Reviews

Galaxy Fold 3 review: The ultimate device... for one thing only

Samsung’s third-gen Z Fold 3 foldable phone is more durable than ever, and you can write on it with a stylus. But there’s actually just one amazing feature that makes it interesting.

Samsung has shored up the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s durability with IPX8 water-resistance, a stronger protective film for the foldable display, and — woo-hoo — S Pen support. The Z Fold 3 is also cheaper, starting at $1,800 this time around — $200 less than the Z Fold 2 at launch.

Things are moving in the right direction for the Galaxy Z Fold series, especially now that the future of the Galaxy Note is unclear. But even with all of these year-over-year upgrades, is this foldable package finally attractive enough?

$1,800

It's $200 cheaper this year, but the Z Fold 3 is still pricey.

Ninety percent of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is about the same as Galaxy Z Fold 2. Samsung’s tweaked a few design elements like rearranging the rear camera layout and shaving 0.5mm of thickness and 11 grams off, but the Z Fold 3 is still a big, heavy, and very expensive phone that folds in half.

And yes, there’s still a crease

Beat it up

When it comes to foldables, it’s clear Samsung’s top priority is still durability. It has to be. Can’t tout foldables as a revolution if they break easily. Samsung says the Z Fold 3’s “Armor Aluminum” is 10% stronger than on the Z Fold2 and the preinstalled protective film is 80% more durable.

I can’t vouch for the strength of the aluminum, but the new protective film seems to live up to its claim. I’ve been tapping, swiping, and using an S Pen on the foldable display for weeks and it’s held up nicely. The film is nowhere near as soft or scratchable as it was on the previous Z Folds.

The biggest year-over-year improvement to the Z Fold 3’s durability is its IPX8 rating, which means it can be dunked in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. Realistically, it means the Z Fold 3 can be used in the rain or will survive an accidental drop in the pool or toilet. Water resistance is a pretty big vote of confidence for durability!

Shutterstock

The one feature that actually totally rules on this phone: side-by-side apps.

The truth is, if you’re an info-junkie or way too online, there’s no better device to ride the wild waves of the internet.

Yet, the software still isn’t quite there

I get that Samsung didn’t want to reinvent Android, but the Z Fold 3’s software is still all over the place. I thought the task bar would be useful, but it’s kind of redundant to the dock. Forcing non-optimized apps into Flex mode isn’t a great use of the larger screen. And hiding features within the Labs settings tells you Samsung sees them as experimental.

Then again, if you’re familiar with Samsung devices, you probably aren’t surprised that Samsung has put the hardware cart before the metaphorical software horse.

WRITING AND DRAWING

By popular demand, the Z Fold 3 supports a stylus. And Samsung delivered... sorta. While I love that the Z Fold 3 works with an S Pen — it’s a match made in heaven — I don’t like that the stylus is 1) sold separately for $50 ($100 if you want the “Pro” version with Bluetooth) and 2) there’s nowhere to store it. Samsung sells an $80 case that includes the S Pen and a slot for it, but that’s still an extra cost.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 Specs:

※ 7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X foldable display / 6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X external display

※ 120Hz refresh rate

※ Snapdragon 888 chip

※ 12GB of RAM

※ 256GB of 512GB of storage

※ 4,400 mAh battery (fast wired and wireless charging)

※ 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2

※ Stereo speakers

※ IPX8 water resistance

Shutterstock

Weak battery

The Z Folds never had great battery life and that hasn’t changed on the Z Fold 3. It is still one of the weakest features on the Z Fold 3 and a strong case for why tablet-foldables still aren’t ready. Samsung can fix this with a bigger battery, but it’d also mean a heavier Z Fold.

LAST-GEN CAMERAS

Saddling a $1,800 phone with last year’s cameras is going to upset some people. While the S21 Ultra’s cameras would have been greatly appreciated, the Z Fold 3’s cameras are fine. Not the latest and greatest, but far from the worst.

Camera sample from the Galaxy Z Fold 3 main camera

Not fine... the under-display camera

The 4-megapixel camera is garbage. It is objectively a worse camera in every way. In good lighting. In low-light scenes. Doesn’t matter — the under-display camera takes bad photos. Look at this hazy, fuzzy selfie.

Rich person’s toy

I’ve enjoyed using the Z Fold 3 — compromises and all. But I also liked the Z Fold 2. That doesn’t change the fact that Samsung’s biggest foldable is still ludicrously priced at $1,800. Water resistance and S Pen support make the Z Fold 3 a more reliable and versatile phone, but I’ll say it again for the third year in a row: the software still needs work. A lot more work.