I used the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 — and I found a big problem

A person holding the half open Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you’re hoping the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a radically different phone from the Galaxy Z Fold 4, I’ve got some bad news for you: It’s not.

In the short time I’ve spent with the Fold 5, the impressive improvements are obvious, but it’s also very clear the phone lacks that special something to make it a true standout alongside its predecessor. It’s not the end of the world, but the big problem for the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is that it’s launching alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 5 — which is really different from the last one.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: what’s new?

The top of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There are three major alterations to the Galaxy Z Fold 5 that make it demonstrably better than the Z Fold 4: lower weight, an even thinner chassis, and a new hinge. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is 13.4mm thick when closed, down by 2.4mm compared to the Z Fold 4. It’s 253 grams, which is 10 grams lighter than before, and a new hinge allows the phone to close without a gap. To achieve this is impressive on an engineering level, as the Z Fold 4 was already thinner and lighter than the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — showing Samsung continues to refine its winning formula.

The new water drop hinge design has been verified to last for at least 200,000 folds, the inner screens are 25% stronger due to the way the hinge folds, and the gap that gave the Z Fold 4 a slightly V-shaped look has been eliminated. Holding the Z Fold 5, the thinness is noticeable, as my hand folded around the closed device further than it does with the Z Fold 4. I didn’t specifically notice the weight, but it’s enough of a difference that I’d likely feel it in my pocket during daily use.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5's cover screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I also immediately noticed the increased brightness of the display, which has a maximum level of 1,750 nits, and it gets really bright. This puts it on the same level as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and it should make viewing in sunlight really easy. Inside the phone is a larger vapor chamber to improve cooling and the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor as the S23 Ultra too. All of this unquestionably makes the Galaxy Z Fold 5 a technically superior phone to the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: the specifications

A person holding the open Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Even during the hour or so I spent with the Galaxy Z Fold 5, it was pretty obvious it will still be the big-screen foldable to beat in 2023. It’s incredibly refined, beautifully made, and with software that’s streets ahead of the competition. However, if you own the Galaxy Z Fold 4, or even the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the differences are fairly minimal — especially when you start to look at the specifications overall.

The inside display is a 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X with a 1Hz-120Hz refresh rate and a 2176 x 1812 pixel resolution, while the cover screen is a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X with a 48Hz-120Hz refresh rate and a 2316 x 1812 pixel resolution. This is the same spec as the Z Fold 4 and essentially the Z Fold 3 too. The camera module contains a 50-megapixel main sensor, a 12MP ultrawide camera with optical image stabilization, and a 10MP telephoto sensor for 3x optical zoom. There’s a 10MP selfie camera on the cover screen and a 4MP Under Display Camera (UDC) on the inside screen. Again, no change here.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 has a 4,400mAh battery with 45W Super Fast Charging and wireless charging, and Android 13 with Samsung’s One UI is installed. There are a few small changes to the software, with the Taskbar now showing four recently used apps and the ability to launch them in pop-up windows, while you can still run three full apps at the same time on the inside screen. There’s a new copy/paste feature, updated Flex Mode media controls, and the exclusive launch of the popular GoodNotes app.

Anything else that’s new? The S Pen for the Z Fold 5 has an IP68 water resistance rating, a step above the phone’s IPX8 rating, and there’s a new case that holds the S Pen on the phone for safekeeping. Gorilla Glass Victus 2 covers the front and back of the phone, but it’s the same ultra-thin glass on the inside and uses Samsung’s Armor Aluminum for the chassis. The phone comes in Cream, Phantom Black, and an Icy Blue color.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: the biggest problem with it

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5's cover screens.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

To call the Galaxy Z Fold 5 a disappointment would be folly, as it’s far from that. I’m keen to use the software more to see how the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy performs — especially to see how it and some other software changes, plus a new set of lenses, improve the camera. It’s still a fantastic, futuristic, and exciting smartphone, and newcomers should be keenly waiting for the full reviews. But if you’re already onboard the big-screen foldable train, then upgrading may not be worth it, especially as the price hasn’t dropped either.

The competition is still going to be far behind Samsung, but its most serious challenger this year will come from within. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 has taken a far greater step forward than its predecessor than the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has, and it’s shaping up to be a very big deal.

I fell in love with the Z Flip 4 and fully expect the Galaxy Z Flip 5 to impress again now it has a larger, more useful cover screen. The compact foldable’s brilliance could really hurt the Z Fold 5’s relatively under-the-radar changes this year, as I think people will really appreciate the more powerful yet wonderfully compact Z Flip 5 over the bigger, less pocketable, multi-tasking monster that is the Z Fold 5.

If you haven’t used a big folding smartphone yet, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is going to really impress you, but if previous generations haven’t quite hit the mark for you, then it may not do enough to change your mind. I left the Galaxy Z Fold 5 behind with mixed feelings. It’s still excellent, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with it, but I struggled to remember noticing anything about the lack of gap — which has never been a “problem” that I understood — or much else outside of the thinner chassis and pretty new Icy Blue color.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5's colors, and S Pen case.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is available to preorder from July 26 and will be released on August 11.

It comes with 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage space, and in a choice of Cream, Phantom Black, or Icy Blue colors. A blue and grey color will be available through the Samsung online store. The 256GB model costs $1,799 or 1,749 British pounds, the 512GB model is 1,849 pounds, and the 1TB model is 2,049 pounds.

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