Where do you start with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G? Is it a smartphone with a big foldable tablet screen, a second external screen, a powerhouse processor and a great camera? Or does it open a new category that defies conceptions about what a smartphone is and can be?
Yes, I am quite enthusiastic about this format. The more I use the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, the more potential I see in it.
Why? Because the standard glass slab – the most economical way to deliver a smartphone – is so limited in comparison. The biggest impediment to productivity on a glass slab is lack of screen real estate.
It is a two-in-one – folded it is a 13.8-16.8mm thick phone with a 6.2″ screen and open it is a 6.9mm thin 7.6″ tablet. Oh, and it is not as weighty as I expected at 282g – about 60g (that’s 2 ounces) heavier than the best Android Glass Slab – the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (review here 4.7/5).
While everyone would love a foldable, the device is for the select few that can afford $2,999. Yes, you can lease it, or trade-in an older Galaxy phone but the bottom line is that it is Samsung’s effort to inspire and show technological leadership.
Enough of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G adoration.
The full technical review is below but here is the spoiler now.
As an Android phone, it does nearly everything the benchmark Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G or Note 20 5G (no stylus) do except micro-SD memory expansion.
As a tablet, it has successfully addressed the minor issues of the Fold Z (Version 1). It now has a full external screen, a better fold mechanism, it is over-engineered and specified (12/256GB).
It has an interesting 12+12+12MP rear camera. But it is not near the capability of the Note20 Ultra or the S20 Ultra camera.
Samsung’s tweaks to Android make tablet and fold a little less clunky.
We have named and shamed the major grey marketers here. If you are going to spend this much money, get a genuine ‘Made for Australia’ model. Besides the Australian eSIM’s IMEI will only first activate on an Australian network. Note that the W21 dual sim 512GB model and SM-F916N are not for Australia.
First impression – pretty slick
The review unit is Mystic Bronze. For some reason, my wife loves it, but it does not resonate with me. But then it is more attractive than boring Mystic Black. Looks-wise it is similar to a thick Note 20 Ultra.
The first thing you see is a large spine accounting for 16.8mm folded thickness. The front screen is tall and narrow. It has a 25:9 ratio, so it is not for 16:9 movies and video content. One-handed use on this screen is impossible, but there is something quite reassuring, solid, holding the phone by the spine in your left hand.
The rear camera block is quite elevated with three 12MP optically image stabilised (OIS) lenses are in perfect traffic light symmetry and a single LED flash.
Like my Galaxy, S20 Ultra 5G camera block, this review model edges are starting to show some ‘rubbing’ wear. The block edges are there to protect the lenses. I suspect that a cover which I estimate will add another 60g would be a great idea.
Open up the Fold, and it is all-screen although technically its 88.6%C screen-to-body ratio as there is a solid but thin plastic frame around the edges.
Screens – there are two
Fold: 7.6″ External: 6.2
Fold: Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz (Adaptive mode – otherwise 60Hz) with right top O-hole External: Super AMOLED 60Hz with centre O-hole
Fold: 2208 x 1768 External: 2260 x 816
Fold: 373ppi and 11.2:9 ratio (3.73:3 = close to the old 4:3 TV screen) External: 25:9
Colour depth Brightness Contrast Delta E RGB adjust White RGB HDR10+ External
Both: 16M Fold: About 450 nits typical fairly evenly distributed It will reach 700+ max auto nits (small screen segment) Both: ∞:1 – Black: 0 cd/m2 Fold: 2.25 (<4 is excellent) Fold: Vivid (135% sRGB), Natural (100% DCI-P3) Fold: Cool to Warm 6100-8200°K Fully adjustable Fold: Yes. External: No The external display defaults are accurate and colourful
Daylight AOD Dark mode Blue light Edge
Both: Excellent Both Yes Yes Fold: Yes
Fold: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG Widevine L1 HDCP 2.3 Note that there is no digital output of DRM content to an external screen so it should stream HDR content from any source
Fold: 10ms G-T-G Samsung Game Booster toggle to force 48fps refresh rate for some games> You can buy a separate clip-on controller
Fold: It is a foldable ultra-thin glass screen that requires care External: Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 7 (2m drop-resistant) Both have a pre-applied plastic film that will lift over time.
Let’s start with the Fold
It is colour accurate, has adaptive 120Hz (usually 60Hz) refresh, and the almost 4:3 aspect seems to be compatible enough although we noticed side cropping on a full-screen landscape video.
Independent tests show (see video at the end) it is not as scratch resistant as Gorilla Glass (any version) and Samsung warns to take care as fingernails could scratch it. As it has a plastic screen protector – touch is slightly draggy – not as smooth as glass.
The warning is common sense, and anyone that mistreats a $3,000 object is at fault.
