Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Review: Everything's upgraded

In a year where innovation in smartphones takes center stage, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 5 may not bring groundbreaking changes, but it refines almost every aspect—design, display, performance, battery, and camera—just a tad bit better than its predecessor.

Design: Flatter, Slimmer, and Lighter

Samsung has made noteworthy design improvements with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. The new hinge design allows the phone to fold flat, eliminating the sizable gap present in previous Fold generations. This change enhances the device's aesthetics significantly. Moreover, this new hinge design makes the phone 2mm slimmer and 10g lighter. These numbers might seem modest, but when you hold it in your hand or glance at the images below, you'll notice the difference.

Samsung claims that this new hinge design has fewer mechanical components, potentially making it more durable. However, only time will truly tell.

The rear camera module has undergone slight changes as well. It's now slimmer and shorter, albeit with slightly thicker camera lenses compared to the Fold 4. Additionally, the flash has moved to the right of the camera module, departing from its previous position beneath it. While these changes are not groundbreaking, they do render the Fold 4's protective cases incompatible with the Fold 5.

The protective glass on the back and the external screen of the Fold 5 is Gorilla Glass Victus 2, a newer generation compared to Victus+ used in the previous Fold. According to the manufacturer, Victus 2 offers improved scratch resistance and durability. The aluminum frame and the plastic layer protecting the inner folding screen remain consistent with the previous generation.

The inclusion of an S Pen holder on the back cover can be seen as an upgrade for the Fold 5. Samsung has made both the S Pen and the new cover slimmer. The cover is now 27% thinner, and the new S Pen has a diameter of 4.35mm compared to the 7.7mm of the previous generation. Despite the reduced dimensions, the new S Pen doesn't compromise on the writing experience and remains user-friendly. When placed on the new cover, the pen now lies almost flat, without protruding as it did on the Fold 4 cover. However, it's worth noting that Samsung sells the new cover and pen separately at a price of approx. $110 USD.

Apart from these changes, everything else about the Fold 5 remains consistent with the Fold 4. Screen sizes, aspect ratios, device thickness, ports, and physical buttons all remain unchanged. Therefore, the overall design of the Fold 5 doesn't differ significantly from its predecessor.

One expected design change that did not occur is the widening of the external screen. In previous Fold iterations, the external screen had a tall and narrow aspect ratio, making typing a bit challenging. Additionally, the crease on the inner folding screen remains the same as the Fold 4, hardly noticeable during normal use but more apparent when viewed at an angle or with the screen turned off compared to foldable phones from other brands.

Display: Brighter and Better in Sunlight

Samsung made a subtle change to the display last year by slightly increasing the horizontal width while reducing the vertical height of the Fold 4. However, this year, they opted to maintain the same screen size and aspect ratio for both the inner and outer displays of the Fold 5. The resolution on both screens, the 120Hz refresh rate, support for the S Pen (on the inner screen), and the plastic PET cover on the inner screen all remain consistent with the previous generation.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that Samsung didn't enhance the displays. This year, both the inner and outer displays of the Fold 5 have been boosted to a peak brightness of 1750 nits, a significant improvement over the Fold 4's peak brightness (1500 nits for the outer screen and 1300 nits for the inner screen). In practice, both displays on the Fold 5 appear exceptionally bright and visible even under harsh sunlight. The color reproduction on both screens is consistent, displaying no noticeable differences, and both screens are truly impressive.

However, the PET cover protecting the inner screen doesn't feel as smooth as glass on the outer screen. If you pay close attention, you'll notice that the PET cover reflects more light than the glass, causing the inner screen to appear slightly dimmer when used outdoors in bright sunlight.

Performance and Battery: Faster, Cooler, and Longer-lasting

The most impressive upgrade in the Fold 5 comes in terms of performance. It features the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, delivering 30% faster processing than the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 found in the Fold 4, while maintaining efficient and cool operation, even during prolonged gaming sessions.

I tested games like Fortnite and League of Legends: Wild Rift for 30 minutes, and I noticed only minimal frame rate drops, even when playing at maximum graphics settings. The device's temperature never exceeded 42°C. With gaming performance of this caliber, everyday tasks are a breeze on the Fold 5, even when running three multitasking app windows simultaneously.

In terms of battery, the Fold 5 still sports a 4400mAh battery and supports 25W charging, similar to the Fold 4. As expected from phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the Fold 5's battery life has seen a slight improvement compared to the Fold 4, lasting about 10% longer. Throughout my experience, I never saw the battery drop below 30% by the end of the day, even on days with heavy usage.

In terms of charging speed, the Fold 5 reaches 50% battery in 30 minutes and fully charges in approximately 85 minutes using Samsung's 25W charger. As per recent trends, the device does not come with a charger included, so you'll need to purchase one separately if you don't already have one.

On the software front, Samsung has made relatively few changes. The Fold 5 currently runs One UI 5.1.1 based on Android 13. This new One UI version includes a few minor improvements in multitasking, file sharing, and drag-and-drop functionality between apps. Samsung's update policy remains consistent with other premium phones, committing to four years of operating system updates and five years of security updates.

Camera: Carrying Over from the Fold 4 with a More Powerful Image Processor

When it comes to the camera, it appears that Samsung upgrades the camera once every two years for its foldable phones. The Fold 3 retained the camera from the Fold 2, and now the Fold 5 inherits the camera system from the Fold 4. This applies to both the rear camera module, the front-facing selfie camera, and the under-display camera on the inner screen.

While I haven't had the opportunity to compare photo quality between the Fold 5 and Fold 4, many reports suggest that low-light photography has seen improvements, with more detail in low-light shots. This can be attributed to the improved image signal processor (ISP) inside the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which outperforms the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 in the Fold 4. A better ISP allows Samsung to enhance image processing algorithms effectively.

In well-lit scenarios, the cameras on the Fold 5 produce beautiful photos, especially if you appreciate Samsung's approach to image processing, which tends to boost colors and contrast, occasionally leaning towards oversaturation. For users who don't typically edit photos after taking them and prefer a vibrant, lively look, Samsung's image processing, and by extension, the Fold 5's camera performance, will likely be appealing.

Similar to the Fold 4, the Fold 5 allows you to use all the cameras on the device, including the three rear cameras, the external screen's selfie camera, and the under-display camera on the inner screen for taking selfies. This gives you a total of five cameras with various lens options for your selfies.

In comparison to its predecessor, the Fold 5 doesn't bring about massive changes, but it subtly improves almost every aspect. It's slimmer, lighter, and boasts a flatter hinge. The displays are brighter and more suitable for outdoor use. Performance is notably faster, cooler, and battery life is slightly extended. The camera system, while not radically different from the Fold 4, benefits from a more powerful image processor, potentially delivering better low-light photography.

In summary, the Fold 5 enhances the overall user experience and builds upon the strengths of its predecessor, making it a compelling choice for those who desire a premium and innovative smartphone.

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