Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review: Small improvements, big phone

While I’m still not entirely sure where the demand for folding phones came from, I am still so glad they are a thing. Frankly, the dream is to have a giant tablet that fits in my pocket, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is so far the closest I can get to that.

But, it does seem that innovation on the larger folding phones has slowed down a bit. While the Flip 5 got a few really meaningful upgrades this year, the Fold 5 updates were much more minor and incremental.

Does this herald that big folding phones have been improved as much as they can be within the bounds of current technology? Is it a sign that the Flip line is more popular than Folds, so the Flip is getting more R&D attention? Is it because the economy is in the toilet and the cost of living is strangling us all? Yes. But none of that stops the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 from being a truly excellent phone, aimed at productivity-focussed people with steady hands.

First impressions

Out of the box, I was hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Fold 4 which is still my primary Android phone, looking at it head-on. But, holding it and looking at them side on without cases, it’s obvious that the hinge technology has been improved. There is no longer such an angle when the Fold is closed, and it’s noticeably lighter. True, 10g is not much, and it’s certainly not something I would be ditching my Fold4 for, but I can appreciate the difference more than I expected, likely due to the weight distribution being a bit different. Your wallet will also be lighter, as the price has gone from $2,499 on last year’s model to $2,599 for the 5.

Moving from my old Fold phone to the new one was a quick and easy set-up process.

Galaxy Z Fold 5 specifications

Dimensions (HxWxD)Unfolded: 154.9 x 129.9 x 6.1mm
Folded: 154.9 x 67.1 x 13.4mm
ResolutionMain display: 2176 x 1812 (QXGA+)
Weight253g
CamerasRear: 50.0 MP + 12.0 MP + 10.0 MP
Cover: 10.0 MP
ProcessorOcta-core Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Memory12 GB
Storage512 GB
BatteryUp to 17 hours
SensorsAccelerometer
Barometer
Fingerprint Sensor
Gyro Sensor
Geomagnetic Sensor
Hall Sensor
Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Price (RRP)From $2,599
Warranty2 years
Official websiteSamsung Australia

The most notable spec here is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. That makes this one of the fastest Android phones available. While faster chips at this point wouldn’t make much of a difference to most regular users who aren’t gamers or content creators, they do matter on phones like the Fold, because there is actually enough screen real estate to do proper, intensive, multi-tasking. I found the upgrade to be significant, particularly given the software has also been tweaked to let you take more advantage of the larger screen.

Though, I would also call out the dimensions, which while still huge, fit more comfortably in a jeans pocket. Also, the weight is now only around 13g off an iPhone 14 Pro Max, which is significant.

Galaxy Z Fold 5 performance

This phone is a beast. The battery life is ridiculous. You’d think a phone with a screen this big would just consume battery. And it does. But because the phone is so massive it has batteries out the wazoo, so I routinely got more than a day’s charge out of it, only having to charge every second day.

Daily Use

Let’s begin with my annual gripe with the Fold line: I still hate the aspect ratios on this phone. The front screen is slightly too narrow to type on comfortably, and the inner screen is too square to be comfortably used for most of the apps designed for tablets that I enjoy.

That aside, there have been so many little improvements to this phone that make it an absolute powerhouse for productivity that it makes me wish I was a fancy businessperson who needed to use sales charts side by side or something, rather than just a writer who exists in a word cave. It is an absolute delight to multitask on. I was doing a stocktake of deliveries for an upcoming convention I’m working at, and I could have multiple PDFs and checklists open at the same time, better keeping me on task rather than getting distracted as I have to switch between apps.

half folded Galaxy Fold 5

The fold is also just really nice to read books on. It gives more of a ‘traditional book’ vibe with the fold in the middle. Flex mode, where you can fold the phone into an L-shape to turn it into a stand, and have the video on the top half and the controls on the bottom is perfect for watching videos on planes.

Will It Shatter Into A Million Pieces If Dropped?

It must be said that folding phones are not as durable as their non-folding cousins. Sure, Samsung claims this phone is the toughest Fold yet, but I do not have the resources to test that. I did accidentally drop it twice, and I still don’t think my heart has recovered. The phone is fine, though, and I’ve never broken a Fold screen in my many years of reviewing and using them.

It’s still not waterproof or dustproof. This is not a phone for reading in the pool or taking to the beach. This is a business phone for dry environments.

If you’re the kind of person with a broken phone screen who drops their phone all the time, folding phones are not for you. Replacing a screen on a folding phone is expensive. These devices are engineering marvels that defy the laws of physics, but the laws of physics can only be defied so much.

Camera

In most phones, I would say that the camera is really the biggest selling point, but I don’t think that’s the case with the Fold 5. Sure, the camera is important, but this is a phone for Important Business Things, rather than the frivolity of catching life’s important moments, the ones you’ll think back to on your deathbed.

That said, I still find it weird that Samsung doesn’t just fully throw the kitchen sink at this phone. A customer base willing to spend this kind of coin on a phone should get the best of everything, rather than having to choose between the S23 Ultra (which has the best camera) or the Fold 5 (the best of everything else). But maybe that’s because I have a lot of FOMO and want everything all the time. Who can say?

photo of lego flowers taken by fold 5 phone
A photo taken by the Fold 5.

The cameras are still very good. If you don’t know that the grass is ever-so-slightly greener on the other side (dyed that way with features you’ll probably never use), then you’ll probably never realise. The five cameras are roughly on par with the basic S23 model, which is more than enough for most people’s casual needs.

Accessories

For me, the big hero of the Fold 5 isn’t even really the phone at all, but the new S Pen case. It is ridiculously expensive at $169, but it houses the S Pen in a way that makes more sense, and instantly boosted my productivity with the device. It is the best S Pen case ever made for a Fold, because it doesn’t add extra bulk, just extra features, and so if you think there is even the smallest chance you might use an S Pen with the phone, this case is a must-have.

Galaxy Z Fold 5 S Pen case
The S Pen case is a great way to store your stylus.

Who is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 for?

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is for people who need to multitask a lot, perhaps who travel for work a lot or need to be flexible. It’s also for people with a lot of money who don’t drop things. This is a phone for responsible people.

The upgrades over last year’s model are slight, but meaningful, particularly when it comes to the hinge. If you find a Fold 4 selling for a decent discount, you would not be losing much by saving a few dollars. But if this sounds like a phone you think could be an important part of your workflow, I wholeheartedly recommend it. The Fold 5 might be niche, but it will be transformative for the people who can take advantage of all its features.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
The Fold 5 might be niche, but it will be transformative for the people who can take advantage of all its features.
Features
9
Value for money
7
Performance
9
Ease of use
8
Design
9
Positives
Now closes more flush
Very fast chip
Long battery life
Negatives
Not that different to last year’s phone
Very expensive
Not as durable as more traditional form factors
8.4