[First Cut] Samsung Galaxy M42 5G: The M series goes 5G, and cuts a few corners

Scoring on chip and networks, tripping up on display?

by: - Last updated on: June 3rd, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • The Galaxy M42 is the first phone in Samsung’s M series to come with support for 5G.
  • The phone is driven by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, which was also seen in the bestselling Mi 10i.
  • Although the M42 sports an AMOLED display, it is rather surprisingly not a full HD one, and there are a few other spec compromises that might disappoint some users.

Samsung had introduced the M series a few years ago to take on the challenge of the likes of Redmi and Realme in the mid-segment (Rs 10,000 to around Rs 25,000 or Rs 30,000). And the series has definitely done its job, emerging as one of the most viable options for anyone looking for a device that performs reliably without too stiff a price tag. And it has now got into the 5G zone with the Galaxy M42.

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5G support and a super processor for the price

And to be honest, our initial feelings are a little mixed. It is always good to see futuristic technologies (and 5G is pretty futuristic – there is little chance of it coming in the near present in India) being available at more affordable price points. And well, the Snapdragon 750G chip on the M42 is good news too, given how well it performed on the very successful Mi 10i – those who hate Exynos will be particularly delighted to see an M series device with a Qualcomm process on it. Of course, it is also good to see a hefty 5000 mAh battery in a relatively lightweight frame (a Samsung specialty). RAM and storage come in options of 6 GB/ 128 GB and 8 GB/ 128 GB, with expandable storage too, and you also get Samsung’s One UI on top of Android 11, with the goodness of Samsung’s Knox security. There is NFC here so you can use Samsung Pay and of course, there is the promise of 5G when it arrives.

All of which is very good for Rs 21,999 for 6 GB/ 128 GB and Rs 23,999 for 8 GB/ 128 GB. In fact, it potentially puts it right in the zone of the Mi 10i, which sports a similar processor.

Fewer display pixels, and camera megapixels

But then come the compromises. And rather unusually for the M series, these do seem to be significant compromises. The starkest of these is the display, which is a 6.6-inch Infinity-U Super AMOLED display but is not a full HD one. We do not know the economics behind the decision, but it is a potentially deal-breaking one in our book, because, forget about its competitors, Samsung’s own M series has a number of devices with a full HD display at lower prices. In fact, this makes the M42 one of the most expensive mainstream Android phones in the market without a full HD display. It does come with an in-display fingerprint scanner, although its refresh rates are a very normal 60 Hz.

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Similarly, megapixels have been sacrificed on the camera front, with the main sensor of 48 megapixels, backed up by an 8-megapixel ultrawide and two 5-megapixel depth and macro cameras. We know that megapixels alone are not a measure of camera quality, but on paper, this does seem like a step back, as does even the 20-megapixel selfie snapper (the M31 has a 64-megapixel main sensor and a 32-megapixel selfie camera, as does the Galaxy M51). And people will be quick to point out that while the 5000 mAh battery is big by market standards, it does represent a climb down from the 6000 mAh one on the M31 and the 7000 mAh one on the M51. A 15W charger again seems odd at this price point, notwithstanding the support for fast charging. And no, there are no stereo speakers here.

A design that grabs attention

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The design is going to divide opinions. Samsung has gone for a dual toned back, a little similar to what we saw on the Galaxy M12 (the camera unit is square too), only this time the upper section is the smaller one as compared to the lower one. We got the Prism Dot Black (there is a Gray version too) and while the top of the back was solid,glossy black, it was the lower part that literally shone, with three different textures that emitted different colours depending on the angle at which light fell on them. It is rather eye catching, although not everyone will like it (we ourselves are a little divided about it). At 8.6 mm, the M42 is impressively slim, and at 193 grammes, again remarkably light for a big battery device. This is not a small phone, but it is very solidly built, although we expect some to complain about the use of carbonate on the back, rather than glass (as used by other brands). Speaking for ourselves, carbonate that feels this solid is just fine with us, although a super glossy finish means that it will pick up smudges.

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Of course we will look at how well the device performs in our review in the coming days, but as of now, the Galaxy M42 leaves us with a host of rather contrasting emotions. It ticks some very important boxes (5G, Snapdragon 750G) but then leaves some other important ones (full HD display, big megapixel cameras) blank. Will what it delivers (and the reliability of the Samsung brand name) enable it to triumph against the likes of the Mi 10i, the Realme X7 and even well specced non-5G phones like the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, the Poco X3 Pro and its own M series siblings? Stay tuned for our review.

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