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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: my final expert analysis of the foldable phone
Even with stiff competition, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the top foldable smartphone in 2023, according to my in-depth testing and review
Update: Our Galaxy Z Fold 5 review has been updated now that the iPhone 15 Pro Max, from Samsung chief competitor, Apple, has launched.
This in-depth Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review brought me to South Korea, where I got an inside look at the foldable phone alongside testing the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Watch 5. I finally have a verdict: The Fold 5 is my favorite best foldable phone in 2023, and that’s coming from my expert analysis having reviewed every Fold so far for The Shortcut or TechRadar.
Living in the future – by 13 hours – to attend Samsung Unpacked (the equivalent of a big Apple launch event), I found out a lot about Samsung’s commitment to foldable devices. Let’s start with the best price and launch week deals:
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review
✅ 👑 The best foldable smartphones with a two-screen productivity punch
✅ 📐 Tighter & lighter design by a smidge – and significantly smaller S Pen
✅ 🤏 Closes completely in half – no odd gap between folded screens
✅ 💡 Brighter display for easier outdoor use
❌ 💰 It starts at $1,800 – although trade-in deals level the price
❌ 🖋️ S Pen – sold separately – doesn’t slot into the phone body
❌ 🙅♂️ Still can’t write on the front Cover Screen
❌ 📝 It’s 2023! Give me my phone-only Samsung Notes anytime, anywhere
🏆 Review score: 4.5 out of 5
🏅 Editor’s Choice Award
🥇 Why Z Fold 5 is my favorite? It’s a productivity powerhouse with an unmatched phone-tablet design. Do you sometimes wish you had a big-screen phone in a more portable size? This pairs a 7.6-inch mini-tablet display (unfolded when you want to do work) with a 6.2-inch front Cover Display (folded in half for easier carry).
📐💡🖋️ Ok, what’s changed? Minor, but important improvements to the design, screen brightness and S Pen stylus (sold separately). It’s both iterative and amazing at the same time, and I feel a worthy upgrade with a trade-in deal.
💰 Better trade-in offers this time. Samsung’s asking for a lot at $1,800, but one advantage it has over its Android competitors has been the ability to accept trade-ins at higher values. That’s a feature only Apple can achieve.
🤏 Gaps-be-gone. It does fold completely in half this time. The Z Fold 5 screen dimensions didn’t change year-over-year (it’s the smaller clamshell-style Z Flip 5 that has gotten a larger Cover Display), but I’m happy to report gone is the awkward air gap between the right and left half of the inner display when closed.
🗄️ 512GB of storage for the 256GB price. One of the Z Fold 5 release day perks is still in stock: getting the 512GB version for the list price of the 256GB configuration. This is likely to go away soon (the Z Flip 5 free storage just upgrade vanished).
Why trust my Galaxy Z Fold 5 review
🧪 Review expertise. I’ve reviewed the Fold 1, Fold 2, Fold 3, Fold 4 for TechRadar and then The Shortcut, and now I have reviewed the Fold 5. I’m still wowed by this awesome technology five Fold generations deep. I’ve tested other smartphones to make this a fair review, and yes, Samsung has more competition than ever – the Google Pixel Fold and the new Moto Razr+ in the US – but it scores higher on durability, software cohesiveness, screen brightness and accessory compatibility.
I’m still wowed by this awesome technology five Fold generations deep.
👀 See the differences below. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right) shows the impact of a tighter hinge and gap-less design when folded in half.
📐 Hinge is a match. It’s the right balance for what 2023 tech allows. You can see that the hinge is smaller for a tighter form factor. Yes, it’s still a meaty phone shaped like an oversized ice cream sandwich, but Samsung’s Z Fold 5 feels like things are headed in the right direction. Google launched the Pixel Fold as “the world’s thinnest foldable” (Google’s claim that still stands in the US), but it doesn’t feel as solid.
