Samsung has upgraded the foldable series. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is a fourth-generation foldable smartphone with a flagship processor, a stereo speaker setup, a 12MP triple rear camera at its disposal. At Rs. 1,49,999/- (base variant), although it is a technological marvel, it is among the best expensive smartphones available and I am not counting those custom-made phones by Kevlar or others.
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The Z Fold3 looks great, has a top-notch specs sheet and a majestic foldable display. However, what is it like to use the phone? Does the phone promise to stand on all your expectations or simply disappoint? Check out this hands-on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G review to find out everything you need to know about the phone.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is up for pre-booking at INR 4,799/-. The device is available in two storage trims. The base 12+256GB trim is available at INR 149,999/- while the topmost variant at 12+512GB is priced at INR 157,999/-. You can choose between Phantom Black and Phantom Green colour variants.
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It is not astonishing to notice that Samsung followed the same path as Apple and decided to keep the packaging slim by removing the charging adapter this time in the Fold series. The box contents of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 go light and just include:
- Galaxy Z Fold3 handset
- USB-C to USB-C cable
- Sim ejector pin
Before we talk in detail about Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, let’s have a quick look at the key specifications.
- Display: 19.19cm (7.6″) Dynamic AMOLED 2X 120Hz dual displays
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
- Storage: 12GB/256GB, 12GB/512GB
- Software: OneUI 3.1 based on Android 11
- Rear cameras: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
- Selfie camera: 10MP
- Battery: 4,400 mAh
- Weight: 271g
- Dimensions: 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4
Now, let’s move ahead and see what makes the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 the most good-looking phone of 2021.
Samsung had to tackle a few challenges to get around developing and releasing the Fold3. The phone is slightly shorter, thinner in width, and slimmer although you would still need to know how the Fold2 looked to make up the difference between the two. It is lightweight at 271 grams compared to its predecessor. Of course, holding a phone of that weight will be slightly discomforting. It is like holding two phones stacked together so that’s what you will be dealing with after buying Z Fold3 5G. Yes, there’s a gap between the two halves of the phone when it is folded.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is the first foldable phone to get an official IPX8 rating. This ensures that the phone doesn’t get water damage when submerged up to 1.5 meters deep and 30 minutes. There’s no dust resistance on the device which means you could still hand attract lint and dust on the hinges which have been a problem with foldable phones.
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Talking about the display, both the displays have been maxed up to 2X AMOLED panels with a native 120Hz support. The front or cover display has a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on top for extreme protection against falls and drops. On the contrary, the inner display has been strengthened by about 80% giving it a much-needed strength on otherwise soft and easy damage foldable display.
Moving further, Galaxy Z Fold3 5G uses the Aluminum 7000 series dubbed as Aluminum Armor which makes it way stronger than traditional smartphones. In fact, Samsung demonstrated the same at the launch event and even after we redo it, the results were the same. The phone did suffer some scratches and it didn’t break apart and I wouldn’t want it to happen after paying more than 1.5 lac rupees on a smartphone.
Talking about the ports and buttons, there’s a top and a bottom-firing loudspeaker. There’s a USB-C port at the bottom along with a primary mic and the secondary mic is on top as usual. A power button sides on the right doubling as a side-mounted fingerprint scanner on the right. Finally, there’s a SIM slot on the left side when unfolded and it goes to the right side when folded.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G has a state-of-the-art foldable internal display scaling at 7.9-inch of foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with 120Hz refresh rate, 1200 nits of peak brightness, and HDR10+ support. The display has a 1768×2208 pixels resolution. The secondary or cover display, on the other hand, has a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with 120Hz RR and 832 by 2268 pixels resolution and a tall 25:9 aspect ratio. Samsung has fixed Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on top of the cover display while the primary display has a strengthened layer explained below.
Both the cover and internal foldable panel have made quite a difference. The primary display is the cherry on the cake as it is foldable and has a state-of-the-art under-the-display front selfie camera. This gives you a great viewing experience as the camera is almost visible although Samsung had to still use some pixels, the region above the camera can be seen ever so slightly when the brightness is dimmed.
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The crease is still there although the display tech has improved to the next generation compared to Fold2 5G and it makes a lot of difference here. Samsung is using what it calls an Eco2OLED panel which lets 33% higher light transmittance and up to 25% less power consumption.
Moving on, the display comes with HDR10+, HLG, Widevine L1, and HDR support allowing users to watch HDR content on OTT platforms with ease.
