The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the best foldable phone money can buy. Quite a lot of money, though, and it’s not hugely changed from last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 4.
|It’s the best foldable phone money can buy…||…Quite a lot of money, to be clear.|
|Thinner S-Pen is a great design change…||…But the S-Pen costs extra|
|Fast performance||Iterative, not evolutionary|
Buy the Galaxy Z Fold 5 on Amazon
I’ve long been in the camp that said that if you wanted a folding phone, then it made sense to get something that got a lot bigger from a regular starting base, rather than something that folded down smaller from a standard size. It’s why I’ve long championed Samsung’s Galaxy Fold line over its Flips.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is, as the name suggests, the fifth in Samsung’s line of phones that fold open a like a book to reveal a miniature tablet design, and while it’s an iterative product rather than something that’s massively evolved this year, it’s still, for my money, the best foldable you can buy…
With some caveats. The elephant in the room here (besides price) is that here in Australia, it’s basically the only large format foldable phone line you can buy.
The Pixel Fold exists, yes, but not for official sale here. The Microsoft Surface Duo does still exist here, but it’s getting a tad long in the tooth, I feel. Huawei does continue to offer its Mate X line of foldables through a very limited number of retailers, but at eye-watering prices (even by foldable standards) and without Google Mobile Services on board, which makes them all but impossible to recommend.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is an astonishingly good phone at a seriously stiff price point, but it’s not like it’s got serious local competition for that crown.
Like its predecessors, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 presents itself first as a nearly standard smartphone with a front-facing 6.2 inch display that unfolds out to reveal a 120Hz capable 7.6 inch interior screen. That difference of 1.4 inches might not seem like much, but you need to bear in mind that phone screens are measured diagonally, so the interior display gives you a lot more room to play with.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that at a screen level you’re looking at essentially the same panel dimensions as Samsung’s offered since the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It has gained a little in peak brightness for both the cover display and main screen, up to 1750 nits, which aids in viewing in brighter spaces, but it’s otherwise a very familiar story if you’ve ever used a Fold before.
Where Samsung has done some engineering work is in making it thinner and lighter than previous generations. This is always something of a problem with foldable phones, because anything folded in half naturally gets thicker as a result.
The difference in thinness over the Galaxy Z Fold 4 isn’t huge – it’s more marked compared to the Z Fold 3 or earlier phones – and the drop in weight of 10g, while neat engineering, really isn’t felt much unless you’re dropping them on scales on a regular basis. It’s good to see, and it does fold flat into a more pleasing configuration, but overall the effective difference in daily use isn’t considerable.
As every phone maker does, there are new colour choices in play as well. All retailers sell models in Icy Blue, Phantom Black or Cream finishes, while Samsung Australia keeps Grey and Blue hues to its online stores only. Samsung loaned me an “Icy Blue” model for testing. It’s a very nice colour to be sure… that I haven’t seen much of at all during my review period, because it’s almost entirely been encased within the new Slim S-Pen case.
In design terms, it turns out that the biggest change Samsung’s made to the Galaxy Z Fold 5 isn’t on the phone itself. It’s with the S-Pen stylus.
Previous generations of Galaxy Fold only worked with specific S-Pens made to accommodate its flexible screen, but they were of the classic rounded S-Pen shape, which made them bulky.
The new Slim S-Pen is indeed slim. Really, it’s more of an S-Stick than a pen now, but the benefit here is that it absolutely does fit flat in the Slim S-Pen Case. Bad news if you’re an S-Pen afficionado is that it’s still not a standard part of Samsung’s $2,599+ phone. If you want the S-Pen Slim Case, be ready to drop an additional $169 for the case and S-Pen combo in Graphite, Icy Blue or Sand tones.
One minor criticism here is that while Samsung did provide me with the “matching” Icy Blue Slim S-Pen Case, it’s actually a different blue tone to the phone itself. You can’t see that with the two-part case on, but still, it’d be nice to be a closer colour match at that price.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is Samsung’s most expensive phone, so it’s got the best cameras Samsung can provide, right?
Well… not really. This is one area where Samsung’s made basically no changes to the camera recipe year on year, with the same (deep breath) 50MP wide, 10MP telephoto and 12MP ultrawide cameras on the “back” of the phone, 10MP cover camera and 4MP in-display camera on the main phone screen as the Galaxy Z Fold 4. What that means is that while the Galaxy S23 Ultra saw camera upgrades this year, the corresponding Fold phone did not.
This is, to be fair, not a bad recipe at all for decent photographic results, especially for those who want to just take a picture and let Samsung’s AI efforts smooth out the rough edges. The in-display 4MP camera could use some sharpening up, but then it’s best used for if you need videoconferencing from your tablet rather than as a serious selfie snapper.
