Samsung Galaxy M42 review: A well-rounded 5G phone with cheaper alternatives

If you think you are the only one at sea trying to figure out the best phone to buy in the 15-20k budget, I’ll bet you aren’t alone. In fact, as a journalist who reads and writes about smartphones all day, I can’t – for the life of me – keep track of all these similarly-named, similarly-specced, similarly-priced smartphones.

For that matter, Samsung’s M-series itself can be pretty confusing. There are M10s, M20s, M30s, M40s and M50s. All of these are priced between Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000, with the M10 series being the most affordable, and M50 being the most premium of the lot.

The Galaxy M42 5G, in particular, is Samsung’s first smartphone in the M-series to be launched with 5G connectivity. It’s also Samsung’s most affordable smartphone with 5G support.

Therefore, before we deep dive into a review of the smartphone, I would like you to first ask yourself these two questions:

Am I specifically looking for a 5G smartphone?

If you are particularly looking to buy a 5G-ready phone, then you must read on.

The Samsung Galaxy M42 5G is one of few choices out there if you are looking for a 5G smartphone on a sub-25k budget.

However, if 5G isn’t crucial to your smartphone needs, I want to respect your time, and I’d rather you look at the Samsung Galaxy M32 or M31, Galaxy M51, Galaxy F62, Poco X3 Pro, OnePlus Nord/Nord CE, Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Motorola G60, iQoo 3, Mi 10i or Realme X3 SuperZoom.

How long do I want to keep using the next smartphone I buy?

Presently, India is testing 5G connectivity, but we are still far away from a nation-wide rollout. Which means that you can’t exactly enjoy any of the benefits of the 5G support on your smartphone, unless your network provider offers that connectivity.

If you tend to frequently upgrade to a new smartphone, you can opt for a non-5G smartphone right now, and switch to a 5G one when the technology is available to use. However, if you like to use a smartphone for 2-3 years at a time, then it makes sense for you to consider a 5G-enabled device.

By 2022, 5G services are expected to start rolling out in India. We still struggle with 4G networks in many rural and even urban areas, so nation-wide availability of 5G connectivity may take some time.

If you’ve gotten this far, chances are that you want to know more about the Galaxy M42 5G. So let’s deep dive:

It’s big on display, design and size

The Samsung Galaxy M42 5G features a 6.6-inch sAMOLED HD+ display, which produces great colours, but its low resolution is a minor irritation.

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G features an sAMOLED HD+ display. Image: Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G features an sAMOLED HD+ display. Image: Nandini Yadav

The smartphone’s display features a large screen-to-body ratio that makes watching videos and movies on the device entertaining. However, the large screen size also means a large form factor. However, Samsung’s signature long-ish rather than wide design, makes the phone comparatively comfortable to hold. Although for people with tiny hands like mine and women (like me) who are still demanding pockets in their clothes, the size of the phone can take a while to get used to.

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G weighs 190 g and is 8.6 mm thick. Image: Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G weighs 190 g and is 8.6 mm thick. Image: Nandini Yadav

In terms of looks, the Galaxy M42 is decent. There’s nothing remarkable about its design, but the “prism” effect on the phone gives it a little bit of life.

I must warn you against the phone’s ‘glasstic’ back that works like a magnet for dust and smudges. If dust bothers you even a little bit, the edges around the slightly-protruding square camera module at the back will need daily cleaning.

The phone’s battery is a survivor

The Galaxy M42 5G is fuelled by a 5,000 mAh battery, with support for 15 W fast charging. The smartphone comes bundled with a 15 W charger.

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G uses a Type-C port for connectivity and also sports a 3.5 mm audio jack. Image: Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G uses a Type-C port for connectivity and also sports a 3.5 mm audio jack. Image: Nandini Yadav

With my average screen time of 4-5 hours a day – which includes using work apps, social media apps, and occasionally the camera app – the Galaxy M42 5G easily lasted me over a day.

