Samsung Galaxy A42 review: Battery champ, display slouch

The Samsung Galaxy A42 5G is an affordable 5G phone that slots into the middle of Samsung’s A series devices. That means it strikes a balance between features and price in order to appeal to a wide potential user base. Its stablemates aren’t the only competition, however, and the Galaxy A42 is playing in a tough market of ~$400 phones from the likes of Motorola, Google, and others.

Does the A42 have what it takes to stand out? Find out in Android Authority‘s Samsung Galaxy A42 review.

$399 .00
Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
Buy it Now
Samsung Galaxy A42 5G Buy it Now
$399 .00
About this Samsung Galaxy A42 5G review: I tested the Samsung Galaxy A42 over a period of seven days. It was running Android 11 on the March 2021 security patch. The unit was provided by Samsung for this review.

What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A42

Samsung Galaxy A42 front panel.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority
  • Samsung Galaxy A42 5G (4GB/128GB): $399/£349/€399

The Samsung Galaxy A42 is part of a large family of phones, which includes the Galaxy A02, Galaxy A12, Galaxy A32, Galaxy A42, Galaxy A52, and the Galaxy A72. Yes, that’s quite a lineup. Pricing ranges from just $99 to $499 which means there’s probably a Galaxy A series phone that fits your budget and needs. Dialing in that exact combination can give you a near-perfect fit. The Galaxy A42 finds its home at about the midpoint of the A Series and offers a massive screen, a large battery, and 5G to boot. Unlike other models in the A series, there is no non-5G variant to confuse the situation, so we’ll be referring to the phone as the Galaxy A42 in this review for brevity.

Related: The best cheap Samsung phones you can get

In the US, the phone is available from Verizon Wireless, Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung, so you have your choice of retailer. It is also being sold in South Korea, the UK, Taiwan, Thailand, the Netherlands, and selected other markets. In the core international markets, the Galaxy A42 comes in a single model with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, and is available in three colors: Prism Dot Black, Prism Dot White, and Prism Dot Gray.

It goes head-to-head with other ~$400 phones such as the Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G, the Apple iPhone SE, the Google Pixel 4a, and more.

Here are the details.

How is the hardware?

The Samsung Galaxy A42 front profile in hand.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Samsung makes a decent piece of hardware. The Galaxy A42 is a mid-range phone, so it keeps materials and sex appeal in check. But that doesn’t make it boring or staid. The phone is about exactly what I expect to get for the price point, and that’s absolutely fine.

You might say it looks like a glass sandwich, but that’s not quite what’s going on. The phone has a polycarbonate frame with a plastic rear panel and a Gorilla Glass 3 front panel. Samsung assembled the pieces together tightly. I didn’t see any gaps in the seams or other blemishes in the build.

The rear panel is eye-catching. Whether you opt for the black, white, or gray model, the “Prism Dot” effect gives you a four-tone pattern on the back. Samsung lent us the Prism Dot Black colorway and I rather like the way the pattern on the rear panel works. It may not appeal to everyone, but at least it stands out to some degree. Unlike some of its more expensive sister devices, Samsung also kept the square camera module in check.

The Samsung Galaxy A42 left rear profile in hand.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Thanks to the 6.6-inch display, it’s a large device. It measures 164.4 x 75.9 x 8.6mm and weighs in at 193g. If your priority is a big phone, the Galaxy A42 has you covered. It’s not overly awkward, but it is a handful. The smooth plastics are a bit on the slippery side, though that also means the phone slides into your pocket with ease. There’s no IP rating for this phone, which we wouldn’t necessarily expect at this price point.

If your priority is a big phone, the Galaxy A42 has you covered. It's not overly awkward, but it is a handful.

Samsung has done well with the controls and ports. The power button and volume toggle are on the right edge and have good travel and feedback. The positioning is just right. There’s a combo SIM/microSD card tray on the left edge of the phone, and the Galaxy A42 can handle memory cards up to 1TB.

You’ll find the USB-C port, headphone jack, and downward-firing speaker on the bottom of the Galaxy A42. I appreciate the headphone jack and was impressed with the mono sound from the sole speaker. The speaker generates plenty of volume and clarity is good at lower settings, though it breaks up a bit if you crank it all the way up. My only real complaint is that the speaker is easy to cover with your finger when holding the phone sideways to watch videos.