The folded down design of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 actually makes it a more appealing camera phone than you might think, because the added thickness makes it considerably easier to hold and stabilise for most shots, even up to its maximum 30x “Space Zoom”. As it’s long been, unless you’ve got a tripod Space Zoom is more of a gimmick than anything else. Even with a tripod it’s not great.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold’s camera works well, but I do wish this was one area where Samsung rewarded its premium phone buyers with some real innovation. Instead, Fold users are basically left in the queue behind the Galaxy S Ultra buyers, because that’s where Samsung tends to throw its best sensors and fanciest innovations.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Sample Photos
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 follows the Galaxy S23 Ultra in being one of only a handful of phones available locally running on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Indeed, it’s slightly more than that, given that it’s the “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy” variant. It’s essentially a slightly overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 at both CPU and GPU level.
Having recently tested out the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, another phone that plays around with clock speeds for performance gains, I was keen to see how the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s CPU and 12GB RAM combination could do.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate Review
First stop, Geekbench 6’s CPU test:
Nothing beats Apple in the Android space for sheer CPU grunt, but the Galaxy Z Fold 5 comes as close as anything I’ve tested to date.
And then on the graphics front, 3DMark’s Wild Life Extreme shows a different picture:
Is the Galaxy Z Fold 5 a gaming phone by that definition?
It’s certainly a contender, though a rather indulgent one at this price. Have I played some games on it to be sure? You bet I have, but good luck convincing your boss that you need the Galaxy Z Fold 5 on the basis of its gaming prowess.
All of that power needs something to do, and this is where I really do think that the larger format foldable phones truly shine, because multitasking on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is an absolute joy.
The expanded main screen gives you plenty of space for desktop style windows to be floated around and resized at will, and everything just flows beautifully.
There’s a bit of a learning curve here around where the taskbar and command buttons sit, as well as the slightly strange default split keyboard that some won’t like, to be sure. Still, if you want a premium phone that really can push its CPU and GPU hard and justify some of its price as a result, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is it.
Also, naturally, it’s S-Pen compatible if you drop the extra cash on the Slim S-Pen case. Here it’s much the same story it’s ever been, and I’m not (to be honest) a huge S-Pen aficionado. The only observation I’d make here is that while the slim style makes for easier case carrying, it’s also correspondingly less robust in the hand. You’re no longer sketching, annotating or screen capturing with a pen, but instead a small pointy stick.
Samsung’s made some interesting claims around the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s battery performance. It’s packing the same 4400mAh battery as the prior generation, but the claim is that it has the “longest lasting battery in the Galaxy Z Fold series”.
That’s presumably going to be attributed to the increased efficiencies of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, though overclocking it and ramping up the screen brightness aren’t steps traditionally associated with increased battery life.
As always, these matters are relative, because your app and phone usage can massively change the way the battery lasts during a given day. During my short review period I’ve certainly been able to get the Galaxy Z Fold 5 to last out an average day, but I’ve also been able to send it flat within a day if I tried hard enough.
To give it some comparative perspective, I ran my standard YouTube rundown test across the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s main screen, taking a fully charged phone and running a 1080p video for an hour at maximum brightness and moderate volume.
This isn’t a brutal exhaustion test, but phone that can’t manage 90% remaining after that hour often struggle to last a regular work day. Here’s how the Galaxy Z Fold 5 compares against a range of premium handsets:
91% is exactly what the Galaxy Z Fold 4 managed in the same test last year, despite Samsung’s claims of improved battery performance. It’s not a terrible score, but clearly for a $2,599+ phone, it could be a lot better.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 supports both wireless charging at up to 15W, or wired charging at up to 25W. Like a lot of Samsung’s flagship phones, you also get reverse wireless charging – Samsung calls it Wireless Power Share – though the icons for this have to be added to the notification blind if you want to use this.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: Alex’s Verdict
In a lot of ways, Samsung hasn’t done much with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 compared to last year’s model. But does it have to?
This is a market where locally there really aren’t credible competitors right now, and even internationally Google’s still on first-effort terms, so Samsung has some breathing room there.
It hasn’t gone backwards in any significant way, and anyone thinking that they need to upgrade from the Galaxy Z Fold 4 needs their head examined, frankly.
If your wallet can bear the cost, and you want the best in foldable phones right now, this is it.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: Pricing and availability
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 retails in Australia from $2,599 with 256GB of storage, $2799 with 512GB of storage or $3149 with 1TB of storage.
You can pick one up (and help out this independent media site) by using the Amazon button below: