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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Review - The best foldable yet!

OPPO
Huawei
We share our thoughts and experiences with the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G flagship foldable after three weeks of use.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Review - The best foldable yet!
When unfolded

In early August, Samsung announced its two new foldable phones. In our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, we said that we are excited that Samsung is listening to its customers. The new Z Fold3 5G now features better build materials, a smaller and lighter body, and is IPX8 rated for water resistance.

That's not all, the Z Fold 3 5G starts at PHP 87,990. This is a massive PHP 22,000 drop in the SRP from the Z Fold and Z Fold2 5G's PHP 109,990 SRP. This means that Samsung improved the phone while making it cheaper.

But how does it perform after three weeks of use? 

Let's dive in!


Multimedia Experience

Outer cover screen
Outer cover screen

Samsung's latest flagship foldable comes with two displays. The first is the 6.2-inch cover screen. It has been upgraded to a curved Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz refresh rate and Gorilla Glass protection. 

Surrounding the display are slim bezels. On top is a super slim slit that holds the earpiece. Below it is the punch hole that houses the main selfie camera.
Inner main screen
Inner main screen

The second larger folding display is a massive 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex display with a 120Hz refresh rate and an under-display camera. The area where the camera blends in nicely when the panel is displaying a dark image but is most visible when the panel is displaying a bright or white image.

Both panels produce rich, vibrant, sharp, and detailed images with the best colors we've ever seen on a smartphone. The colors pop out of the screen while the contrast is deep.

We love this display!

The cover and folding displays both support 10-points of multitouch that are responsive, accurate, and quick. We did not notice a delay, misread taps, or inaccurate gestures.
Top and bottom-firing speakers
Top and bottom-firing speakers

There is no 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone but it does have an earpiece above the cover screen and there are two speaker grills on the top and bottom side of the phone. This is a full stereo experience.

Both the top and bottom-firing speakers produce sound with a high maximum volume. At 90 percent, the sound is full, clear, and pleasing to the ears. At maximum volume, the audio becomes tingy and somewhat distorted. This is one of the best stereo experiences we've ever had on a phone and we can't praise it enough. It is loud and clear enough to be heard in loud environments like a road with passing cars.

The Z Fold3 5G carries over four microphones which makes make the microphone recording of the foldable is great. It can pick up audio to a meter away from the phone. The noise cancellation is good enough that our callers never complained about voice quality.

Cameras

Triple-rear cameras with LED flash
Triple-rear cameras with LED flash

At the back of the foldable is a triple-rear camera made up of a 12MP f/1.8 main camera, 12MP f/2.4 2x telephoto camera with up to 10x digital zoom, and 12MP f/2.2 120-degree ultra-wide-angle camera with LED flash and Super Clear Glass with Corning Gorilla Glass with DX.

The stock Samsung camera app has several modes that include: Photo, Video, Pro, Pro Video, Night, Director's view, Panorama, Food, Slow Motion, Super Slow-Mo, Hyperlapse, Portrait Video, and AR Doodle. The Pro mode allows for control of ISO (50-3200), shutter speed (1/12000-32 seconds), Focus, and White Balance. 

Users can also use Pro Mode with the main camera and the ultra-wide camera. Aside from the controls Pro Mode allows for Photo, Pro Video also has added features like Histogram, AF mode (Center, Multi), and Mic pick-up direction (Omni, Front, Rear). 

Like previous Z Fold series phones, users can take advantage of the large real estate of the inner screen and has a mode where the viewfinder gets smaller for an area that instantly displays the most recent shot.

Rear Camera Samples

Rear 1x camera daylight
Rear 1x camera daylight
Rear 2x camera daylight
Rear 2x camera daylight
Rear 10x camera daylight
Rear 10x camera daylight
Rear ultra-wide camera daylight
Rear ultra-wide camera daylight

In daylight, the images from the ultra-wide, 1x, and 2x cameras produced sharped and detailed images with vibrant color. It does have that signature oversaturated look that Samsung is known for.

We love the images from these cameras, but when compared to the S21 Ultra 5G, the Z Fold3 5G's images aren't as sharp or contrasty.

The 10x digital zoom looks soft and muddy. We recommend not using the 10x unless absolutely necessary.
Rear 1x camera indoors
Rear 1x camera indoors
Rear 2x camera indoors
Rear 2x camera indoors
Rear 10x camera indoors
Rear 10x camera indoors
Rear ultra-wide camera indoors
Rear ultra-wide camera indoors

Indoors, the ultra-wide, 1x, and 2x, the device managed to produce sharp and detailed images with vibrant color. The contrast and detail are great too. Like in daylight, the images aren't as tack sharp as the S21 Ultra 5G.

