Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: gimmick or game-changer?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 – key specs
Dimensions: 159.2 x 128.2 x 6.9mm
Screen: 7.6 inch main display, 6.2 inch cover display
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
GPU: Adreno 619
Rear cameras: 12MP, 12MP, 12MP
Front cameras: 10MP, 10MP
Battery: 4,500 mAh
OS: Android 11, One UI 3.1
For this Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review, it’s first worth pointing out that until now foldable phones have been more of a gimmick than anything really worth considering, the second iteration of Samsung’s Z Fold without a doubt changes that. Is this handset the game-changing phone we’ve been waiting for?
While other smartphone manufacturers are yet to launch their own foldable phones, Samsung is ahead of the game with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 being their second attempt at a phone that transforms itself into a tablet. So what does the competition look like? So far, there aren’t many other options out there, the Huawei Mate Xs or the Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold are two rivals that feature in T3’s guide to the best folding phones, alongside other clamshell-style handsets that fold out into regular-sized smartphones.
Sitting at around twice the cost of their recent flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S21, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is very pricey, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to making foldable phones accessible. For those who would make the most of it, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is THE foldable phone, but is it really worth spending that much money on? Read on to find out.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is available now, directly from Samsung it will set you back $1,599.99 in the US, £1,599 in the UK and AU$2,114 in Australia. Take a look at the widgets for other retailers and up to date pricing.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: what’s new and features
In the hopes of making the second generation of Samsung’s foldable phone a more convincing device, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 has made a few major improvements to what came before it.
Firstly, Samsung has refreshed the design, it’s gotten slimmer with bigger screens. On the cover, the folded screen is now 6.2inches up from 4.6inches. While what used to be a 7.3inch phablet display, is now 7.6inches – a welcome change giving you more display real estate to work with. Other big changes include a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, a new camera system including two 10MP front cameras, an updated processor and an improved hinge. One step down on its predecessor is that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 has halved the storage from 512GB to 256GB, yet there’s still no MicroSD slot.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: design and display
The overall design of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 feels like a classic Samsung smartphone, just chunkier. Measuring 159.2 x 68.0 x 13.8mm when folded and weighing 282g, it will definitely add quite a lot of bulk to your pocket. The long, thin 6.2inch screen on the front is much bigger than the original but still took a bit of getting used to. Opening it like a book reveals a 7.6inch mini tablet on the inside. That gives plenty of screen space to use comfortably to open up documents, play games or watch videos.
Samsung has fixed the fragility issues with the hinge that was a massive problem in the first generation, making it now feel sturdy and relatively smooth. The new hinge allows the main display to be used in a number of different positions. You don’t necessarily need to have it completely flat and it can be used in the style of a miniature laptop.
Two colour options are available, a Mystic Bronze or Mystic Black. If you buy directly through Samsung, you can also choose to customise the hinge with metallic silver, blue, red or gold. I saw the mystic bronze colourway, realistically it looks more pink than bronze though. A three-lens camera module sits on the back of the phone, it does stick out quite a lot making it quite unstable to use on a flat surface, whether it’s folded or not. There are also two hole-punch selfie cameras, one on the cover and one on the larger display inside.
The main 7.6inch screen is Dynamic AMOLED with a resolution of 2208 x 1768 pixels. Being adaptive, the 120Hz refresh rate automatically gets dialled up or down depending on how demanding the task at hand is, this also helps to conserve battery life. Everything from scrolling and swiping to gaming and typing felt silky and seamless. As well as that, it delivers on overall quality with sharp, crisp details and bright colours. A visible dent where the hinge sits does interrupt the display and I did find it could be annoying when the light catches it in a game or when streaming video. Despite that, I expected the hinge to be much more of a problem than it was. The screen was responsive all over, and although you may not want to use this as a replacement for a larger tablet or laptop, it will be great for getting a bit of work done on the go.
On the front cover is a 6.2inch Super AMOLED with a resolution of 816 x 1536 pixels and a 60Hz refresh rate, which is noticeably different in quality from the main screen. I used it more often than I expected, yet still nowhere near as much as the inside display. It was handy for quick tasks like responding to a message or checking the time, the drop in resolution and refresh rate didn’t really matter so much in that sense. The long and thin design felt more cramped to use than a regular smartphone, as mentioned previously it’s still a massive improvement on the original 4.6inch display on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold.
