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LG K51 review: More polish than punch
What we like
What we don't like
LG may be done with the smartphone industry, but it’s still a familiar face at affordable carriers in the United States and around the world. The LG K51 — and its identical twin, the LG Reflect — is one of the most popular models across a number of carriers, especially MVNOs. It offers plenty of good specs on paper and a sub-$200 price tag that seems tough to beat. Find out how all of the pieces come together in our LG K51 review.
See also: The best budget phones you can buy
What you need to know about the LG K51
- LG K51 (3GB, 32GB): $149 / €139 / £120 ($199 launch price)
Launched in May 2020, the LG K51 sits at the lower end of LG’s remaining smartphone range. It comes in just one configuration and one color: Titan Gray. You won’t have excessive RAM or storage to work with — just 3GB and 32GB, respectively — but you can always expand the storage with a microSD card. The LG K51 we tested arrived with Android 10 and the LG UX 9.0 skin right out of the box. It has not received an Android 11 update yet, and we don’t have a timetable for a possible update in our Android 11 roadmap.
Along with the limited RAM and base storage, you’ll find MediaTek’s octa-core Helio P22 processor running the show. It’s backed by a 4,000mAh battery and a 6.5-inch HD Plus display to top it all off. LG kept a headphone jack nestled along the phone’s bottom edge, along with a USB-C 2.0 port and a mono speaker.
Related: The best LG phones you can buy
You get a charging block and USB-C cable in the box, along with a SIM ejector tool, and our version came with a Metro by T-Mobile branded start guide. Of course, the paperwork may vary based on your carrier of choice.
LG’s K51 sits close to the OnePlus Nord N200, Motorola Moto G Power (2021), and Nokia 5.4 in terms of price, though all three offer sharper specs. If you’re leaning towards an LG device in this price range, you might also want to look at the LG Stylo 6 with its larger display and built-in stylus.
The LG K51’s build quality is apparent from the moment you take it out of the box. This is a budget-friendly phone that just feels solid. Although the body is plastic it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. While we’re praising the hardware, LG’s headphone jack deserves a shout, as does the bottom-firing speaker. There’s only a single speaker, but you can give the volume a kick to enjoy your favorite songs.
It’s also nice to have a large, 6.5-inch display to go along with that loud speaker. You get plenty of real estate to catch up on your favorite Netflix series or tap into some light gaming.
The LG K51 is available across numerous carriers, each with its own variety of apps. While we can’t speak to the preinstalled bloat on all of them, the Metro by T-Mobile version keeps the extras to a minimum. You’ll find a standard set of account management apps and the like, but Metro mostly lets you do your own thing.
The K51's looks and hand feel stretch far beyond its affordable price.
The 4,000mAh battery offers plenty of juice to keep you moving all day long. I managed to push well past a day of moderate use, whether browsing social media, streaming music, or keeping up with emails. The included block and cable get you back up to speed fast enough too.
Any time you look at a budget-friendly phone, you’re bound to have concerns about the camera. LG managed to soothe some of these concerns with a good 13MP main lens for the price. In most lighting situations, the shooter works well, and LG’s AI Cam kicks everything up a notch. It uses thousands of data points to analyze your subject and suggest ways to improve your shot. For example, AI Cam can advise you to switch to the ultra-wide camera so you can fit just a few more friends or family members into your shot.
What’s not so good?
The K51’s 6.5-inch IPS LCD turns out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s adequately large, but while the colors are good overall, we’ve seen other phones in this price range reach for a sharper resolution, including some from LG’s own lineup.
Like quite a few affordable phones we’ve tested, the LG K51 is a fingerprint magnet. The uninterrupted Titan Gray back panel looks quite nice, but you’re bound to spend a chunk of your time wiping it clean unless you invest in a case.
The Helio P22 processor comes up a little short when paired with just 3GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, there are times where the K51’s Helio P22 processor doesn’t quite feel up to the task. It works for light usage but falls behind when you bounce between apps or try out too many games. This may be an example of the chip showing its age, given that it launched back in 2018. MediaTek has grown the Helio P range since the P22’s launch, so there are certainly other options that LG could have chosen.
See also: The best Boost Mobile phones you can get
Some of the processing struggles might come from the limited 3GB of RAM as it quickly becomes overburdened with too many tasks running. LG’s 32GB of base storage isn’t enough, either, given that you can only use a fraction of that space. Our version of the LG K51 required a whopping 13GB of the 32GB for Android itself and almost 2GB for other pre-installed apps. When all is said and done, the K51 only gives you about 17GB of usable space unless you grab a microSD card.
You may also want to look elsewhere if you’re hoping to snap tons of selfies. The K51’s front camera is serviceable, but images tend to come out a bit soft. Take a look at the grasses in my selfie examples below — they tend to sacrifice details almost immediately. On the bright side, you get the same AI Cam features on the front camera as you do on the rear options.
LG K51 camera samples
LG K51 specs
1,560 x 720 (19.5:9)
|Processor||MediaTek Helio P22|
|Cameras||Rear triple camera:|
13MP main (f/1.8)
5MP ultrawide (f/2.2)
|Software||Shipped with Android 9|
Update to Android 10 available
|Dimensions||6.57 x 3.07 x 0.33 inches|
(166.96 x 77.92 x 8.47mm)
|Security||Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner|
LG K51 review: Should I buy it?
If you want an entry-level smartphone that looks and feels far beyond its price, the LG K51 just might be for you. It’s large and in charge, and the display and speaker are great for streaming videos and music. Even better, the 4,000mAh battery lasts longer than all day, and the headphone jack means you can keep your favorite songs to yourself. However, this isn’t a processing powerhouse, and you might want to look elsewhere if you have gaming or heavy usage in mind. There are also question marks over support, as LG has decided to withdraw from the smartphone business. If you’re concerned with software and security updates (you should be!) then there are more reliable alternatives.
The LG K51 is large and in charge but it's not the fastest or best-supported budget phone you can get.
The LG K51 sits close to the OnePlus Nord N200 ($239) in terms of pricing, though OnePlus has the better spec sheet by a solid margin, not to mention that the N200 offers 5G on T-Mobile’s network. You may also want to give Motorola’s Moto G series a look, especially the Moto G Power ($249). One final rival to consider is Nokia’s 5.4 ($249) with four times the storage, a pacier processor, and better cameras on both sides.