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Hands-on review: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G

By Nick Forrester, Wed 3 Nov 2021

Before getting my hands on Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3, I must admit that I was sceptical. 

A sceptic, mostly, of the ‘fold out’ functionality of Samsung’s Fold series, as opposed to its ‘fold over’ functionality of its sibling, the Flip.

At face value, the Flip made more sense to me, as it utilised its flip mechanic to reduce its form factor. The Fold, on the other hand, uses its fold mechanic to increase its form factor — trying, in the process, to mimic a tablet. 

As an average, everyday phone user, I initially placed more value on the increased portability and convenience of the Flip. After all, I already have a tablet — why do I need a device that’s a hybrid of a phone and a tablet? 

But after reviewing the Galaxy Z Fold 3, I’ve come around — and it’s my favourite foldable phone (so far).

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a tale of two screens — the cover display shown in its folded state, and the open, unfolded screen. The triumph of this phone for me is that I used both screens equally. 

When I was checking notifications, quickly responding to messages, using the camera or talking on the phone, the folded cover display screen worked as a regular phone’s display would — albeit a rather tall, narrow one. I never quite got used to the oddly narrow 6.2 inch folded screen, but it served my purposes well.

When it was time for the heavier-duty actions, such as watching videos, typing emails or long messages, playing games, scrolling social media and virtually anything else, I relished in opening the hinge to reveal the large 7.6 inch ‘unfolded’ display.

The thing that won me over completely, though, was the phone’s ability to double as an e-book reader — one that I preferred over my own tablet. Over lockdown, I took up reading as a way to pass the time without contact with the outside world, and the 7.6-inch unfolded screen was the perfect size to power through the books on my to-read list. 

It meant that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 was my one-stop shop for everything: I watched videos, I played games, I read books, I scrolled Twitter, I kept in touch with friends and family. The two-in-one nature of this phone took my perception of personal devices and flipped it on its head. No longer did I believe that I needed both a phone and a tablet — this device has, in my opinion, successfully meshed the two. 

Both screens benefitted immensely from the hefty 120Hz refresh rate — and after reviewing this device, it’s tough to go back to regular 60Hz. The difference between the two, especially when scrolling social media or through long web pages, is enormous. 

The display was also extremely bright, almost 30% more so than its predecessor. This helped immensely when I felt the urge to read my book in the sun. 

One of my chief complaints about last year’s Galaxy Z Flip was the flip function’s ‘gimmicky-ness’ — the phone’s ability to flip served no purpose other than to reduce the device’s form factor. But with the Fold 3, the fold functionality served a purpose that I actually used: Flex Mode.

Using Flex Mode with the phone folded part of the way, you can partition the content on the top half of the fold and the controls on the bottom half. I found this was useful when watching YouTube, where I could use the fold function and treat the phone as a sort of laptop when eating breakfast or doing the dishes.

Some areas could be improved upon. The cameras didn’t wow me, and the battery life was not what I expected of a phone with this price tag. Not all apps were compatible with the 7.6-inch screen (Instagram being the chief example), and the folded display screen was a bit too narrow to do any heavy-duty tasks. 

It’s also on the pricey side, at NZ$2,700 for the base model with 256GB of storage and 12GB RAM. 

But this is the best device I’ve seen yet with a claim to be a two-in-one phone + tablet. It straddles the two nicely, and I found I never felt the urge to go back to my own personal phone or tablet once while using the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

It’s a good bet for anyone looking to upgrade their phone and consolidate their personal devices.

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