👖 Fits tight jeans. It still fits in my wash-shrunken jeans that I never wear out in public anymore, according to my testing. The YoY change in actual dimensions isn’t dramatic, so expect the same long awkward bulge (but at least it’s a better fit than the Google Pixel Fold). If that’s an issue for you, check out the also-thick-but-half-sized Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
🆚 Samsung’s selfies > iPhone. The default app has key features I can’t access on my iPhone: the ability to easily launch the camera with a double tap of the physical power button (no need to look for an on-screen haptic lockscreen shortcut), trigger a selfie timer with a hand gesture (not an on-screen button buried two Apple menus deep) and switch between the front and back cameras with a simple swipe anywhere on the screen viewfinder (not a tiny camera flip icon in the corner). These features make IRL high-pressure group selfies – where I’m always in charge of taking the photo – a cinch on a Samsung phone.
📸 50MP camera is very good. Very good… for a foldable phone, but not Samsung’s best. That crown belongs to the Galaxy S23 Ultra 200MP camera. By default, photos are 12MP on both phones, but their sensor sizes and individual pixels do differ, both in the S23 Ultra’s favor. The Fold 5 does OK in low light, almost matching exactly what I experienced last year with the Fold 4. This is one area in which I found the Pixel Fold 5 excelled over the Z Fold 5 (but not enough to be worth a slower chip and worse build).
10MP telephoto camera
🔭 Telephoto zoom test. The Z Fold 5 does have a dedicated telephoto camera that offers a 3x optical zoom. Again very good for a foldable and better than the Z Flip 5 which has no optical zoom camera. But the S23 Ultra has a 10x optical camera and reaches 100x ‘Space Zoom.’ Again, no difference between Z Fold 5 and Z Fold 4.
12MP ultra-wide camera
👐 Ultra-wide lens. The triple-lens camera includes a way to capture a bit more of what’s in front of you in exchange for some detail that the main camera captures. It’s still 12MP, but anything at the edges will look stretched at a 123° field of view.
4MP selfie inner camera
🙅♂️ Just say no to 4MP selfies. They’re not good. Samsung’s under-display camera creates blurry photos that aren’t even good enough for video conferencing (which is what phone reviewers say when cameras are barely good enough for photos). Yes, hiding this camera under the display is cool; the resulting photos are anything but.
10MP Cover Display selfie camera
🤳 10MP Cover Display selfies. The selfie camera here is much better than what I saw on the Flip 5 during my head-to-head testing. Skin in images gets soft at night to try and reduce noise, but the Cover Display takes a nice quick selfie in decent light.
🍑 Rear selfies (hey now!) earn 2nd place. Ok, not those rear selfies, but selfies taken with the Z Fold 5 main camera can be a challenge compared to the Flip 5. Why? Because propping up the Fold 5 while looking at the screen is impossible (unless you are using the muddy 4MP camera). Its main cameras are on the back, whereas Flip 5 embeds its main cameras on the same side as the Cover Display. The Fold’s cameras are slightly more powerful, but the Flop takes the crown for selfies in the end.
😮 Knowing if you’re in the frame: I can easily ask someone to take your photo of me with the tablet screen open (making it easy for them to capture a good shot) and tap “Cover Screen Preview” to get my own live view of the framing. This does use the main 50MP camera (and the telephoto or ultrawide) and your head won’t get cut off.
🪨 Durability vs being itty bitty. It comes down to for me long-term durability for me. Coming from testing the Google Pixel Fold, I feel like the Z Fold 5 is more sound from the get-go. Google’s “world’s thinnest foldable” claim is admirable, but durability is more important for a foldable phone, and Samsung didn’t shrink things down it to the extent that it compromises structural integrity.
💦⏳ Ready for water, not sand. For the third year in a row, we get an IPX8 rating, meaning the Z Fold 5 is water-resistant. But I wouldn’t take it to the beach without caution. The bendable screen element now closes tight, but fine-grain sand remains the mortal enemy of all foldables.
🤔 New S Pen a long-term risk? I really like Samsung’s new slim S Pen and case, but the nub on this thing doesn’t retract when you press hard. It’s something to be aware of just in case this leads to scratches on the delicate inner display. So far so good.
