The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 aims to give you a pocketable 7.6-inch tablet and a 6.2-inch Candybar phone in the same device. Since the reveal of the first Galaxy Fold, Samsung’s overall Z Fold design has been vindicated as the sole survivor of the first folding phone war. (photo above: Galaxy S21 in purple, next to the Galaxy Z Fold3)
Since then, a steady stream of improvements and a lower price point have accelerated adoption. Should you join the Z Fold army? We’ll give you the information you need to decide.
This test unit is an AT&T model and supports AT&T 5G features like mmWave for maximum theoretical performance. Other carriers may not support this, so check their available network to have a good idea about what 5G performance to expect.
Also. specific AT&T software and services such as Mobile Security, AT&T Cloud storage, and Smart Wi-Fi (among others) that don’t always have equivalent elsewhere. Other than that, the overall user experience should be similar to other Z Fold3 handsets.
Galaxy Z Fold3 Design
One of the most crucial design improvements is the phone’s durability. The original Z Fold we have in the office still runs perfectly without signs of wear, but the new Z Fold3 gets an IPx8 rating (what is an IP rating?) which means that it can survive water submersion for a short time.
The ‘x’ in IPx8 means it is not certified against fine dust particles, but right now, this is the best you can get with foldable display technology. Water protection dramatically increases the survival chances in the real world as water is the #1 phone killer.
“SAMSUNG’S CLAIM THAT THE PHONE IS 80% STRONGER IS CREDIBLE”
The cover display and outer glass cover are made of Corning Gorilla Victus and are more resistant than last year’s model.
In my opinion, the chassis is sturdy, and taking into account every durability aspect (including the updated hinge), Samsung’s claim that the phone is “80% stronger” is credible. That said, there are a few things you can do to ensure maximum lifespan.
First, the primary display’s surface is more tender, and if you remove the extra plastic layer of protection, you could scratch it with your fingernails – so keep that layer on.
“THE GALAXY Z FOLD3 SPEAKER SYSTEM IS SENSATIONAL… BETTER THAN MANY LAPTOPS”
That display also supports a special pen called Z Fold3 S Pen, which comes with a spring-loaded tip to be as gentle as possible with the plastic surface, so do not try to use any other pen.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 speaker system is sensational. It produces a sound that’s unbelievably powerful for such a compact device. The sound is clear and better than many laptops. It has a better body and volumetric qualities than many laptops can output, which is true in both Portrait and Landscape modes.
Galaxy Z Fold3 Display
Durability aside, the performance of the displays is also excellent. The primary display resolution is the same 2208×1768 resolution as before but now has a variable refresh rate of 120 Hz (max). As a result, you get all the super-smooth scrolling and interaction of 120 Hz without incurring much battery penalty.
The near 100% sRGB coverage ensures that colors are accurately rendered, and while non-flexible Samsung AMOLED displays might have better color-rendering, it’s pretty much beyond human perception. At the same time, the peak brightness of 1200 NITs (auto-mode) ensures the display remains usable in all conditions.
The primary display’s camera features an under-the-screen selfie camera that’s very low-key when not in use. It works by reducing the display’s pixel density at that location and turning off the pixels in front of the lens when taking a photo.
The folding display’s crease is one of the most frequently asked questions, so let’s address it. It feels mostly the same to me as the Z Fold2: it’s usually not visible when looking straight except if it catches nearby light sources. Looking at it from the side will make the crease very obvious.
While it’s not a big visual issue, you will feel it while using the touch screen. In my experience, very few people complain about this, although you should try in a store and decide for yourself. To me, it’s a non-factor.
When using a Pen, the crease might be a more acute problem, but there are strategies to deal with it, such as rotating the phone 90-degree to avoid the crease when writing from left to right.
The 6.2-inch cover display is also an AMOLED 120HZ display. It has very good color and brightness as well.
Galaxy Z Fold3 User Experience
Technology aside, the user experience (UX) is “The” crucial element for this phone, so how is it? If you’ve read my previous Galaxy Fold and Z Fold2 reviews you might have a good sense of what to expect.
Closed Phone: getting close to a standard size, but not quite
When closed, the phone is 100% functional via the external cover screen. It’s a 6.2-inch display and has an effect of 2.1” (54mm), making it noticeably narrower than the S21.
One-hand typing is a bit easier, and you can access the whole bottom half of the screen with your thumb. Samsung’s OneUI interface is optimized precisely for that. I also find it clever that the cover screen and primary screens can have different app shortcuts.
Unfolded: an unbeatable multimedia experience
The real essence of the Z Fold3 is its UX on the primary 7.6” foldable OLED display. It is still pretty incredible to have such a display in one’s pocket, and that’s the primary reason people buy it in ever more significant numbers.
The screen size advantage is enormous and quite evident, and any application that heavily leans on visuals will benefit. Samsung now lets users “force” apps to maximize their content, so Instagram and other unoptimized apps take full advantage of the enormous display.
Having a larger screen also vastly improves any mapping application, including in your car. An iPad mini mount or one of the Z Fold3 mounts should do the trick.
The Z Fold3 could be a fantastic portable gaming device, but the experience would be even better if you attached it to a controller.
Other apps such as Facebook and perhaps Amazon shopping don’t benefit as much (yet) but are still more agreeable with the big screen.
Using YouTube is fantastic, either in portrait or landscape mode. Depending on the orientation, you could have better browsing or a larger image. For example, I like watching and browsing news clips in portrait mode but prefer movies in Landscape mode.
