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Samsung Galaxy A42 5G Review - Under 20K 5G but with 720p display?

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How does the Samsung Galaxy A42 5G fare after a month of use? Let's find out.
Samsung Galaxy A42 5G Review - Under 20K 5G from Sammy?
Samsung Galaxy A42's handheld

To recap, in October 2020, Samsung confirmed the specs of the Galaxy A42 5G and arrived in the Philippines thru Globe and Smart in November 2020.

The A42 5G features a massive 6.6-inch curved Super AMOLED display with 1600 x 720 resolution. Inside is the 8nm Snapdragon 750G octa-core processor, Adreno 619 GPU, 6GB LPDDR4X RAM, 128GB UFS 2.1, and 5,000mAh battery with 15W Adaptive fast charging.

Running the show is One UI 2.1 based on Android 10. For cameras, it has a 20MP f/2.2 selfie camera and at the back is a 48MP main camera, 8MP ultra-wide camera, 5MP macro, and 5MP depth sensor.

For only PHP 19,990, the new A42 5G, is Samsung's most affordable 5G capable smartphone in the Philippines as of this article's writing.

Let's dive in!

Multimedia Experience

Super AMOLED Display
Super AMOLED Display

In front of the A42 5G is the large 6.6-inch 2.5D curved Super AMOLED with 1600 x 720p resolution.
Netflix on the A42 5G!
Netflix on the A42 5G!

At maximum brightness, the display is able to be readable outdoors even under direct sunlight. Because of the AMOLED panel, the colors are punchy, the blacks are deep and the contrast is strong.

HD+ screen on a 5G phone is disappointing

The panel is at 60Hz and has a resolution o 1600 x 720p. It is sharp enough for most uses but a lot of the competition in the price segment offer 1080p and/or 90 to 120Hz refresh rates.

This means that you can't take advantage of 5G's super-fast high-resolution streaming.
Top and bottom
Top and bottom

Above the display is a super slim slit with the earpiece and at the bottom side of the phone is the speaker grill. The earpiece is used for calls only while the bottom-firing speaker is the main speaker.

It gets loud enough to the point that in a closed room can compensate for the stereo's volume. Nothing beats stereo's directional experience though.

There are two microphone ports. One beside the bottom speaker and the other is on the top part of the phone.

This results in decent microphone recording with noise cancellation. Our callers have yet to complain about voice quality during calls.

Cameras

Rear camera module
Rear camera module

At the back of the A42 5G is a rear quad-camera set-up made up of a 48MP f/1.8 MP main camera, 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera, 5MP f/2.4 macro, and 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor with LED Flash.
Camera UI

Included camera modes are Pro, Panorama, Food, Night, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Pro Video, Super Slow-Mo, Slow Motion, Macro, and Hyperlapse.

The Pro mode allows for control of ISO (50-3200), Shutter Speed (1/6000-10 secs), White Balance, and exposure compensation (+-2 stops).

A new Macro mode has been introduced using the 5MP f/2.4 macro camera.

Plenty of cameras!

Introduced in the flagship S20 series, the A42 5G features the "Single Take" camera mode. Once you press the shutter button, the A42 5G will take photos and videos with all cameras. It will then pick the best from all the photos and videos and put them all in one album.

In our experience with the S20 series and Note20 series, Single Take is best used when you want to capture a precious split-second once in a lifetime moment. It is great that Samsung is adding the feature to mid-range devices.

Because of the ability to shoot both photos and videos at the same time, you can capture the moment in both forms and pick which you like better.

Rear Camera Samples

The main camera in daylight
The main camera in daylight
Rear ultra-wide camera daylight
Rear ultra-wide camera daylight

In daylight, the main and ultra-wide cameras produce stunning images that are sharp, detailed, and vibrant. Almost no discernible noise or grain. The post-processing adds a hint of extra saturation while the contrast is strong. Quite impressive for the price. 
main camera close-up
Main camera close-up

The main camera can also take pictures at a decent distance away from the subject and with dense details, razor blade sharpness, vibrant color, and strong sharpness.
Main camera indoors
Main camera indoors
Ultra-wide camera indoors
Ultra-wide camera indoors

Indoors, the image quality remains nearly the same as in daylight but with slightly less sharpness. Nevertheless, the image is sharp, detailed, vibrant, contrasty and almost no noise or grain.
Main camera low light
Main camera low light
Ultra-wide camera low light
Ultra-wide camera low light
Night mode
Night mode

In low-light, all three cameras have noticeably more grain in shadow areas than in daylight and in indoors.

