The Galaxy Z Fold 5’s biggest upgrade is hiding in plain sight

The back of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If a building is 2.4mm higher than another building, you probably won’t notice. If one room is 2.4mm larger than another, you won’t be able to fit more stuff in it. But the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is 2.4mm thinner than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and take it from me: you will notice. Not only that, but the new hinge design enables the phone to fold flat, so there’s no more gap.

Trust me when I tell you that these two changes have really improved the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s ergonomics — to the point where even if you tried a Samsung folding smartphone out in the past and didn’t quite get on with the shape, you need to go out and try one again.

Small changes make a big difference

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Galaxy Z Fold 4, showing the gapless closure.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’ve used several folding smartphones that do not have a gap between the sections, including the Oppo Find N2 and the Honor Magic Vs, but neither really stood out as being especially thin or vastly more manageable than the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It wasn’t until I used the Galaxy Z Fold 5 that I understood why this was, and it’s due to the unique design of Samsung’s big-screen foldable phone, which has often been seen as “wrong” or a reason to choose a different device. I’m talking about the tall, thin shape when the phone is closed.

Folded up, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is 67.1mm wide, while the Honor Magic Vs and the Oppo Find N2 are both 72mm wide. For comparison, the Galaxy S23 is 70.9mm wide. Both Oppo and Honor’s phones are billed as more “phone-like,” which is somewhat true but only in terms of the cover screen’s size, as because both are at least 13mm thick, they never feel like a non-folding phone in your hand. They are no easier to grip or hold, as the thickness of the phone cancels out any illusion of normality from the additional cover screen real estate.

This is where the Galaxy Z Fold 5 comes into its own, as the tall, thin body is much more comfortable, natural, and “normal” feeling than before. It’s due to the thinner chassis (the phone is 13.4mm thick when folded up) paired with the less wide cover screen, plus the new fold-flat hinge means the phone is now one, uniform thickness. The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s gap meant that on the hinge side, the phone was 15.8mm thick, and this didn’t do the ergonomics any favors at all. It was always manageable, but now that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 folds flat without a gap, I’ll never want to go back.

New hinge, lower weight

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Galaxy Z Fold 4, showing the hinges.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I noticed the difference immediately I picked the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 up together, as despite being basically the same height and width, the in-hand thickness has changed dramatically. Many have said the tall, thin design puts them off from buying Samsung’s big-screen foldable, and although that style hasn’t changed for the fifth-generation phone, I think you notice it less due to the new hinge and reduced thickness.

However, if you found it a pain to type on, this won’t be any different. Sure, it is a bit cramped, and typing quickly and accurately only happens after practice. There is a learning curve, but here’s the other thing: I think holding the phone with one hand and swipe-typing with the other feels more natural on the Z Fold 5 than the Z Fold 4; I put it down to the new fold-flat hinge, and the 10-gram drop in weight. The Z Fold 5 feels better balanced in my hand, and I’ve been less concerned about accidentally dropping it.

I was never bothered by the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s gap, and using a folding phone that didn’t have a gap never felt especially transformative until I used the Galaxy Z Fold 5. I’ve got both of them here right now, and the Z Fold 5 is vastly more ergonomic and comfortable to grip in a way that no other big-screen foldable has been for me yet.

You need to try it out for yourself

The top of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

To understand whether a folding smartphone is for you or not, our best advice has always been to go and try one out. Fold and unfold one, try the big inner screen, see how the compact versions fit inside your pocket, and experience the surprisingly pleasurable sensation of snapping one shut when you’re done. It’s what makes these phones special, and if it appeals when you have one in your hand, you’ll likely love the functionality every day.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 has changed enough that I think if you’ve tried and dismissed previous models as being too heavy, too thick, too tall and thin, and for having a gap, you need to go and try this one again. I admit I’m a folding smartphone convert and have enjoyed using all of Samsung’s models since the original Galaxy Fold, but I never appreciated how willing I was to work around the design idiosyncrasies until I handled the Galaxy Z Fold 5.

I don’t think it’s going to win anyone who was dead against the Z Fold 4’s shape over, but if you were on the fence about it, then the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s small but meaningful design alterations make it worth taking another close look. I think you’ll be impressed by what difference a few millimeters and grams can make.

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