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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review

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9.3Expert Score
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Technological marvel

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a wonder of modern technology, but its design has usability issues.

Design
9
Performance
9.5
Pros
  • Spectacular battery life
  • Robust gap-free hinge
  • Powerful performance
Cons
  • Aspect ratios make it hard to use
  • S-Pen case is an additional purchase
  • It is very expensive

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a technological marvel that seemingly defies the laws of physics as most people would understand them. 

The fact that we have folding screens may no longer be new, but it’s still marvellous to experience.

The Z Fold 5 is also one of the most powerful smartphones I have ever used, with a great camera system and brilliant battery life.

And yet… there are usability challenges inherent in its folding design. Despite loving the power and battery and larger screen in tablet mode, I found myself reaching for my old iPhone often during my review period, as I longed for a simpler experience.

It’s like the Z Fold 5 is too focused on being technologically advanced to be practical. That doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of the phone, but combined with the high cost, may not help convince you to buy it either.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Design

As the fifth generation Fold device, Samsung has really hit its strides when it comes to the phone/tablet hybrid design.

The big design developments over the Fold 4 come in the form of the hinge, which no longer has a gap. Reworking the device has also helped Samsung shave 10 grams from the Fold 5’s weight.

For a first-time Fold user, though, neither of those things will be selling points. 

What is going to impress is the sheer amount of tech inside this device.

The front of the Galaxy Z Fold 5

A closer look

From the outside, you’re looking at a gorgeous 6.2-inch screen with a 23.1:9 aspect ratio. Hidden at the top inside the display is a 10MP cover camera for selfies and video calls.

Folded, the entire phone is just 13.4 mm thick, which isn’t too much thicker than a normal phone.

As you move to open the device, though, you can see there’s so much more inside. The hinge not only closes completely, but is easy to open. When you do, it can be set at a pretty wide range of angles, acting as an integrated stand.

Fully open, you’re looking at a huge 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with a 2176 × 1812 resolution. 

Hidden inside that screen is another 4MP under-screen camera, which can be used to take selfies and unlock the device with facial recognition. You can see the camera if you look for it, but it’s actually part of the screen rather than the pinhole style in other phones.

The crease of the main screen is definitely visible, and even more noticeable when you use the phone in its tablet mode. But it’s not unpleasant to use, and the wow factor of using a tablet is much greater than the discomfort of the crease.

A look at the camers of the Z Fold 5 while inside the S-Pen case

Cameras

Samsung has some of the best smartphone cameras in the business. The triple lens array at the rear of the Fold 5 stands out a little from the phone (though not at all if you have the case). 

You get a 50MP (f/1.8) + 12MP (f/2.2) + 10MP (f/2.4) camera system, which gives a 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom.

There’s image stabilisation for the rear camera, as well as support for 8K video recording (7680 × 4320 @30fps).

The case

Samsung sells a dedicated case for the Fold 5 which incorporates the special S-Pen you need to use on the foldable’s screen. It costs $169.

Despite the incredible cost of the phone itself, this should be an immediate purchase with the phone. Not only does it give the phone a bit of extra protection, but the S-pen adds a much wider set of use-cases to the phone, helping it in its quest to be the ultimate productivity smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Performance

It’s impressive how Samsung managed to cram so much tech and so many features into a device this size. But it also creates challenges.

The biggest of which is the aspect ratios of the phone.

Once the initial thrill of opening the phone into tablet mode wore off, I found myself using the front screen for most functions. However, the screen is too narrow.

Typing a text message is the perfect example. The keys on the front screen for typing are manageable but cramped, so typos are common. But the spacebar is located too close to the Android Home button, so I found almost every time I started typing, I would bump the Home button and end up leaving the messages app.

A close up of the front camera on the external display of the Fold 5

And yet, typing on the tablet display poses its own challenges. It is strictly a two-handed job, with the keyboard stretched across both sides of the screen. 

Even if you swap from the default Samsung keyboard, you need both hands to type effectively.

That aspect ratio becomes a problem while gaming as well. Rocket League Sideswipewas basically unplayable on either screen. On the tablet mode, the game zoomed in, so you couldn’t see the entire field, with the controls too large to be effective.

On the front screen, the narrow aspect meant there were black bars on either end of the phone. This required my thumbs to reach further into the middle to be able to reach the controls.

Of course, that’s just one game, but I found it applied to most of the titles I tried. Marvel Strike Force and GTA: Vice City both suffered from the camera being either too zoomed in or controls not easily accessible, depending on the screen I used.

Multitasking

Things were better when it came to multitasking, indicating that this is a device for professionals rather than a gaming companion.

Opening up two apps side by side is easy and responsive. Seriously, you can be watching YouTube on half the tablet display and writing emails on the other half.

There was never any indication the phone was struggling while doing more than one thing at a time. I didn’t even notice it getting hot, though I probably could have pushed it a bit harder than I did.

That’s most likely due to the SnapDragon 8 Gen 2 processor inside, which places this as one of the most powerful Android devices on the market.

From a benchmarks’ perspective, it looks like this:

Single-core:

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
1999
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
1967
Google Pixel 7
1038
Google Pixel 6a
1063
Apple iPhone 14
1738

Multi-core:

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
5286
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
5088
Google Pixel 7
3172
Google Pixel 6a
2968
Apple iPhone 14
4741

Vulkan Compute:

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
9100
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
3568
Google Pixel 7
4528
Google Pixel 6a
7550
Apple iPhone 14
12507

Battery life

You would expect, with its two super-bright screens and its powerful processor, that the Z Fold 5 would chew through battery life faster than you can say “foldable”.

But the reality is that Samsung has blown battery life out of the park here. There are devices with bigger batteries that go flat much faster. The Fold 5 has a 4,400 mAh battery, and it comfortably got me through two full days before I needed to stick it on the charger.

I loved the fact that you get wireless charging with the foldable design here as well. 

The Galzy Z Fold 5 half folded sitting on grass

Cameras

The triple camera system on the Z Fold 5 is solid. It takes great photos, and can be controlled from both the internal and external screens.

But it’s not as good as the camera in the S23 Ultra. There is undoubtedly some engineering reason for that, but I have to admit that part of me was disappointed that Samsung didn’t pack this with the best of everything.

While the camera system may not be the best, it still takes some nice photos. Samsung’s image processing still tends to oversaturate colours, but that’s been common to Samsung for a while now.

Night photography is pretty solid. The image processing does a good job of using limited light to create images that aren’t too noisy. I don’t know if I’d say it’s the best camera for night photography I’ve ever used, but it’s far from the worst.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 on concrete, open with the S-pen resting on the open screen

2023 has been a big year for foldable phones, and if you’re after the biggest and best, Samsung still has that title with the Fold 5.

But while the technology inside is incredibly cool, and the battery life is spectacular, there’s a general usability challenge based on the dimensions of the screens.

When you combine that discomfort with the asking price, then you really have to ask yourself why you want to buy this phone. If it’s because you love the folding screen tech, and need to do business things with your phone, then go for it – you probably won’t be disappointed.

But if you are looking for a powerful phone that’s easy to use and performs well, then the Z Fold 5’s design hurdles leave it well behind the S23 Ultra as the best Android device for you.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 online

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Product disclosure

Samsung supplied the product for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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