To unlock the handset, there’s a fingerprint sensor that doubles up as the power button on the right, underneath the volume controls. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work the first time, often taking a few attempts and different thumb positioning. To charge the phone, there’s a USB-C on the bottom of the frame on the rear panel. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack included nor is there a MicroSD card slot.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: cameras
The camera system on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is comprised of three 12MP cameras and two 10MP front-facing cameras – so you can snap a selfie or video call a friend with the phone folded or unfolded.
First, let’s talk about the rear cameras. Boosting colours in the scene is what this phone camera does best, no matter the lighting conditions, shots did come out looking bright and vibrant. Up close to subjects, it managed to pick up finer details while the night mode did a good enough job at lightening the scene. There were a few downsides though, this was by no means the best camera you can get on a smartphone. It sometimes struggled with contrast between light and dark areas, shots also lacked some detail at times, especially in the ultrawide mode. It has 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom, which meant if you only needed to zoom in slightly shots came out looking good but at 10x zoom, they looked grainy.
The front cameras actually do a very decent job, producing sharp, flattering selfies especially with the beauty mode set to your own preferences. One problem I found wasn’t in the shots produced by the cameras, it was actually taking them in the first place. Because of how heavy the phone is, it was hard to hold it up in the right position to take a selfie, whether it’s folded or not.
Samsung’s folding phones give you a few extra camera features that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. Using the camera app on the main screen, with the phone half folded, you can see your previous shots on the bottom half, and the camera preview on the top half. You can compare and improve your shots, giving you a much better chance of capturing the best snaps possible. There’s also Dual Preview which shows the camera’s view on both screens simultaneously, so both the subject and photographer can see the image preview at once. Perfect for making sure your pose is just right.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: performance and battery life
Using the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, along with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 was undeniably fast across a variety of different apps and games, and no matter how many were running in the background at once.
I didn’t notice any problems with lag or stuttering, as proved by its Geekbench 5 scores which were 966 in single-core and 3,239 in multi-core, similar scores to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, so its safe to say that it impressed me in that realm. Flagships like the OnePlus 9 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra did score marginally higher in those tests. However, at that high of a level, you won’t really notice the difference. Supporting 5G, you’ll be able to make use of the fastest possible internet if you live in an area that supports it as well. Surprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn’t use the newest Wifi 6 tech.
Samsung claims the 4,500mAh battery will last up to 18 hours of video playback. I put this to the test by running a video stored on the phone for two hours on full brightness, the battery dropped by 18% suggesting it would last around 11 hours in total. That’s a pretty average score and definitely below par at this price. When it came to charging it back up again, over the space of an hour it reached 67% so would take about an hour and a half to fully recharge from empty, not the best you can get yet still quite respectable.
Running on Android 11 with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1, it looks as neat and clean as what we have come to expect from Samsung. Unique to their folding phones is the Flex Mode that reorganises the screen layouts to help you get the most out of the main display, often putting the main app content on the top half and the settings or keyboard on the bottom. Although largely restricted to Samsung apps like the camera and Video Call, Google Duo and YouTube are also supported.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: verdict
So if you’re considering splashing out on a folding phone that transforms into a tablet, as things stand, you literally cannot get better than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement, because there most definitely is. In fact, there are a few areas that could do much better, the two main ones being its battery life and camera system, both of which aren’t as good as you would expect from a smartphone of this price.
However, in comparing this phone to what came before it, Samsung has made some giant leaps making this a handset actually worth having. With bigger, more impressive screens, a sturdier hinge and an improved processor, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 could plausibly be used for more than just a little web browsing. It’s not going to replace laptops and larger tablets anytime soon but for those who need a device for working or gaming on the go, it’ll be a fantastic choice. Can’t wait to see what’s next Samsung!
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: also consider
If it’s a powerhouse Android smartphone you’re after, consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra which has a high-performing chipset, 5G and S Pen support. It may not have a tablet-sized display however it’s still pretty big at 6.9inches. Take a look at the best Samsung phones, for other similar devices that will deliver on power, battery life and camera system.