A couple of things before I list what I love and not so appreciate about the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5.
Firstly, this mini-review was written with a loan unit. Secondly, I’m focusing more on my personal experience with the Fold5 rather than a technical examination of specs.
I’ll share this too. For a few days, I was at a loss at how to approach this mini-review. I wouldn’t say they are consistently flawless, but my experience with Samsung Galaxy smartphones has always been positive. I’m strongly inclined to believe this latest Samsung flagship folding phone is as great as Samsung says.
In the end, I decided to just share what would I believe benefit me most should I buy the Galaxy Z Fold5. For the sake of objectivity, I will share what would discourage me from buying too. I hope my experience with this stylish 2023 folding phone will help you in your evaluation of whether to get one.
- Like: Superior Camera Auto Exposure and Auto Focus
- Like: That Amazing Telephoto Camera
- Like: Reading and Type on the 7.6” Main Screen
- Like: The Fold, the Shape, and the Weight
- Like: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy – An Efficient Powerhouse
- Like: Seamless Integration with the Samsung Galaxy Ecosystem
- Dislike: The Price
- Dislike: Watching Videos on the Main Screen
Like: Superior Camera Auto Exposure and Auto Focus
As a content creator and “prosumer” photographer, camera quality is always the first area I’ll examine when evaluating any new smartphone. I’m delighted to share that the Galaxy Z Fold5 camera exceeded all my expectations as far as picture and video quality are concerned.
Be it sharpness, dynamic range, saturation, or focus, the rear camera array of the Fold5 rarely slips. Throughout my test period, it never once mismanaged white balance too.
I’m especially impressed with auto-focus and exposure control during video taking. Singapore’s overenthusiastic tropical sun often results in washed-out pictures. I did not experience this problem when filming with the Fold5. I also did not experience any difficulties with auto refocus while filming under messy, low-light conditions.
Take a look at the following images and videos. Other than resizing and watermarks, all are unenhanced. Click to view full size version.
The Selfie Cams are Great Too
While they seem less impressive on paper at 4 MP (cover) and 10 MP (main), the two selfie cams of the Fold5 still delivers the goods, even in low light conditions.
I wonder whether there is a need for these selfie cameras, though. The Galaxy Z Fold5 has a nifty dual-screen simultaneous display that allows you to take selfies with the rear cameras while watching the preview on the cover screen.
I suspect most people will use this function for selfies given the rear cameras produce better pictures.
Like: That Amazing Telephoto Camera
I rarely get excited over telephoto cameras of smartphones, no matter what’s promised in official sales literature. Let’s be honest, while the tech has vastly improved, zooms are still one of the weakest areas of smartphone cameras, especially when you go beyond 3x. In low light, even 3x magnification could result in noisy, blurry, painterly captures.
But the telephoto camera of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 delivers a basket of surprises. A big basket. Magnification still brings on image degradation, but it is in no way as bad as I thought it would be. Under good lighting, even a 10x picture is only slightly worse than a 3x one, while the 3x capture exhibits the best quality and sharpness I’ve seen this year.
For low light and evening shots, quality dips faster, but only very slightly. A 10x evening pic taken with the Fold5 is still impressively sharp.
Check out the following mini-gallery to see for yourself. Don’t skip the 30x pictures too. The quality of those captures is simply amazing.
|Shaded Outdoor 0.6x.||Shaded Outdoor 1x.||Shaded Outdoor 3x.||Shaded Outdoor 10x.||Shaded Outdoor 30x.|
|Night 0.6x||Night 1x.||Night 3x.||Night 10x.|
|Sunny Outdoor 0.6x||Sunny Outdoor 1x.||Sunny Outdoor 3x.||Sunny Outdoor 10x.||Sunny Outdoor 30x.|
Like: Reading and Type on the 7.6” Main Screen
This is obvious. At almost twice the screen size of the S23, it is a joy to read or type with the Fold5’s 7.6” main screen. When reading PDFs or emails, the need to zoom and scroll is vastly minimized. You can also activate split screen to enhance multitasking.
Needless to say, with a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, work or entertainment on the main screen is always a rich, vibrant visual experience too.
Like: The Fold, the Shape, and the Weight
Samsung placed a lot of emphasis on an improved flex hinge for the Fold5 and Filp5. Indeed, this is quite the engineering marvel for in closed form, you cannot see through the gap at all. In open form, the middle crease/depression is prominent but like all previous Fold generations, not noticeable once the screen is lit.
Throughout my fortnight of testing, never once did I feel the hinge was flimsy too.
