Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 hands-on: Is Samsung squandering its head start?

Even with a new hinge, a brighter display and improved multitasking, the Z Fold's rivals are catching up.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Today at its Unpacked event, Samsung announced its latest flagship foldable – the Galaxy Z Fold 5 – which features a new hinge, an even sleeker design and a brighter main display. Samsung has also included a handful of new gestures for improved multitasking along with an updated chip. However, after multiple generations without any major design changes and a still extremely high price of $1,800, one has to ask if Samsung’s latest changes are really enough.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is centered around what Samsung is calling a Flex Hinge, which is said to have a more streamlined design while still boasting IPX8 water resistance. And thanks to that new hinge, Samsung has managed to get rid of the gap between the screen halves while also decreasing its overall thickness to 13.5mm. That’s a nice move toward everyday usability, though it’s thicker than Pixel Fold, which is only 12.1mm.

On the inside, you get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy for increased performance along with 12GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage. However, the Z Fold’s battery is staying pat at 4,400 mAh, so Samsung is really relying on power efficiency gains to deliver longer runtimes. As for its cameras, we’re looking at essentially the same general setup as on the Z Fold 4 highlighted by a 50-MP main camera, a 12-MP ultra-wide and a 10-MP telephoto with a 3x optical zoom. Though, Samsung says it’s added some new processing tricks.

The screens are also essentially the same. You still get a skinny baton-like shape with a 6.2-inch OLED Cover screen along with that big 7.6-inch main display on the inside, both of which sport 120Hz refresh rates. That main screen’s peak brightness is now the same as what you get on an S23 Ultra at 1,750 nits, which is rather impressive for a flexible display. That said, it still has a crease, which may be an issue for some. Those who can ignore the divot though, will find a few new gestures to make multitasking on that expansive screen just a bit easier.

Thanks to its new Flex Hinge, Samsung was able to almost completely eliminate the gap between the phone's halves when closed.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

When you want to quickly get into side-by-side app view, there’s a simple two-finger swipe in from the left or right. Alternatively, if you want to minimize an app into windowed mode, there’s a new diagonal swipe in from the corner of the display. You can also drag and drop files and photos from one app to another without being in multitasking mode by touching and holding on something, and then using a different finger to open a new app from the taskbar. Granted, this feels kind of clunky. Depending on where things are on the screen, sometimes it feels like you’re playing Twister with your fingers. But I like the direction Samsung is going, it reminds me of dragging a file down to the taskbar in Windows which gives you more of a taste of desktop-style productivity. And while the taskbar is largely the same as before, there are now four spots for recent apps (up from just two).

Finally, while there’s still no room for it inside the device itself, Samsung has created a new S Pen for the Galaxy Z Fold 5 that’s around 40 percent thinner than before that works with a revamped and more compact phone case so there’s somewhere to stash it when it’s not being used.

However, my issue with the Z Fold 5 is that while a lot of the changes are nice in a vacuum, for a company that has had such a head start in the foldable phone space, it seems like Samsung isn’t pushing that advantage as hard as it should. On the Pixel Fold, which is Google’s first foldable phone by the way, we got an interesting new design that’s even thinner than the Z Fold 5 while having a similarly sized screen plus a longer 5x optical zoom, not to mention Google’s superior photo processing. And other big foldables from China, like the Oppo Find N2, are doing a better job at eliminating the crease.

But perhaps more importantly, the Z Fold 5 still costs $1,800, which is ludicrously expensive. That’s kind of disappointing because after five generations, you like to see Samsung leverage its size to scale down the price of foldables. And for something like the Z Flip series, Samsung actually has done a decent job of that. The original Z Flip costs just shy of $1,500 dollars at launch, but Samsung has brought that price down to $1,000. Meanwhile, the first Z Fold started at just under $2,000, and has only come down by $200 over five generations.

The Z Fold 5 features the same basic camera setup as last year's phone including a 50-MP main camera, a 12-MP ultra-wide camera and a 10-MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Price is still by far the biggest barrier to entry when it comes to large flagship foldables. But if Samsung could bring the Z Fold line closer to $1,500 (even though that would still be very expensive), it would give Samsung a huge leg up on rivals like the Pixel Fold. So while I like the Z Fold 5’s sleeker design, brighter screen and improved multitasking, I still kind of feel like Samsung should be doing more.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 will be available in three main colors: Icy Blue, Phantom Black and cream along with gray and blue options which will be available exclusively from The Z Fold 5 will start at $1,800 with pre-orders going live today at Samsung and Amazon ahead of an official on-sale date of August 11th.

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