The Ultimate Foldable: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 In-Depth Review

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Full review
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

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Introduction

The Galaxy Z Fold 5, a flagship smartphone will be released on 11 August 2023, marking a significant milestone in the evolution of mobile technology. As one of the most anticipated devices of its time, it garnered widespread attention for its cutting-edge features, sleek design, and powerful performance. In this review, we will dive into the world of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, exploring its design, display, performance, camera capabilities, software, and more. By the end of this review, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how the Galaxy Z Fold 5 fared in the ever-competitive smartphone market and whether it still holds its ground as a viable option for today’s tech-savvy consumers. So, let’s embark on this journey to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the Galaxy Z Fold 5, as we delve into the details of its performance and features.

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Design and Build Quality

The design of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 remains largely unchanged, boasting an excellent finish that incorporates Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and IPX8 certification for water and dust resistance. However, one notable omission is the absence of space for an S Pen.

This high-end handset checks all the boxes when it comes to building quality. Protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the back and cover screen, its aluminum frame adds to the device’s durability. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is IPX8-certified, allowing it to withstand water immersion up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes, proving its resilience against accidental splashes or submersion.

Available in three attractive colors – Phantom Black, Cream, and Icy Blue – the Galaxy Z Fold 5 stands out with its visually appealing aesthetics. The device’s new “teardrop” hinge enables a more compact form, allowing it to fold completely flat and resulting in a thinner profile compared to its predecessor.

The dimensions of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 are as follows:

When folded: 67.1 x 154.9 x 13.4 mm
When unfolded: 129.9 x 154.9 x 6.1 mm
With a weight of 253g, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is 10g lighter than the Galaxy Z Fold 4. While the form factor remains relatively heavy, it is on par with some non-folding smartphones, and I found it easy to hold in hand, ensuring a comfortable user experience.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 impresses with its premium design and build quality, though the absence of an S Pen slot may be a drawback for some users. Nevertheless, the device’s sleek aesthetics, water and dust resistance, and improved hinge design make it a compelling choice for those seeking a cutting-edge foldable smartphone.

Display

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 retains its two-screen setup, featuring a 7.6-inch AMOLED panel and a 6.2-inch AMOLED panel. However, not many changes have been made, except for a slight increase in brightness.

The inner display is a 7.6-inch AMOLED panel with a resolution of 2176 x 1812 pixels, supporting a variable refresh rate from 1 to 120 Hz (LTPO). On the other hand, the outer screen is a 6.2-inch AMOLED panel with a resolution of 2316 x 904 pixels and also boasts a variable refresh rate ranging from 48 to 120 Hz (LTPO).

Samsung has innovatively integrated a selfie camera beneath the screen at the top of the left panel of the inner display. This Under Display Camera (UDC) has a modest resolution of 4 MP, making it more suitable for video calls rather than high-quality selfies. However, users can still rely on other camera options for capturing better self-portraits with the Galaxy Z Fold 5.

Despite the familiar formula, the two-screen combination remains highly effective. The cover screen offers the dimensions of a regular smartphone, with a slight reduction in thickness akin to a Sony Xperia device. The inner screen remains visually attractive when unfolded, although the crease in the middle remains noticeable, both visually and to the touch.

Comparing it to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, not much has changed with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Samsung claims improved brightness on the inner screen, rated at 1,200 nits in HBM (High Brightness Mode), compared to 1,000 nits on the Z Fold 4, and 1,750 nits at peak brightness compared to 1,500 nits.

Additionally, the pixel density hiding the selfie camera beneath the inner screen is said to have increased, resulting in further concealment of the selfie lens. While these enhancements are notable, they do not present groundbreaking improvements when compared to previous models, leaving us unsurprised by the evolutionary changes in this area.

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC, which is essentially a customized version of the chip with a slight overclock. Paired with this processor is a generous 12 GB of RAM and ample storage options ranging from 256 GB to 1 TB.

During my limited hands-on experience, I managed to run a few benchmarks on the device, but I couldn’t delve into gaming performance as time was limited. However, after running the benchmarks, I noticed the smartphone getting warm behind. This could indicate potential thermal throttling, which I’ll explore further and provide more details in my comprehensive review.

At the press event, Samsung seemed cautious about running extensive benchmarks on the test units. They informed us that the software versions on the display models were not yet finalized. As a result, it’s best to give Samsung the benefit of the doubt and hope that performance will be optimized through traditional launch updates.

In my full review, I’ll conduct more thorough performance tests and evaluate how the Galaxy Z Fold 5 handles various tasks, including gaming, to provide a more comprehensive analysis of its overall performance.

Camera

My main disappointment with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 lies in its camera module, as it remains identical to that of its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The back houses the same triple camera setup, comprising a 50 MP main lens, a 12 MP ultra-wide-angle lens, and a 10 MP telephoto lens capable of 3x optical zoom.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

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The external selfie camera, with its 10 MP resolution, and the internal selfie camera, hidden beneath the screen and still featuring a 4 MP resolution, have also seen no upgrades.

While I will reserve my final judgment for the full review, it is undeniable that Samsung hasn’t gone above and beyond in introducing new camera features. Despite this, the photo quality of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 remains excellent.

