Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5

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Samsung’s latest folding phone, the Galaxy Z Fold5, may not be a groundbreaking departure from last year’s Galaxy Z Fold4. However, it’s not meant to be a direct upgrade; rather, it’s a fresh attempt to entice smartphone shoppers who haven’t yet embraced the new folding format. Undoubtedly, the Fold5 is Samsung’s most alluring foldable offering to date.

Galaxy Z Fold5
Galaxy Z Fold5

One of the key improvements is its updated design. The Z Fold5 is available in three appealing colors: Icy Blue, Cream, or Phantom Black. The device’s chassis is slimmer compared to the Z Fold4, measuring just 13.4mm when closed, a reduction from the previous model’s 15.8mm thickness.

This thinner profile is largely attributed to a redesigned hinge, which now allows the phone to fold completely without leaving any gap between its two halves. This not only imparts a more refined feel but also reduces the risk of debris getting lodged within the hinge. Samsung asserts that this hinge has undergone rigorous testing, receiving certification for 200,000 folds – equivalent to five years of typical usage, as verified by the independent body Bureau Veritas.

For those concerned about water damage, the Z Fold5 boasts an IPX8 rating, indicating its ability to survive a 30-minute immersion in fresh water (though it’s not guaranteed against dust resistance, as Samsung makes no such promises).

Screen setup

The reduced camera strip on the rear of the Z Fold5 gives it a neater appearance compared to its predecessor, although the bump is still substantial enough to make the phone wobble when placed on a table. However, this wobble issue can be resolved by investing in one of Samsung’s optional cases. Among these, the most noteworthy is the £89 Slim S Pen Case, which conveniently includes a stylus.

The device features a 6.2-inch OLED front panel, complemented by an almost square 7.6-inch screen on the inside. The inner screen is a visual delight, boasting a 120Hz refresh rate and an impressive peak brightness of 1,750cd/m2, ensuring vibrant and bold visuals.

While there is still a visible crease in the middle of the screen, particularly noticeable from certain angles, it tends to fade into the background with use. More importantly, the large interior display proves to be highly functional. It’s not just about enlarging individual apps; the screen is spacious enough to run multiple apps simultaneously, and Samsung facilitates this with user-friendly gestures. For instance, you can initiate a second app by swiping in from the left with two fingers or up from the bottom at any time, and the taskbar conveniently displays your four most recently used apps, along with your pinned favorites.

Additional multitasking features include the ability to convert any app into a floating window by swiping diagonally down from the top of the main screen. What’s more, you can execute two-handed drag-and-drop actions, such as selecting a photo with one hand and opening the messaging app with the other hand to drag and drop the image.

A video plays on the Main Screen of Galaxy Z Fold5 in Flex Mode. The Flex Mode Panel shows playback controls on the bottom half of the screen.

One of the standout features of the Galaxy Z Fold5 is its L-shaped “flex mode,” which effectively transforms the phone into a mini-laptop. The upper portion displays content, while controls and menu options are available on the lower display. This mode proves particularly useful for Google Meet calls, enabling easy access to emojis for reactions and screen sharing. If you wish to use the phone as a full PC, simply connect it to a monitor and activate DeX mode, which allows apps to run in full-screen mode.

However, there is one notable drawback when it comes to the Fold5’s displays. Similar to previous models, the narrow 23:9 aspect ratio of the front screen is suitable for browsing in Chrome but can feel cramped for typing.

Still cameras

Another aspect that remains consistent with the Z Fold4 is the camera specifications. The device features a 50MP primary camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom. Additionally, there’s a 10MP selfie camera on the front and a low-resolution 4MP camera beneath the inner display. While the Z Fold5 doesn’t always match the impeccable clarity of the iPhone 14 Pro Max , it excels in enhancing shadowed areas and capturing brighter, more vibrant photos.

However, it’s essential not to set overly high expectations for the zoom capabilities. The Fold5 provides up to 30x magnification, but once you surpass 3x, you rely on digital zoom, leading to a rapid decrease in image quality. The under-display camera’s performance is also questionable, yielding blurry results.

Internally, the Galaxy Z Fold5 is equipped with a high-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. In the Geekbench 5.5 benchmark, the device achieved a single-core performance score of 1,487 and a multicore score of 4,578, placing it on par with the standard Galaxy S23 (though it still lags behind the latest iPhones). During usage, the Z Fold5 exhibited snappy and responsive performance, whether I was multitasking with multiple tabs open in Chrome or running two apps side by side.

Even when handling demanding games like Call of Duty Mobile and Mortal Kombat, the device didn’t experience any noticeable slowdowns. The sensation of gliding my finger across the crease was slightly distracting, but overall, the gaming experience on the spacious screen was smooth and immersive.

The updated processor also contributes to improved power efficiency. Despite sharing the same 4,400mAh battery as the Galaxy Z Fold4, the Z Fold5 lasted an additional 90 minutes in our continuous web-surfing test, enduring for 10 hours and 55 minutes compared to the Fold4’s 9 hours and 17 minutes. However, it’s worth noting that the charging speed could be faster. The Z Fold5 sticks with 25W charging, while the Galaxy S23 models offer a speedier 45W charging option.

Pixel rival

Certainly, if you’re in the market for a folding phone, you’ll find that Samsung isn’t the sole contender. The Z Fold5 now faces a fresh rival in the form of the Google Pixel Fold (as discussed in issue 348, page 44). One notable advantage in Google’s corner is the Pixel Fold’s broader front display, providing a more pleasant experience when using the phone in its closed configuration. Additionally, the Pixel Fold’s cameras exhibit superior low-light performance, and it boasts a more robust 5x optical zoom.

Conversely, the Z Fold5 holds a considerable edge with its Snapdragon processor, which is notably faster than Google’s Tensor G2 chipset. Furthermore, the Samsung device’s battery endured for over 30 minutes longer in our tests. In terms of usability, the Pixel Fold doesn’t always match the smoothness of the Fold5: it supports multitasking with only two apps, whereas the Fold5 can handle three simultaneously, and some apps on the Pixel Fold don’t fully utilize the entire screen.

Two Galaxy Z Fold5 devices. One is folded and seen from the rear. The other is open to the Main Screen. Two windows are open on the Main Screen. One is a note-taking app with drawings created with the S Pen hovering over the screen. The other is an internet browser.

Making a decision isn’t any easier, given that the Galaxy Z Fold5 launches at the same price point as the Pixel Fold – £1,749 including VAT – with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There are options to upgrade to 512GB and 1TB, and you have the choice to pair the phone with an S Pen for £32 including VAT, or opt for the more versatile S Pen Pro for £83 including VAT.

Despite all its trappings, there was hope for more from the Galaxy Z Fold5. Folding phones are still a young technology, and it would have been nice to see bolder, more innovative ideas. As it is, if you weren’t won over by the Fold4, this update probably won’t persuade you to make the considerable investment in a foldable. All the same, what we have here is an unequivocal improvement on the previous model. The new hinge results in a neater, sleeker phone, and the latest Snapdragon chip boosts both performance and battery life. Throw in a brighter display and multitasking enhancements and there’s no doubt that, once again, Samsung takes the crown for the best folding phone around.

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