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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5 hands-on: The more things change
2023 really feels like the year when the global foldable market became more than just The Samsung Show. The likes of Google, HONOR, Motorola, and OPPO have all offered foldable phones outside China this year, and we’re expecting a few more releases before the year is out.
You’d think Samsung would step up its game to maintain its lead now that it has to share the global foldable spotlight with several other brands. But is this actually the case? It’s time to find out in our Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 hands-on.
Design: The real Slim Sammy?
Samsung made a point of noting that its two new foldable phones are thinner than their predecessors, with the Z Flip 5 measuring 15.1mm when folded and the Z Fold 5 coming in at 13.4mm thin when folded. Otherwise, unfolded, you’re looking at roughly the same thickness as last year’s phones.
Samsung says the new foldables are thinner than last year's models, but that only applies to the devices while folded.
The slightly thinner folded design is enabled by a new hinge on both handsets that goes some way to making Samsung’s phones feel a little less bulky. Samsung claims this is a zero-gap hinge, but I still noticed a small vent when looking at the Z Fold 5. And I didn’t need to hold my eye up to the gap, either. Still, the much smaller slit also makes for a slightly less ungainly handset.
You only need to look at each phone to realize that the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is unquestionably the bigger design upgrade. That’s due to the much larger, folder-shaped cover display (or Flex Window, to use Samsung’s term). But more on this design change in a bit.
Otherwise, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 looks and feels like a very incremental upgrade in terms of design. I was hard-pressed to tell the difference between it and its predecessor when looking at the back of the device. The company has basically just switched the position of the rear camera flash but has otherwise stuck with the same camera housing design. While I’m glad to see the zero-gap hinge being used here to facilitate a slightly thinner design when folded, the likes of the Google Pixel Fold have it easily beat in this regard.
The new foldables also tout an IPX8 rating once again, marking the third generation of Samsung foldables supporting this standard. You could argue that this is no longer the differentiating factor it once was now that the Google Pixel Fold and a few other global foldables have similar water resistance. But it’s still a handy measure of durability for your expensive device. We’re still eagerly awaiting some measure of dust resistance, especially now that Motorola’s Razr Plus has an IP52 rating.
Expect to find the Galaxy Z Flip 5 in Cream, Graphite, Lavender, and Mint color options. Meanwhile, Samsung.com customers can also find the device in Gray, Blue, Green, and Yellow. Like the idea of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 more? Then it’s available in Cream, Icy Blue, and Phantom Black color schemes. The Fold 5 is also available in Gray and Blue via Samsung.com.
Display: A tale of two halves?
The Z Flip 5’s Flex Window is Samsung’s biggest addition to the foldable Android phone family, bringing a cover screen size more in line with the likes of Motorola. This isn’t a typical smartphone screen of course, but I still found it big enough that I could see myself using the device a little more often while closed.
It is just a 60Hz panel, though, unlike Motorola’s 120Hz cover screens. Then again, I think it’s absolute overkill to offer a high refresh rate on a cover display in the first place, and I didn’t experience any noticeable judder when I briefly used the Flip 5’s Flex Window. Samsung definitely made the right decision here.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5's Flex Window is a long-overdue upgrade, but we're curious to see if Samsung will get the software right.
We didn’t spend a lot of time with the Flex Window software, but Samsung confirmed that we’ve got 13 widgets available here. These include a calendar, fitness tracking, the weather, an alarm, and more. You can also use a full-sized keyboard on this display, reducing the need to use the main screen for some tasks. Samsung is also offering the likes of WhatsApp and Google Maps support via its experimental Labs functionality.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to download a Good Lock module to force any app to run on the Flex Window. That’s not quite as seamless as the Motorola Razr series, which allows you to do so out of the box, without additional apps. Still, it looks like cover screens are finally more useful in 2023.
The display love on the Flip 5 wasn’t restricted to the Flex Window, as the folding screen also features a less prominent display crease. I noticed the reduced crease size in my brief time with the device; it felt more in line with rival flip phones and tentatively seemed to be a notable improvement over the Z Flip 4. We’d need a proper side-by-side with the Z Flip 4 to see the difference, but it seems like Samsung has reduced the crease size and feel in a significant way here.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: Hot or not?
