Tech review: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G shows the unfolding future

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2's cover display has increased to 6.2 inches from the Fold's 4.6 inches.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2's cover display has increased to 6.2 inches from the Fold's 4.6 inches.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

If I had been working in the office instead of working from home, I think I would have spent more time answering my colleagues' questions about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G than writing about it.

This is the successor to the Fold - Samsung's first foldable smartphone that was launched last year.

Its overall design does not differ much from the original. When folded, the Fold2 looks like a normal smartphone, with a side power button doubling as fingerprint sensor. When unfolded, it becomes a tablet.

It is a design that addresses a perennial issue smartphone makers face - balancing one-hand usage with providing bigger screens.

There are slight changes in the Fold2 from the original. First, its cover display has increased to 6.2 inches from the Fold's 4.6 inches, addressing one major complaint of the original. You shouldn't have to squint when looking at this screen now. It also looks more like a normal smartphone, albeit a rather long and thick one.

It unfolds into a 7.6-inch tablet (up from the original's 7.3-inch size) with a thin side profile and tiny bezels - achieved by getting rid of the camera notch of the original and replacing it with a 10-megapixel (MP) hole-punch camera.

This main display has an adaptive refresh rate that goes up to 120Hz, allowing for smooth visuals whether it is browsing the Internet or playing games.

At the rear of the smartphone is a triple-camera with a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 12MP telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. The cover display has a 10MP front-facing hole-punch camera.

It comes in black and bronze (version tested). Both models look gorgeous, though I just love the glamourous bronze finish, which seems to change colour as light hits it at different angles. The bronze model also has a back with a matte finish that makes it less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

The Fold2 feels more well-made than the original, from what I can remember from my brief hands-on time with the Fold.

The hinge mechanism feels sturdier and has more resistance. Thus, you cannot unfold the Fold2 with one hand like you can with the original. You have to open it like a book.

 

The crease in the middle of the main display is still evident, especially when you look at it from an angle. But this shouldn't be too much of an issue as most of the time, you will be looking at it straight on. And I really don't feel its presence when I was reading Google news, browsing the Internet or playing games.

The main display looks really sharp and vibrant. It is a shame that its refresh rate cannot be set at 120Hz all the time. You can only set the display to either the adaptive mode - which changes the refresh rate automatically to up to 120Hz depending on the content displayed - or the standard 60Hz mode.

The Fold2 uses Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865+ processor, so it is no slouch in terms of performance. In the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, it scored 973 (single-core) and 2,858 (multi-core). In comparison, Samsung's latest flagship Galaxy Note20 Ultra scored 909 (single-core) and 2,526 (multi-core).

In terms of productivity on the go, the Fold2 is probably unparalleled with its ability to transform into a tablet. You can open up to three apps at the same time in a split-screen layout in the main display. And you can drag text and images from one app to the other. Great when you are working on presentation slides when commuting.

You can also save your most-used or favourite three apps to the Edge Panel, so that you can open all three in the split-screen arrangement that you like with a simple tap.

Most apps, such as Chrome and Gmail, will move seamlessly from the cover display to the main display, while expanding to fill up the latter, when you unfold the smartphone.

But I found that most games need to be restarted when you unfold the smartphone, before you can play them on the main display. Some games though, such as Asphalt 9 Legends and Pokemon Go, allow me to continue playing from cover display to main display.

A new feature is the Flex mode, or when the main display is folded to between 70 and 90 degrees, in which some apps will split into two screens - each with different features. For instance, the camera splits into a big viewfinder on the top screen, and a large preview of photos you have shot along with various shooting options on the bottom screen.

Battery life depends on your usage and whether you use the cover display or the main display more. During my test, I found the Fold2 easily lasting a day with around 40 per cent battery life left by the time I go to bed. And I used the Fold2 in tablet mode most of the time.

In our usual video playback test with the main display in adaptive mode, it clocked 14 hours 5 minutes. That's an hour longer than its predecessor.

The Fold2 supports the 5G (Sub-6GHz bandwidth) network, so it is future-proof, though it is not dust- and water-proof.

Thus, it must be handled with care. You are reminded not to press the main display with a sharp object like a fingernail, to make sure no objects are placed between the screens when folding the main display, and to not remove the pre-installed screen protector film.

Anyway, you will probably take care of the Fold2 very well if you buy one, given its whopping price tag of $2,888. And you only get 256GB of internal memory and no expandable storage. For that price, one would expect at least 512GB.

Still, it is cheaper than the original by $200, though it still costs around as much as the latest 15-inch Razer Blade gaming laptop.

Of course, no one will bat an eyelid when you pull a gaming laptop out from your bag. But everyone is going to stare at you when you unfold the future in front of their eyes.

With the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, Samsung has shown how foldable smartphones can actually work in the real world.

FOR

- Sleek design

- Refined folding mechanism inspires confidence

- Large vibrant main display with fast refresh rate

- Bigger cover display

- Three-app split-screen layout handy for productivity on the go

AGAINST

- Expensive

- No expandable storage

- Must be handled with care

TECH SPECS

Price: $2,888, available Sep 18

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ (single-core 3.1GHz, triple-core 2.4GHz and quad-core 1.8GHz)

Main Display: 7.6-inch, Amoled, 2,208 x 1,768 pixels, 373 ppi pixel density

Cover display: 6.2-inch, Amoled, 2,260 x 816 pixels, 386 ppi pixel density

Operating system: Android 10.0

Memory: 256GB, 12GB RAM

Rear cameras: 12MP ultra-wide-angle (f/2.2), 12MP wide-angle(f/1.8), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)

Front camera: 10MP (f/2.2)

Cover camera: 10MP (f/2.2)

Battery: Non-removable 4,500mAh battery

Weight: 282g

RATING

Features: 4.5/5

Design: 5/5

Performance: 4.5/5

Battery life: 4/5

Value for money: 3.5/5

Overall: 4/5

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