If you “zoom” into the video to reduce the Letterbox effect, Samsung will automatically switch to a full-screen mode in which a lot of content on the left+right is clipped. I would suggest adding at least one more intermediate size to find the best balance
The Flex mode (screen partly open) can be advantageous as the chassis becomes a stand for video conferencing, watching movies, or capturing time-lapses.
From a productivity standpoint, I find the Z Fold3 to be a great device to keep around for checking and replying to emails. For maximum productivity, connect it to a BT keyboard and have it rest on a stand, preferably in landscape mode.When I travel, I use a foldable 1mm thick stand.
If your computing activities are very light (writing/PPT/Web), Samsung’s DEX might even give you a chance to replace your laptop with the Z Fold 3. It’s something you can also do with other Samsung phones, but if you haven’t heard about it, check the video below and more use cases videos:
Finally, if you often switch between multiple apps, you can set up a Split-screen between two or three apps. I prefer using the “Edge panels” for app-switching. It’s a taskbar to the right of the screen that you conveniently swipe in and out.
Galaxy Z Fold3 Pen
Having an external pen is not as cool as the Galaxy Note pen, and we can only hope that Samsung will integrate the pen into the chassis when technology allows. The “Flip Cover with Pen” case for the Z Fold3 is pretty expensive, bulky, and doesn’t seem to work all that great when open. I’m not too fond of it.
The crease at the center might annoy pen users, but it should be okay for doodling and light sketching. If you need to draw something super-accurate, it may get frustrating. In the end, the flatter the surface and the better the experience is.
Writing in Landscape mode might help you avoid hitting the crease altogether since you can write above and below it. You could also always write on the bottom half of the screen and scroll the page up and down.
Galaxy Z Fold3 Camera
Looking at only high-level specs, the Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 seem to have similar “12MP” Wide and Ultrawide camera modules. However, a closer look at the technicals shows us that the Z Fold3 has slightly better hardware than the Z Flip3.
“COMPARABLE TO THE GALAXY S21 CAMERA”
The primary Galaxy Z Fold3 camera has a 30% larger sensor pixel size than the Z Flip3, and we can see it in low-light photos. The quality differences become more evident in more challenging situations where you can easily spot differences in quality (noise, details, blur) when you challenge the hardware.
Overall, the Z Fold3’s camera is quite good, and our CAMERA HW (hardware) benchmark shows it is comparable to the Galaxy S21 camera system, which is excellent. Some people complain that “for the price,” they expect the S21 Ultra’s camera performance, but it’s just an unrealistic technical expectation for this form factor.
The Ultrawide camera of the Z Fold3 uses the same sensor as the Z Flip3 (Sony IMX258) but features slightly better optics. Both phones should run very similar camera software and tuning so that you can expect colors hues and realism levels to be very comparable.
The Z Fold3 has two selfie cameras on the cover display and another “hidden” in the foldable display. The cover-screen selfie camera is technically the better one, and if you want to take a casual selfie, you should either use that one or use the Primary camera with a mirror view on the covert screen.
The Selfie camera in folding screen is about video-conferencing, and the 4 Megapixel specification tells us as much. For that purpose, it does a great job and easily beats every internal laptop webcam we’ve played with, by far.
Galaxy Z Fold3 Performance & Battery life
The Galaxy Z Fold3 has excellent performance, and that’s expected since Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 computing platform powers it. The Z Flip3 runs on the same platform, but we’ve seen a difference (4% to 8%) in favor of the Z Fold3, perhaps due to the larger chassis (better cooling).
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is an excellent gaming platform and can run the most modern games with such speed. That said, the graphics benchmark shows that the S21 Ultra remains the highest-performing Samsung graphics.
The flex nature of the chassis limits how much battery capacity you can get (4400 mAh) for the size. At the same time, you’re dealing with a much larger display and the temptation to use power-hungry apps more often.
This battery capacity means you might get a lower battery life than the Galaxy S21, especially the S21+ or S21 Ultra. However, I expect most people who go through a typical workday to charge it only once a day. If you’re a heavy user, you might want to use one of the battery optimization modes or have a way to top off the battery.
The phone can fast-charge at 23W (67 mAh/mn), but you might have to use a Samsung charger like the 35W charger ($29.99) to be 100% sure about the compatibility. For reference, the Galaxy S21 Ultra hits 100 mAh/mn while the iPhone 12 Pro Max gets 63 mAh/mn.
We tested the charging speed with a standard 65W USB-PD power supply and noticed that the Z Fold3 draws 16W at most on that one. Unfortunately, the mobile industry now expects users to pay extra for these maximum charging speeds.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is everything its fans were waiting for and a little bit more. Leading to the launch, I kept an eye on what prospective buyers were looking for, and for the most part, they were expecting incremental improvements.
Some of it was expected, such as the impeccable industrial design, processor speed, and overall display quality. Other upgrades were beyond expectations, like the waterproofing and the 120Hz display. Perhaps the best improvement of all is the $200 lower MSRP pricing (AT&T has up to $1000 trade-in as well). At publishing time, Amazon had better pricing (affiliate link).
“THE SUBLIME Z FOLD3 USER EXPERIENCE MAKES THIS HANDSET EXTREMELY TEMPTING”
Z Fold3 buyers are doing quite a bit of research before purchasing, and that’s partly why user satisfaction is relatively high (9/10 according to our research). People who are not attracted by or don’t understand the value proposition usually shy away from an impulse buy.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is without a doubt a multimedia beast and is the best 7.6-inch tablet if you consider its 5G connectivity, compute performance, and portability. Suppose you find yourself in situations where you often sit down and wait (train/bus commute, airport, flight) or frequently watch/edit videos and photos or play games. In that case, the sublime Z Fold3 user experience makes this handset extremely tempting.