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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

First Impressions

By ditching the Note in favour of this high-end, high-priced phone, Samsung clearly believes now is the time for foldables to go mainstream. I like the company’s confidence, even if I’m yet to be fully convinced of the benefits.

  • UKRRP: £1599
  • EuropeRRP: €1799

  • Folding screen:Z Fold 3 folds out to showcase 7.6-inch 120Hz OLED display
  • Front camera: In-display camera gives you a full screen look
  • High-end specs: Snapdragon 888, 12GB RAM and 256GB storage

It’s taken a few years, but Samsung has finally decided that the time is right for its foldable line to go mainstream. Instead of releasing a new Note device, we have the Z Fold 3.

Launched alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Buds 2 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, the Z Fold 3 looks to be Samsung’s most complete foldable yet.

It’s cheaper (but still very expensive), supposedly far more durable, and comes with the latest internals than its predecessor. It doesn’t rewrite the blueprint that Samsung introduced a couple of years ago, but it should certainly appeal to those already interested in this new category, from what I’ve seen having an opening play with the device.

samsung galaxy z fold 3 USB C port

The Z Fold 3 is the cheapest of the Fold phones Samsung has released to date. Still, this remains one of the priciest mainstream phones around, with prices starting at £1599/€1799/$TBA.

It’ll be available from August 27.

At a surface level, the overall design of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is similar to the previous version. On the outside, there’s a narrow 6.2-inch display for general tasks such as taking calls or scrolling Twitter, and then a much larger, very square, 7.6-inch display on the inside.

The Z Fold 3 opens up like a book, essentially presenting both a traditional phone and a bigger tablet display in one device.

While it might look similar to its predecessor, Samsung has clearly focused on making the latest Fold far more durable. The very first Galaxy Fold suffered from a myriad of issues relating to its build, and while the second version addressed many of these issues, it was still missing some of the basics I’d expect from a phone this price.

samsung galaxy z fold 3 half open

For me, the most notable addition is the IPX8 rating, which provides protection against water. The front display also now comes with the stronger Gorilla Glass Victus, plus a tougher aluminium body. Finally, Samsung says the Z Fold 3’s internal display is 80% stronger thanks to a new protective film.

This extra durability is key to the Fold series as a whole becoming more consumer-friendly, especially when you consider that the initial asking price is so high.

Even with this added strength, the Z Fold 3 is lighter than before, weighing 271g as opposed to 282g. That may not seem significant , but I could immediately feel the difference in my hand. The Z Fold 3 is still a big device; its folding design makes it rather thick compared to the more traditional competition.

The two displays here have received welcome bumps in a couple of areas.
The outer OLED display remains 6.2-inch with an HD+ resolution, but it now has an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling. The internal OLED display mirrors that 120Hz refresh rate, but now has an added trick – an in-screen 4-megapixel camera. This tech has long been tipped to rid us of unsightly notches, and this is the first time it’s been used on a mainstream device.

samsung galaxy z fold 3 TR site

The idea is great, and it’s likely that in a few years this in-display camera tech will be the norm. However, from my initial time with the Fold 3, there’s a glaring issue. To allow the camera to see through the display, there need to be fewer pixels in front of it and this is very visible. There’s no notch or a cutout, but instead there’s a small circular area with a different pixel layout to elsewhere.

samsung galaxy z fold 3 in-display camera

Another issue Samsung still doesn’t appear to have a solution for is the notable crease running down the middle of the inner display. Devout foldable fans will likely claim this makes no visible difference, and I did get used to it in the past. Nevertheless, it remains an issue that will eventually need to be addressed.

If you were a fan of the way the previous Fold phones looked and worked, then the changes here do make it a better device and mean it should prove more reliable in the long term. However, the Z Fold 3 is unlikely to sway the foldable sceptics. The device’s thickness makes it tough to slide into pockets, and the fact that it doesn’t fold completely flat gives it an odd look.

The Z Fold 3 is taking the place of a new Note device in Samsung’s mid-year product refresh. So it’s no surprise Samsung’s added support for the feature that made the Note devices so revered: this is the first foldable to support a stylus in the form of the S Pen.

There are two S Pen options here: a larger Bluetooth-capable Pro version that will work across all supported Galaxy phones and a smaller Z Fold 3-only one that ditches Bluetooth.

Having stylus support makes a lot of sense here, possibly even more so than it did on the Note. That big internal display is perfect for note-taking and sketching, and the stylus’ inclusion turns the Z Fold 3 into a far more productive device.

But, as I found with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the lack of a dedicated silo to house the S Pen when it isn’t in use is a pain. Samsung will sell you a bulky case with an S Pen holder, but you’ll probably just have to keep it separate.

Internally, the Z Fold 3 is what you’d expect from a flagship Samsung device. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset (no Exynos models at all here), 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB UFS 3.1 storage. My time with the phone was limited to a short hands-on session, but the device felt fast and smooth thanks to the internals and that nippy 120Hz display.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (3) multi window

The software is very much like previous Fold devices, too, with plenty of multitasking skills and the handy ability to pop apps out into floating windows. Some apps, Instagram being one, still struggle with the unusual aspect ratio of the display.

If you’re going to be using the larger internal display for video then the stereo speakers should come in handy.

The 4400mAh battery feels on the small side, and I’ll be interested to see how this performs in real-world use. It might be fine, if you’re mostly using the outer display, opening up the Fold for only specific tasks. However, I can’t imagine it will be an endurance champion, if you’re using the inner screen lots.

Charging tops out at 25W wired and 10W wireless. There’s no charger included, though, which does seem slightly ridiculous considering the price.

samsung galaxy z fold 3 back

If there’s one aspect of the Z Fold 3 that feels a little plain then it’s the camera array. There are three cameras on the back (wide, ultra-wide and tele), the previously mentioned 4-megapixel in-display unit on the inner display, and a 10-megapixel selfie camera on the front.

The rear cameras will seem familiar to Samsung fans; they haven’t seen any drastic changes over the Z Fold 2. The telephoto camera, for instance, has OIS and the ability to zoom optically to 2x, while the main wide camera also has OIS and an f/1.8 lens. It seems that Samsung is still keeping the big camera specs for the Galaxy S line.

A huge jump in camera quality was probably never expected here. With the price cut and improvements to the two displays and body, it was inevitable that there would be areas where costs would be cut and advancements kept to a minimum.

I often feel like I’m one of a few who still isn’t convinced by the need for this kind of phone. Nevertheless, it’s hard to fault Samsung’s steady stream of innovations and ability to deliver something that feels new.

If you’re intrigued by this new device category then the improvements here will be welcome. The added durability is key, while faster displays and the lighter body are also a plus.

By ditching the Note in favour of this high-end, high-priced phone, Samsung clearly believes now is the time for foldables to go mainstream. I like the company’s confidence, even if I’m yet to be fully convinced of the benefits.

Trusted Score

Is the Galaxy Z Fold 3 water resistant?

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has an IPX8 water resistance rating. This means it can survive short submersions at depths up to 1m.

Does the Galaxy Z Fold 3 support Samsung’s S Pen?

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 features Samsung S Pen support, though you have to purchase one as an optional extra.

Is the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a 5G phone?

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports 5G connectivity.

A ‘hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only – it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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