Samsung has been leading the foldable market for ages, though we’ve got a lot more competition in the last year or so. Our lists of the best foldable phones and the best flip phones has extended quite noticeably, so Samsung’s latest renditions in each category ought to make a splash.
Well, they don’t, but that’s okay. We’ve spent a good deal of time with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, and it feels very similar to the Z Fold4. Every improvement is very welcome, and in many ways the Fold5 is the best foldable phone you can get right now – it’s incredibly refined. But some competitor’s attempts are definitely a tad more interesting.
But before we explore the nuances of this opinion, let’s start with the basics of our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review:
- Excellent performance
- Gorgeous inner screen
- Very well-rounded
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is available across multiple network providers and retailers globally. It’s among the best AT&T phones in the US, and you can grab it from all of the best UK phone providers. If you buy it directly from the Samsung website, there are two exclusive colors – Grey and Blue – alongside the standard Phantom Black, Icy Blue, and Cream. All models come with 12GB RAM
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 specs:
The primary feature of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is the fact that it, well, folds. The developments made by Samsung for folding screen quality and durability mean that the Fold5 is easily the phone I’d trust most to last a reasonable amount of time. We still wouldn’t recommend picking up a folding phone if you want half a decade of use, though it’s definitely better than before.
The crease in the centre of the screen still isn’t quite as slim as Oppo’s or others I’ve tried out, but given it’s a vertical line it doesn’t really matter. You’re almost always only sliding up and down, rather than across the crease.
As always, the foldable flexibility adds other features of nebulous benefit. You can sit the phone up in Nintendo DS formation and use the base half of the screen as a controller or trackpad. You can stand it with the outside screen propped up by the other half of the phone, in a long V as it were, and watch a video on that long screen, if you want. All these configurations aren’t really useful in any reality, in my opinion, but maybe you have a niche situation.
What is useful, however, is the foldable specific OS features. Given the extra size, you can multitask as if on a tablet. You can drag a window next to your current one and have two, standard phone-sized windows next to each other. You can skim an email without exiting YouTube, send a message without exiting YouTube, or any other combination that would likely include YouTube (what I’m saying is, YouTube is the only reason I ever multitask).
To assist this, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 has a dock at the bottom with some frequently or recently used apps in it. This is, weirdly, a far bigger addition than it sounds. The phone is clever enough to offer up what you need, and it makes flicking between apps and getting stuff done all quite a bit speedier. Neat.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 has three camera lenses – there’s the 50 MP main camera, a 10 MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom, and the 12 MP ultrawide. Photos look decent all around, though the Z Fold5 is also a good example of why camera specs aren’t all that helpful. Getting something good from the phone is very easy, though it’s pretty hard to get something jaw-dropping in challenging conditions, which, given the phone costs the best part of two grand, is something to keep in mind.
In a standard daytime situation, however, the cameras are great, and Samsung’s processing does a bit more with this iteration to keep things looking pretty. While the cameras haven’t improved on paper, the company says it has improved things on the software end. Combine this with the wide range of features in the camera app, same as all other Samsung phones pretty much, and it’s a well-rounded setup.
Nighttime photos get a little hyper-real for my liking, though then again it’s definitely a matter of preference. Meanwhile, the macro and telephoto lenses are ace for their versatility, though don’t expect any of the magic we explain in the camera section of our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review – and keep in mind the premium you pay for this foldable if you’re a photo enthusiast.
We’ve also done a fun experiment with this review: all the photos of the device were taken with the camera on the Z Flip5. Check out our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 review when it’s live to find photos from the Fold5’s camera for even more shots.
The way the Z Fold5 differs from its predecessor is a tad hard to notice on paper, but in-use it feels quite a bit more dramatic. Gone is the slight gap between the two screens – they now close flat – which gives the whole phone a sturdier, more premium feel. It’s such a small change, but it makes a big difference.
You’ve also got Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front screen and the back, as well as aluminum rails around the edge. This is good for durability, though the inner screen should be taken care of given it’s plastic. Closed, however, everything feels mighty sturdy. Meanwhile, IPX8 water resistance is nice, allowing submersion up to 1.5 meters for thirty minutes – though keep in mind it’s not dust resistant. I wouldn’t take it to the beach.
The whole feel is slightly more premium than its predecessor, the hinge feels a tad less wobbly, and everything folds together like closing a magnetic book with aplomb. This sturdiness does make it quite tough to open with one hand, however, though I never found this a way I actually wanted to use the phone. When you go to full-screen tablet mode, you almost always have two hands at the ready.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Galaxy Z Fold5’s design is the fact that it’s so similar to what we’ve known for a handful of years. Take a look at the tablet-style foldable market right now, and the majority of phones look quite different to Samsung’s. There’s the passport style of Google or Oppo, as well as the ultra-thin offerings from Xiaomi and Honor.
