Samsung announced a number of smart devices on Wednesday among which is the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 with all the coolest and interesting specs that make it a practical smartphone compared to the first generation which had a disastrous release.
This time around, Samsung has made the Z Fold 3 much more practical and for real, an average user can purchase this and maintain it for two years if they can adhere to the simple rules from Samsung such as not rubbing hard objects against the inner display or using a third-party stylus pen on the inner display – more on that later.
The build quality of the device is much better than the previous generation – the Z Fold 2 which paved the way for the new folding smartphone design. Other big brands like Huawei have adopted this same design element on their new Mate X2. In this case, there are two screens. One at the back and then a bigger folding screen on the inside.
It isn’t much difference in terms of the size of the new Galaxy Z Fold 3’s screen and the previous model however, Samsung did some tweaks to the display’s durability as well as making the device much more sturdy. In this case, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 feels more solid and slightly smaller than the previous model.
Still, the same 7.6-inch Super AMOLED panel on the inside and still the Ultra-Tiny Glass (UTG) technology on the inner display but the hinge got even tougher and when folded, the display tucks in better leaving lesser space in between for hard objects like sand which are the enemies of the folding smartphone.
Speaking of durability, Samsung also made the Z Fold 3 IPX8 water-resistant (not IP68 which is water and dust resistance). So accidental water spillage or drop into water under a reasonable amount of time means that the device can still survive which means Samsung has indeed tightened things together on this device and that translates to its practicality because, in the real world, smartphones will accidentally fall into water or get drenched in some unexpected situations.
To add up to its practicality, Samsung also included the S-Pen stylus support with this device but note, it’s a supported feature rather than an integrated feature seen on the Note series and that’s why the Galaxy Note is still much needed for real.
Still, on the practicality of this device, it’s in fact US$200 cheaper than its predecessor even though there are some slight downgrades in terms of its internal capacity such as the battery being reduced down to 4400mAh rather than the 4500mAh on the previous model. On the other hand, there is even the Galaxy Z Flip 3 which starts at just US$999 and that proves my point about Samsung starting to make these devices practical and mainstream.
It’s indeed a big win for the South Korean giant as it’s the dominant force in the foldable smartphone market ousting Huawei because the latter isn’t allowed to sell in the US as well as being banned from using the Play Service and other controversies surrounding the brand. Then there is Royole which sucks terribly at making smartphones and Motorola did a terrible job with its Razr Fold so it’s Samsung…for now.
Other notable Galaxy Z Fold 3 upgrades include a brighter display and enhanced multitasking features, complete with a Windows-like taskbar allowing you to be able to switch back and from one application to the other.
Another interesting thing about the device is the new matte finish on all of the three color models released by Samsung. All of them look cool and due to the fact that users of this device will most likely have it opened most of the time, there is a need for the back to attract fewer fingerprints smudges. My only problem each time I flip the phone open is the fact that I always rub my hand on the outer display.
Don’t get me wrong though. Samsung made the software in such a way that whenever the outer screen is flipped open, it becomes useless as the content on the outside automatically moves inwards and adapts to the larger 7.6-inch panel with its high refresh rate. I’m just saying I often have to clean the outer screen most of the time because my hand rubs on it that much.
There’s so much to talk about on the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 so sit back and relax and let’s dive into why this is a practical smartphone based on my short experience with the device.
Let’s talk about the price of the Galaxy Z Fold 3
- US$1,799.99 for the base model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage
- US$1,899 for the high-end variant with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage
This is a premium smartphone and while it’s still a pretty new technology, it’s still very much more expensive than your typical high-end smartphone but within its league, it’s definitely cheaper. Take the Huawei Mate X2 as an example, the device is so expensive it’s nearly US$3,000 on the international market.
Sometimes, we might attribute this to the law of demand and supply because the Mate X2 is very limited, and there was a high demand for it, the price got cranked up. The same was the case with the first generation Galaxy Fold which came with a high price tag which was about US$1,950. Then there was the next upgrade with better specifications and all that with a slight price hike at US$1,999.
This year, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is just US$1,799 which is about US$200 drop in the price. The same goes for the Galaxy Z Flip 3 which has a base price of about US$999.
It’s safe to assume this price is a good thing though and as the device becomes mainstream, the price will likely drop especially when other Android OEMs start joining the competition. I can imagine how drastically the price will drop when companies like Xiaomi or OPPO join the battle. Xiaomi is especially notorious for releasing absolutely great devices at a really lower price point which often makes Samsung and Apple’s devices look overpriced.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is available for pre-order now, with a release date of August 27. Those who pre-order the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can take advantage of a few perks, including getting $200 in Samsung.com credit and 12 months free of Samsung Care+ when you sign up for a three-year plan.
