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The Z Fold 5 is Samsung’s best foldable but I hate it

The first Galaxy Fold was a problematic fave, but the latest has soured me on the whole concept.

Galaxy Z Fold 5 device
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
3 out of 5 stars
3
Processor
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Display
6.2-inch + 7.6-inch
Storage
Starts at 256GB
Fergus Halliday
Aug 10, 2023
Icon Time To Read8 min read

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Quick verdict: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 shaves off all the sharp edges that might have put folks off foldable smartphones in the past, but what's left rarely feels worth the trouble let alone the high price-point.

pro
Pros
pro Fantastic for multitasking
pro Zero gap hinge
pro Top-notch specs
con
Cons
con Disappointing camera
con S-Pen feels like an afterthought
con Premium price

The difference between the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and its first-gen counterpart might be night and day, but the novelty value isn't what it once was.

Writ large, the Galaxy Z Fold has stepped up to fill the void the Galaxy Note left. It's not just a foldable. It's the flagship one that every other is measured against. The halo handset for sickos who want every bell, whistle and ounce of cool tech that Samsung can muster squeezed into a smartphone.

On the other hand, the premium price and the extra worries that having a foldable phone involves are still hard to overlook and Samsung's ambition hasn't always kept up with reality. The gap between the idea and execution has grown smaller with each passing generation, but so has the sense of magic that having a device with a foldable screen evokes. There is some innovation and improvement to be found here, but it's narrowed to the point of invisibility.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 feels like the conclusion of a five-year journey, but it left me questioning whether all of the caveats are worth it. When its predecessors left me dazzled, this year's flagship for futuristic phones left me disappointed. Somehow, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has turned me from a foldable fan to a hater.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold vs Z Fold 5

How much does Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 cost in Australia?

Starts at $2,599

Australian pricing for the new Galaxy Z Fold 5 starts at $2599. That's $200 more than the starting price of last year's Galaxy Z Fold 4 and a sum total that makes it one of the most expensive smartphones you can buy in Australia right now. Only the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Samsung's own Galaxy S23 Ultra come close.

Check out the table below for a quick round-up of how much each model of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 costs at launch from a selection of Australian retailers.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is also available on a plan through Telstra, Vodafone and Optus.

At the time of writing, the provider with the cheapest Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 plan in Australia is Vodafone. Paired up with Vodafone's $45 Small plan, you're looking at $117.19 per month on a 36-month contract.

While Vodafone doesn't have the same level of coverage as Telstra or Optus do, it does have a cheaper price. You also get excess-charge-free data, $5 per day roaming when you need to go overseas and 5G coverage where you can get it.

To see how this plan compares to the other options available for the Galaxy Z Fold 5, check out the widget below.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 - design and features

Imperfection perfected
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 on display

Five years in, the magic trick at the heart of the Galaxy Z Fold hasn't changed all that much. Like its predecessors, the new Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a slimmer-than-usual smartphone that transforms into a tablet-ish slate whenever you need a bigger screen. Both halves of that headline act are Dynamic AMOLED 2X displays clocked at 120Hz this time around, so it feels like you're free to choose the form-factor that best suits whatever you happen to be doing at the time.

Even if it's not quite new, there's still something uncanny about seeing a screen contort in the way that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 does. If you have handled or encountered a device like this one before are more likely to notice the tweaks that Samsung has made this time around.

All this amounts to a familiar song and dance. The Z Fold 5 is both lighter and thinner, courtesy of a new hinge design that allows for it to fold flat rather than at an angle. There's also a less visible crease while savvy inclusions like Gorilla Glass Victus 2, Armor Aluminum and an IPX8 rating provide a welcome boost to durability.

The only thing that Samsung seems to have left on the table is the opportunity to better integrate the S-Pen. As with last year's model, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is compatible with Samsung's stylus. However, frustratingly, there's still no built-in storage for the accessory. You have to buy it separately and keep it in a compartment built into a case that adds to the cost, weight and size of the device.

Even if this year's Slim S Pen Case is less bulky and an easier sell than last year's, that it's still something you have to consider at all feels like a failure. While it seems unlikely that anyone Aussies are out there selecting their next phone based on hinge design or stylus storage, what's here feels like a targeted take-down of the infamous pain points associated with previous Z Fold devices.

The Z Fold 5 feels primed to please those still sitting on the fence as it is power-users poised to benefit from what is, on paper, the best multi-tasking smartphone out there.

While the lean profile of the 6.1-inch cover display does take a minute to adjust to, it's actually one of my favourite things about the Z Fold 5. The slimmer form factor helps offset the chunkiness of the handset when folded and made things like the Nothing Phone 1 seem almost comically wide by comparison. That said, the smaller screen did take a toll on my ability to type replies to messages without typos.

This wasn't the only wrinkle that bothered me about the Z Fold 5. The 7.6-inch interior screen is impressive to behold but often impractical to use. At best, you'll always need both hands to operate it effectively and even then Samsung's split keyboard layout has a learning curve to it. Writing on it with the S-Pen felt even more clumsy and uneven since the camera bump on the back of the device means that it never sits quite flat on a given surface.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Speaking of, the new Galaxy Z Fold 5 shares a lot with previous models when it comes to the number of cameras on the device and what it does with them. The back of the devices features a triple-lens setup that combines a 50MP main lens, a 12MP ultrawide and 10MP telephoto lens.

If that sounds familiar, that's because this is the exact same setup seen on last year's Galaxy Z Fold 4. This year's model has a new sensor and some software improvements, but it's safe to say that it isn't going to topple the Galaxy S23 Ultra when it comes to smartphone photography anytime soon.

