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Review Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung's best bid for the mobile of the future

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best foldable mobile from the South Koreans to date. But are you absolutely sure that a foldable mobile is something you want?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Karakter
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Best foldable mobile from Samsung so far. More robust than its predecessor, now being waterproof down to 1.5 meters. Also supports S-Pen. Comes with configuration from top shelf.
Very, very expensive. You could also have expected more from the camera, especially for the price. Poorer battery life than its predecessor. And are foldable mobiles something consumers want at all? We have come to doubt.
  • Operating system: Android 11
  • Screen: 7.6″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120 Hz QXGA + (2208 x 1768) (primary) / 6.2″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120 Hz HD + (2268 x 832) (front)
  • Processor: Snapdragon 888 5 nm 64 bit octa-core
  • Memory: 12 GB RAM / 256 GB storage (UFS 3.1)
  • Cameras: 12 MP f / 2.2 ultra wide angle (123 °) + 12 MP f / 1.8 OIS wide angle + 12 MP f / 2.4 OIS telephoto (primary) / 4 MP f / 1.8 (front) / 10 MP f / 2.2 (cover)
  • Wireless: 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
  • Dimensions and weight: 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4 mm / 271 g
  • Battery: 4400 mAh, 25 W fast charging + 10 W wireless charging
  • Web: samsung.com

I have to say it right away. I am becoming more and more skeptical about the very concept of foldable mobiles. We have already reviewed several of these, and technologically it is impressive what manufacturers like Motorola and Samsung have achieved in a very short time.

But still, the whole phenomenon is starting to remind me of the wave of 3D products that flooded the market about ten years ago. Everything should be in 3D – most of all your TV – but no matter how much the manufacturers promoted  the technology, consumers largely just did not care.

And while this may seem unscientific and subjective, I’m getting more and more of the impression that most consumers are reacting exactly the same way to foldable smartphones. Everyone thinks that the technology is fascinating and that it looks cool, but since the expensive products started to come on the market I have NEVER ever seen an ordinary person with a foldable mobile in a public place anywhere. And for the past 18 months I have lived in Denmark, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Figures from various research institutes indicate that Samsung should have sold over two million copies of their previously foldable models such as the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Z Fold 2 worldwide so far, but I’m skeptical. It may well be that my subjective perception is wrong, but I feel convinced that these figures do not paint a real picture of consumer interest.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Among the most important news is that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is IPX8 certified and thus waterproof down to a depth of one and a half meters for up to 30 minutes. (Photo: Samsung)

And it’s not because the technology has not improved. For that is what my test also shows. But in practice, it is simply the few who want or need to use a foldable mobile in daily life. Especially in the tablet format that Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers.

Sure, the idea of ​​being able to use your mobile both as a regular smartphone and as a tablet is fascinating, but when it comes down to it, you do not bother to open the mobile and fold it all the time. It’s too impractical for everyday use, and I’m saying this on my own behalf after having had several foldable models in my hands over the last two years. Every single time I have finished testing a Galaxy Z Fold model, I have been looking forward to finishing so I could get back to my regular smartphone.

Of course, I understand that not everyone shares my position, and if you happen to be one of those who really likes foldable smartphones, then finally read on, because then you will not be disappointed with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Appearance and construction

Well, let me begin the actual test by making one thing crystal clear: If you already have a Galaxy Z Fold 2, you do not need to invest in the successor. Because the differences between the two models are too small.

Just like the 2, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is robust and solid. You notice this not least when you unfold the mobile and back together. There is so much resistance in the hinges that it is difficult to open with one hand. The body of the mobile itself, made of glass on the front and an aluminum alloy on the back of the folded mobile, is now so robust that one is not nervous about holding the phone in a firm grip or even about dropping it.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 had already been equipped with a hinge, where the hinge area itself was built into a form-fitting cylindrical housing – very precisely designed so that dust and dirt could be shielded as best as possible. Galaxy Z Fold 3 has then had the hinge further strengthened, as the construction is now made of so-called Armor Aluminum. According to Samsung, it makes the whole baduljen approx. 10 percent more durable, which honestly is hard to verify in practice. But it should probably fit.

The most important improvement that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can offer is IPX8 certification, which in practice means that the phone is waterproof down to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. However, it is not dustproof.

Screen

Also, when it comes to the screens on the latest Samsung foldable, everything is pretty much the same. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 thus comes with a 6.2-inch front screen, which is admittedly very narrow (25: 9 format), but still has enough space to use the foldable mobile as a regular smartphone – including all apps – without unfolding it. New compared to last year, however, is that the front screen on this year’s model comes with an update frequency of 120 Hz – that is, just like the 7.6-inch foldable screen.

The latter is made of so-called Ultra Thin Glass (UTG), which is a kind of glass alloy with a thin layer of plastic as a protective layer and flexible glass underneath.

It does not feel quite like real glass, and the soft material also means that you can see a physical fold that goes across the screen, even when it is unfolded.

The foldable mobile is available in three colors: Phantom Green, Phantom Black and Phantom Silver. (Photo: Samsung)

However, it does not interfere with the user experience or the image quality, which is largely on a par with what we are used to from Samsung’s other top models. In the same spirit, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 also has HDR10+, which optimizes the image in terms of color reproduction and contrast.