The main camera is able to produce sharp images with decent color but light sources overexpose easily. The ultra-wide camera is noticeably softer. If you look at the ultra-wide low light image, the image is sharper than competing ultra-wide cameras in low light but the image could be a little brighter. Otherwise, the cameras perform well for the price in low light.

The Night Mode image remedies most of the concerns with the normal auto Photo mode so we recommend using it when shooting static objects. We wish Samsung added the Night Mode to the ultra-wide camera as well.
Notch on top
Notch on top

On the front display's punch hole is the 32MP f/2.2 selfie camera modes include Photo, Video, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Single Take, and Selfie Night Mode.

The Live Focus and Live Focus Video modes have up to 7 levels of blur and up to 8 levels of face smoothening. There is no Pro Mode with the front-facing cameras.

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie day light
Selfie daylight
Selfie Live Focus
Selfie Live Focus
Selfie indoors
Selfie indoors
Selfie low light
Selfie low light
Selfie Night Mode
Selfie Night Mode

For selfies, the Samsung Galaxy A42 5G features a 20MP f/2.2 selfie camera. The camera app's selfie camera can use the Photo, Video, Single Take, and Night Mode.

The selfie camera can take sharp, detailed, and vibrant selfies in daylight and indoors.

It struggles the most in low light where there is a significant loss of sharpness and detail because of noise reduction.

There is a Night Selfie Mode that helps with this but the subject would have to stay still for a few seconds.

The rear-facing camera can capture up to 4K at 30fps without stabilization and up to 1080p at 30fps with stabilization while the front-facing camera can shoot up to 1080p at 30fps with stabilization. We had hoped that there was a 60fps for video but there wasn't for both the front and rear-facing camera.

Samsung's Super Steady mode is present but will limit resolution to only 1080p at 30fps with a noticeable crop. 

For the best results in video from the main and selfie cameras, we recommend using either the Super Steady mode (rear cam only) or the 1080p at 30fps with stabilization. Both have their pros and cons.

The standard auto mode with stabilization has a wider field of view but is more prone to the jello effect and the artifacts from stabilization while the super steady mode has a large crop and has a noticeably tighter field of view.

In summary, the video recording game of the A42 5G isn't the best but it is workable for its price point.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G Benchmarks
Samsung Galaxy A42 5G Benchmarks

Our review unit from Samsung features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G SoC with the Adreno 619 GPU, 6GB LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB UFS 2.1. In AnTuTu it scored 323,567 and in GeekBench, it scored 652 in the single-core test and it scored 1844 in the multi-core test.
3DMark Wild Life benchmark results
3DMark Wild Life benchmark results

In 3D Mark's new Wild Life text, the Galaxy A42 5G scored 1108 in Vulcan with an average frame rate of 6.6. It lost 1 percent battery during the duration of the test and the temperature went from 30-degrees to 31-degree celsius.
Genshin Impact Graphic settings
Genshin Impact Graphic settings

With the latest demanding games like Genshin Impact, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G only managed to get "Low" graphic settings at 30fps. In actual gameplay, the game would drop frames even when just panning the in-game camera. The phone is weirdly struggling at the low settings of this game!

In NBA 2K20, the story is somewhat similar. It was able to get up to mostly medium settings but we recommend going to low for faster frame rates.
2-day battery phone with constant LTE and WiFi connection
2-day battery phone with constant LTE and WiFi connection

Inside the Galaxy A42 5G is a large 5,000mAh battery that supports Samsung's 15W Adaptive Fast Charging. Our usual PCMark Battery test kept crashing.

Legit near 2-day battery life!

In our daily usage where we were constantly connected to either WiFi, LTE, and 5G (whenever available) while doing our routine tasks with the phone to call, to text, to web surf, to e-mail, to stream music and video, and to navigate with Waze, the Galaxy A42 5G was able to offer a day and a half of battery life. In our screenshot above, it was able to run with 5 hours of screen on time but with 40+ percent battery left. This is a near 2-day phone.

