The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the latest - and most refined - foldable handset from the Korean giant, promising both a phone and tablet experience in a single device. Launched in August 2023 alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 5, early reviews praised the Galaxy Z Fold 5 for improvements to the design, a decent bump in performance, and a dizzying array of appealing foldable features.
How does it hold up after three months of use, however? Is it worth the premium price of entry after sustained lengths of time, and what are the benefits - and drawbacks - of owning a flexible phone in 2023?
In this review, I will try to answer these questions and more, based on my personal experiences.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is every bit the premium device with a sleek and sturdy aluminium frame, a matte glass rear, and a hinge that allows it to fold - and unfold - both smoothly and securely.
Now in its fifth iteration, revisions over predecessors lessen but still remain overly impactful. A huge one however, is the removal of any daylight from between the screens when closed.
This ‘zero gap’ ensures the inner screen remains protected, and hugely reduces the chance of any debris getting in and damaging those screens - a massive step in terms of lending more durability to a folding display.
It is also thinner and lighter than the Z Fold 4, weighing 253 grams.
It is also more durable with an IPX8 water resistance rating, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection on the front and back and a new protective film on the main display that makes it even more scratch-resistant.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 has two displays: a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X cover screen with a resolution of 2268 x 832 pixels and a 120Hz refresh rate, and a 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X fold-out main screen with a resolution of 2208 x 1768 pixels and also boasts up to a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate.
No notches here, as the main screen continues to host an under-display camera that is hidden (but not entirely invisible, depending on content) when not in use, giving it an immersive and uninterrupted viewing experience.
In my more than a decade of experience reviewing phones, there has not ever been a device more attractive to the tiny hands of children, who want to either watch Ms. Rachel on YouTube or play some Toca World on its expansive display.
Despite its robustness, this is simply not the kind of phone you hand over to the kids and let them go to town - the nature of the hinge as well as the sheer size of the internal screen makes it their favourite phone to steal if the main TV is occupied, but gives me palpitations in equal measure, every time they want to recklessly scroll through Google Photos or watch something on Netflix.
So be prepared for it to draw a great deal of attention from young and old alike…
The device has five cameras in total: a 10MP selfie camera on the cover screen, a 4MP effort housed underneath the main screen, and a triple rear camera setup consisting of a 50MP wide-angle lens, a 10MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens.
The device also has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers, and a 4400mAh battery that supports 25W wired charging, 11W wireless charging, and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Samsung, has 12GB of RAM as standard and models which span between 256GB and 1TB of internal storage, but with no expandable memory via a microSD card slot.
The device runs on Android 13 with One UI 5.1.1, and supports 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and USB-C connectivity.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 offers a stunning and versatile screen experience, whether you use it as a phone or a tablet. The cover screen is bright, sharp, and responsive, and it is great for checking notifications, making calls, and using apps that do not require a lot of screen space.
The 6.2-inch AMOLED cover screen is certainly the way you’ll find yourself using the phone most of the time, and - whilst used to it now - there’s no getting away from the fact that the dimensions are different to many phones as a daily driver.
Webpages still render beautifully, as well as being able to view content without unfurling the phone, but the Fold 5’s default keyboard, as well as Google’s Gboard became usable after some practice, because the device’s unique form factor when opened means that the dimensions of the front display are a good few millimetres narrower than a traditional smartphone.
A tiny concession, and one overcome with some experience, but it did take a little while getting used to it after being so used to the normal width of a phone.
The 7.2-inch main screen is even more impressive, with a high resolution, a smooth refresh rate, and a vivid and vibrant colour reproduction. The main screen also supports HDR10+, which enhances the contrast and dynamic range of content.
The main screen becomes the primary display for use at home - making it ideal for watching videos, playing games, and multitasking with up to three apps at once. The underscreen camera is almost imperceptible - almost - on the main screen, and it does not affect the quality of selfies or video calls at all.