Z Fold 5 colors
🌈 Three main Z Fold 5 colors. Icy Blue, Phantom Black and Cream are in stock everywhere the Z Fold 5 is sold. The basic black and white colors are fine, but Ice Blue is the one to buy if you want a standout look for your standout phone.
🤫 Two more ‘secret’ colors. Blue and Gray may catch your eye, but they’re only available through the Samsung Store (not at carriers). Icy Blue remains my top pick.
💡 Not just lighter, but brighter. The Z Fold 5 continues Samsung’s drive to have the brightest foldable phone screen, jumping from a 1,000 nit peak brightness on the Z Fold 4 to 1,750 nits (making it the brightest on the market to date). It’s a big deal for using this productivity smartphone outside. Impromptu spreadsheets work sessions in Central Park this summer? Count me in.
🤔 Front display debate. Many people like Google Pixel Fold’s passport-like size, but I also appreciate the narrower (when closed) Fold 5 design. I’d love something in the middle: a front Cover Screen a smidge wider without departing from its current one-hand-friendly size. Pixel Fold feels almost too big for my pockets and, oddly, takes away from the need to ever open it to use the tablet-like screen. Samsung, just make the Fold 6 big enough so the Cover Display on-screen keyboard feels more natural.
🤷♂️ Crease still exists but it’s N.B.D. Beyond the first-gen foldables, the crease hasn’t bothered me. It’ll be great when Samsung (or Apple) comes out with a no-crease design one day, but in 2023, the look and feel here are acceptable.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 specs
📆 Release date: August 11, 2023
💰 Price: $1,800 (check launch day deals)
📺 Screen sizes: 7.6-inch inner screen / 6.2-inch Cover Screen
🖥️ Resolution: 2,176 x 1,812 QXGA+ / 2,316 x 904 HD+
🏃♂️ Refresh rate: 120Hz adaptive
💡 Brightness: 1,750 nits
📸 Main camera: 50MP
📸 Ultrawide camera: 12MP
📸 Telephoto camera: 10MP
🤳 Cover camera: 10MP
😶🌫️ Under display camera: 4MP
⚙️ Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
🐏 RAM: 12GB
🗄️ Storage: 256GB / 512GB / (1TB is Samsung Store exclusive)
🔈 Speakers: stereo (and no headphone jack)
🔋 Battery: 4,400mAh
🔌 Wired Charging: 25W (adapter not included)
⚡ Wireless Charging: Yes
📶 Connectivity: 5G sub6 and mmWave, WiFi 6e
👇 Fingerprint sensor: Yes (side button)
📐 Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.64 x .53in (folded) / 6.1 x 5.11 x .24in (unfolded)
⚖️ Weight: 253g (8.92oz)
🌈 Colors: Icy Blue, Phantom Black, Cream (Gray and Blue are Samsung Store exclusive)
🤖 OS: Android 13
🪨 Durability: Armor frame, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2
♻️ Recycled parts: aluminum, glass, plastic
💦 Waterproof: IPX8
🐉 Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip upgrade. Qualcomm’s latest speedy and efficient chip is at the core of Samsung’s Z Fold 5 (same as the S23 Ultra and Flip 5). Exclusive to the Fold and higher-specced S23 Ultra models is 12GB of RAM.
🆚 No comparison. The new Qualcomm chip offers a performance boost vs the Google Pixel Fold’s Tensor G2 chip. No debate. This makes a difference on a mini-tablet-like foldable that does multi-tasking and plays real games.
🎮 Big-screen gaming. The Fold 5 has a great 7.6-inch display for gaming and both the inside and 6.2-inch Cover Display run at 120Hz. Some games feel a bit silly on the smaller front screen, but I did appreciate puzzle games, Wordle and mini crossword puzzles in the narrow aspect ratio while waiting in line IRL.
