Samsung’s top-end foldable gets pricier but the upgrades are hard to spot
- Thinner and lighter than Z Fold 5
- Better battery life and performance
- Useful new software features
- Even more expensive than last year
- Same cameras as last year
- S Pen isn’t included in the box
Large-screen foldables are here to stay and if you’re a fan of the smartphone/tablet hybrid form factor, there’s a brand-new Galaxy Z Fold from Samsung for you to get excited about.
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Unveiled during this year’s Galaxy Unpacked event in Korea, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 follows a familiar template, however a significant price increase in 2023 on top of an already high base price will push it even further out of reach for the majority of prospective smartphone buyers.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: What you need to know
Appearing alongside its smaller sibling, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, the design of this year’s foldable hasn’t changed much but that’s by no means a bad thing. A showy smartphone in all aspects, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is still a joy to use and, if there’s any indication of where mainstream smartphones can go from here, this is it.
Plus, with an increasing number of rivals popping up to challenge Samsung’s supremacy at the top of the foldable phone market, it seems sensible that the company has chosen to refine the recipe, rather than completely shake up the formula.
One of the tweaks Samsung has made this time is that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 now has a gapless fold, which has reduced the overall thickness when folded. It’s also a little lighter than before and benefits from improved performance courtesy of the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. It comes in a selection of new colours, too, including both “Icy Blue” and cream.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Price and competition
Unfortunately, these changes incur a slight added cost this year. Going for an extra £100, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is now priced at a lofty £1,749, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a wallet-wilting sum of money to pay for any smartphone.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5, on the other hand, is a foldable you might want to consider if your budget isn’t as astronomical. Samsung’s newest flip-to-open clamshell starts at £1,149, which is still quite a lot but a fraction of what the Galaxy Z Fold 5 will cost you.
As for its flexi-screen rivals, Google’s Pixel Fold recently launched in the UK but isn’t quite as tempting, despite costing the same as the Z Fold 5. With an outdated design and mediocre performance, it failed to earn a recommendation in our review.
Most other big-screen folding smartphones are equally as expensive but there are some outliers. The Honor Magic Vs, for instance, costs £250 less at £1,400 and, while it doesn’t have an IP rating and its software could be improved, that saving is quite tempting.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Design and key features
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is both thinner and lighter than the previous model, which you’ll notice as soon as you pull it out of the box. Some 10g has been shaved off the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s overall weight, which now comes in at 253g versus the Fold 4’s 263g. It’s thinner than last year’s model, too, at just 13.44mm (a difference of 2.4mm).
This is mostly due to the fact that the Z Fold 5 – and the Z Flip 5 – now folds completely flush when closed, rather than leaving a small, wedge-shaped gap between the halves. It’s a fresh look and it serves a practical purpose, too, with a smaller chance of unwanted detritus getting in and scratching the fragile inner display.
That screen is as delicate as ever, too. In fact, a warning message on setup reminds you that even so much as running your fingernails across the display will leave a permanent indentation. Samsung no longer offers a free no-fuss replacement service, either, so if you did happen to scratch it, a new screen will cost you a huge £514.
The 2023 model is available in a selection of new colours, including Icy Blue (pictured), Cream and Phantom Black. Protection on both the front screen and rear panel is provided by layers of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and the phone is IPX8 water-resistant, just like last year. The supported S Pen stylus is also IP68 rated for the first time, although sadly you don’t get one of these included in the box. I didn’t receive one for review, either.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Displays
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5’s 6.2in cover display is a Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel, with a 120Hz refresh rate and a resolution of 2,316 x 904, which is a slight increase. Meanwhile, the foldable, square-aspect inner display measures 7.6in across the diagonal, also with a 120Hz refresh rate and an increased resolution of 2,176 x 1,812.
Quality-wise, yet again we’re looking at a pair of exceptional screens. They each have two display modes to choose from – Vivid and Natural – with the former being the default setting. In this mode, the Z Fold 5’s inner screen achieved an average Delta E (colour variance) score of 3.36, hitting 100% of the sRGB gamut with a total volume of 151%. The colours are more subdued in the Natural mode, however, with a Delta E result of 1.81, and an sRGB gamut score of 94.2% with 96.5% coverage.
Run your finger across the inner screen and the vertical crease does feel slightly less prominent than the previous version but it is still noticeable to the eye, especially compared with rivals such as the Moto Razr 40 Ultra. A big area of improvement, however, is brightness, which has jumped to a quoted maximum of 1,750 nits. We measured this at 1,360cd/m2 when playing HDR material. This makes all the difference when watching HDR content, and brings the Z Fold 5 in line with Samsung’s non-folding Galaxy S23 range.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Performance and battery life
As with the Galaxy S23, processing duties are now handled courtesy of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, with a special “for Galaxy” designation. This means you’re getting slightly boosted clock speeds compared with the regular version seen in competitor flagships, although we’ve found that this only makes a marginal difference in benchmark testing.