Coming to weight, the Galaxy Z Fold5 measures 253 g, which is a wee bit lighter than the Fold4 and about 20 g heavier than the S23 Ultra. Gonna say something controversial here. I know some users would mind the weight but I actually appreciated it.
In folded form, I feel the weight of the Fold5 makes it slightly easier to reduce camera shake. Easier to grip and shoot with one hand too because it’s alike a point-and-shoot digicam.
In folded form, the Fold5 measures just short of 7 cm. Together with the thickness of 13.4mm, the “ice cream bar” shape feels more pleasant to hold and walk around with.
But these are my very personal preferences; I know. For general users, what’s important here is this. The Fold5 is lighter than one would expect, with a pretty well-built new hinge too. It is also not as bulky as one would imagine with a lot of thought given to ergonomics.
Samsung deserves praise for what it has accomplished here as far as folding phones are concerned.
Like: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy – An Efficient Powerhouse
The Fold5 is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy processor; just the length of that name implies power. Many benchmarking tests have also been performed with results published online. All results point towards the Fold5 having one of the best smartphone “engines” for 2023, if not the utter best.
These impressive numbers don’t have much meaning for me, though. I mean what quality differences do they translate into? I seldom play mobile games too, and so processing might for that area isn’t of much concern for me.
In the end, I decided to just focus on rudimentary concerns when evaluating the processor. Does the Fold5 get excessively warm after prolonged usage? Is there any noticeable slowdown with more intensive procedures?
My experience is as follows. As far as heat management and dissipation are concerned, the Fold5 never once got worryingly warm even after extended video filming or while playing resource-intensive games like the Asphalt series. The same goes for video editing on the Fold5 with Adobe Premiere Rush.
Processing Slow Mo and Super Slow Mo videos, like earlier Galaxy phones, takes a while and there was one instance when the Fold5 suddenly became hot. (But the heat faded away within seconds) In general, though, processing never felt excessively long and I didn’t have to worry much about heat.
I think it’s safe to say, the Fold5 has state-of-the-art processing power and heat management. You will experience these throughout daily use.
Like: Seamless Integration with the Samsung Galaxy Ecosystem
In today’s world of connected universes and the like, seamless integration into an ecosystem is an expectation rather than a key feature. That being said, it’s still weirdly gratifying to, for example, connect a Watch6 to the Fold5 and discover over the next half hour that every Samsung App on the Fold5 can now be flawlessly controlled by the Watch6. Without you having to do much additional setup too.
As far as ecosystem is concerned, I feel Samsung did a great job as well, not just the ease of integration but also with the quality of each component. Be it the Watch6 or the Galaxy Tab S9 or even the older Galaxy Buds, all work great on their own but pairing them with the Fold5, other Galaxy smartphones, or other Samsung smart devices immediately expands your convenience and control.
I like the feeling of this expanded control. It might not actually amount to a lot of real benefits, but it is deeply satisfying.
Dislike: The Price
This seems unfair of me to say about a premium flagship smartphone, what’s more, one with prestige written all over it. Still, it’s a fact that the Galaxy Z Fold5 costs significantly more than other 2023 Samsung phones, even when tied to a Telco contract. For many consumers, I believe there will also be the question of, are the premium features of the Fold5 worth the extra buck?
Well, let me put it this way, I’ve tested both and I frankly think the imaging capabilities of the Fold5 is superior to that of the S23 Ultra. However, it is not a huge difference and I can, with relative ease, improve S23 Ultra pics in Photoshop to match those taken by the Fold5.
I’ve hinted at this earlier too. The state-of-the-art processing power might not be a need for most users.
In gist, the Fold5 focused on improving existing features from earlier generations rather than introducing new ones. Overall, Samsung did a good job too. But for some users, I suspect this is not enough to justify an upgrade or splurge.
Dislike: Watching Videos on the Main Screen
Watching 16:9 videos on the main screen of the Fold5 is as you would expect. The video wouldn’t fill the whole screen even if you activate full-screen or flexi mode.
Like previous Samsung Galaxy smartphones, you can manually expand the video to fill the screen. But a square will still be a square. Expanding a rectangular video that way significantly snips the sides of the video. (Resolution is preserved, though, if it’s a 4K video) In my case, I immediately disliked what was done because I kept feeling I was missing out on a lot of things.
I ended up always watching videos on the cover screen. Luckily, the cover screen is nearly identical to the main one as far as specs are concerned. Smaller as it is, there was no discernible difference in visual quality.