The Samsung Galaxy A42 screen in hand.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

On to the display. The 6.6-inch screen fills the majority of the phone’s front panel, though there is a U-shaped notch at the top and a slight chin along the bottom.

The phone’s Super AMOLED display offers HD+ resolution with 1,600 x 720 pixels at the standard 60Hz rate. Other $400 phones have Full HD+ screens, so I am a little disappointed with the resolution here — more so because I’ve seen 720p screens that have looked sharper. Close inspection of the display means easy-to-spot pixels. On-screen elements such as icons and text are slightly rough around the edges. That’s not to say the screen is hard to read. It’s totally fine; it could simply be better. The good news is that viewing angles are good, outdoor visibility is fine, and the screen otherwise delivers a solid experience. Conversely, the Galaxy A52 5G has a Full HD+ screen at 120Hz, so if you want a Samsung phone with a smoother screen experience you’ll have to fork over more cash.

See also: The best power banks for fast-charging your Samsung smartphone

Last, the fingerprint reader. It’s built into the screen, which is a cool bit of tech to see at this price point (in the US at least). However, I found it a bit of a pain to train the first time and performance was a bit mixed once I did get it trained. It was often as quick to use a pattern or PIN as it was the fingerprint reader. Your mileage may vary.

In sum, the Samsung Galaxy A42 is a solidly designed and built device. It’s not the most exciting handset in the market but it offers a good everyday experience when it comes to usability, aesthetics, and features.

How powerful is the Galaxy A42?

Playing Asphalt 9 on the Samsung Galaxy A42.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A42’s performance is a little up and down. It is endowed with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor — same as the Galaxy A52 5G — with an Adreno 619 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. That’s a solid combination, though we’d prefer to see a minimum of 6GB of RAM for future-proofing. The Snapdragon 750G sits in the middle of Qualcomm’s stable of upper mid-range processors. It features slightly newer CPU cores when compared to the Snapdragon 765/768 series, though it makes concessions in graphical processing power and machine learning capabilities.

The phone did a fine job with the easy stuff, but intense games are a different story.

What does this mean in the real world? The Galaxy A42 serves up smooth daily performance. Animations were stutter-free, apps opened and closed quickly, and I didn’t encounter any regular performance snags. The camera app, in particular, ran very well. The phone did a fine job with the easy stuff. For example, the simple games preinstalled, such as Candy Crush, ran perfectly on the Galaxy A42. Intense games were a different story. The phone really struggled with the graphics-rich Asphalt 9, which demonstrated choppy gameplay and janky sound.

Benchmark performance was somewhat uneven. The phone ran CPU benchmarks lickety-split but didn’t fare so well when it came time to push the GPU. In our homegrown Speed Test G performance benchmark, the phone ran the gauntlet in two minutes 36 seconds, which is about where a mid-range phone typically lands. This lines up with what we know about the Snapdragon 750G’s CPU/GPU capabilities.

More reading: What is an SoC? Everything you need to know about smartphone chipsets

While the Galaxy A42  is far from the best budget gaming machine in the market, it absolutely suffices for normal everyday smartphone needs.

What is the Galaxy A42’s battery life like?

The Samsung Galaxy A42 screen showing the battery life.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Samsung went big with the Galaxy A42’s battery. It boasts a 5,000mAh power cell, which is what we like to see in phones at any price and is quickly becoming the new normal for phones at the $400 mark.

Here is where the screen really helps the phone. With the HD+ resolution and standard 60Hz refresh rate, the screen doesn’t require as much battery power as a higher-resolution or faster display might need. That’s good news for the Galaxy A42 and potential owners, though it doesn’t quite justify all the aforementioned caveats about the overall display experience.

Related: The best phone charging accessories

The Galaxy A42 easily sailed through two full days of usage. It wasn’t gasping for breath at the end of the second day, either; it often still had 10% or more in the tank come the close of day two. I was very impressed with screen-on time, which exceeded nine hours. The Galaxy A42 absolutely delivers excellent battery life.

Of course, you have controls over the battery to extend battery life should you need to. There’s the basic power-saving mode, as well as a tool for controlling how much power apps draw when they’re open in the background. These can help push battery life even higher when required.

The A42 easily sailed through two full days of usage.