The 10x digital zoom however has some noticeable increase in oversharpening. Like in daylight, we only recommend using it only when absolutely necessary.
Rear 1x camera lowlight
Rear 1x camera lowlight
Rear ultra-wide camera lowlight
Rear ultra-wide camera lowlight

In low light, the 1x images are impressive. It is clean, sharp, detailed and vibrant in color. The ultra-wide camera tho produced a low light image with increased grain that resulted in softness and muddiness.
Rear 1x camera Night mode
Rear 1x camera Night mode
Rear 2x camera night mode
Rear 2x camera night mode
Rear ultra-wide camera night mode
Rear ultra-wide camera night mode

Night mode is available for the Ultra-wide, 1x, and 2x cameras. The images produced greatly improves the sharpness, color, contrast, and detail of the low light images. The ultra-wide images are not as sharp as we expect from a 2021 flagship, but that is us nitpicking.
Outer screen selfie camera
Outer screen selfie camera

On the punch hole of the cover screen is a 12MP f/2.2 selfie shooter while on the inner display is the 4MP f/1.8 under-display camera.

Selfie Camera Samples

Cover screen selfie camera daylight
Cover screen selfie camera daylight
Cover screen selfie portrait
Cover screen selfie portrait
Under-display selfie camera daylight
Under-display selfie camera daylight
Cover screen selfie camera indoors
Cover screen selfie camera indoors
Cover screen selfie low light
Cover screen selfie low light
Cover screen selfie night mode
Cover screen selfie night mode

The cover-screen selfie camera is the phone's main selfie camera. It produces sharp and detailed images with vibrant color and deep contrast in daylight and indoors. In low light, the images have increased grain that reduces the sharpness and color accuracy.

The Night Mode selfie significantly improves the low light selfie by dramatically reducing noise and reducing overexposed areas. This results in sharp, detailed selfies with good color and good contrast.

The under-display camera produces selfies with a soft image with a weird glow in bright areas. This selfie is clearly made for video calls only.

The rear and cover screen selfie cameras can capture up to 4K at 60fps with stabilization. Both can not shoot 8K like the S21 Ultra 5G. Users can switch between the ultra-wide and the 1x cameras for video modes. 

As expected, the footage from the rear and cover screen selfie camera of the Z Fold3 5G is great. The footage is sharp and detailed with saturated colors and deep contrast. The Ultra-wide camera footage does struggle in low light with increased grain.

Note: We will upload our video samples here. Stay tuned!

Overall, the rear 1x and 2x cameras produce good images in daylight, indoors, and in low light. The cover screen selfie camera also produces great selfies in daylight and indoor, but it suffers in low light. These concerns can be fixed with Night mode but with static subjects only.

Performance

AnTuTu and GeekBench benchmark results
AnTuTu and GeekBench benchmark results

The Z Fold3 5G features the 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC with LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 3.1 that managed to score 812,027 in AnTuTu when under direct air conditioner cold airflow. When the phone is at a normal room temperature, the phone managed to score over 748,361 in AnTuTu. Even with the sophisticated cooling of the Z Fold3 5G, it still struggles with the incredible heat produced by the Snapdragon 888.

Samsung with Snapdragon 888!

In GeekBench, the Z Fold3 5G scored 1060 in the Single-Core test and it scored 3399 in the Multi-Core tests.

In both benchmarks, the Z Fold3 5G produces results that are expected from the latest flagship SoC.
3DMark and CPDT benchmark results
3DMark and CPDT benchmark results

In the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark, the phone managed an impressive 5,435 overall score and an average frame rate of 32.5 fps. This is one of the highest scores we've ever seen on a smartphone yet.

While the internal storage managed to get a result of 356.53 MB/s in sequential write speeds and a score of 659.27 in sequential read speeds. The sequential write speeds are expected but the sequential read speeds are impressive. It is one of the fastest read speeds we've seen on a smartphone yet.

In terms of synthetic benchmarks, Samsung has not disappointed.
Genshin Impact Graphics settings
Genshin Impact Graphics settings

As expected from a high-end device, we never experienced any hiccups when running most of the basic Android tasks.

It is in the gaming graphics department the Snapdragon 888 is no slouch. Like other smartphones with the same chipset, it managed to unlock the Medium graphic settings as the default in Genshin Impact. This is impressive as very few phones can even run the phone above the Low graphics settings. 

Genshin Impact is one of the heaviest games to run that is available for mobile now and unsurprisingly, the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G can run the game well in Medium graphics settings at 30 frames per second. Users also have the option of lowering the graphics settings and switching to 60fps for a smoother experience.

In our daily use with the Z Fold3 5G, we can play an hour session of Genshin Impact smoothly with little increase in temperature. The phone never got uncomfortably hot.
Call of Duty: Mobile Graphics settings
Call of Duty: Mobile Graphics settings

In the latest version of Call of Duty: Mobile, the Snapdragon 888 managed to unlock the Max Frame Rate setting and the Very High Graphics setting. What is impressive is that users have both enabled at the same time. This is rare and is a good thing to see.

Gameplay on Very High with Max frame rate is a smooth gameplay experience. The phone did warm up after an extended play session but it never got uncomfortably hot. If it does get too hot, the phone throttles. We recommend tweaking the settings to High Graphics and Max Frame rate to have a long play session while taking advantage of the 120Hz refresh rate display.

The power button doubles as the fingerprint scanner. It is quick to set up and it detects and scans the fingerprint right away. Unlocking the phone is instantaneous and is accurate 19 out of 20 times. It struggles when our fingerprint is dirty. 