My only regret is that this flagship among flagships, priced at $1,799, doesn’t boast the same advanced camera configuration as the Galaxy S23 Ultra. It would have been more satisfying to see Samsung pushing the boundaries further in its top-tier foldable device.

Battery & Charging:

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is equipped with a 4,400mAh battery, providing a decent power reservoir for its dual-screen capabilities. The device features 25W charging, which some users may find relatively slow compared to other modern standards. To fully utilize the charging speed, you will need to purchase a separate 25W power brick, as only a USB-C cable is included in the box.

Thanks to the power-efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset from Qualcomm, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 delivers impressive power efficiency, allowing you to use the phone throughout the day without frequently relying on a power source. However, due to the energy demands of its dual screens, the battery may not extend to two full days on a single charge. It’s worth noting that the phone achieved a respectable score of 11 hours and 10 minutes in the PC Mark battery test, falling slightly short of the S23 Ultra, which boasts a larger 5,000mAh battery.

During charging tests, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 charged to 28% in 15 minutes and 56% in 30 minutes, showcasing moderate charging speeds. While not as rapid as some other devices on the market, the charging performance is reasonable for most users.

In terms of convenience, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 supports Qi wireless charging, allowing you to charge the device wirelessly with compatible chargers. Additionally, the device offers reverse wireless charging, enabling you to wirelessly charge compatible earbuds or other devices using the Z Fold 5 as a power source.

Overall, the battery performance of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is solid, striking a balance between power efficiency and the energy needs of its dual screens. While the charging speeds might not be the fastest, the inclusion of wireless charging and reverse wireless charging adds to the device’s convenience and versatility.

Software & Features

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 runs on Android 13 with the latest iteration of Samsung’s custom user interface, One UI 5.1.1. Samsung promises an impressive five years of software support for this device, ensuring users receive updates and security patches until 2028, making it a reliable long-term investment.

The software experience on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is exceptional, especially in the realm of folding phones. The optional taskbar is a standout feature, allowing users to quickly access chosen and recent apps, making it convenient to launch apps or enter split-screen mode effortlessly.

While the Z Fold 5 permits multitasking with two apps simultaneously, you also have the option to open apps in pop-up windows for even more flexibility. For instance, you can watch videos while texting or have a video call while keeping a work chat open, enhancing productivity and versatility.

Nevertheless, at times, the book-style foldable design may lead to the perception that solutions are created to address issues arising from its unique limitations.

Samsung’s One UI is a well-regarded interface that offers users the freedom to customize their experience according to their preferences, providing a balance between simplicity and personalization.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 ships with Android 13, and Samsung commits to delivering updates up to Android 17 in 2027, which showcases the company’s commitment to its customers’ software needs.

While the device employs a “deep sleep” mode for certain apps, preventing updates and notifications unless explicitly deactivated, Samsung implements this feature thoughtfully to optimize the user experience.

Additionally, the Game Booster mode is a commendable inclusion, automatically activating when gaming, optimizing performance, and controlling functions to ensure an enjoyable gaming experience.

Overall, Samsung’s software implementation on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is highly regarded, combining seamless multitasking capabilities with extensive software support and thoughtful optimizations to cater to a wide range of user needs beyond just productivity and work.

Price and Value for Money

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is available for purchase starting at $1,799.99/£1,748 for the base model, which includes 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

If you opt for the 256GB model, the cost rises to $1,919.99/£1,849, while the 1TB model comes with a price tag of $2,159.99/£2,049 on Samsung’s website.

Pre-orders for all models are available globally directly through Samsung, and the phone will be available for purchase worldwide starting on August 11.

It’s essential to note that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is undeniably a premium and expensive phone. The price tag may deter some potential buyers unless they plan to keep the device for an extended period and genuinely make use of all its unique features. For others who might not require all the foldable capabilities, there are more affordable and potentially better-performing smartphones available on the market for hundreds of dollars less.

Verdict

My initial impression of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 leaves me with mixed feelings. Undoubtedly, the concept itself remains cool and intriguing. If I had a hefty budget of $2,000 dedicated to a smartphone purchase, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 or its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 4, would be my top choice.

However, therein lies the challenge. Samsung appears to have prioritized optimization over true innovation, leading to a sense of déjà vu when using the Galaxy Z Fold 5. It’s the kind of cautious sentiment one might express in an iPhone review to avoid upsetting Apple, even at the cost of losing an invitation to Cupertino in September.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 lacks the level of innovation one would expect from a flagship device. While minor improvements, such as a slightly brighter screen and the same camera module, have been implemented, the overall package feels all too familiar. The battery and charging technology, as well as the design, remain unchanged, albeit with a thinner and flatter profile.

Samsung may argue that these subtle enhancements are the result of significant research and development investment, accompanied by impressive technological achievements. I don’t doubt the efforts put forth by Samsung in this regard. However, from a user perspective, the $1,799 price tag feels steep, making it challenging to wholeheartedly recommend the Galaxy Z Fold 5, considering the limited number of genuinely new features it brings to the table.

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