Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Review
The Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is the culmination of more than two years of Samsung’s journey in the very open foldable smartphone space, where they are the de facto leader. However, foldable phones are still very much niche in the high-end smartphone category, with the previous Galaxy Folds showing a mixed market response.
However, I believe that the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, and especially the Galaxy Z Flip3 5G for that matter, mark a turning point towards the mainstream. We’ll be discussing that more later, but let’s get on with the review for now.
Design and Construction
On the surface, the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G looks pretty much exactly like its predecessor. For the uninitiated, this means we get a 7.6-inch foldable display and a 6.2-inch cover display.
It’s about 16mm thick when unfolded and 6.4mm unfolded. At 271g, it’s definitely on the heavier end of the spectrum, but it honestly doesn’t feel too heavy in the hands.
Using the unfolded stance as our reference point, we get the volume rocker and power button that also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. While on the left, the dual nano-SIM card tray.
Up top, a couple of microphones and one of the two loudspeakers. The bottom contains the other loudspeaker, another microphone, and the USB Type-C port.
We can find the triple rear camera module at the back panel, which we’ll definitely get more into later.
If you’re familiar with the Galaxy Z Fold2, all of this is nothing new since everything is in the same place. I’d even argue that it would be hard to distinguish one from the other if you put the two side by side.
However, there have definitely been improvements in the Z Fold3 5G’s design. Overall durability has increased thanks to Samsung’s use of a new aluminum alloy, dubbed “Armor Aluminum.” The cover screen gets a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which is currently its toughest. The foldable screen is also topped with additional protection with a new PET layer to avoid scuffs and scratches. And probably the biggest one — IPX8 water resistance, a feature that the previous Z Fold2 regrettably lacked.
So in terms of design improvements from the second generation to the third, I’d say it’s a good balance. I’d even think of it as the difference between the Iron Man MKIII and MKIV suits — essentially the same on the outside, but the latter is just better.
It feels excellent to use, and for some reason, it’s not as uncomfortable as it once was to fold and unfold the device. I’m pretty sure it’s not just the fact that I’m a tech reviewer, as I’ve handed the Z Fold3 5G to some (non-techy) friends, and it felt just as natural for them. These people have never even touched a foldable smartphone before — although I will admit that this is a tiny sample size.
Display and Multimedia
Now taking a closer look at the Z Fold 3’s displays, the inner screen is a 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with a resolution of 1768 x 2208px and a 120Hz refresh rate. The cover screen comes in at 6.2-inches, and also uses a Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel.
Both displays have also received slight upgrades. The cover screen now has a 120Hz refresh rate and a marginally higher resolution than last year’s, at 832 x 2268px.
The inner screen also sees the introduction of Samsung’s under-display camera, which is… a little weird. But, for the most part, it does its job staying hidden pretty well, especially when the upper portion of the screen is black, such as when using the dark UI mode.
However, it’s a bit jarring once you introduce anything white or colored. See, it’s not exactly that the camera is literally under the entire display. There still is a cutout for the camera, but it blends in with the rest of the screen by using an extra OLED matrix on top of it.
The thing is, though, is that this OLED matrix uses a substantially lower resolution than the rest of the main screen, so much so that you can actually see the individual pixels.
It definitely stuck out like a sore thumb during the early part of my time with the Z Fold3 5G, although I eventually got used to it and forgot about it. And once I did, it was actually pretty cool having a screen with slim bezels all around, minus the previously requisite black notch or punch-hole.
In terms of raw display quality, though, there isn’t much to say other than that Samsung flagship panels are really best-in-class, showing great colors, brightness, and dynamic range. Scrolling through articles or social media is quite enjoyable on both displays, given the 120Hz refresh rate support. In addition, the inner display is a treat for watching content and productivity-oriented tasks like working on spreadsheets. After all, it’s pretty much a pocketable tablet.
As for audio quality, the stereo speaker setup proves to be amazing for watching videos and playing games. The sound can fill up a room and actually has a whole lot of depth and clarity to it — even the bass packs a punch, which is rare for a smartphone.
For cameras, the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G has a total of five. We get a triple setup at the rear, consisting of a dual pixel main sensor, an ultrawide, and a telephoto — all of which pack 12MP sensors. The under-display camera is a 4MP sensor, and the front-facing camera on the cover display is at 10MP.
Starting with rear camera performance, nothing has really changed performance-wise as we get the same hardware as last generation’s. However, it’s still capable of delivering high-quality images under good lighting, showing a decent amount of detail, contrast, and has vibrant colors. The telephoto lens is locked at 2x optical and 10x digital zoom, taking away a little bit of the flexibility you otherwise would have with Samsung’s other high-end flagships such as the S21 Ultra.
Onto the front camera performance, it’s very much a mixed bag. Using the 10MP shooter on the cover screen produces decent shots with good contrast and great color reproduction. So it will do quite well for those situations when you need to snap a quick selfie. However, the same cannot be said for the 4MP under-display camera.
Cover camera samples:
Under display camera:
Shots look quite washed out and lacking in detail, leading me to think that it’s only going to be good enough for taking video calls given the Z Fold 3’s ability to stand like a laptop.
However, with some maneuvering, you can get great selfies by leveraging the rear cameras. You can use ‘Rear Cam Selfie’ mode by opening the front camera on the cover screen and tapping the prompt on the upper right. You will then be able to use all three of the Z Fold 3’s rear cameras, with the cover screen acting as your viewfinder. This is undoubtedly how you will get the highest quality selfies from the Z Fold3 5G.
