REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G gets lower price, more durable body

Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2021 08:31 AM

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MANILA - The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G builds on the best features of its predecessor and adds some cool features that make it even better for productivity. 

This third-generation folding smartphone has also gotten more durable, slimmed down a bit, and most importantly, dropped more than P20k in price. For business users, this is likely the best phone money can buy right now.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Galaxy Z Fold3 is Samsung’s flagship smartphone that uses a flexible folding screen. Folded up, it looks like a slightly narrower 6.2-inch phone, that seems very thick on the side--reminiscent of Nokia Communicator bricks businesspeople carried in the early aughts. 

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But once unfolded, it transforms into a 7.6-inch squarish tablet, and that’s where the magic happens. The extra screen real estate means you can see much more of the web pages you are browsing, the documents you are reading or editing, and the videos you are watching. 

If you’re a business user who needs to browse web pages or spreadsheets on the go, compose an email or report, use 2 different apps at once, you will really like this phone. 

It’s also great for watching Netflix, YouTube and video in general because the larger screen size simply makes for a better viewing experience. Gaming on this thing is also a cut above the rest, maybe even better than gaming-oriented phones right now, at least while the battery lasts.

It also now works with a special S Pen stylus for taking down notes and sketching.

The Z Fold3 now works with the S Pen stylus. Handout photo
The Z Fold3 now works with the S Pen stylus. Handout photo

While Samsung’s first gen Fold was something of a miss, the second generation Z Fold 2 was right on the mark and more than made up for its predecessor’s lapses. It easily collected praises from gadget pundits who gushed over its refined phone/tablet transformation. 

But still, I couldn’t help thinking of it as a niche product. The Z Fold2 had a very high price tag, and compared to non-folding smartphones, it just didn’t seem as robustly constructed. For a high-end device, it also lacked water resistance.

The Z Fold3 meanwhile seems set to take foldables out of the niche and into the mainstream. Samsung has lowered the price tag, and made this foldable even more robust. 

But first let’s get the specs out of the way. As this is a flagship, you can rightly expect that the best tech went into making this. There’s a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 12GB of RAM, 120Hz AMOLED display on both the folded and unfolded screens, 5G connectivity and stereo speakers. 

If you have a Bluetooth keyboard, you can use the Z Fold3 to write and edit documents as the screen is large and sharp enough. Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News
If you have a Bluetooth keyboard, you can use the Z Fold3 to write and edit documents as the screen is large and sharp enough. Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

It has a triple camera system at the back, with a telephoto, wide and ultrawide lenses which all capture images at 12MP resolution. It’s got a 10 MP wide selfie camera on the cover screen, and a 4MP ‘under-the-display’ selfie camera on the bigger unfolded screen. 

Samsung is pretty proud of this “invisible” selfie camera, and I actually think it’s a great design improvement over a notch or a punch hole at the top of the screen. But the image quality is not up-to-par with the regular selfie camera. Also, the camera hole is not really invisible, you can see it if you look for it.

The Z Fold3’s battery meanwhile is 4400 mAh, which is strangely lower than the 4500 mAh battery on the Z Fold2. While the missing 100 mAh may not seem much, it was still weird that Samsung would shave battery capacity at the same time that it ramped up the folded screen’s refresh rate from 60 Hz to 120 Hz. 

I guess that slightly smaller battery is partly to credit for the slightly slimmer profile of the Z Fold3, which lost 2 mm in heft from the previous generation. 

Playing Genshin Impact on the Z Fold3 is more enjoyable thanks to its large screen. Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News
Playing Genshin Impact on the Z Fold3 is more enjoyable thanks to its large screen. Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

Besides slightly slimming down the Fold3, Samsung also made it more robust. This device now uses an Armor Aluminum frame, which is 10 percent more durable to protect the interior parts of the hinge.

The Z Fold3’s exterior cover screen and back cover meanwhile are equipped with Gorilla Glass Victus, which Samsung says can survive drops up to 2 meters and has 4X better scratch resistance than other materials used in many smartphones.

Samsung also added IPX8 water resistance to the Z Fold3, which means it can survive being drenched in the rain. 

When I reviewed the Z Fold 2 last year, I remarked that it could use a stylus, like the S Pen that Samsung provides for its Note (and now S21 Ultra) smartphones. The large screen seemed perfect for taking down notes, or even doing sketches and drawings. 

Apparently many other Z Fold users also had the same idea, and Samsung took note of this. The result is that the Z Fold 3 can now use a special S Pen stylus designed specifically for it. 

I was not fortunate enough to have gotten hold of an S Pen, though, as it is sold separately and units had yet to arrive in the country while I was doing this review. 

Still, the addition of a stylus is a great new feature for this already feature-packed phone. 

When it comes to photography, the Z Fold3 is no slouch either, as you can expect from a Samsung flagship. Here are some sample shots.

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But while it can take really good photos, the Galaxy S21 Ultra still has a better camera system. The Z Fold3 would have been close to perfect, if Samsung had given this the same cameras in the S21 Ultra, and other tech pundits scored Samsung over this “oversight.”

However, going for a less sophisticated camera system in the Z Fold3 was probably a business decision for Samsung to keep the price a bit more affordable. 

While the 2nd gen Fold was priced at P109,990 when it came out last year, the Z Fold3 has a slightly more affordable sticker of P87,990. That’s still a lot of money for a phone, but it’s a bit closer to the S21’s P69,990 price and the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s P70,990.