All in all, most of the competitors seem to offer a more useable outer display, which makes the phones make more sense. Honor’s V Purse is all outer screen, which is taking the whole idea a big step further (though it’s only a concept phone, of course). It definitely comes down to personal preference – so we recommend going into a store to try out a few different foldables before buying one – but it’s interesting to note how unchanging Samsung’s offerings have been.
Perhaps the biggest aspect of the Z Fold5, literally and figuratively, is the inner display. While early renditions of foldable displays weren’t ideal, here it’s absolutely stellar. With a pixel density of around 370 and a 120Hz refresh rate, it looks lovely – though I’d recommend turning off the vivid display setting if you’re after something more accurate color-wise. The main benefit with the Fold5 is the higher brightness on the inner display, making it far more useable outside. It peaks at 1,750 nits which is more than enough and mightily impressive.
In use, it’s plainly gorgeous. The only issues that could crop up are the way it feels and the aspect ratio. The former is definitely down to personal preference, and while it can take some getting used to, it’s not something you notice after using it for a while. The aspect ratio, meanwhile, means that certain things can look a bit odd. Watching a video is definitely bigger than on a normal phone, but only slightly, and you now have these two big black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. It’s fine, if a bit odd.
Meanwhile, playing games on the inner screen can be even stranger. You can check out our Genshin shots in the performance review below, but having the game in an almost-square set-up does make it fundamentally harder to play. You see less of the game world, and that’s quite strange. Also, size complaints aside, the outer-display is excellent. 120Hz again here, so no matter which screen you use, it looks slick and speedy. The only issue is again the aspect ratio – texting on a slightly-too-thin screen is another thing that takes getting used to if you’re not a foldable fanatic.
The battery life on the Z Fold5 is more than good enough. With a 4,400mAh battery inside and efficiency gains from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, you get around an hour more than its predecessor even though they both have the same size battery.
It’s still a little shorter than standard top-end flagships, but not in any dramatic way. Two days of general use is definitely doable, while heavy users may want to charge their phone every night. As is often the case, a good battery experience leaves little to talk about – that’s the case here, too.
The Z Fold5 gets upgraded to the latest Snapdragon chip, the 8 Gen 2, in an overclocked version exclusive to Samsung. What this translates to is massive efficiency gains for the battery and top-end performance for gaming. There’s also a larger vapor chamber to help with sustained performance with better heat-dissipation.
What all this slightly dull specification explanation translates to is more than enough performance for anyone bar the most hardcore mobile gamers – if you’re in that category, check out our list of the best gaming phones (and then go and buy an Asus ROG Phone 7 because that’s the best).
In something like Genshin Impact, you can get solid-ish 60fps on high settings without the device hotting up all that much. Frames can drop as low as 50 in busier sections, though this is pretty rare. Over an hour or so the most notable issue is occasional stuttering, which seems to just be an issue with Genshin – we experience it on so many different phones.
As expected, casual gamers need not worry – though I don’t know if a casual gamer has ever worried about a phone that costs nearly two grand being able to play Clash Royale. We had a potter about Candy Crush and Clash of Clans and, as I’m sure you guessed, it flies through them without a hitch.
PUBG and Call of Duty are two unique experiences given the screen shape. Your fingers don’t cover the main bit of the screen you want to look at, they’re slightly lower, yet your field of view is still zoomed in. They run excellently at high settings, but it would be great if the FoV was zoomed out further than a usual smartphone screen, rather than in.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is an excellent iteration in the company’s five years of experience. It makes incremental improvements here and there, which may not make seismic changes, but refine the device to ensure it’s the best place to enter the market if you want something from Samsung.
The only issues come when we get a bit picky. It would be so nice to see Samsung experiment a bit with the design of the Fold line; foldable phones are cutting-edge and interesting, and I’d like to see it stay that way with more exciting designs on the horizon. This doesn’t stop the Z Fold5 being ace, it just means it’s as good as you expect, which is probably more than good enough if we’re honest.
Google Pixel Fold
If you don’t fancy the tall and thin Fold5, Google’s Pixel Fold is a great choice with a slightly stubbier design. It makes the device more useable when it’s closed, and to our eye it all looks prettier. Once you open it up, the bezels may look a little less refined, but it’s still an ace choice.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4
The Z Fold4 is still an excellent folding phone, and with the launch of its successor, there are a lot more deals around. Performance is slightly down and there’s a slight gap when folded, but overall, the differences are pretty nominal. If you already have one of these, we can’t see much reason to upgrade unless you have a whole lot of cash you need to burn.
That’s it for our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 review. For more, check out the best Samsung phones, the best Xiaomi phones, and the best OnePlus phones, assuming you know on which side you sit of the iPhone vs. Android fence.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 is a beautiful folding phone, with Samsung’s classic quality, great UI, and top-tier performance. While it’s just an incremental change – it is very similar to the Fold4 in a lot of ways – that doesn’t mean the tweaks don’t keep it at the head of the market.