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I spent 3 days with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. It’s not what I expected

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 display.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Fold 5 looks like an incremental update on paper. It’s got the same camera hardware, the same form factor with a narrow cover screen, and the same battery capacity as its predecessor. Much like most of you, I thought it to be a minor upgrade over the Fold 4 when it was unveiled at the Galaxy Unpacked event last month. But it’s not.

While the differences over the Galaxy Z Fold 4 can’t be seen in photos of the two phones side by side, they can be experienced. I’m calling the Galaxy Z Fold 5 an experiential upgrade because most of the upgrades can only be felt once you hold the device in your hand or use it for a couple of days. And once you do that, you quickly realize how much better it really is.

The thinner, lighter design is a game changer

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 rear panels.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’ve used all Galaxy Z Fold devices since the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as my daily driver, plus plenty of other book-style foldables like the Vivo X Fold, Honor Magic V2, Oppo Find N2, and Tecno Phantom V Fold. Over the years of using these foldables, I’ve learned that weight and design make a big difference.

On “normal” slab phones, you might not notice a difference of 10 grams to 15 grams, but with big foldable phones, each gram is felt on the wrist because they are inherently much heavier. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is no Honor Magic V2 (more on that later), but it is 10 grams lighter than the Fold 4.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 half folded on a showcase.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 also features a new hinge – a waterdrop-style design, much like almost all the other foldables on the market. According to Samsung, the new design fares better than the old hinge in terms of durability. While the claim remains to be proven out in the months to come, one instant difference it makes is with the thickness. At 13.4mm, the Z Fold 5 is 2.4mm thinner than the Fold 4.

As a result of a thinner and lighter design and a new hinge, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 feels much better in the hand than its predecessor. It still feels premium, but my wrist doesn’t hurt after using the device for long durations throughout the day. It’s a small change, but also a hugely important one.

A lot of small changes make a big difference

The Pocket City game on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5's open screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 came equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen+ 1 chipset, which made the phone prone to heating while gaming and mediocre battery life. In contrast, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, which is responsible for three improvements over the Fold 4.

Despite having the same camera hardware as before, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 takes better photos than the Fold 4. You get lively pictures with vivid and saturated colors from the 50MP primary camera. As mentioned in our review, the major improvement comes in the 3x optical zoom of the 10MP telephoto sensor, which gives you better exposure and color balance, as well as more details. The camera system isn’t as versatile as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it’s good enough by foldable standards.

In my time with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the phone would last me an entire day, but not confidently. I would continuously be ending my days with around 10% battery left by dinner. The Fold 5 packs the same 4,400mAh battery, but it is lasting me a bit more. It’s better than the previous-gen Fold, but not drastically. However, I’ll happily take any improvement in battery life, given the cell size is the same as before.

Another major difference that might go unnoticed is that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 sports a brighter display on the inside. It can now go up to 1,750 nits, which is the brightest on any Samsung foldable to date. I’ve had problems with the Fold 4’s legibility in direct sunlight, but the new Z Fold 5 performs noticeably better in the same situation.

Is the Galaxy Z Fold 5 the best large-screen foldable?

Honor Magic V2 and Galaxy Z Fold 5 in hand.
Honor Magic V2 (left) and Galaxy Z Fold 5 Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

I prefer the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s form factor over foldables with wider cover screens and a wide aspect ratio, such as the Google Pixel Fold. I read a lot on my phones through browsing, and in doing so, it’s clear that most websites look much nicer on phones with a taller form factor. On the Oppo Find N and Find N2, I had to rotate them to get the best reading experience — but not with the Z Fold 5.

However, I still prefer the Honor Magic V2’s form factor. It’s got a big cover screen, similar to a slab phone, and a tall aspect ratio on the inside, making it the best of both worlds. All other book-style foldables feel like I’m holding two phones, but that’s not the case with the Magic V2. At 9.9m thin and 237 grams, it’s the thinnest and lightest foldable phone that unfolds to be a tablet, and I can’t wait for it to launch outside of China at IFA 2023 early next month.

That being said, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is better than I thought it would be, and that’s because my expectations were low based on the leaks that were coming in before the launch. I’m still disappointed that we didn’t get a bigger battery or a wider cover display, but the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is much more improved than it might appear to be at first glance. And the improved experience it offers is pretty darn great.

Prakhar Khanna
Prakhar writes news, reviews and features for Digital Trends. He is an independent tech journalist who has been a part of the…
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