Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 hands-on and first impressions: A new standard for foldables

Samsung’s first Galaxy Fold lit the fuse on an explosion of interest in foldable phones last year, and despite the durability issues it faced, Samsung has continued to push the category forward. The Galaxy Z Flip introduced a new clamshell-style foldable form factor, and now we have a new version of the phone that started it all: The Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is launching into a different world than the first Fold. Foldables are hardly “mainstream” devices, but they’ve been around for a while now. People have been using the Galaxy Fold for a year, the Motorola Razr for several months, and the Galaxy Z Flip for a while now. There’s also pressure from new dual-screen hinged devices like the Microsoft Surface Duo. And of course, with the Z Fold 2’s $2,000 price tag, you don’t expect to have to deal with compromises.

Samsung has done a lot with the Z Fold 2 5G to bring it up to par with consumer expectations for this futuristic device category. Here are my impressions as I get my hands on the phone for the first time.

Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

While Samsung didn’t change the fundamental shape or functionality of the Galaxy Fold, it refreshed every surface with a new look.

The design now fits directly in line with the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series, with a sweet Mystic Bronze color, matte glass back, and sharper angles with flattened sides. Samsung kept the shiny edges and hinge, though, so the two-tone finish really pops. I love the flashy look; with a phone like this, there’s no reason to try and be subtle. The phone’s still a bit unwieldy, of course, at over 16mm thick and 280 grams — you’ll never forget this is in your pocket or bag.

The hinge may not look different, but if you viewed a schematic of its inner workings, you’d see an entirely new layout. The first time you open the Z Fold 2, you can tell. The hinge now has friction to it throughout the middle of its range, leading to one notable functional change: The screen can stay put at a wide array of angles, from 75 to 115 degrees, so you can set it down like a laptop. It isn’t entirely clear how useful this will be, but it certainly feels dramatically better. It also locks open when flat with much more conviction, and absolutely no wiggle out of the box.

The entire hinge mechanism is also coated in tiny bristles inside, like a tiny vacuum cleaner’s brush roller, that sweep dust and debris away with every hinge movement. That should hopefully keep the hinge safe and operating smoothly for a long time — but only time will tell.

Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The biggest change is much easier to spot: The external “cover display” is now dramatically larger. The original Fold’s cover display was so small that it was really only useful for glancing at notifications, and as a camera viewfinder. Now, you get a 6.2-inch, modern-looking smartphone display, albeit in an even taller aspect ratio, with small bezels that ensure you could actually use it for some length of time.

Samsung took the Galaxy Fold, and applied a whole host of necessary fixes to make it a proper 2020 device.

That was the goal from the start — you were supposed to be able to use the cover display for any basic tasks that didn’t require the full interior display, or when you didn’t have two hands free. Navigating through the home screen, launching apps, and scrolling through Twitter all feel almost normal on the cover display, but the keyboard still feels quite cramped — particularly compared to big phones like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

The 7.6-inch folding internal display has also been modernized, and it’s a dramatic improvement. The bezels have shrunk by over 25%, and the huge corner camera notch is gone in favor of a single hole-punch like the rest of Samsung’s phones. So now even with the raised bezel edges that keep the screen safe when folded, the whole thing feels much more like a finished product than a concept model.

The display now has a 120Hz refresh rate, and it’s Samsung’s latest version of the tech, with a variable refresh rate that helps save battery while delivering the amazing smoothness your eyes desire. The display’s crease is still noticeable, particularly with white or light images on-screen, but that’s just the state of foldable displays right now. Samsung is also continuing to push the idea of using two side-by-side apps rather than one large spanned app, which reduces the focus on the crease.

Call it plastic or glass, this foldable screen covering has proven to be very robust — I’m not particularly worried about it.

The Z Fold 2 also features Samsung’s latest UTG (Ultra Thin Glass) foldable screen technology, introduced on the Z Flip earlier this year. Samsung got flak for using the word “glass” when it debuted the Galaxy Z Flip, and frankly, I still feel it’s rather misleading to use the g-word. But over months of continuous use, the Z Flip’s UTG has proven to be really robust. And honestly, the original Fold’s plastic covering — at least, the second version — has been quite reliable as well.

Yes, this display covering is going to be more susceptible to scratches than a solid pane of Gorilla Glass 6, but it’s also closed on itself and completely protected any time it’s not in use. You can’t say that about any other smartphone. And the number of phones I see every day with giant cracks in the screen remind me that the average giant slab smartphone is plenty fragile in its own right.

Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

There’s so much more to get into with the Galaxy Z Fold 2, from the battery life and overall evaluation of the specs, to the fully refreshed and improved camera array, down to just what it’s like to live life with the latest and greatest in folding phone technology. Samsung made so many changes for the 2020 revision of its flagship foldable that it really deserves more than this short amount of time to take in.

I’ll be coming back with even more impressions, and a complete review, of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G soon.

Editors' Recommendations