In action, the primary camera hardware on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 felt reasonably responsive to use. However, that impression (and many of the pictures I took with the device) rarely held up to all that much scrutiny. The night mode feels both slower and more inconsistent than the likes of the iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro

Daylight snaps fared better, but some of the shine would come off when I took those images from the exterior screen to the interior one. Part of that is just one of those awkward realities that most of the images that smartphone cameras take are designed to be seen on a form factor just as small.

All the same,  the Z Fold 5 is one of the most expensive devices you can buy and the results that the camera on it delivers rarely come close to living up to the expectations that price brings with it. It's accomplished, but not quite awesome.

For a sense of what the camera on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 can do, check out the image gallery below.

Looking beyond that main camera system, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 also features a 10MP camera on the external display plus a 4MP under-display one built into the interior screen. This feature was introduced in Z Fold 3 and while it is technically just as cool a third time around, it's also extremely noticeable in a way that often detracts and distracts from the overall experience. Once spotted, you can't unsee it.

Now and again, the compromises that the Z Fold 5 asks you to make proves to be worth the trouble. The ability to seamlessly split-screen apps on a display this large is still something that no other smartphone can match. More often though, the device feels like a solution in search of a problem.

This situation isn't helped by the fact that the realities of having any foldable phone, even the best one, bring with a bucketful of extra worries. The Z Fold 5 has an IPX8 rating that protects against water damage, but a stray piece of sand at the beach could easily be the end of it. Five years on, the novelty has faded but these same fears persist.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 - Performance and battery life

A hardware hedge in favor of multitasking
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

As with the camera hardware, the performance story for Samsung's latest and greatest foldable phone is a familiar one. Under the hood, the device runs on the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor found inside the Galaxy S23 Ultra plus up to 12GB of RAM. Storage-wise, you're looking at the same variants as last year's Galaxy Z Fold 4.  You can get by with as little as 256GB or go as high as 1TB. Those hoping for support for storage expansion via MicroSD will be disappointed to learn it isn't here.

Those same holdouts probably won't be all that disappointed by the performance though. In action, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 more-or-less lived up to the premium performance that I expected of it. The apps loaded fast and the software experience was clean and smooth.

Gaming experiences like Diablo Immortal, Gunfire Reborn, Vampire Survivor and Call of Duty: Mobile all looked great on the larger interior display. The larger dimensions here actually made some games more comfortable than they would be on other flagship smartphones, though the squared-off aspect ratio sometimes proved less of a help and more of a hindrance.

Despite the unconventional form-factor, the overall software experience here is pretty solid. More than that, it feels mature. There are a ton of little touches that Samsung have applied to make the software side of the equation a little smoother. The integrated taskbar is probably the most notable inclusion but the ability to open an app on one screen and then have it seamlessly persist onto the other is another example of this.

Even after a few weeks with the Galaxy Z Fold 5, it's hard to shake the sense I'm still only scratching the surface of the potential productivity hacks that Samsung have built into this version of Android.

These strengths are aided by the fact that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is powered by a 4400mAh battery on par with the one found in the previous model. For obvious reasons, your mileage may vary based on both how you use your phone, how frequently you use your phone and how often you make use of 5G.

Still, I could comfortably cruise through two solid days on a single charge, with something like six and a half to seven hours of screentime. Burned down from a full charge to 0% by video streaming via YouTube, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 lasted 18 hours and 44 minutes. That's not the best result ever, but it feels like a respectable one given the hardware involved.

Galaxy Z Flip 5 vs Galaxy Z Fold 5

Most of the features for $1000 less

There are a few foldable smartphones out there that compete with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 on form factor, but I don't think it's unrealistic to say that the Z Flip 5 is its biggest competitor.

Buying the Galaxy Z Flip 5 means saving $1000 but opting for a device that makes a standard smartphone even smaller rather than bigger. The main weakness here, aside from losing out on perks like support for the S-Pen and a more powerful triple-lens rear camera, is that the smaller handset isn't as capable as a stand-in for a tablet.

If you'd prefer to go with the Galaxy Z Flip 5 instead, check out the widget below for a round-up of the cheapest plans for that device.

Is Galaxy Z Fold 5 worth buying?

Thanks, I hate it.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

After five generations, it feels like Samsung has finally built the phone that the first Galaxy Z Fold tried to be. If you want a smartphone with a screen that gets bigger when you need it to, this is the best version of that idea that money can buy.

Unfortunately, the technical merits of that achievement are overshadowed by the fact that the reality of relying on Z Fold 5 isn't nearly as transformative as you might hope. The thrill of seeing a screen bend in a way that it shouldn't just isn't enough to justify the compromises that come with it anymore. The fact that it only took a few days for me to stare longingly at the sub-$1000 Android phone sitting on my desk says a lot.

Samsung's latest and greatest foldable smartphone isn't just dogged by diminishing returns and harsh realities. It's brought low by them. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is probably heavier than your average smartphone and it's definitely more expensive. It might enable you to do things you can't with a normal handset but, even at its best, none of it is all that different from the one Samsung made last year.

Even if it's never truly awful, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is all too often disappointing in a way that's difficult to reconcile with the asking price. Wake me up when Samsung stop trying to build a fancier foldable and starts trying to make a cheaper one.

How does the Galaxy Z Fold 5 compare?

Product
Our score
Price
Processor
Screen size
More info
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
From
$2199
Snapdragon 8 Gen 26.8-inches
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
From
$1399
A15 Bionic6.1-inches
4 out of 5 stars
4
From
$1499
Snapdragon 8+ Gen 16.7-inches
4 out of 5 stars
4
From
$1399
Snapdragon 8886.55-inches
4 out of 5 stars
4
From
$1249
Snapdragon 8 Gen 16.1-inch
Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

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