Cat S42 review: Rugged and enterprise-ready, with great battery life but sluggish performance Review

Cat-branded smartphones, which are created and manufactured by the Bullitt Group, array from entirely rugged, aspect-laden devices like the flagship five.two-inch Cat S61 (£649) to the five.65-inch S52 (£380), which though still impressively sturdy, features a sleeker and a lot more customer-pleasant design.

Filling a hole between these devices arrives the new five.five-inch Cat S42, an business-completely ready rugged smartphone aimed at subject staff, very first responders, clinic personnel and anyone else who needs a challenging, uncomplicated-to-cleanse system that can cope with mainstream workloads.

With the customer sector speedily saturating, the business and ‘firstline’ sectors are having expanding interest, with Samsung, for case in point, just lately offering its very first rugged mobile phone for some time in the condition of the Galaxy XCover Professional.

The Cat S42’s business qualifications involve three years of safety patch protect and at minimum one particular Android model update through its life span. It supports the Android Organization aspect set, such as Google’s Zero-touch enrolment plan, and has been analyzed from a array of enrolment and plan deployment check instances with top EMM alternative providers (VMware Workspace A person, IBM MaaS 360, SOTI, Mobile Iron).

The Cat S42, which succeeds the late-2017 Cat S41, expenses £229 and is detailed as ‘coming soon’ on Cat phones’ Uk website at the time of creating.


The five.five-inch Cat S42 has an IP68 ranking for dust/drinking water resistance and is MIL-STD 810H compliant. It runs on the MediaTek Helio A20 chipset with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of inner storage, driven by a four,200mAh battery.

Illustrations or photos: Charles McLellan / ZDNet


The Cat S42 seems to be like a proper rugged mobile phone: it can be chunky and comparatively large for a five.five-inch handset, measuring 77.2mm huge by 161.3mm deep by twelve.7mm thick and weighing 220g. It has a grippy, ribbed matte-black rubberised again plate, protecting bumpers on the corners, as well as hinged handles for the (legacy) Micro-USB cost/connection port at the base, the 3.5mm headset jack on the top, and the SIM/MicroSD card tray on the left facet.

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There are huge bezels bordering the five.five-inch monitor, which give the Cat S42 some thing of an outdated-fashioned look — the monitor-to-body ratio is just 62.7{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f}, compared to modern-day negligible-bezel phones with ratios about 90{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f}.

The monitor by itself is an IPS panel with average High definition+ resolution (1,440 x 720 pixels, 293ppi), very good maximum brightness and huge viewing angles. It is really usable with moist fingers and when putting on gloves, is shielded by Gorilla Glass five and also a little recessed, with the bordering ridge giving extra safety. Picture quality is great for comparatively static photos, but scrolling could be smoother and the sluggish adaptive brightness aspect failed to get the job done nicely for me: I experienced to switch to manual and switch up the brightness to get good out of doors readability, and even then the reflective monitor meant I usually experienced to look for a shady location.

SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (totally free PDF) (TechRepublic)

You can find no fingerprint sensor or deal with recognition: you unlock this mobile phone with a common 6-digit PIN. If you never want to preserve getting into your PIN during the day, you can use Android’s Good Lock aspect to preserve the handset unlocked when it can be about your individual, in certain trusted areas and when related to trusted devices like a Bluetooth check out or your car’s infotainment method.

The Cat S42 has an IP68 ranking, which usually means it can resist the ingress of sand, dust and grime, and can cope with immersion in drinking water to 1.5m depth for up to 35 minutes. It is really also MIL-STD 810H compliant and can hence cope with specified concentrations of thermal shock, vibration, humidity and salt mist. The handset has also been fall-analyzed on every single facet and corner multiple situations from 1.eight metres (6 toes) on to a steel surface area. 


The Cat S42 can accommodate two SIMs and a MicroSD card at the very same time. The copper-colored Programmable Essential can also initiate a PTT (Push To Converse) contact.

