Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 hands-on review

GSMArena Team, 11 August 2021.

Design, hardware and display

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G feels sturdier than its predecessor. It's a solid block of grippy matte aluminum when closed and opens with solid-feeling hinge action.

The frame of the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G has the same rounded edges as those of its predecessor, but the sides are a bit sharper. This, alongside the slimmer profile results in a slightly firmer grip.

When the foldable is closed the two halves stay mostly tightly shut. The slight gap between the two halves is still here and it opens up towards the hinge, just like on the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G. That's unlike the gapless Huawei Mate X2 and dust might be able to get into the opening on the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.

Controls and port locations haven't changed from the previous Fold. The left frame holds the SIM slot, while on the right there is a volume rocker and the capacitive fingerprint scanner.

On the bottom are a USB-C port and one of the two loudspeaker grilles.

The top holds the other loudspeaker grille and a few microphones.

The camera island has a new streamlined design with this iteration of the Galaxy Fold. Each 12MP camera sits in its own metal ring and the whole thing is elevated onto its own metal pedestal.

When the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is fully open the rear forms a perfect flat surface. The huge frame folds into itself and disappears.

However when we turn to the front of the unfolded Galaxy Z Fold3 5G we can see that there's still a notable crease in the center of the display. This might be an issue for many people at first, but after a year of passing the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G around the office we found that most people get used to it really quickly.

What is a big deal is the under display camera. You can spot the interference of pixels on top of the hidden camera if you go hunting for it, but when held at arms length it's not noticeable, especially if you use the preloaded dark wallpapers on the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.

The under display camera when it's hidden and when it's not The under display camera when it's hidden and when it's not
The under display camera when it's hidden and when it's not

Because the cam is hidden into the display, it has became an uninterrupted canvas, whose symmetry we love. Punch hole cameras have gotten better on most phones, but the one on the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G was bigger than most and very noticeable. To have it gone is a welcome improvement.

The display is just as lovely as you'd expect from a top panel by Samsung. It's bright and contrasty and comes tuned for lively colors out of the box. You can, of course, tune it to look as you'd like.

The new tougher screen film on top of the display may be more durable but it feels about the same as the one on the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G. It's perfectly applied and we'd leave it on.

The added smoothness on the cover display is greatly appreciated, but otherwise ther's not much to see here. This will be the display you'll use on the go with the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and it's a bit narrower than most conventional ones. It takes some getting used to, but it's perfectly fine for tasks that don't involve serious productivity or media consumption.

Handling and software

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G handles exactly like its predecessor. When it's closed it's thick and narrow - a shape that needs getting used to if you're coming from a conventional phone.

But when you unfold the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, it becomes an entirely different beast. There are plenty of places to grab onto and the full 7.6-inch canvas gets center stage.

The phone looks huge in photos, but is actually fairly compact in the hand. It's nothing like holding a regular tablet - those tend to be about 11-inches and much bigger than the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.

You can choose to have a huge camera viewfinder in this unfolded mode when shooting with the rear cameras. Or you can snap a selfie with the new under display camera on the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, although obviously if you care about image quality you'd want to use the main camera and the external screen for your selfie needs.

We can't comment on the quality just yet and these aren't the ideal lightning conditions to test a camera in, but the 4MP selfies look alright.

The Galaxy Z Fold3 5G is the first foldable to support the S Pen and the experience of writing on the big display is pleasant. Though we'd prefer to be sitting down on a desk for this.

The S Pen Pro is thicker and heavier, which makes it more comfortable to write or draw with. It also supports Bluetooth LE so it can be used as a remote trigger. The S Pen Fold Edition is more akin to the S Pen's we've seen on the Note series. It, however lacks Bluetooth and can only be used for Air Command actions, when you hover the pen close to the screen.

Samsung have designed a special case with an S Pen holster for the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, similar to the one for the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Web pages come alive on the unfolded display. And you can even comfortably get away with using two at the same time in split screen.

Samsung has optimized the sizes of individual split screen windows on the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G. The settings menu's left pane, which shows the setting categories, has been reduced in size so that the right pane, with the information, can enjoy more screen space.

Samsung is working with Google, Microsoft, Spotify and many others to bring official split screen support to their apps. But for the first time ever you can enable an experimental feature from Samsung Labs, which allows multi window for all apps.

Another neat feature that sets the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G up as a better multi tasking tool is the pinned taskbar. It works like on your Windows or Mac computer, allowing you to pin apps for quick access. It can be set to the left or right side of your phone and is independent from the apps pinned on your homescreen.

All in all the Samsung Galaxy Fold3 feels like an incremental update over the Fold2, but it's extra durability and lower pre-order price might be just what it takes to make the next step towards mainstream adoption.

Reader comments

When you have more money than sense.

  • Hsggsjja

Note series was redundant with S series ultra line up that has the same or more features except the S pen. If Apple can take great photos with 12mp camera, so should Samsung work on that direction rather than limit itself to bulking up the came...

  • O

I'm not gonna lie. I'm a Samsung fanboy but I am disappointed that the note has been pretty much replaced with the fold 3. The Note was premium, had all features of the same year Galaxy S range and more. But the camera specs on the fold is ...