Samsung’s third-generation Galaxy Fold device is attempting to set itself apart from its predecessors, and it managed to do just that — so far. The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G comes at a cost, however, since it combined both the stellar functionality and convenience of the Fold series, and the creative power of the Note device by giving the Z Fold3 5G S-Pen support.
The device promises better durability than the older models since it is officially the first foldable with ingress protection rating of IPX8, and the S-Pen is just simply better with a larger main screen with a smaller folded screen combo.
With the Z Fold3 5G, Samsung is finally listening to its target audience and their persistent demands for this series by providing beefed-up durability, smoother screen animations on the smaller folded display, applications that play well with a foldable platform, and multitasking superiority – a feature that works like a charm with the large screen.
The caveat, still, is that the device is pricey at P87,990 (256GB) and P95,990 (512GB). The upgrades to the camera system are marginal, it does not come with an S-Pen unlike the Note devices, and the battery life leaves more to be desired. The foldable is able to redeem itself with an under-display front-facing camera placed on the main unfolded screen, and a 120Hz refresh rate on its smaller folded screen. Overall, the Z Fold3 5G is a mixed bag of next-gen features and a few drawbacks.
The rounded camera island on the back exudes a sleeker vibe than the rectangular one spotted on the Z Fold2. Now with a smaller profile than the previous model, the Z Fold3 5G is able to maintain the 7.6” screen real estate on its main display which is why it has smaller side bezels. The under-display camera is also covered with lower density pixels that makes it more subtle than the punch-hole design.
The impressive feat, however, is how the Korean giant managed to pull off waterproofing a foldable smartphone. By separately sealing both halves with waterproof tape and adding rubber rings to the ribbon cables placed across the hinge, the phone remains functional even if water manages to get inside. This mechanism is further protected with a cured-in-place gasket solution, cam-shaft hinge parts with anticorrosive coating, and a lubricating agent.
The lightweight but strong Armor Aluminum chassis is able to hold its head up against minor scratches and dents, and is covered with three new colors for this Fold iteration — Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Phantom Green. There is still no confirmation whether the customizable hinge colors available for the Z Fold2 will be brought to the Z Fold3 5G.
To accommodate the S-Pen feature, Samsung had to beef up the durability of the screen without losing the flexibility needed by the folding mechanism — that is why it is highly advised to not remove the thin film of the pre-applied plastic screen protector. With the additional PET top protective layer placed on the Gorilla Glass Victus, the Z Fold3 5G is 80% more durable than its predecessor.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 mobile platform inside the Z Fold3 5G is a flagship-level SoC designed to provide professional-quality camera performance, a more intelligent AI engine, and an overall higher gaming capability. Its connectivity needs are supported by the Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF and the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900, allows capture from three lenses via Triple ISPs, and records 4K HDR video with Computational HDR.
In real-world scenarios, the Samsung Z Fold3 5G is able to handle the majority of tasks thrown at it, and we even managed to use up to four applications at the same time with almost zero hiccups – that’s one online game in AFK mode, an online fighting game, a mobile shopping app, and YouTube playing game guides.
The Z Fold3 5G has all the right stuff in its photography and videography arsenal, and maybe that’s why the differences between its camera modules against the Z Fold 2 is barely noticeable.
It’s a refreshing sight to not see the unnecessary “bokeh” camera, and an advantage to only use the core types of lenses which have actual functions – a 12MP Sony IMX555 main sensor with Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization, a 123-degree 12MP ultrawide Sony IMX258 sensor, and a 12MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom with phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is a refined foldable smartphone that builds on the deficiencies of previous iterations. It can keep up with any kind of user since it performs well in many areas; from the impressive photography and videography, gaming, multitasking, content creation and consumption, and connectivity.
Bringing the S-Pen functionality to a foldable is just the icing on the cake. For an expensive smartphone, including a power brick and an earphone is a missed opportunity, and a longer battery life will only improve the already impressive package.