September 18, 2021

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review: What’s not to like? Review


Regular readers know I’m a fan of Samsung’s foldable phones and have spent a few thousand dollars the past couple of years picking up the Galaxy Fold and then the Z Fold 2, but in both cases, I went back to a standard smartphone after a couple of months. There were a couple of major reasons for my limited period of ownership, but it looks like the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 addresses my issues and it may indeed be true that the third time is the charm.

While I placed a pre-order for a Phantom Green Z Fold 3 yesterday, I’m thankful that Samsung loaned me a Phantom Black model to try out for a month. I’ve only had it powered up and in hand for several hours so this first look will be expanded upon in the coming weeks as I make this new foldable my daily driver. Please make sure to leave a comment below if there is something you want me to test out or you can also interact with me on Twitter.

Also: Best foldable phone 2021: Samsung leads the pack

The Z Fold 3 arrived in a rather shallow box with minimal contents, unlike the first experience I had with the original Fold where Samsung included earbuds, a charger, and a shell case. There is no charger in the box — just a USB-C charging cable and the device.

Samsung also does not include either of the two S Pen options with your Z Fold 3 purchase. Unfortunately, there was no S Pen contained in the media kit either so I’m trying to get a hold of one to test out the S Pen functions, since that is a major new function and one that has me likely leaving the Note series behind.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Main display: 7.6 inches, 2208 x 1768 pixels resolution, Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex with adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
  • Cover display: 6.2-inches, 2268 x 832 pixels resolution, Dynamic AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Victus glass
  • Operating system: Android 11
  • RAM: 12GB LPDDR5
  • Storage: 256GB internal storage (512GB available) UFS3.1
  • Cameras: 12MP rear f/2.4 telephoto with 2x optical zoom, 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera, and 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera. 10MP f/2.2 cover camera. 4MP under display camera on the main display.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC, UWB
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Light Sensor
  • Water resistance: IPX8 rating
  • Battery: 4400 mAh non-removable with fast wireless charging. Wireless PowerShare is also available.
  • Dimensions (folded): 158.2 x 67.2 x 16mm and 271 grams
  • Dimensions (open): 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm
  • Colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Green

In the past, we have often heard about different color phones, but then when they were available to purchase the options were restricted to certain countries. Thankfully, you can buy any of these three colors in the US with the only limitation being that the 512GB model is only available in Phantom Black.

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Also: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Foldable perfection nearly achieved

Hardware

At first glance, one may think that very little has changed on the Z Fold 3. However, here are some rather significant improvements that we will be testing out over the coming weeks:

  • S Pen support: The cover screen doesn’t support this functionality, but as demonstrated at the Unpacked event there were serious efforts from Samsung and Wacom to enable S Pen functionality on the main display.
  • Water resistance: I hoped that this would be possible, but am still surprised at the level (IPX8) that Samsung was able to achieve through the use of rust-resistant materials, long-lasting grease, and sealing of various design elements. I may test this review unit a bit, but just wanted to have a device I could use in light rain without worry.
  • Under display camera (UDC): The UDC is positioned on the right side of the main display with the intention to provide users with an unobstructed view on the big display. You can barely see the UDC in most cases. Initial tests show it’s not the best selfie camera, but Samsung provides Flex Mode so you can take high quality selfies with the rear cameras. This UDC one is primarily for video conferencing and for this role should prove more than adequate. We’ll test this out with Google Duo and Teams as we work on the full review.
  • Armor Aluminum body: Samsung developed a new material to use with the hinge and main panels of the phone. I immediately felt the reduction in size and weight of the Z Fold 3 when compared to the Z Fold 2 and understand the material also offers increased strength.
  • New main screen protector: A new screen protector and updated panel design is used on the big main display with Samsung advertising that it is 80% more durable than its previous foldables. So far, you cannot tell there is a protector over the flexible panels and the main display doesn’t feel as soft as the Z Fold 2.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G launches with Android 11 and Samsung One UI 3.1. The 1 July 20201 monthly Android security update is present on our review unit.

I went into great depth on the software in my Z Fold 2 article last year and all of the same great Flex mode, App Continuity, MultiView, App Pair, and other advanced software is present on the Z Fold 3.

There is now a Galaxy Labs area of the settings that helps you force apps that developers haven’t optimized for the foldable screen to perform better on the Z Fold 3. I’ll dive into the software once again to see if there are other areas that have been improved over the past year.

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It’s obvious that the Z Fold 3 has some hardware improvements that make it the most refined foldable available from Samsung. A reduction of $200 in the launch price is nice to see, and if you are interested in it at all, then I highly recommend you jump on the pre-order trade-in and credit deals that Samsung and wireless carriers are offering. Once the phone is available at the end of August, these specials usually go away until the price drops several months down the road.

As I wrote, it’s only been a few hours with the Z Fold, and I don’t yet have an S Pen to evaluate that functionality. I will be using the Z Fold 3 as my primary device, with the Z Flip 3, over the next few weeks.





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