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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review: Can foldable phone fans even feel the difference?

Overview, hinge, crease, improved Taskbar

Note: This review was first published on 18 August 2023.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, front.

Change doesn't only come from within

Book-style foldable users — you’re not forgotten. Yes, maybe the Galaxy Z Flip5’s changes seem sexier at first glance, but you and I know it’s not only about looking good. It’s about what the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 brings to the table.

The foldable market for phones has been increasingly inevitable, with many smartphone brands using this categoryto indicate their innovation and taste for premium market share. Estimates have said that we can expect 100 million foldables peddled around the world by 2027, and that even includes estimates based on brands like Apple, which has not yet played its foldable cards.

Against that backdrop, Samsung has good reason to feel anxious enough to create the perfect, textbook example of what book-style foldable offers. We doubt it wants to give up its current lead in foldable reputation and innovation, especially with its rivals quickly catching up with the few years it has before critical mass.

The TL;DR verdict:One of the most thoughtful changes in a mobile handset between generations, making it even closer to a premium foldable with a worthy, yet eye-melting price tag.

Samsung has given its latest book-style foldable meaningful upgrades in multiple ways. You’re looking at a redesigned hinge that offersbetter portability,an improved Taskbar with more functionality,and a much higher peakbrightness for its inside panel. Other perks include a 38% largervapour chamber to manage the heat generated by its powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor.We’ll see if these changes are meaningful to book-style foldable users in a bit.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, Main Screen. At Starfield Library, Coex Mall, Gangnam, Seoul.

The rest of the phone saw no major changes. Despite the downsizing, you’re still getting the same 4,400mAh battery with wired and wireless fast charging profiles, along with existing perks like UWB and NFC connectivity and the same triple rear camera setup as before.

On paper, it actually sounds like Samsung did more work to be even more efficient with the space afforded by the device's chassis.But are these seemingly superficial tweaks enough to make the S$2,398 (256GB) Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 better than before? Let’s dive in.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5
Launch SRP From S$2398
Operating system Android 13 (One UI)
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
Built-in Memory 12GB RAM
Display Cover Screen:6.2-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 48-120Hz refresh rate2,316 x 904 pixels resolution Main Screen:7.6-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex Display, 1~120Hz adaptive refresh rate2,176 x 1,812 pixels
Camera Rear:50MP main camera, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/1.8, 1.0μm, 85 ̊ FOV12MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, 1.12μm, 123 ̊ FOV10MP telephoto, PDAF, OIS, f/2.4, 1.0μm, 36 ̊ FOV, 3x Optical ZoomCover:10MP selfie camera, f/2.2, 1.22μm, 85 ̊ FOVUnder-display:4MP, f/1.8, 2.0μm, 80 ̊ FOV
Connectivity LTE / 5G (NSA, SA, Sub6, mmWave)Wi-Fi 6E, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.3, A2DP, LEGPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, BeiDouNFC, UWB
Storage Type 256GB512GB1TBNo MicroSD slot
Battery 4,400mAh25W Fast ChargingFast Wireless Charging 2.0Reverse Wireless ChargingWireless PowerShare
Dimensions Folded: 67.1 x 154.9 x 13.4mmUnfolded: 129.9 x 154.9 x 6.1mm
Weight 253g

It’s official: size matters

One-handed operation on Cover Screen is not a stretch anymore.

Samsung's redesigned hinge brought the Galaxy Z Fold5’s thickness down by 0.8-2.4mm and 10g reduction in weight, depending on which end of the phone you’re looking at. This difference, while small in number, is keenly felt in hand. Using the Cover Screen feels more like a normal phone and less like wielding a metal sandwich. It’s the kind of handling we’ve always wanted from a book-style foldable, so we’re glad Samsung figured out how, even if it’s a little slow to fix it. At least it retainedIPX8 water resistance rating (the “X” means it lacks dust resistance) despite the improvement, which is a very important advantage it did well in keeping.

The handling change is also visible if you own an older Galaxy Z Fold. Our hands-on session at Seoul shows that Galaxy Z Fold5’s closed state offers an imperceptible gap, while the older Galaxy Z Fold4 bulges at the hinge. That makes the Fold flatter and more parallel between both halves.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5's Cover Screen, which is now extremely close to a normal phone's handling.

