 review
Samsung Galaxy A51 review (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51

With a large AMOLED display, four rear cameras, and a visually striking backside, the Galaxy A51 is certainly one of the most eye-catching mid-range phones out there. The 4,000 mAh battery will ensure you get to keep using the phone for hours on end without needing to charge up, and additions like a headphone jack and expandable storage are always great to have.

Samsung Galaxy A51

Entertainment champ

Eye-catching design
Large AMOLED display
128GB of expandable storage
Four rear cameras
4,000 mAh battery
Occasionally laggy performance
Exclusive to Sprint and Verizon
Camera not great in low light

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

The Pixel 3a may look a bit dull compared next to the Galaxy A51, but it still has plenty to offer. Outside of the more boring design and larger display bezels, the Pixel 3a continues to deliver the very best camera you'll find in this price range. Whether you're shooting in broad daylight or nighttime, pictures look incredible. You also get smooth performance, up-to-date software, and more.

Google Pixel 3a

Unmatched camera

Excellent 12MP rear camera
Smooth, reliable performance
Guaranteed updates through May 2022
Now Playing and Active Edge
Can be used on any U.S. carrier
No expandable storage
Dated design
Older phone

The Galaxy A51 and Pixel 3a both bring unique offerings to the mid-tier smartphone space, meaning each one is worth considering. We'd argue that the Galaxy A51 is the better choice if you're doing a lot of content consumption, largely thanks to its superior AMOLED display, large battery, and support for expandable storage. However, if you'd rather have a top-notch camera and software that you know is always up-to-date, the Pixel 3a is the better buy. There's also the subject of availability, with the Galaxy A51 only being sold on Sprint and Verizon while the Pixel 3a is sold unlocked and can be used on any U.S. carrier.

The Galaxy A51's display and battery are hard to ignore

Samsung's mid-range smartphone offerings used to be rather disappointing, but in recent years, the company has turned things around and gotten back on track. The Galaxy A51 is another example of that, offering a high-quality Android experience at a very affordable price.

One of the best things about the A51 is its display. On the technical side of things, it's a 6.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2400x1080. In real-world use, that means the A51's screen looks fantastic. Colors are vibrant, everything is nice and crisp, and there are very slim bezels surrounding it. The centered hole-punch cutout is also quite minimal and doesn't distract too much from the actual display.

Samsung Galaxy A51Google Pixel 3a
Operating SystemOne UI 2.0
Android 10
Android 10
Display6.5-inch
Super AMOLED
2400x1080
5.6-inch
OLED
2220x1080
ProcessorSamsung Exynos 9611Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
RAM4GB4GB
Storage128GB64GB
Expandable StorageUp to 512GB
Rear Camera 148MP primary camera
f/2.0
12.2MP primary camera
f/1.8
Rear Camera 212MP ultra-wide camera
f/2.2
Rear Camera 35MP macro camera
f/2.4
Rear Camera 45MP portrait camera
f/2.2
Front Camera32MP
f/2.2
8MP
f/2.0
Battery4,000 mAh3,000 mAh
Charging15W wired charging18W wired charging
SecurityIn-screen fingerprint sensorCapacitive fingerprint sensor
AudioMono speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
Stereo speakers
3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9mm51.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm
Weight172g147g

Samsung Galaxy A51 review

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

Samsung also went all-out with the Galaxy A51's cameras, giving users a total of four sensors to choose from — a 48MP primary camera, 12MP ultra-wide camera, 5MP macro camera, and 5MP portrait camera. You'll get the best shots out of the 48MP lens, which takes great photos when ample lighting is available yet struggles a bit in low-light situations. The quality of the other cameras isn't the best we've ever seen, but at least having the option to take ultra-wide and macro shots is nice if that's something you're interested in.

While you're playing around with the A51, battery life won't be a major concern. The 4,000 mAh battery packed inside allows for long-lasting endurance, and it does so without bulking up the phone too much. Combine all of that with 128GB of storage, a microSD card slot for expansion up to 512GB, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a gorgeous back design, and a lot is going for the A51. Performance does tend to be a bit laggy at times, but if you can overlook that for all of the other features, it's a pretty strong device.

Camera quality is unmatched on the Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a XL

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

At first glance, it can be easy to overlook the Pixel 3a when comparing it to the Galaxy A51. Not only is its design more boring and outdated, but it's also been on the market for quite a while longer. However, you'd be silly not to give the phone a chance.

If the big draw to the Galaxy A51 is its display, the main reason to check out the Pixel 3a is its rear camera. You only get a single 12.2MP lens on the 3a, but overall image quality is better in just about every way. Whether you're taking pictures at day or night, the phone manages to churn out shots that look incredible. Simply put, there's no competition for a camera this good on a phone that's this cheap.

Google Pixel 3a XL

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

That's not all the Pixel 3a has to offer, though. Android 10 is clean and uncluttered on the phone, and since this is a Pixel, it's first in line for any major software updates and security patches. Google guarantees updates for the Pixel 3a through May 2022, meaning you still have a couple of years of top-notch software support. We also really like some of the extra features Google throws in, such as Active Edge and Now Playing (the former allows you to squeeze the phone to trigger the Google Assistant, the latter automatically detects songs playing in the background and shows them on your lock screen).

We've found that performance is also better on the Pixel 3a, which runs smooth and without any lag, unlike the Galaxy A51. There's no option for expandable storage here, but you do still get a headphone jack.

Buy the phone that suits your needs the best

As you can see, both the Galaxy A51 and Pixel 3a are solid purchases — it just depends on where your wants/needs lie.

With the Galaxy A51, this is a phone that's just fun to use. The bezel-less and vibrant display looks fantastic, having so many rear cameras allows for tons of shooting possibilities, and there's plenty of storage (both onboard and expandable) for loading the phone up with apps, games, movies, etc. Performance is weaker than we'd like to see and there's the issue of the Sprint and Verizon exclusivity, but if you can work around those two things, this is a very good phone.

Then there's the Pixel 3a, which doesn't have as modern of a design but downright crushes it in the camera department. It also doesn't have the performance issues of the Galaxy A51, offers one of the best software experiences out there, and isn't restricted to any one carrier.

Whichever phone sounds like it meets your needs the best, buy away and enjoy it!

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.