The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the latest addition to the foldable phone space, arriving four years after its initial foray with the original Galaxy Fold. The Korean giant remains practically the only player in the foldable market after the release of the original Galaxy Fold in 2019. But does being the vanguard of foldables mean Samsung has perfected the formula four years on? Not quite yet.
As a faithful user of Samsung’s (still-niche) foldables ever since the first Fold, this reviewer is a personal convert. Once you get a taste of that huge screen, you’ll balk at regular-sized ones forever.
Monstrous 7.6-inch main display
And what a screen the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is packing. The monstrous 7.6-inch main display, which is hidden away when the phone is folded, is bright, clear, and smooth. It’s hard to describe how liberating it feels to scroll through your feeds or photos on the Z Fold 5. It almost defies the laws of physics to take out this regular looking phone from your pocket and open it up to reveal a tablet-esque marvel in your hands.
The screen does have a rather noticeable crease down the centre, given that it’s a piece of flexible plastic and everything. However, it’s practically invisible once it’s illuminated, and you forget all about it in a matter of minutes. Its aspect ratio also means that you’ll see black bars above and below most videos, though you can zoom in if you’re willing to make that sacrifice.
Awkwardly sized cover screen
In its closed state, the Z Fold 5’s cover display is a more standard 6.2 inches. This sounds generous until you take its narrow width into consideration, which makes the Z Fold 5’s cover display difficult to type on. Checking notifications or scrolling through Instagram? Fine. Tapping out a message of more than five words? Not so much, unless you have pinpoint typing accuracy – or are fine with accidentally calling your other half “donkey” instead of “darling”.
This is a shame, especially since the cover display has practically remained unchanged since 2020’s Z Fold 2. Its narrowness means you’ll find yourself either sending illegible replies to messages, or having to stop in your tracks to open the phone up to use the main screen, since it’s a two-handed job. Here’s hoping for a wider cover display in next year’s Fold.
A multitasking marvel
That said, having such a huge main display at your disposal almost makes up for the awkwardly sized cover display. Outside of the obvious increased real estate for enjoying videos and pics, multitasking is now something you may actually use. Samsung’s One UI operating system (based on Android 13) makes snapping two (or more – up to eight) apps together effortless. This feature comes in handy more often than you’d think, especially when snapping two apps side-by-side instead of flicking between them.
Stunning speakers and handy hinge
The speakers on the Z Fold 5 are also some of the most impressive on any smartphone, rivalling the iPhone Pro series and perhaps even the iPad. Volume is loud and bass is impressive, letting you pump out an album or movie without needing to crank the volume to max.
Its nifty Flex Mode also takes advantage of the device’s form factor, with its rotatable hinge that can stay in position. Open the phone at 90 degrees and lay it flat when Netflix is open, for example, and the video will display in the upper half of the screen. Do this when the camera app is open, and you can use the phone as its own stand for taking snaps.
Triple-lens camera is more than adequate
The triple-lens camera setup on the back isn’t the absolute best out there, but pics taken on the Z Fold 5 are more than adequate for the needs of the majority. Shots always turn out clear and crisp, with a regular wide, ultra-wide, and 3x optical zoom lens taking care of things. The Fold series’ form factor also allows for a few unique photography tricks, including using the cover display to preview pics from the rear cameras. This allows your subject – or you, if it’s a selfie – to admire themselves before you click.
What’s not so great is the main display’s selfie camera, a low-resolution affair that’s fine for video calls but not much else. This is mainly because it’s hidden away under the screen, with only the faint outline of a punchhole giving it away. If you’re a selfie fan, the cover display’s camera takes far better shots – or you can use the main rear cameras with the cover display, as above.
S Pen and DeX unlock full potential
Productivity is also part of the Fold series’ DNA. Pair the Z Fold 5 with the optional S Pen stylus, and you can take notes, draw, or do a whole lot more. Though the pen is a somewhat pricey extra at £54.00, it unlocks the potential of such a large screen. It’s a delight to scribble down some notes in a meeting using the S Pen – and even better to draw pictures with, if your talent allows.
The S Pen has been brought over from the retired Galaxy Note series, though this time it’s not some fiddly matchstick-sized thing that’s only good for jotting down a shopping list in a hurry. The Z Fold 5’s S Pen is similar in size to a pencil, making it seem far more natural to use.
Samsung’s DeX mode also transforms The Z Fold 5 into a full-fledged computer by connecting it to an external monitor, either over USB-C or wirelessly. Since Android is Android, you can connect a host of external peripherals, including keyboards, mice, and hard drives. You can even pair an Xbox or PS5 controller and fire up a retro console emulator if you wish (as long as you legally own the games) – either in DeX mode or not.
Concerns over durability?
Durability is certainly a concern for foldable phones. The Z Fold 5 when closed is as delicate as any other phone – you don’t want to drop any device as expensive as this on the ground. Its main display, however, takes a bit of getting used to since it’s not covered in a layer of solid glass.
Though the Z Fold 5’s display is made with something called Ultra Thin Glass (UTG), it’s a lot more delicate than regular phone displays. This means that pressing into the display using a fingernail, for example, will likely leave a permanent mark. And there’s the inevitable crease, which while not noticeable when in use can deepen and even crack over time – just check Reddit for horror stories.
However, the Z Fold 5 isn’t the delicate and dainty piece of spiders’ webs and magic it appears to be. As long as you’re not using it as a rugby ball or to tenderise a sirloin, it’ll mainly hold up like any other phone.
With its price tag in mind though, getting insurance may still be a good idea, since repairs can be costly.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5?
If you’re new to the world of foldables and can afford the lofty price tag, the Z Fold 5 is the perfect choice – if not the only one. There’s not much competition right now outside of China, with only the Google Pixel Fold providing the full-screen folding experience in the UK and US. Yes, there are foldable flip phones – including Samsung’s own Z Flip 5 – but these provide a more traditional smartphone experience with a screen that happens to fold in half.
Discounting its narrow cover screen, the Z Fold 5 is an amazing all-rounder. The only real downside is that you’ll never want to go back to regular phones again – as well as the amount of times in a week you’ll find yourself having to explain to random nearby people what the hell that thing you’re scrolling through Instagram on is.
Should you upgrade to the Samsung Z Fold 5?
If you’re already a Z Fold owner from the Z Fold 3 (or even 2) onwards, upgrading at this point isn’t really a necessity. The differences between the Z Fold 4 and Z Fold 5 include a flat-closing hinge and slightly brighter screen, but practically nothing else. Best to hold on till next year’s offering.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is available now from Samsung, starting from £1,749