Picture: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

There are ports and controls on all sides of the Cat S42. The suitable facet has a textured energy button and volume up/down controls, though the SIM/MicroSD card tray is at the rear of a protect on the left, up coming to copper-colored Programmable Essential, which can also initiate PTT (Push To Converse) mode with suited app guidance. The twin-SIM variant of the S42 reviewed right here can accommodate two SIMs and a MicroSD card at the very same time, which is helpful. You can find a 3.5mm headphone jack under a protect at the top, and a speaker grille at the base, up coming to the coated Micro-USB charging/connection port. Audio quality from the speaker is realistic, but you may want to use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker for the finest audio knowledge.

At the entrance, the top bezel residences the 5MP entrance digital camera, earpiece and ambient mild sensor, though the again has the major 13MP digital camera and an LED flash device.


The Cat S42 is driven by an entry-degree MediaTek Helio A20 chipset with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU functioning at up to 1.8GHz and a 550MHz IMG PowerVR GE8300 GPU. There is a modest 3GB of RAM and a miserly 32GB of inner storage — although as noted above, this can be augmented with external MicroSD storage (up to 128GB).

The Cat S42’s 4G LTE modem supports 9 LTE bands, which is much less than the S61’s 14, so choose notice if you’re scheduling to vacation commonly. For other wireless connections, you get wi-fi (two.four/5GHz 802.11ac), Bluetooth (five), NFC and GPS (GPS, AGPS, Glonass, BeiDou, Galileo). You can find also an FM radio, as well as an e-compass, proximity, ambient mild and accelerometer sensors.

The Cat S42’s major 13MP digital camera has an f/two. lens and can finest be explained as ample (see photos underneath) — a description that also applies to the 5MP entrance digital camera. Images isn’t really a precedence for this rugged mobile phone, but it provides suitable place-and-shoot photos.


Illustrations or photos from the Cat S42’s 13MP major digital camera.

Illustrations or photos: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

Android ten was mounted on our critique device You can find no OS overlay, but a good quantity of pre-mounted software program such as Toolbox, which provides a curated collection of applications under numerous headings — Organization Tools, Cat Apps, Development, Farming, Outside, Rugged Tools. If you come across that the 32GB of inner storage is filling up quickly, you can often uninstall some of the 3rd-celebration applications (or purchase a MicroSD card).


As nicely as a variety of 3rd-celebration applications, the Cat S42 arrives with Toolbox, which curates a array of applications suited for a rugged mobile phone.

Illustrations or photos: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

The battery is a sizeable four,200mAh device with quickly charging guidance (although it can be not as sizeable as the five,000mAh battery in the Cat S41). You can find no guidance for wireless charging.

Functionality & battery existence

Functionality is the Cat S42’s weakest area, many thanks to its entry-degree Helio A20 chipset and 3GB of RAM. It delivered regular scores of 132 (solitary core) and 483 (multi core) in the Geekbench five CPU check, but unsuccessful to operate the Compute GPU check. Main scores for Android phones in the CPU tests approach 900 (solitary core) and 3300 (multi core) at the time of creating.

We also ran the PCMark for Android Function two. suite, which handles web searching, video clip editing, creating, photograph editing and info manipulation. The general Function two. rating was 4915, which is on the reduced facet — course-top handsets currently arrive in at about 13000.

Beneath the PCMark Function two. battery check, the Cat S42 took 18 hours 37 minutes to go from 100{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f} to 20{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f} of the four,200mAh battery’s capacity. On this basis, you ought to get at minimum two working times of battery existence prior to requiring a recharge, which is spectacular. This also beats the reported 13h 16m outcome for its predecessor, the Cat S41, regardless of the latter’s greater five,000mAh battery.


Illustrations or photos: Cat Phones


The Cat S42 is some thing of a blended bag. It is really adequately rugged, economical at £229, features very good business options, and the battery existence is outstanding. On the other hand, the mixture of the Helio A20 chipset, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of inner storage is distinctly entry-degree, and there are monitor difficulties (scrolling, adaptive brightness, reflectivity), confined 4G frequency guidance, as well as a legacy Micro-USB port to contend with.

Organisations with budgetary constraints might come across the Cat S42 ample for their needs, but Samsung’s renewed push into the business rugged smartphone area with the $499.99/£529 Galaxy XCover Professional will be tempting if value is much less of an problem.

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