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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Refined experience

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Samsung’s vision of a foldable smartphone has reached the 5th generation and you can see how it is all starting to come together.

By: AKASH DUTTA
Updated on: Jun 18 2024, 14:59 IST
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 starts at a price of Rs. 1,54,999 for the 12GB RAM + 256GB internal storage variant. (Akash/HT Tech)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is here and the price tag is still very much hefty. Having said that, we find that the main USP of the smartphone has to be explored and talked about at length to show exactly how much this 5th-generation foldable has changed. For the better? We put the Z Fold 5 through its paces and see if it comes out triumphant.

The intrigue, and the interest, surrounding a novel technology is not going to last five years. That is a given. But that does not appear to be the point with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. The smartphone does not play on the tactics of giving you a smartphone you have never seen before. Instead, it relies on offering a device that comes closest in terms of what an optimized and functional folding smartphone experience should be.

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The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is all about refinement. It is about using a smartphone with a strange aspect ratio that reminds you of a tablet with a slight crease down the middle, but it is so immersive that at no point does it obstruct your smartphone experience. Now, that was a mouthful, but it has a reason. Why? The Z Fold 5 is all about using a foldable smartphone that finally has the potential to be your primary device. There, we have said it. It is so immersive that you do not even realize that you are using something as crazy as a smartphone that folds.

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If you’re wondering why my opinion is so positive of the smartphone that has received a fair amount of criticism from the tech community, the reason is that I have been using this smartphone non-stop for a little over two weeks now. And in this short period of time, it went from a device that annoyed me with its extra long and thin display to a device I instinctively look for, often ignoring my own daily driver.

Let me explain in detail.

Design

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 design (Akash/HT Tech)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 design (Akash/HT Tech)

The design is one half of the area where you actually get to experience something new compared to its predecessor (the other is the processor). The Galaxy Z Fold 5 flaunts a new hinge mechanism and I must say, makes a huge difference. Even till the last generation, Samsung folding phones came with a design that had a significant gap when folded together. The phone would not sit flat and there was always a risk that something could get to the display and damage it.

This year, Samsung went for an entirely new ‘Flex Hinge’ that makes the smartphone fold virtually without any gap (there is still a slight bit of gap if you look hard enough). The hinge, along with slight refinement in the design now makes the folded smartphone 2.4mm thinner and 10 grams lighter. Might not be a lot on paper, but makes a hell of a difference when carrying it in your pocket. Another small upgrade is that the hinge is now a lot more muted. Opening and closing the phone feels much more premium and does not scare you that you might have accidentally cracked something.

That said, the rest of the design is pretty similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, bar the colorway. You get a 6.2-inch (904 x 2316p) cover display and a 7.6-inch (1812 x 2176p) main display, both being 2X AMOLED with a refresh rate of 120Hz. The chassis has both a premium appearance and a sturdy build quality with its Armor Aluminum material and Gorilla Glass Victus 2. On the back, you get a triple rear camera setup that did not get the memo from the Galaxy S23 series and has the camera lenses inside a pill-shaped module. Finally, it also retains the IPX8 rating for water resistance that was seen in the predecessor.

So, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is slightly thinner (13.4mm) and slightly lighter (253 grams) as a result of these minor tweaks, but most importantly, it folds flatter which tremendously improves the overall smartphone experience.

Displays

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 display (Akash/HT Tech)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 display (Akash/HT Tech)

As mentioned above, the display is pretty much identical to its predecessor. But, I’ll just say it. Yes, the awkwardly tall cover display with an alien aspect ratio of 23.1:9 feels very strange to use at first. It is good enough for one-handed usage horizontally, but you might find yourself sliding the phone in your hand a couple of times to reach the top from the bottom. However, the more I used the phone, the less it became a noticeable issue. Samsung phones are known for their vivid and highly responsive displays, and that helps a great deal in getting over the aspect ratio. I did everything from watching videos, playing games, and even typing long messages on WhatsApp, and could do it all without much hassle and typos. However, it is a personal preference, and if you find that to be too extreme, you can check out the Google Pixel Fold (provided you are not in India), as it offers a slightly more balanced cover display.

Then you have the 7.6-inch main display with a tablet-like layout, and it is great for seeing more content on a single page, watching videos (even if you get black bars on top and bottom, the overall video size is much larger than what you get on a phone), and even playing games like BGMI and Genshin Impact, which actually offer a full-screen experience.

The extra display real estate, however, becomes a game changer when you are multitasking. With the ability to add up to four different apps together on a screen, you find yourself doing things seamlessly that would have been very annoying on a smartphone (more on this later).

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 gets a minor upgrade here as well with a higher peak brightness of 1750 nits matching the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Even the sunniest outdoors will not take away the shine from your smartphone. Plus, you get the highest quality Samsung display which means vivid and sharp color reproduction, deep blacks, and a very smooth scrolling experience.

Finally, the crease is also slightly improved and less noticeable. But yes, it is still noticeable. And while I did not face much of an issue while using the device, at certain angles you can still see it. And while gaming, sometimes your fingers are bound to glide over it, which is not a nice experience. It’s an ugly spot in an otherwise great display.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 performance (Akash/HT Tech)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 performance (Akash/HT Tech)

Samsung pitches its Fold 5 as “PC-like multitasking and powerful gaming in your pocket”. And I have to agree. The smartphone gets the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, the same processor seen in the Galaxy S23 series. The processor is more than capable of handling anything that is thrown at it. From casual social media scrolling to editing photos, there was nothing that it could not deal with. App loading times were rapid, switching from one app to another felt like a breeze, and I never experienced any lag, glitches of freeze frames at any time.