With the price out of the way, let’s move on to other cool specs and quirks that make the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a pretty practical smartphone for an average user in 2021.
Galaxy Z Fold 3 review: Impressions so far
- The under-display camera on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 impresses with its ability to disappear when you’re viewing content. However, the 4MP resolution is definitely less sharp than the front 10MP camera based on selfie I took.
- The main 7.6-inch display is easier to view outdoors, as the panel gets up to 30% brighter. I also appreciate the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, which enables smoother scrolling.
- I really like the Taskbar feature, which lets you pin your favorite apps to the side of the display and follow you to any app. It’s just like Windows. However, you have to dig in the Labs setting to turn this on.
- There’s no getting around the fact that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a thick phone when closed. You will definitely notice this phone-tablet combo when it’s in your pocket.
- It’s good to see that more apps have been optimized for the Fold 3, including Spotify. You’ll see a now playing window in the bottom left and all your discovery options on the right. In Gmail you’ll see your inbox on the left and message contents on the right.
- We did not receive an S Pen with our review unit, but we have some impressions below from our hands-on preview.
Galaxy Z Fold 3 design and durability
- IPX8 water-reistant
- New camera module design
- Triple color options to chose from (Phantom Silver, Phantom Black, and Phantom Green)
- Matte finish on all color variants
The design is yet another great thing about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 which is quite interesting. Although there isn’t an overhaul new design or some radical changes to the look and feel of the smartphone in any way possible, Samsung in fact adopted the previous design language of the Z Fold 2 on this device as well which is why it looks pretty similar to the previous generation.
One thing that is well pronounced on the new Z Fold 3 is the camera module which, unlike the previous model that looks like a Galaxy Note 20 sandwiched together, the new Z Fold 3 has its own camera module design which is pretty decent.
It borrowed some looks from the current Galaxy S21 of course but the uniform design of the camera module is pretty outstanding and that’s one thing I love about the device’s design. But then there is the matte finish on all the three color variants released.
Samsung also made the device much more sturdy compared to the previous model. The device feels premium and well put together. There are no shakes or unusual moving parts except for the thing of course which is in fact stronger and better than the previous model.
Because of the practicality of this device, I can make it my daily driver without any issue thanks to the Gorilla Glass Victus on the outer display and the back of the device as it’s even more scratch-resistant. Those who have used the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra can testify to the fact that the Gorilla Glass Victus is a big deal and I can see why Samsung adopted it on the Z Fold 3.
Around the device is an aluminum body frame which will further help keep things in place. You might want to grab a casing for this device especially with its support for the S-Pen stylus, there are some specially designed casings that offer docks for the S-Pen just that it’ll add up to the bulkiness of the device in every way possible.
Samsung also claimed that the Z Fold 3 has a new protective PET film which when combined with the newly optimized main screen layers gives the device an 80% durable screen that can withstand more pressure compared to the previous model.
You can’t walk around with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 without people wondering what it is you’re holding in your hands. While the device is still a bit bulky compared to your regular smartphone, Samsung did in fact reduced the thickness of the device reducing it to just 14.4-16 mm when folded.
The entire dimension of the device when folded is about 158.2 x 67.1 mm with a thickness of 14.4-16 mm, while the dimension when unfolded is 158.2 x 128.1 with a thickness of 6.4 mm.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 also got an IPX8 water-resistant rating making it withstand being under 1.5 meters of water for about 30 minutes without any damage. That is what practicality looks feels like. Although this is for accidental cases and Samsung wouldn’t advise its users to go on and dunk their smartphones in water or swim with them.
Out of curiosity, I tried a splash test on the device making a few drops using a cup on the device and there seems to be nothing wrong anywhere. One big enemy of the plastic or UTG-protected inner display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will be tiny pieces of sand of course and that is why it’s not dust-resistant in any way possible. So if you’re going to the beach, it’ll be smart to put the device in a safe place to avoid damaging the display.
I love the Phantom Black and the Phantom Silver color options. The matte finish on all of the color options is a really generous move by Samsung which seems to have changed its design tone from the glossy finish we’ve seen in the past to the matte finish on its current devices since the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Galaxy Z Fold 3 displays
- 120Hz refresh on both outer and inner screens
- HDR10+, and 1200 nits at peak brightness
- Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology
Samsung is known for making really great smartphone screens and that is why Apple relies on the South Korean tech company to reportedly make the screens of its next-gen iPhone 13 series. So I’m expecting the best from Samsung on its high-end premium flagship and yes, I got just that. The display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is great and interesting.
For the new Galaxy Z Fold 3, you get a cool 6.2-inch AMOLED panel on the outer display with a high 120Hz refresh rate. That is really good news because, unlike the previous model, the inner screen often feels more usable than the outer screen which was slower at 60Hz back then. The upgrade to streamline both displays makes a good first impression.
