Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G – All About That Space
The Galaxy Z Fold3, Samsung’s latest foray into the ‘foldable’ phone market signifies two major milestones; Player 2’s first mobile phone hardware review and my first usage of an Android based device, having previously stuck with the OS’s main competitor for what a quick Google search tells me is almost 13 years, a slightly depressing figure when I think on it. Nevertheless, I was excited to see what Samsung was delivering on its third iteration of this design.
Opening its sleek rectangular box reveals the Z Fold3 in all its unfolded glory, a form factor that is perhaps the best ‘phablet’ implementation I’ve ever seen. If like myself you have yet to see a folding AMOLED screen, it’s far more impressive in person that photos had led me to believe – I couldn’t help but run my finger along the ‘seam’ and marvel at how far this tech has come in such a short period. After a quick initial power-up, the Fold3 readily offers users the ability to shift their data from other Android phones wirelessly or via USB cable. Transferring from an iPhone is also possible; however, this option requires a Lightning to USB-C cable which isn’t necessarily a common accessory, especially for those upgrading from an older model iPhone. As a longtime user of iOS, it was quite a shift coming to grips with the amount of choice and customization on offer. Were I 15-20 years younger, this aspect of Android would have become an obsession, as I customised every possible aspect (most likely) around whatever my latest film/video game/fantasy novel obsession happened to be at the time. This jump outside the ‘walled garden’ of iOS is perhaps the largest adjustment those looking to make such a leap will have to deal with – UI design and functionality have progressed to a point where basic use of the Fold3 is intuitive and easily mastered, but even something as simple as sending an image via message to my wife required shifting through three “Messages” apps to find one that didn’t compress the image into oblivion – but did require it to be uploaded to a cloud server first. For those used to Android, I have no doubt that transferring preferred apps and settings from a previous phone would alleviate this issue entirely, but there is a reason we so rarely see users shift between these systems – the setup and use of a phone is something cultivated over months if not years, with frequent actions becoming muscle memory during the process.
Opening the Fold3 reveals an AMOLED screen bright and rich in colour, with some noticeable shading in the hinge and a slight crosshatch effect where it partially covers the front facing camera when not in use. Initially skeptical of the durability of the hinge, I’m now completely enamoured with the ‘snappiness’ of it, the way it can hold at almost any degree and gives a satisfying ‘click’ shut just before the exterior edges meet one another on closing. Once closed, the length of the Fold3 compared to the width makes it feel a great deal slimmer and thus easily operable via a single hand if preferred, although this extra length means the unit tends to slip out of shallow pockets given the weight. The exterior screen is no slouch, even if it is somewhat subdued compared to the interior and obviously can’t compete when it comes to streaming videos, reading text heavy websites or juggling multiple messaging apps. That said, for the bulk of my day the exterior screen is how I primarily interact with the Fold3 and I found it suits my needs perfectly, the biggest downside being the lack of screen width giving some elements like the rear facing camera a slightly stretched look. A combination of Gorilla Glass Victus and an aluminium frame mean the Fold3 feels weighty and robust in the hand, but there’s also a prevailing sense of fragility I couldn’t completely shake given the hinge and multiple screens in the mix. Between the current retail price of the unit and the $740 repair fee for the screen, it makes sense that while the Fold3 feels like it could withstand some punishment, I was in no hurry to test the limits of its durability.
Samsung have ensured that the hardware in the Fold3 is more than capable, readily competing with other top of the range devices on the market in specs alone. This means Android OS is snappy and responsive, reliably running 2-3 apps concurrently in multi-window mode when the larger screen is folded out. This is easily one of the stand-out features of the Fold3 and makes managing conversations or multitasking vastly more effective than other phones on the market, although typing with the default split keyboard can take some getting used to and may drive users to seek an alternative. Gaming and entertainment are also far more enjoyable with the increased screen size, made obvious by my time spent across Netflix, Microsoft’s xCloud Beta and Genshin Impact, the latter of which plays at a decent performance level, albeit with some muddy visuals when compared against high level console or PC hardware, hardly a fair comparison given the physical size of the Fold3 against these alternatives.
The interior screen is the Fold3’s largest feature in more ways than one, pairing perfectly with the S Pen Pro which can be purchased separately for $189 or thereabouts. While not a necessary accessory for everyone, artists or journaling enthusiast looking to travel light or cut down on the amount of devices they’re carrying around would benefit greatly from picking one up. Pairing quickly with the Fold3 hardware, the S Pen Pro is accurate when writing or drawing on the screen itself, although it was sometimes difficult to get hand gestures recognized. As someone who is both terrible at drawing and writing by hand, I’m unable to speak to the S Pen Pro as something that will enable those with much greater talent to realise their vision, but my chicken scratch handwriting and ghoulish sketches maintained their low level of quality from whiteboards and notebooks to the Fold3 itself, so I can’t fault the hardware for degrading my performance in any way. In terms of tactility, the fine tip of the S Pen Pro works well to capture the feel of writing by hand, but as with any stylus device it will really come down to the needs of the individual user at to whether it’s a worthwhile purchase.
Outside of smooth performance and a vivid screen, perhaps the most important aspect of any mobile device is battery life. While long gone are the days of a phone making it 3-4 days on a single charge, it is important that a device manage a full work day at a minimum. What I found with the Fold3 is in-line with my expectations but may be disheartening for some, especially those relying on streaming apps for their music or those who game heavily on their mobile. It’s quite possible to drain the battery of the Fold3 in a few hours; just play an online game like Genshin Impact on the larger screen and watch the percentage drop in real time. More moderate use sees the battery life stretch out to 8-12 hours which is where I expect most use-cases to fall and thus isn’t as dire as it could be. Very light use of the Fold3 saw the battery last close to three days before requiring a charge which is impressive but hardly the typical scenario for the type of user the Fold3 is targeting. If it’s possible to get a few hours of charging during the day, the Fold3 is extremely reliable but those hoping for something revolutionary in the battery life space will have to keep waiting.
