Foldable phones are making more appearances this year. Starting with the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Flip3 which was launched a few months back. I had the privilege to review the Z Flip3 and boy do I love it. Of course it received my positive feedback and that it is my current favourite, but what about the Galaxy Z Fold3?
Good thing I received the Galaxy Z Fold3 for review as well. I absolutely love the Phantom Green colour. It looks so premium in my opinion. Nothing is going to disappoint me this time. I was in absolute awe with the design and feel. So let’s get on with the review.
First Look and Design
First of all, it looks just like the Z Fold2 except for the larger and fuller screen. The hinges are sturdier, more rigid. And this time, the Z Fold3 comes with an IPX8 rating, making it water resistant but not dust resistant. Liquid may not be able to penetrate the seals but dust will be the main problem.
The Phantom Green variant on this review unit looks really good. This might be the colour suitable for anyone who wants to have a premium looking device in their pocket (or bag). The large and “tall” front 6.2” Dynamic AMOLED display is super clear and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. Good to know that the cover display is also capable of producing 120Hz refresh rate for that extra smooth animation.
Since it is tall, it is considered narrow. There’s only 4 icons columns instead of 5 on a common standard smartphone. Being narrow, it is easier to reach with your thumb when holding it in one hand.
But since it is a foldable phone, the thickness when folded will bother some of you if you have small hands. And I should say that the Galaxy Z Fold3 is heavier than most smartphones but it is lighter than the Z Fold2. Still, you can feel the extra weight when having it in one hand.
The internal screen size when unfolded is exactly the same as the Z Fold2, stretching at 7.6” with 1768 x 2208 pixels screen resolution. It is also a Dynamic AMOLED X2 display with HDR10+ and 120Hz refresh rate. It is a joy to use, that I can assure you. And the screen brightness can go up to 1200 nits at its peak, so you can have a super bright display to burn your eyes, so to speak.
This time around however, there is an under display front facing selfie camera that is well hidden behind a few LED pixels. This hidden selfie camera is sitting on the right panel of the internal display, right at the top center. You can’t see the camera when the screen is dark or totally on black background, but you can make out of it when the screen is bright and on white background.
There is another selfie camera on the front cover display, but it is not hidden. To me the cover selfie camera performs better than the hidden one inside. And also the megapixel counts are different as well, with the one on the cover having 10MP while the hidden one having only 4MP. More on that later.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 doesn’t have an under display fingerprint sensor, but it does come with a side button fingerprint sensor that also doubles up as the power button on the right side of the phone. Sitting right above it are the volume rockers.
Around the back, there’s the three camera setup. Again, it uses the same camera setup as the one on Galaxy Z Fold2. They didn’t make any major changes to the camera here, only some improvements on the software. But the Snapdragon 888 chipset will also make a lot of differences with the post-processing results. We’ll see that in the photography section below.
The hinge on the Z Fold3 is more rigid. It feels strong and sturdy. It has a snap in the end when opening or folding. But it stays in place either way. I do have to apply a little bit of force when I want to fold it. I will gently push at the center of the display while doing the folding motion. Same goes when I’m unfolding it. It requires little force but the motion is buttery smooth.
Right at the bottom, there’s the USB-C port on the right side and the bottom firing speaker on the left side. There’s another speaker at the top of the phone which means the Galaxy Z Fold3 has a stereo speaker setup when viewing in landscape orientation. Oh, let’s not forget the SIM tray which is located on the left side of the phone.
Performance and Usage
First and foremost, the Galaxy Z Fold3 is made for many versatile purposes. It can be an entertainment device, business device and even a gaming device. Again, it is very versatile. It is suitable for anyone from all ages or any professions.
For a businessman (or woman), the Galaxy Z Fold3 can be your greatest companion when you’re out for a meeting. The narrow cover display is large enough for you to make a quick text and check out your calendar. The larger internal display can be used for presentations, casting the screen onto a compatible display.
Also with the large display, you will be able to connect with your team or clients for a virtual call. Simply place the phone on the table and fold it halfway at a comfortable angle to view. You don’t need any stand for this. Cool? Yes it is because I had the opportunity to enter a virtual meeting using the Z Fold3. And it is so easy and convenient. For a better feel of the virtual meeting, you can connect the Z Fold3 to a Galaxy Buds2 wireless earbuds as well.
If you’re into entertainment, the Galaxy Z Fold3 can be your companion. If you love watching movies, you will appreciate the stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos audio enhancements. I can say that I really enjoyed using the Z Fold3 to binge watch some movies. Although the screen ratio is a little bit squarish instead of “wide”, it is still worth it.
Having said that, you won’t notice the crease that runs through the middle of the internal display when you’re watching any movies. You can feel it’s there, but hardly noticeable. Same goes when you’re holding it upright to browse some web pages. You can always have multiple windows opened to align one window on the left, and another on the right if you do not want to see the crease.
Yes, my overall experience of using the Galaxy Z Fold3 was fun. Multitasking is a breeze as I can have multiple windows open at the same time. I can have a YouTube video playing on one corner and browse my social media network on the other side. I can also drag and drop images from a browser onto my note taking app next to it easily. Or I can copy a file from an explorer app just by dragging and dropping.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to test the Z Fold3 with an S Pen. That would’ve been great when it comes to multitasking and using multiple windows.