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In the Geekbench 5 test, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 achieved a score of 1,542 in single-core and 5,086 in multi-core. Compared with the last Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 smartphone we tested, this is roughly a 9% speed improvement – but it’s still a way behind the mighty Apple A16 Bionic.
Gaming performance, on the other hand, is among the best we’ve seen. Running the GFXBench Car Chase test on the inner screen, the Z Fold 5 reached an average frame rate of 79fps, with an offscreen result of 130fps (at a simulated 1080p resolution). That’s a huge 36% boost compared to last year.
Where you should notice a greater change is in thermal efficiency, with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 incorporating a 38% larger vapour chamber than the previous model. The battery size remains a rather small 4,400mAh, which is a bit of a shame considering both the Honor Magic Vs and Google Pixel Fold use bigger cells, but we’ve found that this hardly matters, since the Z Fold 5 leaves the others in the dirt.
In our looped video test, with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness and all data connections switched off, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 lasted for 23hrs 49mins when displayed on the inner screen. That’s almost five and a half hours longer than last year, and almost ten hours more than the Honor Magic Vs.
As you might expect, this extra stamina makes all the difference in day-to-day use. I spent a few hours snapping pictures for our camera tests and using Google Maps to get around, and the Z Fold 5 barely dropped below 80%. My only criticism is that, when battery levels do eventually drop, it only supports 25W charging, so it takes a while to get back up to full capacity.
Elsewhere, there’s a generous 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM and you also get the choice of either 256B, 512GB or 1TB of internal storage space, although the latter is an online exclusive.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Software
A handful of new software improvements and features are on the cards for this year. This includes the ability to drag and drop items within three applications on the screen at once, with multitouch support – think swapping multiple images between apps at the same time and you get the idea. It’s a neat idea, but I didn’t really find much use for it.
The most useful of the software upgrades, however, is the taskbar located at the bottom of the screen. You can use this to quickly switch between open apps, and pin up to eight of your favourites, giving you quick access to software you use on a regular basis. This also makes the process of launching apps in split-screen view much easier.
Flex Mode continues to be a useful addition as well. When partially opened between 150- and 90-degrees, this feature transforms the layout of supported applications. The camera app, for instance, displays your recently captured snaps on the left-hand side and the viewfinder on the right, making it easier to quickly review recent shots while keeping the camera on hand for instant access.
As for future updates, Samsung has promised at least four years of core Android upgrades – bringing it all the way to Android 17 – and five years of security patches.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Cameras
The Fold 4 was packed full of cameras last year and the Fold 5 is no different. As before, you’re getting a trio of lenses on the back, including a 50MP f/1.8 main, a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide unit and a 10MP f/2.4 3x optical telephoto with support for up to 10x hybrid digital zoom. There are two selfie cameras, too: atop the cover screen is a 12MP (f/2.2) lens, while the inside display incorporates a small 4MP (f/1.8) camera underneath the flexible display.
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Considering this is exactly the same lineup as the previous model, the image results are largely the same. That is to say, it delivers good quality but with room for improvement. Generally speaking, images look great, with bold, punchy and vivid colours that appear to leap from the screen. Pictures look best if you use the main sensor at the default 1x zoom or the 3x optical zoom lens, with a huge amount of detail capture and excellent use of HDR.
The 0.6x zoom ultrawide unit, on the other hand, needs some work. Images looked rather soft in this mode, with some washed-out colours. Likewise, if you use the digital zoom to go past the 3x optical zoom threshold, there’s not a lot to like, either, with a major loss in detail at higher magnifications. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra does a much better job with its ‘Space Zoom’ implementation.
Night-mode pictures are great, however. Capturing test shots side by side with the Pixel Fold, there really wasn’t all that much to differentiate the two, with the Samsung providing some effectively well-lit images with plenty of sharpness.
I also liked the Z Fold 5’s blurred-background portrait images. There was a good amount of detail in my subject’s facial features, with clear and crisp separation between the foreground and background. Note, however, that the under-display selfie camera on the inside screen doesn’t support this mode.
As for video, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is capable of recording at 8K footage at 30fps, which isn’t stabilised. Your best bet, however, is to drop the resolution to 4K and enable 60fps for the smoothest-looking footage, and it’s here the Z Fold 5 really excels. Video is crisp, detailed and practically judder free.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Verdict
I’m not keen on the £100 price increase – £1,749 is an awful lot of money for a phone – but if you’re blessed with the funds and you’re a fan of the folding phone/tablet form factor, there isn’t anything better than the Galaxy Z Fold 5 right now.
With a lovely folding design, a handful of useful software features,blistering performance and staggering stamina, the Z Fold 5 once more elevates itself above everything else on the market. However, that once insurmountable margin is starting to close, and with stiff competition and an increasing number of rivals appearing at more competitive prices, we might not be recommending it for much longer.