The reality is more often than not two apps side-by-side, and I quickly fell into the habit of making notes whilst scrolling through Reddit or browsing whilst having Gmail on the other side of the screen to paste links into.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 also delivers a great audio experience, with loud and clear stereo speakers that support Dolby Atmos and offer a surround sound effect. The device does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but it does support wireless headphones and earbuds via Bluetooth. The device also has four microphones which capture clear and crisp sound for voice calls and recordings.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 houses five cameras in total: a 10MP selfie camera on the cover screen, a 4MP camera secreted on the main screen, and a triple rear camera setup consisting of a 12MP ultra wide lens, a 10MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, and leads with a 50MP wide-angle lens.
The camera array also supports the S Pen Fold Edition, which can be used to take selfies, record videos, and control the camera remotely.
The main camera of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 delivers good results in most situations, with accurate exposure, wide dynamic range, and natural colour rendering.
The level of detail is also high, especially in video mode, where the device can record 4K videos at 60fps with HDR10+ support. The device also handles exposure transitions smoothly and has a fast and reliable autofocus system.
The telephoto camera of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 offers a 3x optical zoom, which is useful for getting closer to distant subjects or for capturing portraits with a shallow depth of field. The image quality is generally good, with decent exposure, colour, and detail, but it does deliver some noise and artefacts in low light or challenging scenes.
The ultra-wide camera of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is great for capturing landscapes, architecture, or group shots. The image quality is also good, with minimal distortion, good exposure, and vivid colour. However, the level of detail is lower than the main camera, and some noise and chromatic aberration can be visible in the corners.
The selfie lens on the cover screen - as with all of the camera specs - of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 mirrors that of the Z Fold 4, and it produces decent selfies with good exposure, colour, and detail.
The device also has a portrait mode, which can blur the background and apply some beautification effects. The camera under the main screen, however, is less impressive with a lower resolution, a narrow aperture, and noticeable pixelation around the camera area itself - more than serviceable for video calls and the like, but definitely not what you should be using as your primary snapper.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has a great camera system, even more impressive given the form factor leaving little room for such a stellar set-up.
It can capture nice photos and videos in most situations, but it can also struggle in some scenarios, especially in low light or with the under-display lens.
So whilst the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is not the first choice for photography enthusiasts, it’s a fantastic option for casual users who value the foldable design and the large screen in concert with strong camera performance.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 runs on Android 13 with One UI 5.1.1, a custom skin that is designed to optimise the foldable experience. One UI offers a smooth and intuitive interface with tailored aspects to the Fold 5’s novel form factor as well as a dedicated dark mode, an edge panel (less useful with so much screen real estate), a quick settings panel, and a notification shade to pull down for key updates.
One UI also supports Samsung DeX, a feature that allows you to connect the device to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, and use it as a desktop computer.
One thing that took some getting used to was typing on the inner keyboard. That 7.2-inch display is fairly wide, but I’d suggest getting used to the split keyboard which separates it onto either side of the device, with some keys being repeated in the inner-most portions for ease of use with either hand.
It looks and feels a tad weird at the outset, but I was cranking out emails and browser prompts like a demon within the first couple of weeks of use. It’s just another novelty that the form factor brings to how to interact with a smartphone that’s not the vanilla single-screen experience.
One of the main advantages of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is its multitasking capabilities, which are enhanced by One UI. The device allows you to run up to three apps simultaneously on the main screen, and resize, rearrange, and swap them as you wish.
You can also customise whether you’d like the cover screen and the main screen to mirror one another in layout, but after long term use I’ve found the situations for both being so distinct that changing up what is accessible on each to be far more practical.
More content consumption apps on the tablet view with a nice big search bar, and all my key daily apps on the homescreen for daily use.
The split-screen, pop-up and multi-window views give a multitude of flexibility in terms of how to use multiple apps simultaneously, and the drag and drop feature, which lets you move text, images, and files from one app to another with ease becomes a godsend when being productive on the device.
Speaking of productivity, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 also supports the S Pen Fold Edition, a stylus that can be used on the main screen for various functions.