And with that, you wouldn’t have to constantly open and close the device all the time to do basic things like read your Twitter feed or take a selfie. The inclusion of the hole-punch camera cut-out is still an interesting feature to have on the outer display and on the inner display where all the magic happens, there is even more to enjoy.
You get a bigger 7.6-inch Foldable Dynamic AMOLED display with a brightness that can reach 1200 nits at its peak. It also features the same 120Hz high refresh rate seen on the previous model back in 2020 and Samsung included the Adaptive refresh technology to make things smooth when needed in order to preserve battery.
My experience with the bigger display is just amazing. The sharpness and vibrance of the display are just so amazing and I wasn’t surprised though because this is something that Samsung always excels in.
The resolution for the interior screen is the same as before at 2208 x 1768 pixels, but the good news is that the new display is rated to be 29% brighter than before, thanks to the new Eco display technology.
Also, the fact that Samsung followed Huawei’s pattern with the Mate X2 by removing the hole-punch camera but instead of removing it entirely, they took it behind the display. Although the under-display camera isn’t entirely invisible depending on the angle you are viewing the screen from, the fact that you can forget about ever having to deal with a hole-punch cut-out on the larger screen is an interesting thing.
Now supports the S-Pen
- Supports S-Pen and S-Pen Pro
- Both devices needs to be purchased separately
Okay, the much-awaited part is the fact that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers support for the S-Pen even though this part might be a bit tricky. When you are about to use a stylus on the device, it warns you not to use any third-party stylus as it may damage the screen due to high pressure and so forth.
The good thing is that there is S-Pen support for the bigger screen and that will make the multi-tasking aspect of the device much more practical and then there is the fact that you have to use the kind of S-Pen recommended by Samsung on the device so you don’t damage the display.
The main reason for that is because of the display which despite being 80% stronger than the previous model, it’s still not anywhere close to a display protected by the Gorilla Victus such as the Galaxy S21 for example.
Also, the S-Pen is an accessory now which can be purchased separately from the device for about US$49 and there is an S-Pen Pro that is being sold for about US$99. The latter comes with a special feature which is a mode switch between different devices that supports the S-Pen such as the S21 Ultra. With this mode switch, you’ll be able to use the device with a softer tip.
You’ll of course get the same precision that you’ll normally get on the Galaxy Note series with this device as well and the 120Hz refresh rate and the reduced latency on the S-Pen stylus makes everything integrated just that there is no physical port to store the pen on the device just like the Galaxy Note series and that’s why I’d hope Samsung bring back the Note series because it might be on the verge of extinction.
With the S-Pen Pro, you can do things like taking photos remotely or control media playback thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity support. It can also be charged using a USB-C port and can be used to copy files from one Samsung device to the other.
If you plan to use the S-Pen with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, you’ll need to grab the US$79 case that comes with the device (sold separately). It’ll make the device bulky but at least, that’s the sacrifice for not buying the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
The new Multitasking support
Is one of the coolest things about the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 making the device pretty practical for someone that wants to be able to go back and forth on things. The first thing is the fact that you can crank up the responsiveness of applications via the software in settings (Samsung Labs) or just dock a taskbar to the right side of the screen turning it into a mini PC.
By default, you get your previous applications on the dock but can also be configured to whatever you want. Personally, I like to be able to switch between apps as fast as I possibly can without any lag and that’s what I got with this device. I can attribute that to the Snapdragon 888 chipset which is really fast and the fact that the display is a high 120Hz makes things much more interesting.
The S-Pen support also comes in handy here as notetaking can be done with ease.
About 5 cameras altogether on the Galaxy Z Fold 3
- 12MP triple rear camera setup
- 10MP outer selfie camera
- 16MP under display camera
First of all, the front camera is really great and it’s in the Galaxy Note 20 series standard offering some really great post-tweaks to make the picture interesting and then there is the under-display 16MP camera which might not sound practical but Samsung did it anyway.
Due to the thinness of the foldable AMOLED panel, Samsung used on the inner screen, it’s possible to place a camera right behind it and it’ll still be able to see through to capture good photographs even though there is a lot of AI and computations going on behind the scene whenever you take a picture.
To put it simply, the viewfinder doesn’t always look great whenever you try to take pictures with the UDC however, you get a different result whenever you click on the shutter because the software process the image and refine it to make it better.
I think one of the reasons Samsung decided to do things this way is because of the fact that the user has multiple options to take better high-quality pictures. For example, why not just unfold the phone and turn on the rear camera while using the outer display as a viewfinder. The inclusion of the inner camera will definitely be for peripheral usage like quick VC and so forth.