While the Face Unlock with the cover screen and the under-display camera is also easy to set up and work just as fast as the fingerprint scanner as long as you are looking at the camera. It detects my face and unlocks the phone instantaneously in both well-lit and poorly lit environments. The screen brightens up when in a darker environment too. 

Users can also set an alternative look for the face unlock for when they are wearing a face mask.

The phone works with OTG when the feature is enabled manually. The WiFi 6, Bluetooth, 5G and LTE connections are fast, stable and reliable. The GPS acquires our location immediately and accurately.
PCMark Battery and Battery usage stats
PCMark Battery and Battery usage stats

Inside the phone is a 4,400mAh battery with 25W Adaptive fast charging via USB-C. Because the Fold3 5G is lighter and smaller than the Fold2 5G, it does lose 100mAh from the Z Fold2 5G's 4500mAh battery. The 25W charging plug is sold separately but is usually bundled for FREE when the phone is purchased. 

It takes the phone under 70 minutes to charge from 0 to 100 percent. 

In our usual PCMark battery benchmark, the Z Fold3 5G managed to endure 10 hours and 55 minutes of the test. This is an hour less than Z Fold2 5G. This is expected with the 100mAh battery capacity and the two 120Hz refresh rate displays.

In our real-world use, where we would be doing our routine tasks where we use the phone to call, text, web surf, e-mail, stream music, and video, play games, and navigate with Waze. 

The phone managed to last a day with 10 to 15 percent of battery left after a 12-hour workday. In one of our heavy workdays, we managed to reach over 7 hours and 41 minutes of on-screen time with 21 percent left. Battery performance may drop even further when using 5G more frequently.

Lastly, the Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G are the first Samsung phones that come with the "Protect Battery" feature. When turned on, the phone limits the maximum charge of the battery to 85 percent to extend the lifespan of the battery for years.

Overall, the battery life of the Z Fold3 5G is good enough for a productive workday. This is despite its use of the power-hungry Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC and the two large 120Hz refresh rate displays.
One UI 3.1.1
One UI 3.1.1

For software, it is running on the latest Android 11-based One UI 3.1.1. It features several key upgrades from the One UI 3.1 found in the S21 series that take advantage of the unique screen size and screen aspect ratio of the cover screen and the inner folding screen.
Multi-Window with Pinned apps on Edge Panel
Multi-Window with Pinned apps on Edge Panel

Samsung has significantly improved the multitasking features that allow users to freely change the placement and layout of up to three apps at the same time. Users can also press on the meatball (or three-dot button) in between the apps to select and tap the type of multi-tasking and the layout of the multi-tasking window. This allows users to freely customize the layout to their unique needs.

In the "Labs" section of the phone's settings, users can now also pin apps of the Edge Panel permanently on-screen to quickly access or switch to other apps. Users can also save apps that they paired together in multi-tasking mode. For example, we created a shortcut on the Edge panel that launches both Spotify and Google Maps at the same time as the layout we used before. Users can also add a third app to the multi-tasking window.

Honestly, this is a productivity godsend. 

But one of the most useful new features in Labs is that users can now force other apps to open in the unique aspect ratio of the Fold3 5G's two displays. Yes, even if the app has yet to been optimized for the Fold3 5G's unique aspect ratio, apps like Instagram can now be viewed using the full width of the inner folding display.
Flex Mode with YouTube App
Flex Mode with YouTube App

Aside from that, Samsung has managed to work with other developers like YouTube to take advantage of Flex Mode. When you unfold the Fold at an angle, supported apps will split the top and the bottom part of the display to be more functional. In the YouTube app's case, the top part is for the content and the bottom part is for the description and comments section.

Samsung has effectively fixed most of our software concerns the Z Fold2 5G from last year with smart solutions!

Pros - Premium and tough build materials, beautiful design, great display, good stereo experience, Cameras are surprisingly good, smarter and optimized software
Cons - Phone may be heavy for most people, In-display camera quality could be improved, ultra-wide camera and selfie camera struggles in low light

Verdict

Outer side
Outer side

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is the pinnacle of foldable phone technology and is the best foldable yet.

Samsung has managed to polish the Z Fold3 5G to the point that we recommend it if you can afford it. 

We love the two 120Hz refresh rate displays. We can't emphasize enough how the larger displays add to our productivity and to our content consumption.

The rear triple cameras and the cover screen camera are good. They aren't as good as the S21 Ultra 5G's cameras, but these cameras are better than last year's flagship cameras. Our only concern is that the cover screen selfie camera and the ultra-wide cameras struggle in low light for a flagship. The under-display camera is clearly made for vid calls only or for photos in a pinch.

Battery life is just enough for a productive workday. Though, we expect the battery to drop if 5G is used extensively.

Lastly, we applaud Samsung for adding water resistance, a tougher body while making the phone even cheaper.

The Z Fold3 5G is the best foldable phone in the market and we highly recommend it for people who can afford it.

What do you guys think?

Build/Design - 4.5
Multimedia Experience - 4.5
Cameras - 4
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.38/5
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