Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 Review
Quick verdict: Its price point still means it's a luxury buy, but the second generation Samsung foldable phone improves in a huge way over the original model, making it the foldable phone to buy for 2020.
- Front display is much larger now
- Cameras give pleasing results
- Powerful performance
- No storage expansion
- No water resistance
- Plastic display with crease
- Cameras on the Note 20 Ultra are better
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
Samsung's third foldable phone picks up the weird "Z" branding from the Galaxy Z Flip, but there's little doubt that this is really just the Galaxy Fold2.
Samsung had a rough old time with the first generation model, launching it, recalling it and launching it again late in 2019, but that experience has clearly taught it where it really needed to improve on the foldable formula.
The sheer price point of foldable phones, and especially larger devices like the Galaxy Z Fold 2, means that they're an absolute luxury buy outside the realm of most folk's affordability, especially in 2020. However, Samsung's done the right work with the Galaxy Z Fold2, and as a result, it's easily the best foldable phone in the market today if your budget can take the strain.
- Vastly improved 6.2-inch cover display
- Notch is gone on internal 7.6-inch display
- 120Hz primary display
- Custom hinge colour choices
- Still not water resistant or tough
The physical design of the original Galaxy Fold was its absolute Achilles heel, from the soft plastic display to the woefully tiny external cover display through to the massive notch on the internal display. Samsung hasn't quite fixed every single issue in the sequel, but it's come close.
Easily the best improvement is the shift from that tiny 4.6-inch external display that wasn't much good for anything but notifications to a full 6.2-inch display that runs the full size of the folded phone. The nature of the folding display means that it's oddly tall, which makes it better for, say, scrolling a Twitter feed than editing a Word document, but in a single generation, it's gone from barely useful to highly functional, which is great.
It's the nature of a foldable phone that when you do fold it up, it's going to get thicker, and this is the one big downside of using the Galaxy Z Fold2's external display for any length of time. It's a chunky little number, but that's going to happen when you take one phone and essentially place another on top of it.
Open up the Galaxy Z Fold2 and the changes just keep on coming. Where the original phone put all its real camera muscle within the display at the cost of a very large notch, you're now faced with just a single punch hole camera at the top right that has way less visual impact. This makes the tablet style of the Galaxy Z Fold2 all that much more apparent, which is, of course, the point of buying a foldable phone of this style.
The primary display on the Galaxy Z Fold2 is a 2208x1768 Dynamic AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, keeping in line with Samsung's premium 2020 phones. Like those phones, the 120Hz rate isn't on by default, so you'll have to duck into the settings to get what it calls "Motion Smoothness" working. Even then, it's adaptive as a battery-saving measure, so you won't get 120Hz display all of the time.
Samsung's also adopted its colours of choice for its 2020 flagships, selling the Galaxy Z Fold2 in either Mystic Black or Mystic Bronze, which equate to black or rose gold finishes respectively. That's not the complete Galaxy Z Fold2 colour story, however, because you can also opt for custom hinge colours in silver, red, blue or gold. My review model didn't have one of those, but for a phone with such a premium price point, it's nice to see that you can personalise it a little.
If the Galaxy Z Fold2 is your first foldable phone, you probably wouldn't notice this, but anyone who's used the original Galaxy Fold will notice the change in the hinge mechanism. It uses a series of internal brushes to keep the Galaxy Fold as dust-free as possible, but this also means that it's somewhat stiffer. This is good news for long term durability, at the slight cost of being a little trickier to fold open without using both hands.
The external display is glass and should be fairly durable, but the nature of the folding action means that the Galaxy Z Fold2 still has a plastic substrate on top, giving it an unusual finger feel for scrolling.
There's still a noticeable hinge bump in the centre of the display that you can somewhat see and definitely feel when your finger rolls over it too.
The other big issue yet to be solved by any foldable phone maker is water resistance. Samsung's other flagships can take a dunking in clean water and come out the other side unscathed, but that's not advisable in any way at all for the Galaxy Z Fold2. Frankly, I'd be a bit scared to take it out in a rain shower.
Likewise, while the plastic screen does have a super-thin glass layer underneath it, it's not noticeably tough in its own right. My own review model had a few very small micro-scratches on it, presumably from a prior reviewer, so you've still got to be rather careful with the Galaxy Z Fold2.
- Triple cameras shoot well, but they're not Samsung's best
- Shooting in tablet mode remains awkward
The Galaxy Z Fold2 uses the same shape and location for its camera bump as Samsung's more recent flagships such as the Galaxy Note20 Ultra and the Galaxy S20, but with just three rear-facing cameras. They cover the essentials of a primary 12MP f/1.8 wide camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera and a 12MP f/2.4 2x Optical Zoom lens. There are also two 10MP f/2.2 selfie cameras on the cover and front respectively.
If camera features are your primary concern in a smartphone, the Galaxy Z Fold2 doesn't measure up to Samsung's current gold standard phone, the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. You're getting much less telephoto functionality, smaller image sensors and a slightly unusual form factor for actually taking shots.
You can access any of those rear cameras whether you're shooting from the cover display or the full tablet layout, and Samsung does allow you to mix and match layouts with the full display, which is nice. You can even set it up in folded mode – a trick that it has borrowed from the Galaxy Z Flip – to view your most recent shots while taking new ones.
Still, in almost every case, it's easier to take shots from the cover display, because holding up a 7.6-inch tablet to take photos is always going to be awkward. That's where the thickness of the Galaxy Z Fold2 comes into play, making it feel more like an ultra-compact consumer camera than anything else.