Going to the triple rear camera setup, you get a 12 MP primary sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and other cool features such as 26mm (wide), 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, and OIS support. Then there is another 12 MP sensor with f/2.4 aperture, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, and 2x optical zoom capability and lastly, another 12 MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture, 123˚, 12mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm sans OIS.
And you can record up to 4K videos @60fps or 1080p videos @60/240fps (gyro-EIS), 720p@960fps (gyro-EIS), and finally HDR10+. There is a single flash that is really bright and useful in a darkened environment.
There is another 10 MP cover selfie camera with an f/2.2 aperture, 26mm (wide), 1/3″, 1.22µm, and is able to record 4K@30fps, and 1080p@30fps. The inner camera is a 16MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture.
Even though this device isn’t necessarily built for taking pictures compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, its cameras still performed pretty great in both low and normal broad daylight. There are some cool features such as Night Portrait, Single Take (Dynamic Video), and Director’s View (for using the front and back cameras at once). Other highlights include Rear camera selfie Dual Preview and Capture View Mode.
Specs and hardware of the Galaxy Z Fold 3
- Snapdragon 888 SoC
- 12GB of RAM and 256/512GB of storage
- 5G network support
Being a premium smartphone means that it’ll feature some high-end specifications and improved hardware technology over conventional devices on the market and that’s exactly what Samsung did with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. First, you get the Snapdragon 888 chip which has proven itself to be the peak in 2021. Its CPU is an Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680) with an Adreno 660 GPU.
The device comes in two storage variants namely the one with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage and then the one with the same 12GB of RAM but with 512GB of storage which is being sold for US$100 more than the base model.
It comes with hardware features such as A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS while you get Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot in the network department. This is a 5G smartphone even though the technology is still in its infancy.
You get stereo speakers with 32-bit/384kHz audio powered by AKG to enhance the audio quality of the device in every way possible and other cool techs like Fingerprint (side-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer.
It also features Samsung’s Desktop Experience or DeX which turns your Galaxy Z Fold 3 into a computer via a bigger screen.
Everything was great while I opened three apps at once on screen, surfed the web, and played videos over a Wi-Fi connection. Gaming on the device also did very great and didn’t have any effect on the hotness or coldness of the device in any way.
- 4,400mAh battery
- 25W fast charging
Those specs might not be impressive though considering the price of the device however, the fact that Samsung has tweaked up the device’s power management makes it more efficient. Although I’m a heavy user and believe me, this device is designed for heavy usage especially for content creation and consumption that is why a bigger battery would have been better.
The fact that it also doesn’t charge at a really high speed makes it slightly disappointing. While I was able to get through the 6 hours mark on this device successfully with the battery still at 30%, I think the 4,400mAh is ok – but not a good thing.
And the fact that Samsung dialed down the power capacity from the previous model made me doubt the capacity of the Z Fold 3. Trust me, the experience you get on this device won’t make you drop it and that’s why the 4,400mAh battery isn’t so practical for a device with 2 screens all running at a 120Hz refresh rate.
This is hands-down the best folding phone in 2021 except there were some disappointing factors about the device which one might not expect on such a premium-tier device when compared to the likes of the Huawei Mate X2.
I know that Samsung may be confident that it’s currently the leader in the folding market considering the fact that its rival Huawei is under serious trouble but imagine when other competitors start testing the water as well. I think that will further add up to the healthy rivalry on the market helping Samsung shape and improve on the device especially the battery life as well as the price point.
Support for S-Pen is a great thing to have just that it’s just an added feature rather than an integral one – as with the case of the Galaxy Note series. I’d be really happy if Samsung can revive the Note and bring it back by 2021 – hopefully.
Galazy Z Fold 3 versus…
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a really awesome device for 2021 but it’s definitely not the only foldable smartphone on the market right now and you may wonder whether it’s worth it. Maybe you have the existing Z Fold 2 and want to stick with it or just want to enjoy the upgraded value which includes the S-Pen support and so forth well, there are still more options for you to consider on the market such as
This was Huawei’s answer to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and it copied the design aesthetics of the latter however there are still some aspects from which the Mate X2 beats the new Z Fold 3. Take the hinge as an example, there is a less noticeable crease on the display. Also has a larger display at 8-inch compared to the 7.6-inch on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. With that, the Huawei Mate X2 looks more like a smartphone when folded because the outer screen has a normal aspect ratio.
Might sound like a step backward but the older Galaxy Z Fold 2 aged well and still offer some pretty cool specs and features. Although it might feel outdated when placed right next to the likes of the Huawei Mate X2 or even the new Galaxy Z Fold 3, it’s still definitely a great option or alternative if you are thinking about something else.