This phone has closed the gap on its fold

October 10, 2023
5 mins read
Start
9/10

Summary

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

PAT PILCHER finally gets a long-awaited post-pandemic overseas holiday and takes Samsung’s no-gap Fold 5 along to audition.

$2849

As the seemingly endless misery of Wellington’s wet, cold and windy winter ground on, we decided it was time for a break and some much-needed sunshine, and Singapore’s food hawker centres beckoned. At about the same time, Samsung made contact and offered to loan me a Galaxy Z Fold 5. Figuring there was no better way to test a phone than to take it on holiday, I leapt at the chance.

So what’s the big fat hairy deal, you may well ask? The Fold 5 solves one of the biggest problems with foldables to date. Since the first Galaxy Fold launched back in 2019, the design of its hinge meant it and subsequent foldable phones from Samsung were physically unable to completely close, leaving a small gap when they shut. This meant that dust and pocket lint could get inside the phone and damage it. With the Fold 5, Samsung has finally fixed this wee issue, as it’s now able to close with virtually no gap, making it much more durable.

The new hinge system also makes for a slimmer feeling phone, which combines with super-slim screen bezels on its inner display to make the Fold 5 feel much more compact than the Fold 4. The difference might not be huge – the Z Fold 5 is 13.4mm thick when folded, a 2.4mm reduction over the Fold 4 –  but it’s a nice touch.

The Fold 5 is still chunkier and heavier than your run-of-the-mill non-folding phone, but Samsung’s design refinements make it feel far more pocketable. It isn’t just form factor refinements though; it’s  10g lighter than the Fold 4, weighing in at 253g. This makes it a tad heavier than traditional smartphones but is still considerably improved over earlier models.

 


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Despite being trimmed down and folding flatter, the Fold 5 has a design similar to earlier models. Its general form factor largely resembles its predecessor, which, as a  Fold 4 user, I think is a good thing. If it isn’t broken, why fix it? The differences are subtle. It has a slightly bigger 6.1-inch 120Hz AMOLED external display and a larger 7.6-inch 120Hz AMOLED foldable display. Typing on the external display took a little getting used to, but it was no great chore, and I found myself making more use of the large display, which meant less unfolding of the phone.

That said, I frequently unfolded the phone too. Its mahoosive 7.6-inch inner display was both vivid and bright, delivering an impressive 1750 nits peak brightness, which for using Google Maps to find my way around Singapore proved a real boon. The other perk of a larger display was watching video content. Having stored several movies on the Fold 5’s roomy 256GB storage, I plugged its charger into the in-flight seat power socket and watched movies without once resorting to pulling out my bulky notebook PC.

Another bonus with the Fold 5’s roomy inner display was reading eBooks. Using the Kindle app on most phones feels a little weird, but the Fold 5’s large internal screen made for comfortable reading, and the Kindle whisper sync function meant that my Kindle Scribe (see my review of that here) was already synched to the last page I’d read and good to go for some poolside reading. Last but by no means least is split-screen multitasking. With the inner display, I could have apps running side-by-side, plus a floating window. The built-in office apps came into their own for anyone wanting a super lightweight productivity powerhouse.

While the inner display still has a crease, It was a non-issue, and I noticed the crease less and less. If having access to a larger screen on such a pocketable device means a crease, it’s a tiny price to pay.

The key use I put the Fold 5 to during my holiday was as a camera. Its camera is largely identical to that of the Fold 4, and sports a primary 50MP shooter with Dual Pixel AF and the same impressive optical image stabilisation (OIS) baked in. Accompanying the main shooter is a 12MP ultrawide snapper and a 10MP 3x telephoto lens, which is also OIS. Around the front is a 4MP selfie sensor hidden away under the inner display.

Images taken by the main 50MP snapper were richly detailed, crisp and vibrant. HDR also helped balance lighting, evening out shadow detail, even at midday. Visiting the Singapore Botanical Gardens, I used portrait mode to shoot photos of flowers. While these showed a small amount of over-saturation, the Fold 5’s camera impressed. On the video front, I got 4K@60fps; the built-in OIS took care of camera wobble, making footage captured while walking around look pretty slick. In the past, I’d usually lugged a dedicated camera and a phone around on holiday. Thanks to the Fold 5, there was much less to carry.

Under its hood sits a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the Galaxy S23. It has a higher clock speed plus an extra GPU core than the 8 Gen 2’s in most other phones. Add to this a generous 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 256GB storage, and it isn’t hard to see why the Fold 5 ran so smoothly. Apps flew into action, and apps, the camera, and Google Assistant all felt super responsive.

Gaming with the internal display also deserves special mention. Demanding titles typically ran at 60fps, with all graphical options on maximum. Having installed a local e-sim with unlimited 5G NR data, I did, however, notice that the Fold 5 ran a little hot, and its battery took a hit if I used mobile data often. Switching back to 4G fixed this.

On the audio front, you’d expect all the usual bells and whistles from a Samsung device. In addition to Dolby Atmos support, which is only really notable with headphones/earbuds, Samsung has also included Adapt Sound (see my piece on that here), which can customise audio output based on age/gender and a custom hearing test. When used with headphones/buds, the audio supplied by the Fold 5 was balanced with crisp highs, deep lows and a detailed soundstage.

The Fold 5 runs much the same software as the Fold 4. This equates to Android 13 overlaid with Samsung’s custom OneUI 5.1 skin. A feature I found unexpectedly handy is having Bixby reply to incoming calls via SMS. A slick toolbar on the inner display provides quick access to recently used apps, while Flex Mode adjusts the layout for supported apps (such as the camera) when the Fold 5 is in half-folded mode. Flex mode is likely a real bonus for YouTubers, bloggers, and so on.

It also uses the same 4,400mAh battery as the Fold 4, so its battery life is broadly similar. In use, I found that I typically got around a day of use and usually had about 15% in reserve. That’s not too shabby, given its sizeable internal display, but you’ll still need to charge it nightly. Wireless charging is supported but wired USB-C charging is still a paltry 25W. This translates into hitting a 50% charge in around 30 minutes, while a 100% charge took just under an hour and a half. Annoyingly, there’s no charger in the box, which given its steep sticker price is irritating, but Samsung’s logic is that most of us already have USB chargers, so why add to the pile? I can’t fault that thinking.

So, the verdict? A repeating theme in this review is that the Fold 5 is similar to the Fold 4. Its key differences include an improved hinge and a faster, more energy-efficient CPU.

These and other less noticeable refinements make the Fold 5 one of the best foldables currently available. Given its price and similarities to last year’s model, buyers on a budget may be better off picking up the now-discounted Fold 4. That said, If having the best foldable currently available is your thing, and your budget permits it, the Fold 5 is hard to beat.

https://www.samsung.com/nz/smartphones/galaxy-z-fold5/

 

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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