The key here is the extra real estate allows for better multitasking. There is quite good palm rejection. The only downside is the split keyboard on most apps. It takes quite a while to master as half the letters are on each side. I am sure there are apps to address that.
The middle Fold is barely noticeable in use – you can feel a small indent channel down the portrait screen.
Magnets hold the Fold together. The screen can be full, as two half-height or even as an L-shape (Flex Mode) for selfie video.
The external screen is the one you use most of the time for phone functions. It is very ‘skinny’ at 25:9 including an almost unusable onscreen keyboard.
While we will refer to IP rating (water and dust resistance) later, this has no formal rating. I am sure it is splash resistant, but pocket dust will inevitably make its way into the fold hinge.
Processor – the best in 2020
Qualcomm SD865+ 7nm 1×3.09GHz, 3×2.4Ghz, 4×1.8Ghz
Adreno 650 Compute Open CL: 3574
Will handle almost any game at 60fps. There are no issues with the screen format. But while its capable of games and it has a 120Hz adaptive screen, we can’t recommend that due to the possibility of damage during vigorous gameplay.
12GB LPDDR5 but about 6GB free
245GB UFS 3.1 (approx. 216 avaialable) Androbench Mbps sequential read/write Internal test: 1627.65/738.89 (Entry-level Desktop SSD speed) External: The interface is USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps or 625MBps half-duplex). Drives must be formatted exFAT
Orico iMatch 1TB SSD USB-C 3.1 Gen2 (10Gbps) 218.37/210.6 (about maximum data transfer rate) WD My Passport SSD 2020 USB-C 3.1 Gen2 (10Gbps) 207.98/216.15 – ditto OWC Envoy USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 256GB SSD Flash Drive 213.42/209.99 – ditto Lexar UBC-C 3.0 64GB Flash Drive 79.9/54.99 [email protected], AAC stereo recording produces a 70Mbps (8.75MBps), so you will have no issue recording straight to an external SSD or even a USB-C 3.0 flash.
No. USB-C OTG allows for exFAT disks to 2TB
CS40L2X chip. It is like ANT+ that allows you to find other nearby compatible smartphones and devices. It is smart enough to securely control compatible car and door locks as it has precise location, spatial and angle of arrival capability. Similar in function to Apple’s new Ultra-Wide-Band H1 chip Samsung has a techy explanation here.
Geek Bench 5
Single: 978 Multi: 3177 There is no faster SoC available in 2020
Max: 232,685 GIPS, Average: 211,277, Minimum: 195,920 14% loss over 15 minutes The external temperature reached 42° on the Fold and 37° external
This has the current fastest SoC and all the go-fast bits.
The throttling and slightly higher external heat are due solely to thermal design. It is not bad, but it is not for continuous 100% load either. In any case battery life would be measured in a scant few hours.
In some ways its overkill for this device. It helps me to see why some brands are using the SD765 as their 2020 flagship processor.
Comms – OK
Wi-Fi 6 AX, HE80, MIMO (Used Qualcomm QCA6390) Signal Strength 5Ghz – distance from ASUS AX1100 router – 2m: -36 dBm/1.2Gbps (excellent) – 5m: – 63dBm/663Mbps – 10m: -71/266Mbps
BT 5.1 A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP Supports both stereo audio and mono handsfree
Dual with <4m accuracy perfect for turn-by-turn navigation at speed
PN547 works with any contactless reader and NFC tag as well as Mag Stripe and Samsung or Google Pay
3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps half-duplex (expect maximum 200MBps data transfer)
Desktop experience support also includes data transfer to PCs If you have a DeX station, you can attach USB devices like a mouse/keyboard or use BT devices instead. It can also act as a touchpad. You can use USB-C to HDMI adapter for a monitor ([email protected]) USB-C 3.1 Alt DP to a computer or TV (up to [email protected]) Over Wi-Fi (not all devices will work)
You can connect your device to a Windows PC to instantly access your device’s data, such as photos or messages, on the computer. When calls or messages come in, you can receive them on the computer.
Accelerometer and Gyro combo LSM6DSO Barometer Fingerprint Sensor on the power button Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor
My main gripe is the combo LSM6DSO Accelerometer and Gyro. I know this is widely used, but it makes screen rotation and accidental rotation on any device using it a damned pain. If you put it on a desktop, the portrait screen nearly always swaps to landscape or vice versa. The cure – turn off auto rotation.
Otherwise, it has excellent Wi-Fi data transfer speeds.
