The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the second generation Samsung folding phones. The company is quickly iterating on various aspects of the folding OLED display technology, including releasing the cute Galaxy Z Flip in February.
Just as we predicted last year, having the only mass-produced large folding phone lets Samsung learn an improve critical aspects of the folding phone experience, and here are the results.
Before the Galaxy Z Fold 2, the original Galaxy Fold (full review link) was the most successful folding phone.
I recommend reading our original Fold review if you are not already familiar with Folding phones. The review has additional nuggets of information that could sway a purchase decision.
We also explained the fundamental differences between Folding phones and Dual-screen phones, and we will not cover that topic again here.
Note: generally, we will use the following terminology:
- Folding phones: phones with a large foldable display
- (Folding) flip phones: small phones with a foldable display (we typically cover “dumb” flip phones) and rarely flip phones with non-foldable displays
- Dual-screen phones: foldable phones with two distinct displays side by side
Hardware Design Pushed To The Limit
As you first lay eyes on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, it is evident that the industrial design has much improved.
First, the design language looks more modern. The new, “boxier”, design also has the advantage of increasing the internal volume and making more room for the outer-display.
The overall quality of the craftsmanship is excellent, and on-par with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 manufacturing process.
Closer To A Standard Phone When Closed
The massive size increase of the outer-display makes it look almost like a standard phone. I say almost because the display is still relatively narrow (53mm width), and it is not as comfortable to type on as a Galaxy Note 10 (73mm), for example.
That new display is much more readable than the original Galaxy Fold’s (45mm width), and the chances are that more people will use it more often.
Using the outer display more often could vastly reduces the battery drain. It is not something that we can quantify (not sure “how much more” one would use it), but that’s an obvious conclusion.
Massive Folding Screen Visual Experience
When the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is open, the visual experience is like no other on the primary display.
The image quality is excellent, and Samsung added a 120Hz variable-refresh, which will slow down automatically to 60Hz to avoid unnecessary battery usage. Having such an amazing display in your pocket is a momentous technological achievement.
A 120Hz display refresh rate makes scrolling feel much more responsive and agreeable as the human brain expects things to happen immediately upon any touch-display action.
“HAVING SUCH AN AMAZING DISPLAY IN YOUR POCKET IS A MOMENTOUS TECHNOLOGICAL ACHIEVEMENT”
The appearance of the screen has much improved. The first Galaxy Fold industrial design had to be “patched” at the last minute to protect the display from dust and to hide the plastic layer of protection better.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 new design makes the protective lip surrounding the display much more discreet. The bezel width has been reduced by ~50% as a result.
Finally, the selfie camera setup has gone from a massive notch with two cameras (Primary+sensor) to a single camera hole in the Z Fold 2. While the selfie bokeh quality may suffer a little from it, the visual improvement is worth it.
For best-quality selfies, open the phone, and use the rear camera to take a photo. When doing that, the camera ergonomics could use some work, but it’s technically possible. The rear camera of this phone is more capable than most standard selfie cameras.
The new inner-screen is sturdier thanks to the use of a glass-like material and a plastic protective layer at the same time. The plastic is (in theory) more prone to scratches than glass. It is best to be careful when closing the device – make sure there are no keys or dust if possible.
Note: for people who are worried about damaging the main screen by accident, Samsung’s premier service offers a $149 “inner-screen” (largest “main” screen) one-time replacement (video with more explanations). In my experience, if you are a little careful, things should go very well. After using the first Fold for weeks, we did not have a scratch.
Some 3rd-party apps need to kick it up a notch
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 pushes the visual experience to new heights, many 3rd party apps are not quite advanced enough for this display.
Apps that are optimized for Tablets and switch to a more optimal layout (2-column or otherwise), but there are few of them. Note that to switch to “tablet mode” you must use the Z Fold 2 in landscape orientation.
Most Android apps simply become large version of themselves on such a big screen, it’s not always bad, but it could be a lot better. Instagram used to be awesome on the Galaxy Fold, but the lastest version of the app now has a lot of unused space, what a pity.
Regardless, if you are dealing with photos and text, a lot of the visual improvement comes from the fact that images and text are bigger. For example, you can see the full details of photos and read fine print text – including in books and comics.
“MANY 3RD PARTY APPS ARE NOT QUITE ADVANCED ENOUGH FOR THIS DISPLAY”
Samsung has included several multi-window options in the Galaxy Z Fold 2, and they work well. But I found myself not using them very often because they require additional touch motions to set things up.
If this split-screen was integrated into Android, perhaps apps could be more aware of the display context, and things could be slightly improved. What’s true is that when I need multitasking, it works well.
Use The Z Fold 2 In “Flex Mode”
The Z Fold 2’s new hinge design lets the user open it at any angle, thus allowing for using the phone in “Flex Mode” (laptop mode). In that mode, the upper half of the screen is dedicated to content, while the lower-half hosts controls.