The pen has a retractable tip that prevents it from damaging the display, and it has a button that activates the Air Command menu, which gives you access to various features, such as creating notes, drawing, edits, translating, and more.
The S Pen Fold Edition is sold separately for £54, and it comes with a case that can store and charge it, but it adds some bulk and weight to the device. Also do note that the Fold 5 doesn’t have a recess in the body in which to hold an S Pen, but there’s no shortage of dedicated cases and covers which can handle that.
In terms of software updates, there have been a few minor ones to iron out kinks since the August launch, but we’re now seeing builds of the new One UI 6.0 rolling out for Samsung’s suite of devices, which promise updates and refinements to the user experience across everything from emojis to a dedicated camera widget.
So the software remains great, and looks to have a bright future when it comes to support for the Galaxy Fold 5 moving forward.
As mentioned, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is one of the most powerful and capable devices on the market, thanks to its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor.
Launching with an exclusive variant on Samsung devices and arriving to the market via other manufacturers like Vivo and Oneplus, the Gen 2 chip remains the leading processor on the market when it comes to Android horsepower, and it’s certainly brought to bear in the Fold 5, where efficient multitasking is a must.
The device also has 12GB of RAM and between 256GB and 1TB of internal storage, which ensures a smooth and lag-free performance, even when running multiple apps or heavy games.
The Fold 5 can handle any task you throw at it, from browsing the web, to streaming videos, to editing photos, to playing games, and more.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 also has a good thermal management system, which prevents it from overheating or throttling, even when under heavy load.
The device has a larger vapour chamber cooling system, which dissipates the heat from the chipset and the battery, and keeps the device at a comfortable temperature.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 has a 4400mAh battery, identical to that of the Z Fold 4, but it continues to offer a decent battery life, especially considering the large and high quality screens of the device.
The device can last for a full day of moderate use, or for about 10 hours of heavy use, depending on settings and the patterns - this was a combination of music on the commute and predominant cover screen in the morning, moving to the inner screens during the day, and more traditional viewing of content and a bit of browsing on the way home.
The device also supports 25W wired charging, 15W wireless charging via the Qi standard, and 4.5W reverse wireless charging, all convenient and versatile ways to charge the device, or those of others.
The Fold 5 also has some nifty performance settings, which lets you adjust the power and temperature to optimise for either the best performance or best battery life. This last point is an important feature, as naturally the multi-screen machine that this is can use up a lot of juice when under heavy load.
However, I found that choosing the ‘light’ profile - which prioritises battery and cooling efficiency over muscle - increased the battery life by around 15 - 20%, with almost no discernible difference in terms of day-to-day performance, definitely an option to try for yourself!
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is available in three main colours: Phantom Black, Cream, Icy Blue, with two variants - grey and a deeper blue - exclusive to Samsung’s own webstore.
The device has three storage options: 256GB, 512GB and 1TB, with UK pricing at £1,749 for 256GB, £1,849 for 512GB, and £2,049 for the 1TB model.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a remarkable device that showcases the potential as well as the rapid progress of foldable technology. It is a device that offers a phone and tablet experience in one, and it excels in both modes.
It has a stunning and versatile screen, powerful and fast performance, a great camera system, decent battery life, and is blessed with an array of features and options to customise - and optimise - the device.
It is also more durable, more refined, and more polished than previous generations, and it supports the S Pen Fold Edition, which adds another dimension to the device when put through its productivity paces.
However, the device is not perfect, and it has some drawbacks in that it remains expensive technology, as well as needing a bit of a learning curve to adapt to making the most of the ways of the foldable. It is a device that still requires a lot of care, and a degree of accommodation, but will reward the effort to get accustomed in spades.
So whilst this may not be the device that takes this exciting new form factor mainstream, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a great choice without reservation for enthusiasts, and is no doubt a glimpse of what’s to come as this fantastic foldable technology arrives to more devices, and at more accessible price points in due course.