LTE and 5G – its a city phone
Singe nano-sim and eSIM eSIM must be activated in Australia first before international use SIM can be for calls, data or texts
VoLTE – carrier dependent – generally yes Wi-Fi calling – Yes
N1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28, 40, 41, 77, 78 We could not test 5G reliably and we are not sure all bands are enabled
-104 dBm/63fW on band 28 4G LTE in a 3-bar reception area (average) Found next tower at -106dBm/31fW. Occasionally found the third tower at -117dBm/7fW
LTE Signal strength was all over the place – from 102-119dBm. We doubt that it is due to antenna design – all tests are laying flat on a glass table. I suspect that it is more Telstra’s fault than the Fold2.
We can confidently say it is more a city/suburbs phone than for regional and rural use.
5G is sub-6Ghz only, and while it covers most global bands, the lack of mmWave support limits its use in the US and China.
Battery – one day at best
We normally test at 120Hz (forced) and 60Hz (default). This device only offers Adaptive rates, so it is hard to tell what speeds it is testing at. We estimate that the main battery impact is on video loop where it gets 16 hours at 60Hz and reduces to about 13 hours at 120Hz.
And then there is the issue of mixed-use. What percentage of the time can you just use the external 60Hz screen?
4500mAh rated typical dual-cell battery 2345 and 2155mAh over both halves of the device. Reported 4365mAh which is not unusual.
PDO: 5V/3A/15W, 9V/2.77/25W PPS: 3.3-5.9V/3.A OR 3.3-11V/2.25A Qi/PMA wireless: 5V/3A/15W at approx. 73% efficiency (11W deliver) Wireless reverse charge: 5V/.9A/4.5W at approx. 65% efficiency. Care: The charge coil is not in the centre of the back. It is in the bottom third. Alignment on a charger affects efficiency.
Test with supplied charger set to fast charge 30% at 30 minutes 60% at 60 minutes 100% at 120 minutes You can use any USB-C PD compliant charger
Video Loop test: 60Hz 1080p/50%/aeroplane mode – 16 hrs (claim 18) 120Hz as above – 13 hrs 60Hz External – 25 hrs Typical use 4G, Wi-Fi Test Fold adaptive – 9-10 hrs External – 15 hours MP3 music test: 50% volume played from storage – 24+ hrs (claim 83) 100% load Battery drain – 3 hrs T-Rex (unsure of refresh rate) – 238.8 minutes (3.98 hours) 6643 frames Drain screen off: .3W (about 15 days) Drain screen on: 2.8 W or 24 hours Maximum drain; 10.5W
Because of the three screens and mixed-use, we estimate that it has a maximum of one day if you favour tablet mode and close to two days for external mode.
But it has a fairly high screen-off current draw that means it will only last about two weeks on standby.
We tested Qi charge with a Belkin 15W charger. It should reach 5V/3A (less Qi efficiency factors), but the best we could get was about 10V/1A/10W.
When you look at the fast charge of the S20 Ultra 5G (65% in 30 minutes and 100% in 60 minutes), and the OPPO Find X2 Pro (95% in 30 minutes and 100% in 36 minutes) you wonder why Samsung took the safe route. Well, at least it beats the iPhone 11 Pro Max for speed (that takes over 2 hours for a full charge).
Sound – it is very good
Stereo matching speakers top and bottom Landscape orientation means the speakers point up and down in portrait mode.
As in Note 20, It uses two Cirrus Logic CS35L41 top-of-the-line D-Class amps that output 5.3W each at 1% THD. These have integrated DSP and speaker protection. Interestingly these are two mono amps to make stereo, so we assume there is some software balancing to match the top and bottom speakers.
It will sample at 16, 24 and 32-bits at 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz (use developer options to select)
Codecs are SBC (standard), LDAC (Sony), aptX/HD (Qualcomm), ACC (Apple) and Samsung Scalable (requires Samsung device like Buds Live). You can select different or all codecs in Developer Mode)
Dolby Atmos for normal use and games. It decodes 5.1.2 (or higher) to the two speakers. It does not add any height channels. Dolby Atmos content via BT or USB-C cabled headphones (it has an inbuilt DAC) has a slight sense of spatial sound.
EQ pre-sets can adjust most frequency bands by +/-10dB. These include normal, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Rock and Custom.
In landscape mode, it is a little wider than the device.
MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM Will downscale [email protected] By default, it captures videos in AVC format with a two-channel, AAC, 48 kHz audio stream producing a 70Mbps stream.
2 with Acoustic Overload Point to minimise noise
Loud and clear – better than most
No USB-C AKG earbuds provided and have reasonable quality and frequency response.
Media – 76 Ring – 76 Alarm – 76 Earpiece – N/A Handsfree – loud and clear While we would have liked to see 80dB or more but this is good clean, distortion-free sound.
Our reference Sony WH-1000xM4 in SBC, AAC and LDAC modes provided good clear sound and plenty of volume. These headphones don’t support aptX/LL, but in tests with the Sennheiser PXC-550 II, it was superb.