What about the Z Fold 5’s displays, then? Well, you’re looking at virtually identical dimensions and aspect ratios compared to last year’s phone, for starters. You’ve still got a narrow, 23.1:9 aspect ratio for the smartphone display — a bit of a bummer because the phone still feels like a TV remote. We’ve also got what seems like a slightly reduced folding display crease, but it remains more visible than the Flip 5’s small dip. Otherwise, the same 21.6:18 aspect ratio is available on this inner screen. You’ll therefore need to rotate the phone for landscape-oriented videos again, unlike the Pixel Fold.
Samsung is also touting a brighter screen on the Z Fold 5 in particular, coming in at 1,750 nits peak brightness. You’re still looking at 1,200 nits in high-brightness mode, however. Both phones’ displays got bright enough while checking them out indoors, but it’s not like the Fold 4 and Flip 4 were disappointing in the first place. Plus, the real test will be when using the screens in the harsh outdoors under the sun.
Specs: You’ve seen most of this before
Performance is handled by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip in both foldables, making these devices the most powerful foldable phones on the market as of this writing. It’s too early to make any judgments, but we didn’t notice any obvious stutter or slowdown in our very brief time with both phones.
We’re also happy to see the Galaxy maker now offering 256GB of base storage in the Flip 5, with an option for 512GB as well. This is paired with 8GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the Fold 5 ships with 12GB of RAM and 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage.
There isn't much new with Samsung's foldables when you look under the hood, although more base storage for the Flip is certainly a welcome upgrade.
There are a few areas that haven’t seen upgrades, though, starting with the batteries. We’ve still got a 3,700mAh battery in the Flip 5 and a 4,400mAh battery in the Fold 5. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 should be more efficient than the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 and should theoretically make these phones last longer on a charge. Still, I’ve got some reservations about the Flip 5’s battery life in particular if that cover display is meant to be used more often.
Samsung is also retaining the same 25W wired charging speed and Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 tech for both foldables as last year’s models. We really hope the wired charging solution maintains peak wattages for longer, as the Z Fold 4 and Flip 4 both took over an hour to fully charge. Naturally for Samsung, you’re not getting a charger in the box.
Those expecting major camera upgrades might be disappointed, as we’re still looking at the same fundamental propositions this year. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 sticks with a dual rear setup consisting of a 12MP main shooter and a 12MP ultrawide lens, but at least the company is offering improved lens coatings to reduce glare.
Similarly, the Z Fold 5 brings the same triple rear camera setup, consisting of a 50MP main shooter, 10MP 3x tele camera, and a 12MP ultrawide lens. A 10MP selfie camera is on tap on the outside smartphone display, while that 4MP under-display camera is still pulling duty on the folding screen. There was some visible haziness in the area above the under-display camera while indoors, but it wasn’t very obvious.
Looking at the rest of the spec sheet, it’s clear Samsung is still bringing some expected premium extras. You’ve got that aforementioned IPX8 rating, Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6E, eSIM support, and LTPO tech for the folding screens.
One UI is still the best foldable skin around, even if Samsung isn't adding a load of new features this time around.
Samsung’s One UI has long been the Android skin to beat when it comes to foldable phones, thanks to a variety of additions that still stand out from the pack today. The company is only adding a few extras this year, though, such as a two-handed drag-and-drop gesture on the Fold 5 and a notification for camera controls on your Galaxy Watch 6 when you place your Flip 5 in Flex Mode.
We’re clearly not seeing a ton of new features and improvements here then, but Samsung had a very sturdy foundation to begin with. Throw in the expected promise of four major OS updates and five years of security patches, and the phones will get better over time.
Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5 preview: A conservative response?
2023 is the year that Samsung finally received significant foldable phone competition in the global market. But it’s clear at this early stage that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 share a lot in common with last year’s foldables. We’ve got identical camera specs, batteries, charging speeds, and US pricing ($999 for the Flip 5 and $1,799 for the Fold 5).
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: Hot or not?
You only need to look at the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and its large cover screen to see that one phone seems like the more significant upgrade, though. But we’ll need to put both devices through their paces to figure out if there’s truly more here than meets the eye. There is one guarantee though: Foldable competition is only going to get tougher for Samsung.