The most characteristic of the foldable screen is actually the 4:3 screen format, which is similar to that of older cathode ray TVs. Most apps adapt to the special format without any problems, but when you want to watch video, you will end up with fairly wide bars both above and below the image. Unless, of course, you can find older TV clips on YouTube from the good old days before the flat screen TVs made their debut.

As something completely new, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports Samsung’s S Pen. The S Pen even comes in two brand new versions – the S Pen Fold Edition and the S Pen Pro – which, however, must be purchased separately.

Along with the support of the S Pen, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 also gets new productivity features, including more flexible multitasking, including the so-called flex mode, which lets you move the active part of an app to one half of the screen when the phone is folded upright, while a panel appears at the bottom of the screen with additional controls.

Sound

Galaxy Z Fold 3 stands out by offering really good voice quality. And there are still, in fact, people who occasionally talk on their cell phones.

There is no physical input for headphones, so you have to connect your earbuds or headphones via Bluetooth. But then the foldable mobile also offers a dynamic sound image with lots of juice and power in all frequency ranges.

Particularly surprising, however, is that the Samsung Z Galaxy Fold 3 is also equipped with two excellent stereo speakers that deliver a powerful sound experience. In fact, both the sound quality and volume are so impressive that the phone sounds better than many of the cheaper Bluetooth speakers one can buy.

Using the front screen and the ultra-wide-angle lens of the primary camera, one can take the most wicked selfies. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Camera

Basically, the Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 has the same camera setp as its predecessor. That is, with three lenses, which are a real ultra-wide angle, a normal wide angle and a telephoto, respectively. A good combination of focal lengths that are convenient to photograph with in everyday life.

The camera app has a number of different photo and video settings, and in automatic mode the user interface is fairly clean with a choice of focal length, filter and automatic help. In manual mode, you can, as usual, adjust ISO, focus points, white balance and exposure compensation. But also contrast and color saturation as well as manual aperture change.

The app also offers a few special features that take advantage of the foldable screen – including the so-called Capture View Mode, which shows the user the latest recording on the lower half of the main screen, while the camera mode remains activated on the upper half.

Moreover, due to the special design, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has not just one, but two whole selfie cameras. Above the small front screen we find a single 10 megapixel lens that takes excellent pictures, and on the inside there is a small selfie camera so you can take quick self-portraits, no matter what screen you use.

On the other hand, the small selfie camera that Samsung has hidden behind the foldable screen is not worth much. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Here it is new that Samsung has hidden the camera behind the screen, where on the predecessor there was a small punched hole in the screen for the selfie camera. The price for hiding the camera behind the screen, so you can use your unfolded mobile screen without holes in the image, is that the new camera is only 4 megapixels, and the image quality is correspondingly bad.

It is also possible to use the front screen as a camera viewfinder so that one can take really wicked selfies with the ultra-wide angle lens of the main camera.

All in all, it’s easy and straightforward to shoot with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Under normal conditions, the auto succeeds well with exposure, proper white balance and fine colors. The night mode, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about, just as the camera only comes with 2x optical zoom. So it is also clear that Samsung, despite the extremely high price of the foldable mobile, has not prioritized the camera on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as highly as on top models like the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The small 4 megapixel selfie camera that usually hides behind the foldable screen comes into view when used. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Performance and features

There is not much use for an oversized folding screen if that large screen area is not used for anything. But Samsung has solved that task in a sensible way by, as mentioned, letting the Galaxy Z Fold 3 support multitasking in various designs.

You can thus have several apps open at the same time on the big screen, just as you can also open several windows from the same app and see them side by side on the screen. With drag-and-drop functionality that you know from your computer, you can pull text, images and documents from one app to another.

And while it obviously takes a lot of effort and energy to power such a large mobile phone with so many features, screens and cameras, the Galaxy Fold Z 3 also does more than honorably on that front.

But the foldable mobile has also been equipped with the fastest available processor on the market: Snapdragon 888 with 5G.

On our markets, we are otherwise used to Samsung’s flagship mobiles coming with the South Koreans’ own Exynos processors – Galaxy S21 Ultra thus came with Exynos 2100 octa-core – but Qualcomm’s best processor is actually faster across the board, as our benchmark results also testify.

With a 4400 mAh battery, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 holds power most of the day, but still manages just over eight hours in our benchmark test, which pushes the mobile to the extreme. The predecessor managed over ten hours, so this is a small deterioration that will be livable for most people.

In benchmark tests, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 performs in line with other top models. As it should – at that price! (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Conclusion

Although the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has become a few hundre Pouds cheaper than its predecessor, the South Koreans’ foldable smartphone is still really expensive! So expensive that even Apple cannot charge a similar amout. So you really have to be happy with the idea of ​​a foldable mobile screen for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to be tempting.

If so, then the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a great product that offers important optimizations such as S-Pen support as well as waterproofness and better front screen compared to its predecessor.

As mentioned, however, we have begun to become skeptical about the very concept of foldable mobiles, so we will not give a special recommendation. And if you are already a fan of the Galaxy Z Fold series, then you will probably buy the latest model anyway. But considered on its own terms, the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best foldable mobile Samsung has yet produced. Even though the battery life could have been a little better.

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