The cover display isn’t much different. It can be assumed as almost half of the primary display with a native 120Hz refresh rate just like the primary display. The 120Hz refresh rate mounted on Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is adaptive. It clocks to 60Hz at standard while travelling between 60Hz and 120Hz in adaptive mode.
When tested, the display performs as per the norms. It upscales to 120Hz when using n number of apps and interacting with the panel. As soon as you keep the screen idle, it resorts to 60Hz only to upscale 120Hz when you tap, scroll, move, or basically interact with the display in any way.
The brightness on the displays has been improved as well. The cover display has 489 nits and 479 nits w.r.t. the primary and cover display and for the internal display, the brightness is at 1001 nits (cover) and 922 nits (primary).
It is great that the entire Galaxy Z Fold3 5G consisting of different country-specific variants now has a single Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset. The octa-core chipset built on a 5nm node has a tri-cluster arrangement with a max 2.84GHz frequency. An Adreno 660 GPU takes care of the graphics while the storage is handled by UFS 3.1 system and offers 256GB and 512GB of storage and 12GB RAM.
You are probably using one of the most expensive smartphones (except those custom-made) so the performance is a crucial part to consider. With Fold 3, you get a beast of a performer aka the Snapdragon 888 across all markets. This literally means that the US variant is no better than the Indian variant which is in the case of the S21 series.
Talking about numbers, Fold 3 scored 1095 points and 3239 points on single-core and multi-core tests on GeekBench 5. This figures out it behind OnePlus 9, ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, among others. Note that the performance distinction between Fold 3 and other SD888-powered phones is little in single-core and more on multi-core tests. Similarly, AnTuTu 8 gives it 635918 (primary) and 625966 (cover) points reaching closer to Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G’ 657273 points.
Everyday performance on the Snapdragon 888 SoC is good on Fold 3 with apps running with any glitch even if it’s a high-fidelity one. The main display has an upper hand compared to the cover display in almost all the tests we did. The phone feels a lot balanced although there are some graphics rendering issues with the device. The thermal management which can literally tweak the performance higher or lower is an issue too. The phone just doesn’t use the full potential of a flagship chipset like other smartphones using the SoC.
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On the software front, the device runs on the latest Android 11-powered OneUI 3.1.1. With a tonne of features at your disposal, it’s highly unlikely that you will miss your laptop or desktop when using Fold3. The phone uses an optimized UI with features like Always-On, customization between the home screen, and app drawer on both displays. There’s a Samsung Edge Screen that you can customize and get the best out of it.
OneUI 3.1.1 has a Labs feature that lets users try out Advanced features such as pop-up view, multi-window support. A three-way multi-window split lets you use three apps at once without feeling that one of the screens is too small. There’s a Flex Mode that lets you use the phone folded at an angle between 75 and 115-degrees and it is a great way to mount the phone when on a video call or watching videos since you don’t need a stand to keep the phone upright.
You can’t forget the Samsung DeX which is Samsung’s integration to allow users to have a PC-like experience once you connect to a PC or TV or Monitor. Apart from that, the phone seamlessly ports out content from cover to primary and vice versa in a jiffy without going any rocket science to get the content on the other screens.
There are a total of 5 cameras on top of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G. The right comprises of a triple rear camera setup with a 12MP primary wide-angle sensor with Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, f/1.8 aperture; a secondary 12MP telephoto sensor with f/2.4 aperture, OIS, 2x optical zoom, PDAF; and a 12MP ultrawide snapper with f/2.2 aperture and 123-degree field of view.
At the front, there’s a 4MP ultra-the-display camera on the primary display with f/1.8 aperture while a 10MP punch-hole cut-out on the cover display arrives with an f/2.2 aperture.
Just to make sure that you can remember, the camera setup on Fold3 5G is almost the same as the one on Fold2 5G although with a UD camera added to the array and thus, the performance won’t be much different. The primary sensor does have an upper hand in terms of the quality and clarity of the shots. However, when matched against Galaxy S21 Ultra, the latter is a clear winner. The sensor captures most details without a glitch, contrast is good but could have been better.
The ultrawide snapper takes wider shots and it can be termed as good enough. Although the shots were good, I did see some softening happening and the overall dynamic range on the shots was taking a hit as well. It feels as if Samsung is going with a laid-back approach with shots using the UW camera when they should’ve gone for heavy processing under the hood.
There’s a 12MP telephoto camera as well and it has good colour accuracy, dynamic good is good, and overall, the shots are in line with most flagship phones. You can trigger a 2x and up to 10x zoom although the shots will lose some details as you zoom further escaping the optical zoom limit.