Rear Camera Selfie:
Overall, you get a basic set of flagship-level camera hardware, although it’s clear that photography isn’t intended to be one of the Z Fold 3’s strongest suits. You can get great shots out of it, but it’s no camera powerhouse such as the S21 Ultra.
OS, UI, and Apps
For software, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs on One UI 3.1.1 on top of Android 11, with a few extra features specifically made for Samsung’s foldables.
This includes Flex Mode, which, on supported apps, will split your display into two sections when folded into a 90-degree laptop-esque configuration. It’s not the most practical way to use many apps, but it is great for watching YouTube videos in the background and taking shots with the camera app.
Though not a new feature, the Edge panel is surprisingly more enticing to use with the Z Fold3 5G’s large screen. Perhaps this is because your hands naturally rest on the sides of the device, making it easy to reach the area you need to swipe on to bring up the panel.
Since this is One UI, after all, there are many useful features you can find when rummaging around through the settings, such as Samsung DeX, Android Auto, Game Launcher, Dual Messenger, Digital Wellbeing, floating notifications, one-handed mode, and many more.
The Z Fold3 5G also features S-Pen support, an elegant addition that adds a lot to its case as an all-in-one powerhouse. Unfortunately, we were not able to test it out for this review.
As for storage, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has 256GB and 512GB UFS 3.1 options, the latter being yet another upgrade over the previous model. Out of our review unit’s 256GB, system resources take up 33.5GB, leaving you with about 222.5GB of usable storage space.
Performance and Benchmarks
At the heart of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G’s internal hardware is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset with an Adreno 660 GPU and 12GB of RAM. This is unsurprising given that the 888 is the current top-of-the-line flagship chipset.
Needless to say, the Z Fold3 5G is stupidly fast. The UFS 3.1 storage ensures that apps and files load very quickly, the hefty amount of RAM will give you all the multitasking overhead you could need, and the chipset will provide more than enough processing power for any task you throw at it. I mean, look at these benchmark scores:
As for gaming, I’m gonna talk more from an experiential standpoint here. Playing games on the Z Fold3 5G is quite a cool experience. It’s not really like gaming on a tablet, but more like playing on a really wide smartphone. The extra vertical screen real estate in landscape orientation adds some level of immersion and a unique control layout that you really can’t find anywhere else. I’d say it’s quite effective for MOBAs like Mobile Legends and LoL: WR.
Connectivity and Battery Life
All your bases are pretty much covered when it comes to connectivity, as the Z Fold 3 supports 5G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC, and dual-nano SIM plus e-SIM support.
As for the battery, we get a capacity of 4,400mAh — which is definitely something I think Samsung could and should improve in future iterations. Despite the improved efficiency that the Snapdragon 888 brings, using the Z Fold3 5G’s large display for extended amounts of time makes it quite easy to drain the battery.
Measures such as keeping the brightness on the lower side and switching to a 60Hz refresh rate help extend uptime, though.
The PC Mark Work 3.0 Battery Test rates the Z Fold3 5G for 7 hours and 27 minutes, while our standard video loop test (1080p video on loop, airplane mode on, 50% brightness and volume) yielded 16 hours and 16 minutes of playback.
These results indicate the possibility for all-day usage with one or two charges in between, which honestly isn’t that bad. However, if Samsung can add a larger battery in the Z Fold3 5G’s successor while maintaining or even further slimming down the form factor, that would really be something.
Charging using a 25W Samsung Fast Charger took about an hour and a half, from 0% to 100%. This, however, is not included in the box, so you’ll want to keep your existing charger or be forced to buy one separately.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is an impressive step in Samsung’s foldable smartphone saga. However, I’m not as excited for the phone itself as I am for the future of the series.
The Z Fold2 launched for PHP 109,990, and the Z Flip3 5G starts at PHP 87,990 (12GB + 256GB). Take a gander over the Z Flip, and the drop in launch price is even more dramatic.
Whether the cost of manufacturing these smartphones has gotten cheaper, or Samsung is eating up the costs themselves to drive sales, which shows that the Korean giant is serious about making foldable phones more mainstream. No matter how the market would respond to this sort of development a couple of years down the line, I think it’s exactly the kind of shake-up the smartphone industry needs.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is, without a doubt, the king of the foldables. However, my eyes are on its heirs.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G specs:
6.2-inch HD+ (2268 x 832) Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display (24.5:9), 387PPI
120Hz Adaptive refresh rate
7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex Display (22.5:18), 374PPI
120Hz adaptive refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC
256GB, 512GB UFS 3.1
• 12MP F1.8 Dual PIxel main
• 12MP F2.2 Ultra-wide
• 12MP F2.4 Telephoto, Dual OIS
• Gorilla Glass DX coating
10MP F2.2 cover camera
4MP F1.8 Under display camera
Nano SIM w/ e-SIM
5G, 4G LTE
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, Galileo
Armor Aluminum body
One UI 3.5 (Android 11)
4,000mAh dual battery
S Pen Fold Edition (No Bluetooth, compatible w/ Fold3 only)
S Pen Pro (Bluetooth, compatible w/ S Pen supporting devices)
158.2 x 67.1 x 16 ~ 14.4mm (Folded)
158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm (Unfolded)
Phantom Black, Phantom Green, Phantom Silver