Charging speeds are limited to 15W. The in-box charger meets the phone’s 15W speed and charges the phone at a medium rate. In my tests, the phone took just over two hours to charge fully from dead. That feels pretty slow when you consider some phones can charge in half an hour these days, but it’s not bad for a mid-range device.

There’s no wireless charging and we wouldn’t expect that feature at this price point anyway.

How good is the camera?

The Samsung Galaxy A42 camera module.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Mid-range phones are not known for killer cameras, but the Samsung Galaxy A42 manages to get by. The phone has three lenses on the rear, with the main camera of 48MP at f/1.8, an ultra-wide camera of 8MP at f/2.2, and a depth camera of 2MP at f/2.4. These are joined by a selfie camera on front at 13MP. Video capture is limited to a maximum of 4K at 30fps.

Related: The best budget camera phones you can buy

The main shooter does well when there’s plenty of light. Shots I took outdoors were clean, in focus, and showed good color. Plenty of detail is visible in each shot though the white balance was a tad inconsistent at times. Things change when you go indoors, however. The amount of grain seems to go up exponentially as there’s less and less light. The HDR function barely seems to work, and photos are filled with overly bright and overly dark spots. The flash can help in a pinch, but not much. While indoor shooting is a challenge to many phones, I’ve seen better from other phones in this price range, such as the Pixel 4a.

A handy picker lets you jump from 0.5x to 1x, 2x, 4x, and 10x. While the o.5x is handled by the ultra-wide lens, everything else is zoomed via cropping. I was pretty pleased with the ultra-wide lens, which handled color and exposure well. Focus was pretty good and there was little distortion around the edges of the frame. Zooming in is another story. Up to 2x looked acceptable, but the 4x and 10x shots I got were a noisy mess, as you can see in the samples below.

Shooting portraits worked out well, thanks to the depth sensor. I thought the phone’s ability to score accurate edge detection was good and it dialed in a pleasant amount of background blur. The same applies to portraits taken with the selfie camera. The selfie camera tended to underexpose some shots, but the focus was still good and the white balance was more or less accurate. People who love their selfies should be pleased enough.

Low-light samples turned out grainy and soft. There is a dedicated night mode and it does okay when shooting stuff like cityscapes. Shooting in the near or total dark, however, won’t net you much as you can see in the sample below. The night mode wasn’t able to pull any detail out of the trees nor the yard below. I was particularly disappointed with the lack of sharpness in night mode given I had propped the phone up against my car for stability.

The Galaxy A42’s camera application is carried over from other Samsung devices. It has the expected configuration of shutter controls on one side and quick settings on the other. The shooting mode carousel includes photo, video, Single Take, and Fun. The Fun shooting mode adopts filters directly from Snapchat. This is a feature that is most likely to be used by kids. The More tab is where all the other shooting modes are buried, such as portrait, slow motion, and panorama.

The video I shot with the Samsung Galaxy A42 was on point for a mid-range phone. That is to say that it was generally sharp and showed proper color. Exposure was somewhat uneven depending on what I was aiming at, but overall the 4K results appear to be clean. Capturing detail in low light was problematic, but that’s not surprising for a phone in this category.

You can view full-sized photo samples in this Google Drive folder.

Anything else?

  • Software: The phone ships with Android 11 and Samsung’s One UI 3.1 — the latest from Samsung. The company had until recently shipped its low-cost phones with older software, so it’s nice to see that things are up to date here. One UI 3.1 is a fine user interface skin in general. It offers an app drawer and access to the Google Discover feed, as well as Samsung’s Free feed if you prefer it. There’s some bad news: bloatware. The Verizon version of this phone is downright packed with bloatware, including a whole raft of Yahoo-branded apps, as well as a half-dozen games, and Verizon apps. Thank goodness most of it can be uninstalled.
  • System updates: In a clutch move, Samsung has made a full commitment to three years of software updates for its phones, which means the Galaxy A42 will stay up-to-date for a longer period of time — as long as Google’s Pixel phones, no less. That should make Galaxy A42 owners feel better about their investment.
  • 5G: The Galaxy A42’s Snapdragon 750G processor includes the X52 modem for 5G support. Notably, this includes not just the standard sub-6GHz 5G signals, but mmWave too. This is typically reserved only for flagships to provide the very fastest possible data speeds on supported networks such as Verizon. Most of the Verizon signal near my home is the sub-6GHz variety and the phone did a fair job connecting to Verizon’s 5G service. I have tested other phones that do a better job of grabbing onto Verizon 5G. That said, top speeds were mediocre when 5G was available. I hit only 100Mbps down, and uploads were limited to about 20Mbps. Not very impressive for 5G and what we know it can deliver, but if you do live in a mmWave-enabled location you might fare a lot better.