It does sting a little not to be getting the best camera tech that Samsung has to offer, given the Galaxy Z Fold2's premium price point, but the reality of using it shows that it's still a nicely powerful camera for stills and video work.
Having been impressed with how well the Galaxy Note20 Ultra handled low light – something Samsung has struggled with in recent years – I took the Galaxy Z Fold2 to a local park at night, at the same time that I was testing out the Huawei P40 Pro+. Here's how the Galaxy Z Fold2 managed when taking a shot of a field with almost no light on it:
It's a good shot under the circumstances, although it did get outshot by the Huawei:
You can shoot selfies with either punch hole camera and get the same results either way, because while they're distinct hardware, they have exactly the same specifications.
Yes, my cat's selfie/photobombing game is better than my own. Such is life.
Samsung provides the same functions as you'd see in its other 2020 flagship phones, including live focus and Single Take mode, which uses all the rear lenses at once to create a mix of video and still shots. Single Take can create some interesting montages and takes on a scene, although it does still tend to favour video over stills photography, and I wish there was a way to tell it that you really just want one or the other.
- Snapdragon inclusion makes it the best performing 2020 Samsung phone
- Fixed storage is a pain
- App continuity and smarter tablet app management
- Great gaming platform
For every other Samsung flagship phone in Australia, we get the models with Samsung's Exynos processors, which are typically a beat slower than their Qualcomm equivalents, although often with the trade-off that they're a bit nicer in terms of battery usage. The one exception to that has been in foldable phones, where Samsung doesn't use its Exynos silicon. What that means is that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Samsung does make a 512GB model, but it's not selling it in Australia. As with the original Galaxy Fold, there's no storage expansion capability, which is annoying.
Still, that switch to Snapdragon does allow me to see what the practical differences on Samsung hardware are for its flagship phones. In a benchmark sense, they're pretty remarkable, because the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 is easily Samsung's most powerful 2020 phone. Here's how the Galaxy Z Fold2 compared to flagship and foldable competitors using Geekbench 5's CPU test:
Here's how it compares using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test:
What you've got here is a very powerful Android device. But it's more than that because of the mixed phone/tablet usage that defines foldable phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2.
The larger internal display of the Galaxy Z Fold2 does allow for much more app multi-tasking, and even some data sharing between apps that you don't get on any other Android phone. It's not quite laptop-replacement territory, but there's definitely some utility in having a browser and social media feed going at the same time on the primary display. You can go nuts on this with floating windows as well, although it's not always advisable.
Where the Galaxy Z Fold2 really surprised me was when I started using it as a gaming platform. We've seen a few dedicated "gaming" phones, most notably the Asus ROG Phone 3, but the Galaxy Z Fold2 is actually even more fun than that device, thanks to that larger 120Hz display, as well as the way you hold it while gaming. It helps of course that it's a powerful phone, and you do pay a battery price for it – but it's well worth it.
The more rigid hinge on the Galaxy Z Fold2 also means that it's far more suitable to sit propped up like a tiny laptop, something that the Galaxy Z Flip specialised in. There's really only a smattering of Samsung-produced apps that take good advantage of this so far, with YouTube being the prime example if you want to watch videos and scroll comment feeds at the same time.
- 4,500mAh battery
- Decent but not great battery endurance
- Fast wired and wireless charging
- Can be tricky to place on vertical wireless chargers
The Galaxy Z Fold2 runs on a 4,500mAh sealed battery, with support for wired and wireless charging. As with any phone that comes into Finder, I ran it through our standard battery life test, streaming a Full HD YouTube video for an hour at maximum brightness and moderate volume. The test was run on the internal display, because realistically, that's where you'd want to watch the most streaming video. Here's how the Galaxy Z Fold2 compared against a range of premium handsets:
The Galaxy Z Fold2 slightly underperformed relative to last year's Galaxy Fold, which is a little disappointing, and it sits only just above the 90% barrier, where we often see phones that struggle to make it through a day's full usage.
More anecdotal testing – that is, using the Galaxy Z Fold2 as my day-to-day phone over a week's testing – showed it faring a little better, with a reasonably easy day's usage even when I was using it fairly frequently.
In terms of charging, the Galaxy Z Fold2 will replenish its batteries via USB C or wireless charging, although its unusual shape can present a challenge to some wireless chargers. The "back" of the phone – the part with the camera module – is where the induction loop for wireless charging sits, but that makes it an unusual balancing act if, for some reason, you need to charge the phone while it's open. It's an easier matter when folded, unless you're using a vertically angled stand type wireless charger, because again, placing the Galaxy Z Fold2 so that the right area lines up can be difficult.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2?
- Buy it if you want the best foldable phone of 2020.
- Don't buy it if you want the best cameras Samsung can make, or you just can't afford it.
Foldables still inhabit the rarefied air of true luxury buys, and it's only really fair to assess them that way. Can you get better value overall out of a cheaper Samsung phone, whether that's the Galaxy Note20 Ultra or the Galaxy S20 FE? Absolutely you can, and for the vast majority of folks, that's going to be the smarter option.
However, if you do want a phone that really stands out from the crowd thanks to its folding nature, and your budget can encompass the premium price point, then there's nothing finer right now than the Galaxy Z Fold2. Samsung's taken the fair criticism of the original model and improved most aspects of it, excluding trickier details like durability that no folding phone maker has yet really solved for.
Pricing and availability
Where to buy
Compare Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 plans
Power, storage and battery
Images: Alex Kidman
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