All that heavy tasks, daily use and work related tasks are easily done, all thanks to the powerful flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset that is supported by a 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal space. Without these, those tasks would not be as smooth. I am very fond of the SD888 chipset. Probably it’s the best chipset of 2021 for Android smartphones.
Speaking of Android, the Galaxy Z Fold3 comes with Android 11 with One UI 3.1 out-of-the-box. Samsung has made huge improvements in terms of software and OS that caters to the need of a Z Fold3. It felt a little half baked on the Z Fold2 with Android 10 but this time it is more polished and performed much better. Good news is that the Z Fold3 will receive the Android 12 with One UI 4 update very soon.
When it comes to gaming, the Galaxy Z Fold3 has its (small) flaws. First thing I would like to mention is, the Z Fold3 is really thin when it is unfolded, making me a little clumsy when holding it to play PUBG Mobile. It felt like I didn’t have enough grip on the sides. Secondly, the almost square screen resolution is a little awkward for the on screen buttons layout. But all that I’ve mentioned doesn’t affect me as much. So we’re good.
I can set the graphic to the highest settings, thanks to the powerful SD888 and 12GB of RAM. When I set the screen refresh rate to 120Hz, it looks even better. Gameplay is really smooth. The overall experience was great and the stereo speakers sounded loud and clear. Since the Z Fold3 does not have a 3.5mm audio jack, I had to rely on the speakers or the wireless earbuds for in-game audio.
Battery life is a little hit and miss here. The 4400mAh battery capacity is lower than the Z Fold2’s 4500mAh. Power management is better, but when I have the screen refresh rate at 120Hz, the power will deplete quicker than usual. When I have the 120Hz on, the phone can last me about 10 hours after a full charge and full use. But when I set the refresh rate to 60Hz (turn off the dynamic rate), the battery can last me more than 15 hours.
Of course it depends on what you use the phone for. If you’re heavy on gaming and entertainment like I am, you will need to plug in the charger more often. But if you’re using it more for business and don’t need the 120Hz refresh rate, then you will have the upper hand.
As for benchmarking, the Galaxy Z Fold3 scored 759182 on Antutu. This is pretty much the standard result with the Snapdragon 888 chipsets. I have tested the Z Flip3 which is using the same chipset and it scored about the same. So I can safely say that the Z Fold3 is great for gamers and business people alike.
Camera and Photography
When it comes to photography with the Z Fold3, it was a whole lot of fun. I can use the rear main shooters for selfies while using the cover screen as the viewfinder. I can shoot with the main shooter from the large internal display for better composition (but feels odd because it’s big).
I can do many things and shoot from different angles. If I want to get low near to the ground, I can fold halfway and use the bottom part of the display to show the camera view for easy composition too.
So many options, so little time.
Let’s recap on the camera specifications:
- 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
- 12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
- 12 MP, f/2.2, 123˚, 12mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm
- 4 MP, f/1.8, 2.0µm, under display
- 10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/3″, 1.22µm, cover camera
But 80% of the photos that I shoot with the Z Fold3 came out the way I like it without having to do some post editing. You can have a look at the samples below and see what I mean.
Normal wide angle and ultra wide angle camera worked really well when it’s bright and sunny. Colours are great and vibrant. And the balance between brightness and contrast are spot on.
When it’s bright, you can’t go wrong if you want to capture some action photos from ultra wide angle all the way to zooming right in up to 5x zoom.
Getting up close is good too. Here you can see the textures on the pattern clearly without losing focus, except for the light bokeh effect.
Outdoor selfies are great too. Here I was using the main shooter from the rear camera to capture in normal mode and portrait mode. Details are good and the bokeh effect is excellent. The front cover selfie camera works great too with my indoor selfie shot.
If you like taking photos of your food for your gram, the results are stunning as well. The camera will auto-detect the environment to give you the best setting for your shots. Here, it auto select the “food mode”.
While the Z Fold3 is a very capable phone, it is not made for photography enthusiasts in mind. If you want a solid phone for photography and video, you should go for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra instead. The Z Fold3 is able to shoot decent above par photos and good videos given the circumstances – like good lighting conditions as the starting point.
Still, the Galaxy Z Fold3 is able to take tons of satisfying shots.
I have much love for the Galaxy Z Fold3. I had the opportunity to review the first Z Fold, followed by the Z Fold2 and now this. After three versions, Samsung finally got it right. The Galaxy Z Fold3 feels complete. It is now the benchmark for any upcoming foldable phones. But Samsung already have a head start. Now it’s time for the others to play the catch up game while Samsung will need to innovate and make improvements to their latest Z series.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is by far the most premium phone I have ever tested. It feels exactly that in all angles. It is also a head turner, just like the Flip3. It is a phone that everyone wants. It is a statement device. It is also a beast under the hood.
If you’re thinking of getting a versatile phone, this will be it. If you’re upgrading from a previous Z series, it is still an awesome upgrade. The camera performance is good. You can stay on top of your game with the Z Fold3’s ability to perform under pressure. You can also connect to a TV or monitor to enter DeX mode, anytime, anywhere.
Question is, what can’t a Galaxy Z Fold3 do?
If you’re planning to get one for yourself, you can head over to Samsung’s official online store right now. It is on year end sale starting at RM6,699.00.