Awesome Incremental upgrade but still the foldable to beat available in Dhaka, Bangladesh
It’s that time of the year again when the most celebrated foldable smartphones’ next iterations hit the global market! The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 recently launched in Seoul, South Korea to much fanfare, and I was there to witness the unveiling. While the Z Flip5 definitely got the most love in terms of new aesthetics and features, the Z Fold5 also saw some incremental improvements. Upgrades include a smaller and lighter chassis that folds flat due to a redesigned hinge, the latest processor, a brighter display, and a couple of other refinements. The foldable smartphone market, however, is not as barren as it used to be. Competition from the likes of OPPO, Huawei, Tecno, Honor, and even Google means that Samsung can no longer be complacent if they’re to win the foldable race. So, is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 still the foldable to beat in 2023 and is Samsung playing it too safe? Does it justify its ₹1,54,999 and $1800 price tag in India and globally, respectively? I spent just over a week testing the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and here’s what I found out.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Build and Design
At first glance, the Galaxy Z Fold5 is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. It is only when you hold these devices side by side, you will notice a couple of meaningful changes. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is thinner and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (review). The thickness is down to 13.4 mm (folded) as compared to 15.8 mm on the Z Fold4 and the weight is down to 253 g – that’s 10 g lighter than its predecessor. While these may seem like small numbers, they do add up, especially when you daily drive the device since you’re able to comfortably wield the phone for much longer.
Dimensions and weight aside, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 also packs a re-engineered hinge design, dubbed ‘Flex Hinge’, that allows the foldable to finally fold completely flat. The two halves of the foldable display sit flush against each other, so there’s no gap down the middle of the phone that gathers dust. This definitely feels like the most polished iteration of Samsung’s prized foldable because of how refined the design feels. It’s also much easier to carry around and more pocketable than ever before. The crease is still visible though, no tangible improvements there. There’s also a lot of wobble when the phone is kept flat on a surface because of the camera module that juts out considerably.
New ‘Flex Hinge’ technology in action on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
The hinge is smooth, silent and opens at various angles. There’s no creaking at all, which gives it a very premium feel. The chassis of the phone uses Samsung’s Armor Aluminium that’s not as scratch and dent-resistant as stainless steel, but it does the job. The cover screen still has a really tall aspect ratio that doesn’t lend itself well to typing – especially if you have stubby fingers – so I really hope Samsung makes a significant change in the aspect ratio of the cover display next generation since cheaper phones such as the Tecno Phantom V Fold (review) have a more palatable cover screen aspect ratio.
The phone is available in several colourways – Cream, Phantom Black, and Icy Blue are generally available while the Blue and Gray models are available on Samsung’s website. I got the Icy Blue variant for review and this pastel blue shade is by far my favourite out of the lot. The phone’s cover display and rear panel are protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2. The phone is also IPX8 water-resistant. Samsung’s high-quality engineering and build quality shine through with this one – my only gripe is the cover display that honestly should have gotten at least slightly wider by the 5th iteration of this foldable.
Slim S Pen Case on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 – comes with an S Pen stylus
Oh, and another tiny gripe – there’s still no S Pen included. The Z Fold5 does support the S Pen but it does not come in the retail box or inside the foldable’s body. There is an S Pen cover on the Samsung website for the Z Fold5 but it will cost you around ₹8K.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Display
The displays on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 have the same size and aspect ratio as their predecessor – you’ve got a 6.2-inch cover display with a 23.1:9 aspect ratio and an inner 7.6-inch folding display with a 21.6:18 aspect ratio. Both displays are Dynamic AMOLED 2X panels with 120 Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ certification. The inner display has a 1812 x 2176 pixels resolution while the cover screen has a 904 x 2316 pixels resolution.
The clarity and colour reproduction of both displays is top-notch. The visuals look absolutely stunning, HDR content looks punchy and vibrant, and the inner display is an absolute unit with great immersive qualities. The bezel size is the same as last year; no improvements here, and of course, the cover display’s aspect ratio is too narrow still.
One significant improvement this time around is that the main display is now brighter at 1,750 nits of rated peak brightness. Using a lux meter, I measured a maximum brightness of 1,512 nits on Auto-Brightness Mode under direct sunlight. So, you needn’t worry about whether the display will be readable in bright daylight. The outer display has fantastic viewing angles, but the inner one’s viewing angles are mediocre due to the plastic non-removable screen protection film.