Samsung Galaxy A42 specs

  Samsung Galaxy A42
Display 6.6-inch Super AMOLED
1,600 x 720 HD+
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 750 5G
Storage 128GB
MicroSD (1TB)
Camera Wide: 48MP, f/1.8
Ultra-Wide: 8MP, f/2.2
Depth: 2MP, f/2.4

Front: 13MP

Video: 4K @ 30fps, 720p @ 240/480fps
Connectivity 5G mmWave, sub-6GHz
Wi-Fi 5
Bluetooth 5.0
Battery 5,000mAh
15W wired charging
Dimensions 164.4 x 75.9 x 8.6mm
Colors Prism Dot Black, Prism Dot White, Prism Dot Gray

Value and competition

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
The Samsung Galaxy A42 boasts a 6.6-inch display, 5,000mAh battery, and 5G. It also serves up a triple-lens camera system, the latest version of One UI, and an update commitment from Samsung.

At $399 for full retail, the Samsung Galaxy A42’s price tag is a little bit hard to swallow. It would be better if you can score it for free on contract from Verizon. What bugs me most is the HD+ display. While the lower resolution helps contribute to the phone’s outstanding battery life, a screen this big is begging for Full HD+ resolution. On the plus side, the screen also helps the processor, which performs better in this phone than it did in the pricier Galaxy A52 5G. Other things in the phone’s favor include sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G support, Android 11 with One UI 3.1, and a solid software commitment from Samsung. That’s not to be taken lightly.

The most obvious competitors to the Galaxy A42 are Samsung’s own Galaxy A32 5G ($279) and the Galaxy A52 5G ($499). The Galaxy A32 5G has less storage and lacks mmWave 5G, but offers the same camera configuration save for the addition of a macro camera. The Galaxy A52 5G has more RAM, but also lacks mmWave and has a smaller 4,500mAh battery. However, it improves the main camera to 64MP and the selfie camera to 32MP. It also has a much better screen.

See more: The best Verizon phones for every budget

One phone specifically in Verizon’s roster that’s worth considering is the TCL 10 5G UW ($399). It’s a bit outdated at this point but it’s one of the few budget phones with mmWave 5G.

As for non-Samsung and non-Verizon handsets, you might look at the Motorola G Stylus 5G ($399), which has the same price tag and a built-in stylus, but a lesser processor. There’s also the Google Pixel 4a ($349), which lacks 5G but has a better camera and clean Android. Then there’s the Apple iPhone SE ($399), which offers quite a lot of bang for the buck. Apple’s budget phone throws in wireless charging and an IP rating but doesn’t support 5G — plus, it runs iOS which may be a dealbreaker for some. You could also consider the OnePlus Nord N10 5G ($299), though OnePlus’ one year of software updates is a real downer.

European buyers get a couple of extra great options, the most notable of which being the OnePlus Nord (£379) and the Poco F3 (€349).

Samsung Galaxy A42 review: The verdict

The Samsung Galaxy A42 rear panel standing upright.

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Samsung mostly covered its bases with the Galaxy A42. The phone is a solid package that offers a lot in the way of functionality.

It boasts an appealing design that may not be for everyone, but at least it stands out as unique. The screen is big and bright, even if it is lower resolution than some competitors. The processor delivers the everyday performance people demand, though it is a bit on the sluggish side when it comes to intense gaming.

There is a ton of competition in this space, and the Samsung Galaxy A42 struggles to carve a niche.

Battery life is the big winner here, which benefits from the screen and processor combination. You can count on two full days of usage from this phone, which is more than most other handsets offer, though charging speeds aren’t the quickest. There’s a very welcome headphone jack and though the speaker is a mono affair it delivers solid sound. Memory card support is also a nice bonus alongside the 128GB of built-in storage.

Overall though, the Samsung Galaxy A42 struggles to truly carve a niche among tough competition. Plenty of ~$400 phones swim in the same sea and have better screens and cameras. If there’s one reason to champion the Galaxy A42 above its peers, it is surely battery life. Buy the A42 for its stellar battery power over any other reason.

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