[Review] An Almost Perfect Foldable: The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
+ Beautiful and premium design
- Under-display camera quality not very good
+ 120 Hz displays on main screen and cover screen
- Battery life could be better
+ Outstanding performance and audio
+ Under-display camera
+ Enhanced durability and IPX8 water resistance
When Samsung launched its latest flagship foldables, the Galaxy Z series, I was personally more ecstatic about the Fold3 5G after looking at its spec sheet. So, when Samsung asked if I was interested in trying out the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G after our Galaxy Z Flip3 5G review, I knew I just had to say yes.
If you don’t already know, the Fold3 is the world’s first IPX8 water-resistant foldable phone, along with the Flip3, and it’s also Samsung’s first-ever device with an under-display camera. Without further ado, let’s find out how the Fold3 is doing in this review.
Since Samsung only sent over the device without the complete packaging, I’ll skip the unboxing this time. At first glance, it actually looks similar to its predecessor on the outside, except for the redesigned camera bump at the back. Like the FLip3, this one has a stronger build thanks to the Armor Aluminum along with Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus that protects the back and cover display. While the main display still uses the same ultra-thin glass, Samsung has increased its durability by 80% by improving the plastic film on top of it.
Weighing 11 g lighter than the Fold2 at 271 g, the Fold3 is still a lot bulkier than the Flip3 and most smartphones. It’s also a little narrower and thinner than the Fold2 if you have both in your hands. While it can withstand up to 1.5 m of water submersion for up to 30 minutes, unfortunately, dust resistance is not on this model. Maybe we’ll be able to see it in the next Fold generation?
Opening the phone like a book, you’ll get the SIM card slot on the left while the volume rocker and power button are on the right. The power button comes with a built-in fingerprint reader. The dual speaker is located at the top and bottom of the left half of the phone whereas, on the bottom right, you’ll get a USB-C charging port. On the front, there’s a punch-hole selfie camera, and the back houses a triple rear camera setup.
The unit that we receive comes in Phantom Silver with a matte finish. If you prefer darker shades, there are another two colour variants available: Phantom Black and Phantom Green. Overall, the Galaxy Fold3 5G feels very premium in the hand.
The 6.2-inch cover screen features an HD+ Dynamic AMOLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate like what you’ll get on the main display. This means you’ll be able to enjoy the same smooth experience on both screens.
While the cover display on the Flip3 is rather limited in terms of usage as it allows you to check some quick notifications, widgets, and take selfies, the one on this unit can do so much more. In fact, you can use it like how you’re using it on the main display except on a much narrower screen. Personally, I had no problem browsing social media and the web or checking messages on the cover display, especially when I’m using it on one hand. It’s definitely easier to be handled this way than opened up.
Good news for selfie lovers as you can also take selfies using the better rear camera from the cover screen. When you try to initiate the selfie camera, the phone will send you a tip to unfold the phone so that the rear camera module is facing you. On the right screen, you’ll still be able to check out how you will look in the frame. And click, there you go - a high-quality selfie.
Despite the cover display being able to handle many tasks, the main display is where everything is possible and more enjoyable, from watching videos to gaming. While you can get a more immersive gaming experience on this 7.6-inch screen, watching videos on it makes not much of a difference compared to phones like the Galaxy S series as you’ll be getting black bars on the top and bottom of the video whether in portrait or landscape mode due to the non-standard aspect ratio of the phone.
Some apps like Instagram, for instance, don't automatically fill up the screen space. Although you can force the app to fill the screen via the Labs section in settings, you’ll find images on Instagram feed won’t fit as a whole in the frame and IG stories will be cut off from the sides or top and bottom. To sum up, watching videos on this phone with a bigger screen might not necessarily be a bonus.
According to Samsung, the QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED display offers a 29% brighter screen thanks to the new Eco display technology. The main display looks pretty stunning in games mainly because of the under-display camera (UDC) that replaces the usual punch hole.
The 120 Hz refresh rate can be adjusted to a standard 60 Hz if you need to preserve battery life.
To use the Flex Mode, just unfold the phone to a certain angle and supported apps like the Camera will appear one half of the screen while the controls will be at the other half. In this mode, you’ll be able to take photos or join video calls hands-free as the phone can sit on itself without the need for an extra stand.
And yes, the crease is also clearly visible on this unit, if you’re asking. If you’re planning to join the foldable squad now, you’d have to bear with it as both of Samsung’s latest foldables have it. After a few days or weeks of use, you’d probably get used to it already, just like the UDC becomes more noticeable in landscape orientation, especially with a white background.
Under the UDC is only a 4 MP sensor that is not doing very well to produce details compared to the 10 MP selfie camera on the cover display. The photos taken with the UDC also have noticeable grain.
UDC vs selfie camera vs rear camera
The main camera setup consists of:
12 MP (F2.2) ultra wide camera
12 MP (F1.8) wide-angle camera
12 MP (F2.4) telephoto camera
The main camera is excellent in delivering photos with vivid colours, high details, and a wide dynamic range. To capture beautiful night scenes, it’s backed by the Night Mode that works better than the standard mode.
Thanks to the telephoto camera, you can get a satisfying photo even at 4x zoom.
0.5x, 1.0x, 2.0x, 4.0x, 10.0x zoom
Some of the best camera features that Samsung includes in this unit are Director’s View and Single Take, as well as a Capture View Mode which shows the camera preview on one half and the photos or videos you took on the other half. It will be automatically enabled when the phone is in Flex Mode and you’ll be able to view up to 5 of your most recent captures without having to go to the Gallery.
With the Snapdragon 888 chipset under the hood along with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, it’s expected that this unit is an outstanding performer. It gives you a fast and smooth experience whether you’re just browning some social media, running three apps at once, or even gaming.
Racing around tracks in Asphalt 9 at 60 FPS with high visual quality isn’t a problem at all on this phone as I didn’t experience any lagging or delay during the gameplay. In fact, it didn’t even heat up that much.
The battery might be the only downgrade of this model over its predecessor with a 4400 mAh battery, which is 100 mAh smaller. On light use, it can last through the whole day but on heavy use, you’ll probably have to charge it once by evening.
The battery supports 25 W fast charging but as it’s a flagship model, it’s not included in the box so, you’ll have to purchase it separately. It also supports 10 W wireless charging and 4.5 W reverse wireless charging.
In terms of audio, the two stereo speakers are excellent albeit not doing very well with bass. The only downside of the speakers is the placement. When folded, you’ll get a balanced audio experience as they will be on the top and bottom of the phone. However, when it’s open in landscape mode, your fingers will cover the speakers especially during gaming. To avoid covering the speakers, you’d have to hold the other half of the screen and yet your fingers on the right will awkwardly place on the main camera. In the end, it’s up to you to decide if you want to satisfy some audio or clean your camera lens after playing.
Buy or no buy?
The Galaxy Z Fold3 5G might just be Samsung’s best foldable phone yet and also the best in the market right now. For RM6,999, you get a more durable design, an under-display camera, better display, water resistance, and also S-Pen support. Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t send the S-Pen to us along with this review unit so I couldn’t cover it.
The downside of this phone is the 4 MP lens on the UCD as it ends up being just a design when I was using the phone. Also, at this price, Samsung could do better with a bigger battery, considering it’s a flagship model.
If you need a really good phone that can be a great companion at work as well as a gaming partner, the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is actually worth the price.
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