Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is all about polish, a new hinge and benchmark refresh

Aug 11, 2023 12:02 PM IST

What hasn’t changed over time is Samsung’s approach to dual screens. It may be increasingly at odds with how user preferences or usage styles have evolved over time

Samsung’s first foldable phones arrived in 2019. Every year since, there have been refinements to improve many things, the most important being durability. A phone with many moving parts cannot risk being frail. Durable design and water resistance were the start. This year’s phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 5, gets its biggest design update ever. A new hinge. More important than you might imagine.

The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)
The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)

There are many reasons why the new hinge mechanism, which Samsung calls ‘Flex Hinge’, does more for the foldable phone as an upgrade than a new processor, brightened display or battery stamina tweak. First, it is thinner by design. This means the phone folds thinner by as much as 2.4mm compared with last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 (though battery capacity changes also have something to do with it). That’s a fairly significant bulk reduction, to hold and in the trouser pocket; about 10gm lighter too.

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Secondly, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 now folds flat. No longer is there a wedge gap, and you needn’t worry about the likes of coins, folded paper or even keys getting lodged in this gap, potentially damaging the screen. By the very nature of things, any object getting stuck in that gap would attempt to extricate itself too. A scratched foldable screen is a recipe for disaster. If there’s an accidental deeper gash, same result.

Also read:Samsung’s balancing act as major and minor updates define new Galaxy Z foldables

That said, we noticed dust particles still sit easily on the hinge mechanism, and the best you can do is keep this area clean with regular, gentle wiping. Hopefully, the new hinge design will be more resistant to dust ingress, whatever little getting in anyway.

Third, and more from an experiential side, the new hinge means the crease running down the centre has also been reworked to put less stress on the foldable screen itself. How that stands up to the test of time, we’ll know in due course. But from what you’ll see, it’s a less profound crease on the screen now, compared with the previous generations (it took five generations to get here).

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 has an expected processor upgrade too. It is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, succeeding the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen1. To be precise, this is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy, signifying specific graphics performance customisations made by Qualcomm for Samsung’s foldable phones.

Some headline numbers here – the CPU is up to 18% faster than the predecessor, graphics around 32% more powerful. Those are significant numbers to build on, from a previous generation flagship smartphone chip.

Last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 4’s performance never elicited any complaints. Far from it. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 installs a virtual ceiling even higher. While Google’s Pixel Fold foldable phones aren’t on sale in India, you should be aware of a differing approach to performance. The Google Tensor G2 chip, also powering the latest generation Pixel 7 series, reserves a lot of the grunt for background AI calculations. In case of Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy Z Fold 5, most resources are is available for foreground tasks, which means the apps you use, multitasking and games you’ll play.

Also read:Xiaomi Pad 6 brings us a step closer to Android tabs as productivity hubs

With an expectation of more productivity tasks on the way, Samsung has redone multitasking too. There’s a simpler swipe in from the edge gesture to switch to the dual-pane mode. There can be pop-up app windows too, for good measure. The Galaxy Z Fold 5’s taskbar can now show up to four recently used apps – up from an earlier listing of two apps. That said, these gestures are likely to arrive on the previous generation Galaxy Z Fold devices too, at some stage.

What hasn’t changed over time, is Samsung approach to dual screens. As time has evolved, it may be increasingly at odds with how user preferences or usage styles have evolved over time.

Chances are, most users would deploy the cover screen more often than not, switching to the larger 7.6-inch foldable display for certain tasks – using multiple apps side-by-side, working on a document, replying to emails or a more immersive reading experience. The 6.2-inch cover screen now feels too narrow. It’s fine for quickly checking an email or glancing through your Instagram feed or lining up a playlist on Spotify.

In fact, you shouldn’t expose the larger foldable screen to the big, bad world for comparatively simpler tasks. Switching apps between either screen continues to be seamless.

Yet, this aspect ratio leaves you with a very compressed keyboard to type on – I was certainly making more spelling errors than usual. That means you’ll be unfolding the Galaxy Z Fold 5 more than it should have been necessary. A design change, for a more conventional sized cover display, should be on Samsung’s to-do list.

The Foldable Dynamic AMOLED display is an absolute delight to use. The size, resolution or refresh rate specifics haven’t changed, but this can go much brighter than before – it is now rated at 1750 lumens, a significant step up from the 1200 lumens of the predecessor.

Also read:Nothing Phone (2) review: The most substantial Android phone refresh for 2023

Another area where the Galaxy Z Fold 5 moves forward significantly, is with the cameras. If ever you needed one, this is testament to how important the image processing algorithms are. The camera system remains the same as last year’s phone (50-megapixel + 12-MP + 10-MP) but image processing improvements mean the photos you click emerge significantly crisper, and more detailed. You may not always appreciate attempts to boost colours, but overall, the photos are rich and vibrant enough for your social media posts.

There is something we’ve been pondering over. When the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 200-megapixel primary sensor and 10x optical zoom, it does put the comparatively more expensive Galaxy Z Fold 5 in a slightly uncomfortable position.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 gets a slightly smaller battery capacity (4400mAh vs 4800mAh) compared with the predecessor. But for all intents and purposes, the stamina and runtime on a single charge remains largely the same. In fact, you’ll eke out an hour or two more, if you’re careful with brightness and multitasking.

Here again, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 makes do with 25-watt wired charging (and 15-watt wireless charging), the Galaxy S23 Ultra has already taken a logical step forward with 45-watt wired charging speeds. Again, how do you justify that on the price tag?

Also read:Xiaomi Redmi 12 5G indicates a return to time-tested basics of affordability

Samsung, at least for the past couple of years, has focused energies on refining the foldable phones. We’ve probably seen the most crucial piece of the puzzle this time around. The new hinge redesign takes away one of the potential fragilities of such a form factor, while the logical processor upgrade gives the phone even more grunt as a portable computing device. The already bright display, has even more illumination for a bright, summer day.

The thing is, despite slimming down and ironing out the rough(er) edges to rewrite the trends, what hasn’t changed is how much you’ll spend for a Galaxy Z Fold 5. Which is still a lot of money. You’ll still be spending about 1,64,999 for the 12GB RAM and 512GB storage configuration. If you want 1TB storage in your phone, then you’ll be parting with 1,84,999. Prices usually tend to slide downwards after so many generations have done their rounds. And these sort of numbers will likely make you think twice whether you really need a foldable phone or not.

If you’re convinced you do, one thing is clear – the mature and refined Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 has set about with an annual refresh of the benchmark for foldable smartphones, perhaps till the Galaxy Z Fold 6 comes around?


    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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