Samsung shows some compelling use cases such as using this mode for video conferencing, or for hyperlapse videos, no tripod needed.
Companies like LG have spent the last couple of years exploring some of these usage models and came up with very valid use cases, especially for multimedia and gaming activities (LG’s gamepad app is incredible). We can only hope that more of that will also appear on the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
It is now possible to rest the phone on a flat surface, which can be super-convenient for video conferences, watching videos, or taking long-exposure photos.
Galaxy Z Fold 2 Camera System
The camera system of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 brings nice improvements over last year’s Galaxy Fold.
The Z Fold 2 camera hardware scores 14% higher than last year’s Galaxy Fold in Ubergizmo’s Camera HW score (hardware score).
- Z Fold 2 Primary camera: better/larger camera sensor that should perform better in bright lighting conditions. At night, the difference would be less dramatic.
- Z Fold 2 Zoom: not much difference here. We estimate that the zoom hardware of the new Z Fold 2 is only marginally better.
- Z Fold 2 Ultrawide: This is where the hardware got a nice upgrade (23.1% higher score), with a larger sensor and better optics. The original Fold had a 16MP camera, while the Z Fold 2 has a 12MP one. However, the reduced resolution would not hurt performance much, probably yielding slightly fewer details in daylight but improve low-light performance. It’s not a bad trade-off.
“THE GALAXY Z FOLD 2 CAMERA HARDWARE SCORES 14% HIGHER”
The first Galaxy Fold had real-world photo image quality (IQ) comparable to the Galaxy Note 10 (same camera hardware and tuning). That’s according to our Ubergizmo Camera IQ benchmark – read our Galaxy Note 10 Camera Review.
We haven’t run a full battery of image quality tests, but the casual tests we did indicate that the above positioning is quite correct. In daylight, the photos look great, with excellent colors but without the extreme detail of the 108MP sensor of the S20 Ultra / Note 20 Ultra.
In low-light conditions, the results look better than Galaxy Note 10, but the noise levels are noticeably higher than Note 20 Ultra.
You could have a better camera for the money, so it is something that might factor into your final decision.
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 platform, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 delivers top-notch performance. It is on par with the best high-end smartphones and well beyond the original Galaxy Fold’s speed, especially for graphics and gaming, just as we expected after our first peek at the technology.
There are dedicated “gaming phones” powered with a slightly faster version named “Snapdragon 865 plus”, but the speed gap is not enough to make a difference because you’re buying the Z Fold 2 for the user experience.
“A 50% GRAPHICS SPEED IMPROVEMENT YEAR OVER YEAR”
Graphics and gaming benchmark show an extraordinary 50% Graphics speed improvement year over year. For non-graphics apps, the CPU’s single-core performance increased by ~40%, while the multi-core speed shot up 24%.
Galaxy Z Fold 2 Battery Life
The 4500 mAh battery of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is 4500 mAh, which is only 2.7% larger than last year’s model. However, the charging speed has increased by 36% to 68 mAh/mn.
That is still slower than other Samsung phones, which can peak at 80 mAh/mn, but it’s a great move forward, as Galaxy Z Fold 2 users may want to quickly charge before heading to a meeting.
“CHARGING SPEED HAS INCREASED BY 36%”
Phones are slated to charge even faster in the near future, thanks to technologies like Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 5.0 that can charge at a theoretical 450 mAh/mn!
Our test in PCMark Work 2.0 shows the Galaxy Z Fold 2 enduring 8 hours of constant use with a display brightness of 200 NIT. The original Fold lasted 7h32mn.
For reference, the Galaxy S10+ got 12h25mn, and the Note 10+ got 10h44mn. As you can see, the larger display does have an impact on battery life, but in the real-world normal day, I never came close to worrying about running out of battery.
Just as we predicted last year, the new Galaxy Z Fold 2 (official page) brings a vast array of improvements: performance, display quality, charge speed, practical functionalities. This is a powerful update.
From a system performance standpoint, there is no compromise, and to be fair, none should be accepted from a $2000 device. Obviously, a Galaxy S20 provides much better “value for the money”, but the Z Fold 2 is about absolute visual comfort, not “bang for the buck”.
The user experience is a better, faster, more refined version of the original Fold Experience. It has similar pros and cons due to the form-factor but is more agreeable to use.
The updated hinge also creates new relevant use cases: this is the direct result of having a mass-produced folding phone and being able to receive real-world feedback.
“A SUPERB PRODUCT THAT CATERS TO THOSE WHO WANT THE MOST ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY”
However, these designs were not without challenge and were ultimately unable to make it to market with the kind of production volume the Galaxy Fold and now the Galaxy Z Fold 2 can.
In hindsight, Samsung did make the right call and is now moving forward with the only market-proven foldable smartphone design.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a superb product for those who want the most advanced technology.
Before buying, I would recommend playing with one in a store to make sure that you enjoy the physical feel, and understand the user experience better. If you decide to jump in, it’s a one of a kind smartphone.
Overall product rating: 8.9/10