Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Review: Third’s the charm

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Review: Third’s the charm

The third generation of Samsung’s foldable smartphone, first launched in 2019, is officially available in Singapore last Friday. But as you might have heard, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G has already been sold out.

In fact, Samsung Singapore ran into delays in delivering the coveted smartphone to customers here according to reports by The Straits Times.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

So, should you still get the Fold3 when it becomes available again? Let’s start by looking at the improvements over its predecessor, Fold2.

SPECS
PRICE: S$2,398 (256GB), S$2,548 (512GB); available in Lazada and Shopee
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
MAIN DISPLAY: 7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED, 2,208 x 1,768 pixels
COVER DISPLAY: 6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED, 2,268 x 832 pixels
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 11
REAR CAMERAS: 12MP ultra-wide-angle (f/2.2), 12MP wide-angle (f/1.8), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)
FRONT CAMERA: 4MP (f/1.8)
COVER CAMERA: 10MP (f/2.2)
MEMORY: 256GB/512GB; 12GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,400mAh battery
WEIGHT: 271g

While the Fold3’s cover screen continues to be 6.2 inches, it now features a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Plus, the main screen now features an under-display selfie camera, so you can enjoy its sharp visuals in its full glory without the punch-hole.

The Fold3 is said to be using a stronger aluminium frame. And it is now water resistant – rated at IPX8 (down to depths of 1.5m for 30 minutes). It also supports the S Pen stylus, so you can draw on the large main screen.

The Fold3 now supports S Pen. (Photo: Samsung)

And the best part, it is nearly S$500 cheaper than the Fold2 at launch. That said, it is still not cheap with pricing starting at S$2,398. And like Apple iPhones, it does not come with expandable storage.

DESIGN
The Fold2 comes only in two colours of bronze and black, but you can choose the Fold3 from three colours of black (version reviewed), green and silver.

The Fold3 comes in three colours of black, green and silver. (Photo: Samsung)

Otherwise, Fold3’s overall design does not differ much from the original or the Fold2. When folded, the Fold3 looks like a normal 6.2-inch smartphone, with a side power button doubling as a fingerprint sensor. When unfolded, it becomes a 7.6-inch tablet.

However, you cannot unfold the Fold3 or you risk dropping this expensive smartphone. You will have to open it like a book with two hands.

Strangely, while the Fold3 is 0.5mm thicker than the Fold2 when unfolded, it is 0.9mm thinner when folded. In addition, the Fold3 is 11g lighter too. But the build of the Fold3 feels better. And its matte-finish rear does not look like getting scratched even when I just casually throw it into my pocket.

This foldable smartphone also survived a drizzling while I used it to take photos out in the open. But I would not dunk it into the water.

The temptation is real though, as I find dirt gathering on the fringe of the main screen. Nothing an alcohol wipe cannot solve. But dust resistance in the next iteration will be much appreciated.

PERFORMANCE
Both the main and cover screen look sharp, vibrant and bright even under harsh sunlight. Scrolling on both displays is buttery smooth and any content looks great on them.

One downer though is the narrow cover screen makes things looks smaller. The keyboard here is also more difficult to type, despite the better one-hand handling when the smartphone is folded.

The bigger main screen is now better than ever with the under-display camera. There is no more black “hole” on the screen and you get to watch movies and playing games in their full glory.

FOR
+ Overall great performance
+ Both screens have 120Hz refresh rate
+ Under-display camera means you get full view of main display
+ Three-app split-screen layout for productivity on the go
+ Feels sturdier than its predecessors
+ Water resistant
+ S Pen support

AGAINST
– Still expensive despite price drop
– No expandable storage
– Under-display camera disappointing
– Only supports two versions of S Pen

On the downside, the crease in the middle of the main display is still evident, especially when the screen is not turned on. In addition, you probably will not notice the crease when browsing social media or playing games.

The more irritating thing is that both display’s refresh rate cannot be set at 120Hz all the time. You can set the display only to the adaptive mode – which automatically changes the refresh rate to as much as 120Hz, depending on the content displayed – or the standard 60Hz mode.

Despite using a faster chip, the GeekBench 5 benchmark tests painted a different picture. The Fold3 managed to score only 853 (single-core) and 2.897 (multi-core). This is not much of a difference compared to the Fold2 that scored 973 (single-core) and 2,858 (multi-core).

Nonetheless, performance is still top-notch. I have not experienced any lag or slowdown running any apps or playing any games. In fact, it is great to play Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) on the big screen allowing you to see your enemies and battleground better.

Playing MLBB is a treat with the big 7.6-inch screen. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In terms of productivity on the go, the Fold3 continues to be a beast. You can open up to three apps at the same time in a split-screen layout in the main screen.

You can put up to three windows in the main screen. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Most apps, such as Chrome and Gmail, will move seamlessly from the cover screen to the main screen, while expanding to fill up the latter, when you unfold the phone. But not the other way round, as it usually means you have to restart the app.

In addition, you will find that some apps might not be able to fill the entire main screen. To rectify that, you need to turn on Full Screen by going to Settings > Advanced Features > Customise app aspect ratios. If not, the apps will have dark bars on the side and you cannot fully utilise the large screen.

Adding to its productivity suite is the support of S Pen stylus, which I think should have been so since the original Fold. But be mindful that only the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro are supported and they work only on the main screen. Plus, both are hard to find.

With such a big screen, using the S Pen stylus is a no brainer. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

I managed to buy the Fold Cover that comes with S Pen, so I could finish this review. And it is certainly a joy to use the stylus on main screen to jot down notes or doodle. You can enjoy features like S Pen to text, whereby it will transform what you wrote into text for keyboard editing and even edit them.

CAMERA
As mentioned above, the main screen now comes with a 4-megapixel (MP) under-display selfie camera. But the cover screen still features a 10MP selfie camera. At the rear of the smartphone is a triple-camera system: a 12MP ultra- wide-angle camera, a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 12MP telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom.

A sleeping cat photographed using Portrait Mode with Fold3. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Picture quality from these cameras are generally decent with sharp and bright details in good lighting condition. The night mode is a tad soft, but still usable.

Night shots taken using the Fold3 is decent but not as sharp as it can be. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

My only gripe is the under-display camera. It is visibly of poorer quality, lacking details and exhibit high amount of purple fringing. Use it only as the last resort.

BATTERY LIFE
In the video playback test with the main display in adaptive display mode turned on, it clocks 13 hours and 45 minutes – a 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor.

Battery life depends on duration of usage and which display you are using more. During my test, I find that it lasts a whole day, with around 35 per cent battery juice left by the time I go to bed.

VERDICT
Samsung has finally nailed the foldable smartphone genre with the Galaxy Z Fold3. It is a great two-in-one device that allows you to seamlessly switch from a convenient one-handed smartphone to two-handed productivity tablet and vice versa.

Unfortunately, the foldable novelty has worn off after three tries. In the past, when I whipped out the Fold or Fold2, there were exclamations of excitement. These days, the responses from my friends and colleagues were lukewarm at best. But then, the Fold3 is sold out in Singapore. So, what do they or I know?

RATINGS
FEATURES: 9/10
DESIGN: 9/10
PERFORMANCE: 8/10
BATTERY LIFE: 8/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 7/10
OVERALL: 8/10