With the 15W charger, it takes under 90 minutes to fully charge the battery for 0 percent. But because the phone can last for a day and a half, charging it overnight or topping up whenever you can make the phone last for days.
One UI 2.1
One UI 2.1

Under the hood is One UI 2.1 based on Android 10 that was first introduced in the S21 series. It offers minor improvements to OneUI 2.0. Minor changes and some tweaks were done in the UI and under the hood. Overall, it is still a feature-packed skin of Android. Because of the long list of features, it can be hard to find the feature you are looking for. The search bar helps but It would be great if Samsung could slim it down by compartmentalizing features and just allow us to download the feature we want and need.

Other than that, OneUI 2.1 has been running smoothly but with occasional slowdowns. Some features like searching for settings in the settings app can take a while Single Take in the camera app can take around 5 to 8 seconds to finish.

When we first received the unit in December we would occasionally experience ghost touch-like symptoms from the display. A January OTA update remedied this. Make sure to update to the latest firmware.

The A42 5G connects wirelessly via WiFi, 4G LTE, and Bluetooth 5.0 and connects wired through the USB Type-C. The USB Type-C port supports OTG while the wireless connection via WiFi, 4G LTE, and Bluetooth 5 is stable and as fast as you would expect from a Qualcomm chipset.

Both the Face Unlock and the ultra-sonic In-Display Fingerprint scanner set-up process are fast and straight forward. The Face Unlock quickly detects my face and unlocks the phone as soon as the display is active. It is also able to detect my face even if I take off my glasses. It does struggle when you are trying to Face Unlock in a dim environment and when you are wearing a mask. The display brightens up to be able to compensate for this.

Update: We received an OTA update and installed it. The performance issues where the phone lags in normal use have been reduced. We hope Samsung continues to release updates to further improve the phone.

Pros - Design, sturdy build, great cameras, 2-day battery life, 5G connectivity
Cons - 720p resolution, unoptimized performance, 15W charging

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G Specs

Display: 6.6-inch 2.5D curved Super AMOLED screen w/ HD+ 1600 x 720 resolution at 266 ppi
CPU: 2.2GHz 8nm Snapdragon 750G octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 619
RAM: 6GB LPDDR4X
ROM: 128GB UFS 2.1 expandable via microSD card slot up to 1TB
Back Camera: 48MP f/1.8 + 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle + 5MP f/2.4 macro + 5MP f/2.4 depth + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 20MP f/2.2
Battery: 5,000mAh w/ 15W Adaptive Fast Charging
OS: Android 10 w/ One UI 2.1
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), 5G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, OTG, NFC, GPS (L1 + L5), A-GPS, GLONASS, Galileo (E1 + E5a), dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: In-Display fingerprint sensor, Dolby Atmos, USB-C, Colors: Prism Dot Gray, Prism Dot Black
Dimensions: 164.4 x 75.9 x 8.6 mm
Weight: 190 g
Price: PHP 19,990

Verdict

Samsung Galaxy A42's rear
Samsung Galaxy A42's rear

We were expecting a lot from the Samsung Galaxy A42 5G and it delivers in terms of 5G connectivity, build quality, design, audio experience, and battery life.

We only have two major concerns. The first is that the Super AMOLED display is vibrant but the 720p resolution is a concern. While the second concern is that this phone has performance issues. It is struggling with both normal use and when it comes to games. We expect more at this competitive price range.

Hopefully, Samsung can seed an update to improve the performance of this device. It is weird seeing a phone with a low-resolution screen and a capable mid-range processor that lags.

Otherwise, we highly commend its good performing cameras, its 2-day battery life from the 5,000mAh battery, its sturdy build and vibrant Super AMOLED display panel. We dropped the phone almost every week and we have yet to see a bump or scratch and the battery lasts so long that we could live with the 15W Adaptive Fast charging.

If you can live with 720p and the performance issues of this phone, then the Galaxy A42 5G could be for you!

Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4.25
Cameras - 4.25
Performance - 4
Average - 4.19/5
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