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

Cat-branded smartphones, which are built and produced by the Bullitt Group, variety from absolutely rugged, characteristic-laden units like the flagship five.two-inch Cat S61 (£649) to the five.65-inch S52 (£380), which although nevertheless impressively robust, gives a sleeker and much more client-welcoming design.

Filling a gap concerning these units will come the new five.five-inch Cat S42, an enterprise-prepared rugged smartphone aimed at field workers, 1st responders, healthcare facility employees and anyone else who requirements a rough, quick-to-clean up device that can take care of mainstream workloads.

With the client sector swiftly saturating, the enterprise and ‘firstline’ sectors are acquiring expanding focus, with Samsung, for case in point, just lately featuring its 1st rugged telephone for some time in the form of the Galaxy XCover Pro.

The Cat S42’s enterprise qualifications contain three years of safety patch go over and at least one Android variation update during its lifetime. It supports the Android Business characteristic set, which include Google’s Zero-contact enrolment software, and has been tested against a variety of enrolment and coverage deployment check instances with top EMM alternative vendors (VMware Workspace One particular, IBM MaaS 360, SOTI, Mobile Iron).

The Cat S42, which succeeds the late-2017 Cat S41, costs £229 and is stated as ‘coming soon’ on Cat phones’ Uk site at the time of producing.


The five.five-inch Cat S42 has an IP68 score for dust/h2o resistance and is MIL-STD 810H compliant. It operates on the MediaTek Helio A20 chipset with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, run by a four,200mAh battery.

Images: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

Design and style

The Cat S42 appears to be like a right rugged telephone: it really is chunky and rather weighty for a five.five-inch handset, measuring seventy seven.2mm large by 161.3mm deep by twelve.7mm thick and weighing 220g. It has a grippy, ribbed matte-black rubberised back again plate, protecting bumpers on the corners, as well as hinged addresses for the (legacy) Micro-USB demand/relationship port at the bottom, the 3.5mm headset jack on the top, and the SIM/MicroSD card tray on the left side.

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There are substantial bezels surrounding the five.five-inch display screen, which give the Cat S42 something of an previous-fashioned look — the display screen-to-physique ratio is just sixty{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca}, in comparison to fashionable minimal-bezel telephones with ratios around 90{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca}.

The display screen by itself is an IPS panel with average Hd+ resolution (1,440 x 720 pixels, 293ppi), great optimum brightness and large viewing angles. It’s usable with wet fingers and when donning gloves, is safeguarded by Gorilla Glass five and also a little recessed, with the surrounding ridge providing supplemental protection. Graphic excellent is fine for rather static illustrations or photos, but scrolling could be smoother and the sluggish adaptive brightness characteristic didn’t get the job done very well for me: I experienced to change to manual and turn up the brightness to get decent outdoor readability, and even then the reflective display screen intended I generally experienced to seek out a shady place.

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

There’s no fingerprint sensor or face recognition: you unlock this telephone with a traditional 6-digit PIN. If you don’t want to hold entering your PIN throughout the day, you can use Android’s Good Lock characteristic to hold the handset unlocked when it really is about your individual, in particular dependable spots and when linked to dependable units like a Bluetooth check out or your car’s infotainment technique.

The Cat S42 has an IP68 score, which signifies it can resist the ingress of sand, dust and grime, and can take care of immersion in h2o to 1.5m depth for up to 35 minutes. It’s also MIL-STD 810H compliant and can therefore cope with specified concentrations of thermal shock, vibration, humidity and salt mist. The handset has also been drop-tested on every single side and corner numerous situations from 1.8 metres (6 feet) on to a steel surface. 


The Cat S42 can accommodate two SIMs and a MicroSD card at the very same time. The copper-colored Programmable Critical can also initiate a PTT (Thrust To Converse) get in touch with.

