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  • Cheryl Tan

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 Review: Best Folding Smartphone!

We finally come to the third generation of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series, the Z Fold3, and all the minor changes come together to make this possibly the best folding phone on the market right now.

Looks-wise, it hasn’t changed that much from the previous generation. The main display still folds in on itself, and you get the cover screen on the outside. The cover screen is the same size, although Samsung has now decided to use a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz refresh rate, so scrolling on the cover screen is just as smooth as on the main display.

Samsung has managed to make the phone chassis ever-so-slightly smaller, with a 9-gram decrease in weight despite the use of a new “Armor Aluminum” material in the metal frame and hinge that makes the Z Fold3 10% stronger than the Z Fold2. The protective film on the main display is also claimed to be 80% more durable, although the phone still warns you during set-up that pressing the screen with a hard or sharp object could cause scratches and other damage. You still can’t remove the protective film, so don’t go mistaking it for a screen protector and yanking it off.

Another great addition is that there’s now IPX8 water resistance, which means the phone can survive being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s no dust resistance so you’ll want to avoid bringing the phone to dusty or sandy areas where particles could possibly get in and cause damage.

The hero colour, the Phantom Black, is absolutely gorgeous. The matte glass back feels fantastic in the hand, and overall, it feels incredibly sturdy with the metal frame. The phone is also longer and thinner than most other phones out there, so holding it in one hand and using the cover screen feels absolutely natural. It's not difficult to touch the far edge of the screen when using one hand to type, even if your hand is on the slightly smaller side.

There are two screens on this phone: the 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Cover Screen display with 120Hz refresh rate on the outside that we mentioned earlier, as well as the 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X main display, also with a 120Hz refresh rate.

Watching shows on the main screen is an absolute joy. You’re essentially getting a mini tablet and a phone, all in one. The screen is also great for reading e-books, articles on the web and more. You might think the crease in the middle is distracting, but honestly, if you’re looking at the screen dead on and not from an angle, the crease sort of just fades away and you end up just not noticing it anymore after a while.

Something else that's interesting though, is that the camera on the inside is now hidden! Well, kind of. Instead of using the same punch-hole camera as before, Samsung has gone with an under-display camera that somewhat blends into the background. It’s quite noticeable if you’re staring at it, but if you’re focusing on content on the screen, it does fade away somewhat and it feels like there’s no black camera hole, which is nice. It is Samsung’s first implementation of this tech, so we’ll definitely see improvements in the future.

The Z Fold3 comes with S Pen support, which is pretty much a confirmation that Samsung is looking to kill off the Note series moving forward. That being said, we do think that the larger display of the Z Fold3 makes it a much more suitable device to use the S Pen on as compared to the Note or S21 Ultra. While we didn’t get a unit of the S Pen for this review, there are two versions. One is the S Pen Pro which can be used with other compatible Galaxy devices and comes equipped with Bluetooth for Air actions, and the other is the S Pen Fold Edition which only works with the Z Fold3 and doesn’t have Bluetooth.

There’s also a built-in fingerprint sensor on the side power button. It’s responsive and unlocks very quickly.

The Z Fold3 is powered by a Snapdragon 888 5G processor which supports 5G, and an Adreno 660. On Geekbench, our unit scored a single-core score of 1099 and a multi-core score of 3281, which is pretty close to the leaked scores of 1124 and 3350. As for 3D Mark, we ran two Wild Life tests, one for the cover screen and one for the main display. The cover screen scored 5,263 with an average FPS of 31.5, while the main display scored 4,639 with an average FPS of 27.8. Definitely interesting results, and you might want to use the cover screen outside if you’re planning on gaming with the Z Fold3.

The phone supports Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 as well as 5G non-standalone, standalone and sub6 or mmwave. So if you’re on a 5G mobile plan, you’ll definitely be able to get super-fast speeds when you’re out and about.

You get stereo speakers on the Z Fold3 and they do get pretty loud, although you'll need to pay attention to how you’re holding the phone when the main screen is unfolded, as the two speakers could be blocked by your hands. It’s pretty easy to make sure you’re not blocking the speakers, just ensure that the rear camera bump is on the bottom half of the phone when using the phone unfolded and in landscape mode.

As for cameras, you get a triple camera rear array with ultra-wide, wide-angle and telephoto lenses, all 12MP. Photos taken with these cameras are pretty decent with plenty of detail, although you do get the typical Samsung post-processing, which does result in vibrant photos, even though it can get a bit too saturated at times.

There’s also a 10MP selfie camera on the cover display, and the under-display camera we talked about earlier comes in at just 4MP, and photo quality is quite poor, blurry and lacking detail. If you want a good selfie, just use the 10MP camera on the cover display. Samsung has also brought back the super convenient feature where you can turn on the cover display to let the photo's subjects view how the photo is framed and such, which is nice.

You can shoot up to 4K at 60fps with the rear cameras, and there’s a stabilisation feature called Super Steady, although we’ve found that this introduces quite a bit of noise into the video. It is pretty effective at getting a steady shot though, so perhaps it would be best to use it only in brightly lit conditions. You can also shoot in HDR10+, although it’s a Labs feature and you’re limited to using it only when shooting in 4:5 or 1:1 aspect ratio and locked at 1080p 30fps.

There’s a 4,400mAh battery inside, which is a slight decrease from the 4,500mAh battery in the Z Fold2, but rest assured, the Z Fold3 lasts for an entire day even when switching between both screens for watching videos, texting and more. There’s 25W wired fast charging and 11W wireless fast charging, which works great for when you only have a bit of time to charge your phone before heading out.

There’s also reverse wireless charging where you can charge compatible accessories like the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, Watch4 or even other phones that might support wireless charging.

The Z Fold3 has two storage options, 256GB or 512GB of internal storage, and both models come with 12GB of RAM. As for pricing though, that’s where things get interesting. The Z Fold3 starts at US$1,799 or S$2,398, which is actually cheaper than the Z Fold2’s retail price of US$1999 or S$2,588. Of course, it’s still not considered affordable by any stretch of the imagination, but it does indicate that folding phones will most likely start getting cheaper as the years go by. Once it hits a more affordable price point, we might start to see foldables really pick up and gain market share.

So is this phone worth the price? It really depends on what you want the phone for. If you need a phone-tablet combo, then this could really be right up your alley. If you watch a lot of movies and shows on your phone or browse the web a lot, the larger screen is a gamechanger. If you want the newest and the latest for bragging rights, well, this is definitely the one to go for.

But if you’re not a fan of babying your phone, you definitely won’t enjoy the fragile main display or the exorbitant price. So if you’re deadset on getting a folding phone, but want one that’s more affordable, the Z Flip3 might be a better choice, and you can check out our review of that here.


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