Head on, the display looks great. This is one of the best content consumption experiences you can get on a smartphone. Gaming is also a great experience, especially if you are a claw player in FPS games such as BGMI or Call of Duty: Mobile. The crease is still visible but when you’re watching content head-on, you will not notice it too much unless you really look for it. Overall, the Fold5 has some of the most gorgeous displays on foldables devices in the market; this time brighter than ever before.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Performance
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5 sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset; the very same one found in the Galaxy S23 series. You’ve got 12 GB LPDDR5X RAM and up to 1 TB UFS 4.0 storage. I got the base 256 GB version for review. The SD 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset is created using TSMC’s 4 nm fabrication process and to put it simply, it is an overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. The primary core comes with an increased clock speed of 3.36 GHz and the GPU sees an increase of 680 MHz to 719 MHz. This is a substantial enough uptick from last year’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC that was used in the Z Fold4.
Benchmarks confirm this as well. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 got a whopping 1.5+ million score on AnTuTu which obliterates the Z Fold4’s 937,628 score. In fact, this is the highest AnTuTu score we’ve ever gotten on a phone we’ve tested in the Digit Test Labs! The Galaxy Z Fold5 beats out all competitors including the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra (review), Vivo X90 Pro (review), Xiaomi 13 Pro (review), iQOO 11 (review), iPhone 14 Pro Max (review), and even its own S23 series brethren.
The story repeats itself in GeekBench and PCMark Work demonstrating the sheer power of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5. The iPhone 14 Pro Max only surpassed it by a tiny margin in the GeekBench Multi-Core test. I then turned towards benchmarking this capable foldable’s GPU and the results impressed me, yet again. In 3D Mark Wild Life Extreme, the Z Fold5 got the best score out of all phones we’ve tested. GFXBench also saw the Z Fold5 output some of the highest scores to date!
Benchmarks don’t always tell the full story, but in this case, they do. This is one of the smoothest experiences I’ve had on a foldable. The Fold 5 breezes through daily tasks, intensive games, and multitasking without breaking a sweat. The experience is lag-free and seamless; animations are silky smooth across the board – it’s just a wonderfully powerful experience. The only place where I saw it heat a bit was clicking photos and shooting 4K/8K video – but it never got too hot to the touch. So, if you’re a power user with demands for an abundance of speed, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is not just the fastest foldable, but one of the fastest phones altogether!
Gaming is a great experience as well; especially on the massive 7.6-inch display. I played games such as Call of Duty: Mobile, Asphalt 9 Legends, and Genshin Impact; all of which ran buttery smooth at maximum or close to maximum graphics. There were no instances of lag or frame drops in COD: Mobile and Asphalt 9, and I only felt a small lag spike in Genshin Impact after 30 minutes of continuous gaming. Fantastic stuff!
I even ran the CPU Throttling Test on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 to see its performance under sustained workloads and it did pretty well. The phone throttled to 77 per cent of its peak performance after 30 minutes, which meets expectations. Overall, if performance is your concern, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 will not disappoint.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Software and UI
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 comes with the latest One UI 5.1.1 which runs on top of Android 13. Samsung also promises 4 years of OS updates and 5 years of security updates, beating Google at its own game since the latest Pixel phones get only 3 years of OS updates. One UI 5.1.1 brings some small improvements to multitasking such as quick switching pop-up screens to split screen view, an improved taskbar with 4 recently used apps, Flex Mode panel support in more apps, and others.
It isn’t these new features that alone make the Samsung foldable UI the best in the business. Rather it is the culmination of all of the features present – old and new – that have been perfected over the years. Things just work here. Multiple apps utilise the folding mechanism with Flex Mode, and it just makes sense. For instance, when slightly folded, the camera app goes from a full-screen viewfinder to a half-and-half screen where one side has the viewfinder, and the other shows your recently snapped pictures.
The transition from the cover screen to the full screen is also perfect, with apps picking right up from where you left them on the cover screen. Folding it close will lock the phone and close the app which annoys some, but I think it is the right implementation since you would flip the phone close generally when you’re done using it.
You also get new multitasking gestures where using two fingers to swipe an app from any side will open up split-screen view and dragging the app from any corner will convert it into a pop-up window of a size of your choosing. Simple, sweet, and convenient. Do remember that these gestures are turned off by default and you would have to go into Advanced Features in Settings to turn them on.