Graphic: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

There are ports and controls on all sides of the Cat S42. The right side has a textured power button and volume up/down controls, although the SIM/MicroSD card tray is at the rear of a go over on the left, next to copper-colored Programmable Critical, which can also initiate PTT (Thrust To Converse) mode with appropriate application assistance. The dual-SIM variant of the S42 reviewed listed here can accommodate two SIMs and a MicroSD card at the very same time, which is helpful. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack underneath a go over at the top, and a speaker grille at the bottom, next to the included Micro-USB charging/relationship port. Audio excellent from the speaker is realistic, but you are going to want to use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker for the very best audio practical experience.

At the front, the top bezel residences the 5MP front camera, earpiece and ambient gentle sensor, although the back again has the most important 13MP camera and an LED flash unit.


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

The Cat S42’s 4G LTE modem supports 9 LTE bands, which is a lot less than the S61’s fourteen, so take notice if you are setting up to journey broadly. For other wireless connections, you get wi-fi (two.four/5GHz 802.11ac), Bluetooth (five), NFC and GPS (GPS, AGPS, Glonass, BeiDou, Galileo). There’s also an FM radio, as well as an e-compass, proximity, ambient gentle and accelerometer sensors.

The Cat S42’s most important 13MP camera has an f/two. lens and can very best be explained as suitable (see illustrations or photos underneath) — a description that also applies to the 5MP front camera. Photography just isn’t a precedence for this rugged telephone, but it provides satisfactory place-and-shoot illustrations or photos.


Images from the Cat S42’s 13MP most important camera.

Images: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

Android 10 was mounted on our overview unit There’s no OS overlay, but a fair volume of pre-mounted software package which include Toolbox, which provides a curated range of applications underneath many headings — Business Tools, Cat Applications, Design, Farming, Outdoors, Rugged Tools. If you locate that the 32GB of internal storage is filling up speedy, you can constantly uninstall some of the 3rd-party applications (or purchase a MicroSD card).


As very well as a selection of 3rd-party applications, the Cat S42 will come with Toolbox, which curates a variety of applications appropriate for a rugged telephone.

Images: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

The battery is a sizeable four,200mAh unit with speedy charging assistance (whilst it really is not as sizeable as the five,000mAh battery in the Cat S41). There’s no assistance for wireless charging.

General performance & battery existence

General performance is the Cat S42’s weakest place, many thanks to its entry-degree Helio A20 chipset and 3GB of RAM. It sent typical scores of 132 (single main) and 483 (multi main) in the Geekbench five CPU check, but failed to run the Compute GPU check. Leading scores for Android telephones in the CPU exams approach 900 (single main) and 3300 (multi main) at the time of producing.

We also ran the PCMark for Android Function two. suite, which addresses web browsing, video enhancing, producing, picture enhancing and facts manipulation. The overall Function two. score was 4915, which is on the low side — class-top handsets currently arrive in at around 13000.

Beneath the PCMark Function two. battery check, the Cat S42 took eighteen hours 37 minutes to go from 100{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca} to 20{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca} of the four,200mAh battery’s ability. On this foundation, you need to get at least two functioning days of battery existence right before demanding a recharge, which is outstanding. This also beats the documented 13h 16m final result for its predecessor, the Cat S41, in spite of the latter’s more substantial five,000mAh battery.


Images: Cat Telephones


The Cat S42 is something of a combined bag. It’s adequately rugged, affordable at £229, gives great enterprise functions, and the battery existence is superb. On the other hand, the mix of the Helio A20 chipset, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage is distinctly entry-degree, and there are display screen troubles (scrolling, adaptive brightness, reflectivity), confined 4G frequency assistance, as well as a legacy Micro-USB port to contend with.

Organisations with budgetary constraints may possibly locate the Cat S42 suitable for their requirements, but Samsung’s renewed press into the enterprise rugged smartphone house with the $499.99/£529 Galaxy XCover Pro will be tempting if price is a lot less of an concern.

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