But that is to be expected. Where I really was surprised is when I tried multitasking on the device. Sometimes I have to write news articles on the go, and getting the laptop out is not always possible. For times like these, I found the Fold 5 to be pretty handy. I could open up Google Docs, Chrome, and any reference material all on the same screen and then drag and drop things as I pleased. I was able to change the size of the windows intuitively and work without a hitch. This is something I have never been able to use so fluidly in any other smartphone.

But in my opinion, what really ties this entire performance together into a seamless experience is the OneUI 5.1. Based on Android 13, it makes the most of the operating system to give users some quality-of-life features that are simply intuitive. You can start watching a video on the cover display and then open the larger display without ever pausing. Even some games like Brawl Stars allowed me to do that but others like eFootball or BGMI did not. Needless to say but still important to mention, there are absolutely no bloatware or pre-installed apps and you get a clean experience. You also get four years’ worth of OS upgrades, which future-proofs the device a lot.

There are some party tricks on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 as well, most of them being carried forward from its predecessor. You can open the smartphone halfway through (Flex Mode), and open Google Docs to find yourself a mini laptop with the display on top and keyboard at the bottom. You can take photos with the upper display acting like the viewfinder and the lower as the tool center.

A bit of nitpicking but I did not like the speakers on the smartphone. They seem to lack some depth and loudness and produced slightly tinnier sound, which is a shame on a smartphone that costs more than twice the iPhone 14, which produces a much better audio quality.

Cameras

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 camera (Akash/HT Tech)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 camera (Akash/HT Tech)

On a slightly disappointing note, the cameras are exactly the same as last year, with a 50MP wide lens, a 10MP telephoto lens, and a 12MP ultrawide camera. Additionally, you get a 10MP cover display camera and a 4MP under-display camera.

The cameras are not bad per se. You can still click great quality photos both in daylight and low light conditions. The photos do come out with a slightly saturated color tone, which may not look as natural as the photos from iPhones do, but they look Instagram-ready. The optical zoom is also quite good and it allows you to take 3x zoomed-in photos with similar resolution. You do lose a slight amount of details and sharpness, but the dynamic range remains impressive.

The ultrawide camera lets you click photos with a field of vision of 123 degrees, which is great for capturing expansive shots. However, do expect the images to lose a bit of detail.

The Nightography mode does add some improvements to low-light photography, although every now and then you will see a slightly overexposed image that does not properly balance the brighter and the darker areas. The 10MP selfie camera on the cover display does a decent job as the images have an ample amount of detail, but with the ability to take selfies using the rear camera, you probably will not use it much. Finally, there is the 4MP under-display camera, which is not at all good and best to not use unless you really have to.

My main qualm with the camera system is that there is no improvement at all compared to the last year’s smartphone. In a year when rival companies are flooding the market with folding smartphones, sticking to old guns is a risky strategy. The 4MP under-display camera at the very least deserved an upgrade. Right now, both Google Pixel Fold and the Honor Magic V2 offer better cameras than the Galaxy Fold 5.

Battery

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 battery (Akash/HT Tech)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 battery (Akash/HT Tech)

The battery is also similar to last year’s model at 4400 mAh, and it gives comparable results. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 combined together with OneUI 5.1 easily lasts an entire day with moderate usage and 20-30 percent juice still left in the tank. On heavy usage like gaming, video calling, or using RAM-intensive apps, while keeping it at maximum refresh rate, you may have to plug it in by the time you hit the bed, which is still not a bad deal at all.

However, you again have to deal with the slow charging speeds of Samsung phones. With a maximum charging speed of 25W, it takes over an hour to fully charge the device, which is not what you expect from a flagship smartphone. Again, the Honor Magic V2 comes with a 66W charger, and if charge times are a pet peeve for you, you should check that device instead.

Verdict

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 verdict (Akash/HT Tech)
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 verdict (Akash/HT Tech)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 comes with areas where it shines brightly. The overall package of what is being offered is very, very appealing, especially for a folding smartphone. Overall, I feel confident in saying that Galaxy Z Fold 5 is likely the best folding smartphone in the market right now.

And a lot of it has to do with not adding major upgrades, as counterintuitive as it may sound. Samsung has made the decision to perfect the design they started with instead of feeling the pressure from the rivals and adding a radical new upgrade, that would likely not feel very optimized. With a technology that is still relatively new, I believe this was the right thing to do.

And you do see its impact upon using the device. Everything feels polished, the anxiety of using a folding smartphone is much less, and the intuitiveness of the software helps you in growing familiar with such an unusual technology almost overnight.

Of course, there are some areas that fail to impress. The smartphone is massively pricey. So, if you already own the Galaxy Z Fold 4, we would advise you not to upgrade. Similarly, unless you are someone who is curious about new technology, requires a high-performance device configured for multitasking, or wants a 2-in-1 tablet and smartphone, you might find it a bit difficult to justify the price. But for those of you who fit into the bracket, go for it if you can afford it. You will fall in love with it.

Rating
4 out of 5
Price
INR 154,999/-
Product Name
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
Brand Name
Samsung
Pros
  • High-performance Multitasking
  • New Hinge mechanism
  • Display
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Narrow and tall cover display
  • Slow charging speed
Specifications
  • Main display
    7.6-inch 120Hz AMOLED Foldable
  • Cover display
    6.2-inches 120Hz AMOLED
  • Chipset
    Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
  • OS
    OneUI 5.1 on Android 13
  • Rear cameras
    50MP + 12MP + 10MP
  • Selfie cameras
    10MP + 4MP
  • Battery
    4400 mAh
  • Charging
    25W wired, 15W wireless

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First Published Date: 16 Aug, 11:50 IST
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