Samsung Galaxy 551 review: Value line

GSMArena team, 24 January 2011.

Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy 551

The Samsung Galaxy 551 is an economy class smartphone and it would’ve been unrealistic to expect anything more than the standard set of accessories. There is a mandatory charger, a microUSB data cable and a one-piece 3.5mm headset. A 1GB microSD card is also supplied.

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The Galaxy 551 unboxed

Samsung Galaxy 551 360-degree spin

The Samsung Galaxy 551 measures 111 x 55 x 15.2 mm. With a body entirely made of plastic, it’s hardly a surprise that the phone tips the scales at the featherlight 117 g.

Design and construction

Like most of the Android smartphones by Samsung, the Galaxy 551 is made entirely of plastic. There’s nothing too special about the glossy black finish and minimalist styling. The full QWERTY keyboard is the phone’s most prominent feature and we’re pleased with its design and usability. The form factor hasn’t added too much weight and the phone handles quite well. Everything is within comfortable reach on the 3.2” screen in single-handed use and, with the keyboard slid out, the phone is secure to hold and quick to type on.

While unmistakably recognizable as Samsung, the Galaxy 551 makes no attempt to stand out aesthetically. In a way, the generic styling defies the smartphone credentials but that’s the case for many Samsung smartphones recently.

The 3.2" capacitive touchscreen display dominates the galaxy 551 front. It has the lowly WQVGA resolution, just like the Galaxy 3. The poor pixel density is unpleasantly evident on the 3.2” screen. It is usable, but doesn’t do the software justice and pixelisation is especially visible in text. The sunlight legibility is pretty poor – on a bright sunny day the display gets washed out to a point it’s nearly impossible to read.

Scrolling is another area where you can see some display issues. Now this may as well be a software problem instead, but when you're scrolling any list on the Galaxy 551 screen, the text font becomes illegibly light.

Here's an example, don't mind the fact it's tripled, that's expected and it's really ok. The issue is that when scrolling your file list or contacts list, the text font gets lighter and you can barely make out the current item.

Samsung Galaxy 551

One good thing we might say about the screen is it uses capacitive technology to respond to even the lightest of taps. The multi-touch pinch zooming is also available across the interface.

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The 3.2" capacitive touchscreen

Above the display is the earpiece in the middle and the proximity sensor to the left.

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The earpiece above and the Android controls below the display

Below the display are the typical Android controls. The Menu, Home and Back are all hardware buttons, very well sized and solid to press. A dedicated Search key is missing but there’s a dedicated homescreen widget instead. What’s more, upon a press-and-hold the Menu key allows keyboard shortcuts: Menu + s for Search, Menu + p for Settings, Menu + n for Notifications, to name a few.

On the left side of the phone you get the volume rocker and a lanyard eyelet, while the power/lock key is symmetrically placed across on the right. There’s no dedicated camera shutter key though.

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The power key and the volume rocker are the only controls on the sides of the Galaxy 551

The top of the phone hosts the 3.5mm jack and the microUSB port. There’s a sliding lid over the data port while the audio jack is exposed.

The mouthpiece and a tiny slit for lifting up the battery cover are at the bottom.

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The 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port at the top • the mouthpiece at the bottom

The rear features only the 3.2-megapixel camera lens and the loudspeaker grill. The piano black battery cover becomes a fingerprint mess in no time. It’s really hard to clean and – what’s worse – the glossy surface provides a slippery grip.

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The camera lens and the loudspeaker grill at the back

Removing the back panel reveals the 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery. The battery is officially quoted at up to 9 hours of talk time and up to 520 hours of stand-by time. The hot-swappable microSD card slot is on the side underneath the battery cover while the SIM compartment is beneath the battery itself. .

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The 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery, the microSD and SIM slots underneath

The Galaxy 551 is compact and comfortable to use whether you are talking or typing on the QWERTY keyboard. The weight is right and the phone handles nicely. The side-sliding keyboard is nearly perfectly designed and the phone’s size and weight allow a steady hand-hold when typing. The slider feels firm, with smooth run – you have to be very particular to notice a minor wobble in fully open position. The only thing we don’t like is the glossy plastic used on the rear – not only does it look bad, it doesn’t allow a firm grip on the phone.

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The Samsung Galaxy 551 is nice to hold and feels quite durable

A QWERTY keyboard we like a lot

The Samsung Galaxy 551 packs a four-row side-slide QWERTY keyboard using the same layout as the CorbyPRO. The actual keys are set within a frame of very sturdy plastic, which should to endure the frequent slider movement.

Typing on the Galaxy 551 is comfortable: the rubber keys are well sized and nicely convex, and have a very distinct press. Numbers are accommodated on the top row instead of using a numpad layout. Don’t worry about the top row - it enjoys plenty of headroom.

As in the CorbyPRO, the QWERTY keyboard has dedicated shortcuts to web and messaging. The Arrow keys, Backspace, Enter and OK buttons make sure the keyboard can actually be used full-time for navigating the Galaxy 551 menus.

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The Samsung Galaxy 551 has a QWERTY keyboard to be proud of

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