When it comes to low-light photography, the primary camera takes perfect shots highlighting dark areas and bringing a good amount of sharpness with a tinge of noise that you won’t be able to locate in many shots. The telephoto cam can go for night mode at 2x level. I found out that the telephoto cam has focusing issues in low-lighting conditions which means you will have to waste some time to get the lens focused. Although, the night mode on Z Fold3 5G is underwhelming compared to Fold2 5G for sure.
Overall, the rear camera is high-octane and does its job in pretty much all the lighting conditions. It may not be scaled to the level of S21 Ultra as of now but it does furnish excellent shots. Samsung can still push updates via OTA to improve its camera performance further.
Talking about the front cameras, the 4MP shots and the 10MP shots are way apart. The 4MP shots were blurry and the details weren’t adequate whereas the 10MP module works too well making the shots look lively. The 10MP sensor lacks autofocus so that’s a disappointment though.
Galaxy Z Fold3 5G sports a 4,400 mAh battery. At first, I was assuming that Samsung has done some optimizations under the hood to squeeze more power out of the battery but turns out it resonates with the lost 100mAh shelved from the battery used on Z Fold2. The latest smartphone offers a good 10:10 hours of web browsing on 5G at 150 nits of brightness and 60Hz mode. However, it dips down to 6:35 hours with 120Hz Adaptive mode which is about 2:30 hours less than what Galaxy Z Fold2 was able to achieve on web browsing 120Hz 5G and 150 nits.
The battery life is subjective though a 4,400 mAh battery is more than enough for a day on light to moderate usage given the fact that the device has two displays and a higher refresh rate while power users will have to find a charger by the end of the day.
Samsung’s battery department isn’t that up to the level even for flagship-grade phones because you get a max 25W charging speed. It is literally a snail’s speed when compared to Realme and OnePlus’s 66W and other fast chargers out there. Plus, you don’t get a charger with your retail box and that’s disappointing. However, it’s something Apple did so why no Samsung.
Finally, we have a 10W wireless and 4.5W reverse charging support on the go which is snail’s speed again. I am not enthralled to recommend a 1.5L smartphone that will take about 1:46 hours to juice up to its full extent. In any case, you are welcome to buy if you are ready to compromise charging speed over a foldable display and other chops.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G sports a dual stereo speaker setup. Just like the predecessor Fold2, the Fold3 has a primary bottom-firing loudspeaker and a top-firing loudspeaker. I have been using both Fold2 and Fold3 for a while now and it turns out it is exceptionally loud. It has a bass and depth to it and does produce sound quality just like the second generation of Fold devices. Plus, Fold3 5G comes paired with Dolby Atmos that redefines the sound quality to the topmost levels which are impressive.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G packs in a myriad of connectivity apparatus. Starting with Wi-Fi 6e dual-band, Bluetooth v5.2 with A2DP, LE, aptX HD; GPS, NFC, and a USB Type-C 3.2. The device doesn’t have a headphone jack. There’s Samsung DeX, Samsung Pay, and UWB support as well
Network reception on the phone is pretty good as I had no issues with calling, browsing, and performing other tasks on Jio 4G during the time I was testing it. There’s no 5G in India at the moment which means you are basically paying for what is yet to arrive but hey, it’s a feature.
When it comes to security, there’s PIN and Pattern (as usual). There’s a side-mounted fingerprint scanner on the right paired on top of a power button. Turns out it is highly responsive and snappy. It unlocks the phone in a jiffy. Albeit it is convenient, having a side-mounted FPS on a flagship foldable might sound off at once since all the flagship phones have a UD FPS instead.
Unfortunately, there’s no facial recognition on-board Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.
- Dual 120Hz displays
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
- 5G connectivity
- S-Pen support
- Under display selfie camera
- Same old camera specs
- No built-in holder for S-pen
- Quite expensive
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is undoubtedly the best foldable smartphone for now. The phone does enhance multitasking, apps are optimized with its foldable display, there’s an under-the-display camera on-board even if it’s a paltry 4MP. However, there are some places Samsung should have looked into to improve such as there’s no S Pen included, the phone is still heavy, and the UD camera is just 4MP.
In any case, Galaxy Z Fold3 5G isn’t for everyone at Rs 149,999/- which means it has a very niche market and the price won’t be an issue for the target audience I am talking about. Overall, there is still a long way to go for the Fold series to be affordable but it is also turning many heads making it a clear winner in the foldable phone category.