🖋️ Smaller S Pen: a stylish stylus. I’m a big fan of the new S Pen after testing it for two weeks. Some people will like the bigger S Pen that’s the size of a magic marker vs this more flimsy approach that looks like a big toothpick. But the ability to tuck it into the case (sold separately) is a worthy trade-off.
💰 S Pen case for you to S-Pend more. My big pet peeve is that there’s no slot in the phone body for the S Pen – instead there’s a new slim case with an S Pen holster (a step in the right direction, but still!). I predict Z Fold 6 will have this in 12 months. It’s just a shame it’s not now.
🚫 Cover Display isn’t S Pen compatible. I was surprised that the S Pen still doesn’t work with the front Cover Display for quickly jotting down notes without opening up the phone. But Samsung’s reason is sound: they’re trying to make this phone thinner, not add an extra Wacom touchscreen layer.
😬 The S Pen tip doesn’t retract. This isn’t a problem – yet. The new slim S Pen doesn’t have a tip that retracted into stylus houses when you press too hard. That’s what made the S Pen Fold Edition the Fold Edition. Because the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 has a delicate screen, pressing too hard could lead to scratches. Only time will tell if there’s a durability issue. If there ever is, I’ll update my review.
📝 Better, but needs attention. I’ve written a lot about Samsung’s software. It’s gotten better, but my No. 1 ask remains: give me Samsung Notes anywhere including a Mac (via the web or a Chrome extension). There’s no reason my notes should be locked to my phone and the only-recently-not-broken-anymore Windows app. This isn’t the 90s, Samsung. Platform wars are dead. Long live anywhere, anytime.
🤹♂️ Multi-tasking monopoly. Samsung’s 7.6-inch screen allows you to open three anchored windows at once and there’s some helpful drag-and-drop functionality – its competition doesn’t come close in terms of ease of use. Want more than three? I was able to test opening up more pop-up windows, and no, I wasn’t even able to reach the maximum number of additional windows. That 12GB of RAM is working overtime.
💬 No blue bubbles for you. Apple’s not offering iMessage for Android, and that’s an issue for users in the US. However, solutions like BlueBubbles and Beeper (from the founder of the Pebble Watch) are workaround apps people are using to (nearly) properly communicate with their iPhone friends and family while using an Android.
🔋 A bit more battery life. The 4,400 capacity Z Fold 5 battery spec hasn’t budged vs the Z Flip 4, but my testing has shown that the newer phone lasted longer by three hours per day into the next day. Why? It’s because it has the more efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. My Z Flip 4 to Flip 5 tests showed a standstill despite the same YoY chip upgrade mainly because of the bigger Cover Display on the Flip 5 burns more pixels. But I actually saw a day-to-day difference on Fold 5.
🔌 Wired charging stuck at 25W. The Z Fold 5 charges pretty quickly – 0% to 50% in just 30 minutes – but the 45W charging tech from the S23 Ultra goes from 0% to 65% in the same amount of time. The Fold is on par with iPhone 14 Pro Max speeds. Good, but not the best.
⚡ Wireless charging win. The fact that wireless charging and reverse wireless charging (where you stick an earbuds case or watch on the back to slowly get a battery life boost) exist on foldable phones is a technological marvel. It’s still the standard 15W wireless charging, but that’s the speed with any Qi charger. The iPhone requires a MagSafe wireless charger for 15W and doesn’t do reverse wireless charging. All other Qi chargers using an iPhone are 7.5W.
Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5?
If you still haven’t decided, let me basically tell you if you should get it:
✅ You want the best foldable in 2023 that’s part tablet, part compact phone
✅ You love styluses and are willing to pony up for the new slim S Pen case
✅ You have an older phone to take advantage of Samsung’s trade-in deals
✅ You avoided prior foldables due to the hinge durability (now’s a good time)
❌ You want a fun, compact, tripod-eliminating selfie machine (get the Flip 5)
❌ You’re glued to Apple’s ecosystem and its blue bubbles (get the iPhone 15)
❌ You want the best Samsung cameras for a similar price (get the S23 Ultra)