Sound quality – perfect for a tablet
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz
Building from 80Hz
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz
High Treble: 6-10kHz
Dip to avoid harshness
Dog whistle: 10-20kHz
Flat to 15kHZ and a gradual drop to 20kHz
This is almost warm and sweet – perfect for music and movies. The pre-sets allow you to move it slightly towards bright vocal (good for clear speech and podcasts) or balanced. There are also ‘age’ pre-sets to boost frequencies that you may no longer hear.
Both speakers are well-matched with a very slight bias towards the bottom speaker (right in landscape)
Build – engineering marvel
Folded: 159.2 x 68.0 x 13.8-16.8 Open: 159.2 x 128.2 x 6.9 282g plus charger/cable and case if used
Mystic Bronze and Mystic Black
Fold Glass: Ultra-thin Glass External: Corning Gorilla Glass Victus Frame: Alloy Back: Gorilla Glass 6 for Qi wireless charge
No dust or water ingress protection
The screen is secured closed by magnets in the frame. These may cause issues with mag-stripe cards.
In the box
25 W charger USB-C to USB-C cable USB-C AKG earbuds
It is a solid device – never once did I feel it was fragile. But its deceptively easy to drop in one-handed use or when opening. Take care.
I really think an external grippy case would be a good idea, but that is going to add another 60g or so to an already heavy device.
After two weeks of use, the pocket dust started to become evident around the screen edge. I have not used it enough to know if this is going to be an issue. I usually place the phone in my front side left pocket with a couple of folded tissues. Keys or any other objects in that pocket are a no-no.
And this review model does have some very minor screen scratches noticeable only with a magnifying glass.
Unofficial estimates are that the bill of materials is close to US$700 compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G at $549 an iPhone 12 Pro Max at US$490.
Android 10 with 11 and 12 to come
Google Android 10 Security patch date: 1/12/20 Update: Android 11/12 and 13 likely and three years security patches
One UI 2.5
All standard apps, Google Lens and Assistant.
Samsung Knox allows secure folders and more to secure the device. Integrated secure element (iSE) layer stores and manages users’ data separately from the operating system. Includes a physically unclonable function (PUF) – a digital fingerprint, that generates an unclonable key for data encryption. This is similar to Pixel Titan M and Apple T2 chip.
Long press on power key dedicated to Bixby
Mostly Samsung productivity and utilities. Facebook can be easily uninstalled.
Assume three OS update. Security patches should come
Fingerprint on the power button. It is fast and accurate. FaceID – accuracy depends on light levels.
Voice Assistant High contrast theme, font, keyboard Colour inversion Magnifier window WidgetSound detectors Hearing aid support Left/right sound balance Mono audio Mute all sounds Live Transcribe/Caption on Android Amplify ambient sound Universal switch Assistant menu Interaction control Touch settings (Tap duration, Ignore repeated touches, Touch and hold delay) Mouse and Physical keyboard (Click after pointer stops, Sticky keys Slow keys Bounce keys Direct access Flash notification
For the most part, One UI has made it quite seamless to use three screens (although only the front or Fold are active at one time. What you see on the front can flow to the opened Fold.
It has everything you could want.
Missing – no deal breakers
While USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 gives good OTG speeds its not as convenient as a micro-SD for large files
Possibly a deal-breaker – Buy Note20 or S20 for that
No issue – USB-C
Not a huge issue here. Australia won’t have mmWave for consumer use for some years.
Camera – generally a good all rounder
Samsung markets the rear camera as three 12MP cameras. But as you can see in the table below, there are three different sensors plus two identical 10MP selfie cameras. Why the magic mix? Each does different things, and overall it works.
One interesting thing – its overall shape and size precludes the use of a selfie-stick or tripod adapter. But you can use Flex mode to expose the three rear cameras or use the internal selfie.
Flex mode allows a preview of the shot and access to the gallery.
But as DXOMARK has done a full camera review, we will defer to their expertise. They score it at 109, and it is easy to see why it is a way off the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (126), Note20 Ultra (120) and even the S10+ (113).
Why? The three different 12MP sensors are great for point and shoot daylight photography. Where they let the team down –
Bokeh (no dedicated depth sensor)
Night mode (noise and artifacts)
May get confused over which sensor/lens will take the best shot
No wide-angle lens (ultra-wide or telephoto)
And the OIS telephoto delivers good 2X optical but not great 10s hybrid digital zoom
Interestingly these are largely AI software issues, and we may see the camera creep up a few points soon.
Still, as I like to point out anything over 100 points is pretty good, and its score puts it well ahead of the iPhone XS Max (106) and Pixel 4a (111).
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G camera specs
Primary 12.2 MP
Selfie 10MP (2 – identical on external and inside O-hole)