Even with gaming, the phone’s battery lasted for a day at least.

However, charging the phone takes a while. With a drained battery, the charger took an hour to get the phone up to 50 percent. If you look at other smartphones in this segment, you can find devices bundled with up to 33 W fast charging.

A smooth performer

The Samsung Galaxy M42 5G is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G processor with 6 GB RAM. That combination seems to work pretty well for the smartphone.

I used the device with all my usual social media and work apps installed, and not once did I experience any lag or stutter or delayed app loading time. I played two games on this phone – Mortal Kombat and Crash On the Run. Both games ran pretty smoothly, the graphics looked good, the swipes and jumps and the kicks were pretty responsive.

I was able to play games on the Galaxy M42 5G without any lag or stutter but a high resolution display would have made a game like Mortal Kombat more fun. Image: Nandini Yadav

I was able to play games on the Galaxy M42 5G without any lag or stutter but a high resolution display would have made a game like Mortal Kombat more fun. Image: Nandini Yadav

I did experience the top half of the device heating up after gaming for a while, and even when using the camera (especially in video mode) for over 20-30 minutes. But it didn’t heat up enough to be bothersome.

It’s camera does not disappoint (except in low-light)

The Samsung Galaxy M42 5G sports a 48 MP primary camera, an 8 MP ultra wide-angle camera, a 5 MP depth sensor, and a 5 MP macro camera.

The Galaxy M42 5G’s camera impressed me (mostly).

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G sports a 48 MP quad-camera setup at the back. Image: Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G sports a 48 MP quad-camera setup at the back. Image: Nandini Yadav

Daylight shots on the phone are pretty good. As with most Samsung phones, the camera AI does over-saturate and boost colours in images, but if you mostly take images for social media, you’ll love the results.

Close-up/macro shots are quite decent as well. As close as 4-5 cm, the camera easily and quickly focuses on the subject. Anything closer than 4 cm requires a very stable camera.

Daylight selfies – for which the phone uses a 20 MP camera – on the Galaxy M42 5G are sharp, with punchy colours. The selfie camera has a “beauty filter” switched on by default.

The selfie camera on the Galaxy M42 5G sits in a dew drop notch. Image: Nandini Yadav

The selfie camera on the Galaxy M42 5G sits in a dew drop notch. Image: Nandini Yadav

It’s only when you switch your rear camera to the wide angle or use it for low-light shots that you notice noise. And if you shoot a slo-mo video in low light, then the quality takes a much worse hit.

The Galaxy M42 5G also supports 4K video, but results are strictly average, due to poor video stabilisation.

Embedded below is a carousel of photo and videos samples taken from the Galaxy M42 5G.

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G

Should you buy the Galaxy M42 5G?

To understand if you should buy the Samsung Galaxy M42 5G, there are a few factors you need to first consider:

  • What feature do you use the most in a phone?
  • Do you need a good camera, good display, a good battery, or all of these?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Do you specifically want/need a 5G phone?

On its own, the Galaxy M42 5G is a functional and efficient device. It is the most affordable 5G-ready smartphone that Samsung offers right now. If you are looking for a device with a decent camera setup, a lasting battery, which also allows high-graphic gaming, the Galaxy M42 5G is a good option.

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G comes with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. Image: Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G comes with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. Image: Nandini Yadav

But you also need to consider that, while its a good smartphone overall, the Rs 21,999 price tag still feels unfair, just for the added 5G connectivity, especially when Samsung has cut some corners with the HD+ display.

In the same price segment, Samsung’s own Galaxy M32 or M31, Galaxy M51, Galaxy F62 are good alternatives. And if you are looking for smartphones outside of Samsung, then the Poco X3 Pro, OnePlus Nord/Nord CE, Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Motorola G60, iQoo 3, Mi 10i or Realme X3 SuperZoom, are all great alternatives, and some of these also offer 5G connectivity.