Together, the slimmer and parallel halves grant a heightened user experience. The 6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Cover Screen with 48-120Hz refresh rate feels less lumpy during use, is easier to operate with one hand, and keeps away cleanly in your bag or pocket.

Even the (optional) S Pen is more compact too

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5's phone case with S Pen is an optional accessory, but what's another S$128 if you're already splashing nearly three grand on a phone?

One last significant improvement to the phone’s handling appeals to stylus users. The optional and sold-separately S Pen Fold Edition is also more compact now, at 4.35mm instead of the predecessor’s 7.4mm S Pen. It’s much shorter and slimmer but doesn’t come at the expense of your basic annotating capabilities.

Annotating with a slimmer, lighter S Pen is not a problem at all. You can literally draw attention to these big, juicy melons.

It also sits flush inside the optional case. We prefer this over its previous implementation, where the S Pen was sheathed into a jutting bulge that looked and felt out of place. The new phone case makes it possible to have your phone faced up or down on the table.

The crease sucks — there, we said it

Samsung's should've really done something about the crease, given it had several generations to get it right.

Sadly, Samsung didn’t bring such upgrades to its inner display. Galaxy Z Fold5’s 7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Main Screen with 1-120Hz refresh rate may have a higher 1,750-nits peak brightness, but a brighter display — while helpful — makes the crease more apparent than before (Galaxy Z Fold4 capped it out at 1,000).

We’ve already said that creases are non-negotiable for some users in our Galaxy Z Flip5 review, so we won’t repeat the same points here. But what's worth pointing out here is that the optional S Pen can get caught in the depressed crease, which does actually affect your annotation. This means it's not just an eyesore, it actually makes the phone somewhat tricky to use at times.This makes removing the Galaxy Z Fold’s crease even more critical than its clamshell counterpart.

It's still good if you use the Galaxy Z Fold5 in a half-folded state.

Multi-tasking with the improved Taskbar

The Taskbar appears when you're deep inside an app.

If you’ve not already heard, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5’s improved Taskbar gives you up to four recent apps now, instead of the old two.

While this handy feature is new to the system, it is not enabled by default. You must go into Settings > Display > Taskbar > Show recent apps and select the number you want (you can pick between 2, 3, or 4 recent apps).

We like that it’s customisable, but Samsung should’ve made this addition more evident. Users coming from other devices or older Galaxy Z Fold handsets might not know they can get more functionality out of their new Z Fold5.

See the Taskbar below? The four on the right are the most recent apps.

You can also have two "normal"-sized apps, or even split them into four apps operating in their own quadrants. That doesn't include floating app windows, like our text message.

As with Galaxy Z Fold tradition, you can drag and drop apps around the Main Screen to get a multi-window view across various apps. This works with the four recent apps' capability too. You should also enable the Samsung Labs option to bypass certain app restrictions for the full effect (for example, Shopee doesn’t like it when you do multi-window). As demonstrated above, not every app automatically reads the split view correctly, so you might have to fiddle a bit to get the apps to show up nicely.

While you can easily have four apps running in each quadrant, you’d probably want to keep to a maximum of three apps for a nice balance between readability and multi-tasking: any more and the Main Screen gets too cluttered for practical use.

Our only gripe with the device’s day-to-day usage is how untidy the settings are. You really need to set aside time to personalise the Galaxy Z Fold5 to an ideal standard of accessibility and convenience, and it’s not one to take lightly because we’d return to it regularly and optimise it further in our course of use. The two important Fold features (Taskbar and Multi-Window) are housed in different Settings submenus. The UX doesn’t make sense seeing how they are unique to Samsung’s book-style foldable phones.

Oh, don’t forget there’s two-handed drag-and-drop now, where you can use both thumbs to move copied content across apps (one thumb to hold what you’re copying, the other to tap around for the app you’re pasting in). It’s an excellent addition, but it’s also odd that this wasn’t an option when the Fold first came about.

< PrevPage 1 of 3 – Overview, hinge, crease, improved TaskbarPage 2 of 3 – Imaging and photo samplesPage 3 of 3 – Benchmarks, Battery life, ConclusionPage 1 of 3 – Overview, hinge, crease, improved TaskbarPage 1 of 3 Page 1 of 3 – Overview, hinge, crease, improved TaskbarPage 2 of 3 – Imaging and photo samplesPage 3 of 3 – Benchmarks, Battery life, ConclusionNext >

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