The Fold3 is an exciting piece of hardware that manages to combine my love of larger screens with my preference for compact mobile form factors that aren’t uncomfortable to carry in a pocket. Prospective buyers looking for a luxury device will find a lot to love in the Fold3, more so if their interests lie in entertainment, gaming or productivity. These areas take advantage of the Fold3’s biggest assets and I can’t honestly say there’s a better mobile phone out there for streaming video or multi-tasking. That said, you wouldn’t take a Rolls Royce on a dirt track, so those whose need only the bare minimum in terms of features and options will find the price tag far too exorbitant. For the rest who fall somewhere in between these two groups, it’s a trickier proposition and will inevitably come down to what features and options drive their mobile phone usage.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Specifications
Dimensions & Weight
- Folded: 158.2 x 67.1 x 16.0mm (Hinge) – 14.4mm (Sagging)
- Unfolded: 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm
- 7.6” QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (22.5:18) Infinity Flex Display
- HDR10+ certified
- 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
- Under Display Camera
- 6.2” HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (24.5:9) Infinity-O Display
- 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
S Pen Fold Edition
- Pressure levels: 4096
- Pen tip diameter: 1.5mm
- Air Command
- Air view
- Live message
- Samsung Notes
- Screen off memo
- Smart select
- Screen write
- Bixby Vision
- Air Doodle
- Write on calendar
- 10MP Selfie Camera
- Pixel size: 1.22μm
- FOV: 80˚
- F.No (aperture): F2.2
- 4MP Under Display Camera
- Pixel size: 2.0μm
- FOV: 80˚
- F.No (aperture): F1.8
- 12MP Ultra Wide Camera
- Pixel size: 1.2μm
- FOV: 123˚
- F.No (aperture): F2.2
- 12MP Wide-angle Camera
- Dual Pixel AF, OIS
- Pixel size: 1.8μm
- FOV: 83˚
- F.No (aperture): F1.8
- 12MP Telephoto Camera
- PDAF, OIS
- Pixel size: 1.0μm
- FOV: 45˚
- F.No (aperture): F2.4
- Super clear glass with Corning® Gorilla® Glass with DX
- Dual OIS
- 0.5x out and 2x in optical zoom
- Up to 10x digital zoom
- HDR10+ recording
- Tracking AF
- 4K UHD video recording at 30 and 60 fps (3840×2160)
- 1080p FHD video recording at 30 and 60 fps (1920×1080)
- 720p HD video recording at 30 fps (1280×720)
- Super steady 1080p video support at 30fps
- Super Slow-mo 720p video support at 960 fps
- Slow motion 1080p video support at 240 fps
- Hyperlapse 4K video support at 30fps
- HDR10+ recording
- VDIS (Video Digital Image Stabilization)
- Auto framing
- Digital zoom up to 10x
- High CRI LED Flash
- Tracking AF
- Playback zoom
- Video location tags
- Zoom-In Mic
- Microphone Control (Pro Video only)
- HEVC (High Efficiency Video coding)
- 4400mAh (typical) dual battery
- Fast Charging compatible on wired and wireless
- Wireless PowerShare
- Fast Charging 25W
- Fast wireless charging 10W
- Reverse wireless charging 4.5W
- 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave
- Enhanced 4×4 MIMO, 7CA, LAA, LTE Cat.20
- Up to 2.0Gbps Download / Up to 200Mbps Upload
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, HE80, MIMO, 1024-QAM
- Bluetooth® v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), USB type-C, NFC, Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou)
- *Actual speed may vary depending on country, carrier, and user environment.
- *Requires optimal 5G connection. Actual speed may vary depending on market, carrier and user environment.
- *Galileo and BeiDou coverage may be limited. BeiDou may not be available for certain countries.
- 5㎚ 64-bit Octa-Core Processor ※ 2.84㎓ (Maximum Clock Speed) + 2.4㎓ + 1.8㎓
- 12GB RAM with 512GB internal storage (UFS 3.1)
- 12GB RAM with 256GB internal storage (UFS 3.1)
ExpandableMemory & SIM CARD
- One eSIM and one Nano SIM
- Android 10
- Surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus included.)
Ultra high quality audio playback
- UHQ 32-bit & DSD64/128 support
- PCM: Up to 32 bits, DSD: DSD64/128
Audio playback format
- MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF
- Dual Audio: connect two Bluetooth devices to the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G to play audio through the two devices simultaneously.
- Scalable Codec: Enhanced Bluetooth connection under ambient radio frequency interference.
- Recording quality is improved with the High AOP Mic that minimizes distortion in noisy environments.
- *DSD64 and DSD128 playback can be limited depending on the file format.
- *The two connected devices may exhibit a slight difference in sound output.
- *Available only for certain accessories made by Samsung.
- *AOP: Acoustic Overload Point
Video playback format
- MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
- Wireless: Smart View (screen mirroring 1080p at 30 fps)
- Wired: Supports DisplayPort over USB type-C. Supports video out when connecting via HDMI Adapter. (DisplayPort 4K UHD at 60 fps)
*Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is rated as IPX8. IPX8 is based on test conditions for submersion in up to 1.5 meters of freshwater for up to 30 minutes. Not advised for beach or pool use. Not dust-resistant.
Sensors & Buttons
- Capacitive Fingerprint sensor (side)
- Gyro sensor
- Geomagnetic sensor
- Hall sensor
- Proximity sensor
- Light sensor
- Power key
- Volume key