Also, if you’re deep in the Samsung ecosystem, Multi Control allows you to use a keyboard and mouse across your connected devices. So, you can easily use the mouse to pick up an image from your phone and drop it onto your tablet! And of course, you’ve got Samsung’s handy Dex mode around as well!
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Cameras
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 packs the same camera hardware as its predecessor, which came as a disappointment to many. While the Z Fold 4 packed huge camera upgrades over its predecessor, the lack of any improvements in terms of optics is almost unacceptable at this price point in 2023. Don’t get me wrong, the cameras are well-tuned and refined over the years, but an upgrade or two in a phone with 5 cameras isn’t asking for too much from a ₹1,54,999 phone. It does come with an upgraded processor and ISP (Image Signal Processor) though, so let’s see how much of a difference it makes.
Let’s talk about the cameras. You’ve got a 50 MP primary shooter with Optical Image Stabilisation and Dual Pixel PDAF, there’s a 12 MP ultrawide camera, and a 10 MP telephoto shooter with OIS and 3x optical zoom support. The inner display has an under-display 4 MP selfie camera – and because it lies under a bunch of pixels, the results look like they’ve come straight out of a 2016-2018 selfie camera. Just avoid using it altogether for selfies. Instead, use the 10 MP selfie shooter on the cover screen, or better yet, the primary camera with the cover screen as a viewfinder.
Using the primary camera for selfies, you’re going to get some of the most crisp shots – with excellent detail retention, fantastic low-light performance, and good colour.
Now, let’s speak about the primary camera in general. Photos taken from this camera look great in daylight – impressive dynamic range, vibrant and saturated colours (typical of Samsung devices), and great detail retention. Portraits have fantastic edge detection and good clarity as well. The 12 MP ultrawide camera loses out on some dynamic range but has minimal barrel distortion. Here are some image samples; note that they’ve been compressed for the web:
Shots from the telephoto lens also look amazing, and the colour profile mimics the primary shooter which is always a great thing to see. The pictures look very similar to the ones taken from the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, with a bit of extra sharpness in low-light shots.
Speaking of low-light optics, it’s a bit of a hit or miss. Detail and sharpness are good, colours look natural, but there’s quite a lot of haloing around objects and general lens flare in low light. It’s not just a one-off, I experienced this in almost every picture I took in low light. Additionally, the lens tends to capture soft shots of moving subjects in low light.
Lens flare issue from the primary camera of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 in low-light
Overall, these are some of the best cameras on a foldable today, but they’re not perfect. And if the Google Pixel Fold shows up in India, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 could lag behind considerably in terms of optics.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Battery Life
The battery capacity of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 remains unchanged. You get a 4,400 mAh battery but the uptick we saw in battery life was quite substantial. This must be due to improved efficiency because of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 easily lasts for a day without needing a top-up. In fact, after a day consisting of benchmarking, clicking photos, editing pictures, watching videos, and browsing social media, the phone still had a good 22 per cent battery left by 10 PM.
In our 4K video loop test, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 lasted a whopping 19 hours and 6 minutes. That’s almost 3 hours more than the Galaxy Z Fold4 lasted in the same test. So, expect superb battery life that should keep you coasting for long enough without picking up the charger.
A charger you’d have to likely spend extra for because you don’t get one in the retail box *sigh*. The Z Fold 5 supports 25 W wired charging, which is laboriously slow in 2023. The phone took 1 hour and 18 minutes to charge from empty to full, which doesn’t compete with flagship phones from Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Vivo. You do get 15 W wireless charging support as well, which is a good thing. Also, there’s 4.5 W reverse wireless charging which is handy to top off TWS earbuds with wireless charging support.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the best foldable of its type out there – yes, despite the minuscule incremental improvements. The foldable formula Samsung has carried through the years is getting refined and polished with every iteration, so much so that this is the absolute best and most versatile folding software experience you can get your hands on. Add to that, blazing-fast performance, impressive battery life, and good cameras – you’ve got yourselves the best foldable in 2023. However, Samsung cannot keep teetering the edge with incremental upgrades since there are too many OEMs out there that are improving by leaps and bounds every year – coming very close to snatching that ‘Best Foldable’ crown. They cannot get away with slow charging, the hard-to-use cover screen aspect ratio, and inconsistent low-light camera performance for too long, so I do hope the next Z Fold out of the South Korean giant is something truly revolutionary.