Foldable phones have come a long way in a single generation, and there’s no better example than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. Where Samsung’s first-generation foldable phone was delayed due to reliability issues and came with a pair of compromised displays, the Fold 2 feels like a ruggedly solid device that’s a truly all-screen experience both inside and out.
However, folding phones are still a premium experience and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 comes with an astronomical $2000 price tag. As cool as a phone that transforms into a tablet is, some apps don’t display properly on foldable devices, not to mention Android still doesn’t look great on a big screen device.
If you’re still willing to take the plunge on cutting edge technology, the Fold 2 has the best displays, speakers, and performance of any foldable device today. It’s the only foldable phone I can truly see myself actually using right now.
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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 – Design and Features
While you might think a phone that folds in half would feel flimsy in your hand, it’s actually the opposite with the Fold 2. With a hefty 9.95-ounce weight and 16.8mm thickness, the Fold 2 actually feels like an overstuffed ice cream sandwich or candy bar. This is a device made with practically double the amount of metal and close to three times the display area you’d find on a traditional smartphone, so it’s no wonder why it feels so substantial in your hand.
If you’re worried about reliability, the Fold 2 has been a rock-solid device for more than two weeks of testing. You won’t find any gaps for dust to slip under the ultra-thin glass display. Meanwhile, the phone has stood up to being folded dozens of times a day, and though an unmistakable crease has developed on the interior display, you only really notice it when the screen is off or you go looking for it.
Compared to the first generation Galaxy Z Fold, this new model has flattened edges. The phone also borrows the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s flat coat of Mystic Bronze paint and large rectangular camera bump – thankfully it only protrudes out by a single millimeter this time.
The biggest improvement to the Fold 2 is you get a full-screen experience both inside and out. The cover screen has been blown up from 4.6 inches with a 720 x 1,680 resolution to 6.23 inches with an 816 x 2,260 resolution.
Meanwhile, the internal display is now 0.3 inches larger, which gives you a 7.6 inch screen with 1,768 x 2,208 resolution. The cluster of selfie cameras taking up the corner on last year’s model has been reduced to a single punch hole camera, so the screen really stretches to all the edges of the device this time.
The folding display looks marvelous and despite using a flexible panel, the colors, pure blacks, and high brightness it presents are indistinguishable from the cover screen or any of the other Super AMOLED displays Samsung has put on a phone this year. Even more impressively, this foldable screen hits a 120Hz refresh rate – and for once you don’t need to bring down the display resolution to hit that number, unlike on the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
When folded out into a 7.6-inch tablet, the Fold 2 isn’t too large for me to hold with one hand. I can easily cradle it by a corner or grip it from the sides with my fingertips. The aspect ratio and display size here are perfect for reading online articles, though the text scaling can vary wildly depending on which site you’re visiting and/or which app you’re using.
Reading full-page digital comics looks particularly fantastic thanks to the deep blacks and vivid colors you get from a Super AMOLED panel.And for me, the screen size is just right to read full pages without having to zoom in.
Samsung has frequently pushed multitasking on its mega-sized smartphones, but on the Fold 2, having three apps open at the same time seems much more reasonable. With the larger screen, apps have more room to spread out so everything remains legible and elements are actually large enough for you to tap easily without having to carefully squint and poke.
Another big improvement to the folding screen is its underlying hinge mechanism. Whereas the original Galaxy Z Fold snapped to attention in three different positions, the Fold 2 smoothly transitions between being folded and completely open, and its able to hold its position from anywhere between 75 to 115 degrees.
While it’s semi-open, the phone engages Flex Mode to give you extra functionality in certain apps. Folding the screen partway while in this mode alters the interface to give you a clean viewfinder on the top half while moving all the controls to the lower display. Having the camera set up this way also gives you a great stationary camera you can use for group shots or taking long exposures from any flat surface. Alternatively, you can watch YouTube videos while reading or writing a comment at the same time.
I just wished Flex Mode was implemented in more ways, like being able to scroll through your list of emails while opening one in a larger preview pane. Another great use would be in the calendar app so you could see the whole month at a glance and plan out your days in a second window.
Of course, Samsung and Google will continue to improve Android 11 and apps for foldable screen experiences. I certainly hope Google will finally put work into improving Android on bigger screens since Instagram looks like a blown-up version of the mobile app with poor scaling.
Watching YouTube and other streaming videos on a bigger screen is, of course, always better, but having thick black bars on top and bottom takes some getting used to. That said, if you watch a lot of movies or other 21:9 content, the cover screen has almost the perfect aspect ratio despite the display is smaller and thinner than most traditional smartphones.
Speaking of the cover screen, it’s much more usable than the one found on the previous Galaxy Z Fold. I actually like the tall and narrow aspect ratio for scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, however, it’s not great for everything. Anything text-heavy like web pages and email both look incredibly squashed, and the font is often too small for anything more than just quickly checking your notifications.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 – Gaming and Performance
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 finally delivers on the flagship phone experience I’ve been expecting from Samsung all year: it lets you set the screen to its maximum resolution and frame rate at the same time.
Playing games with an extremely smooth frame rate feels great on a regular phone and it’s even better with this convertible tablet device. On a bigger screen, you can just appreciate more of the smooth movement.
Of course, that larger screen gives you a bigger picture for games, and thankfully most games don’t change the aspect ratio to conform with the taller display. Instead, you’re presented with almost double the vertical resolution over a regular smartphone, which can come in handy for spotting enemies up high in mobile shooters. Having the larger picture also means your thumbs end up covering less of the screen, which is even better when you can move the virtual joysticks and buttons to the very edges of the device.
The phone’s underlying Snapdragon 865+ processor doesn’t have any problems keeping up with demanding mobile games like PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Asphalt 9: Legends. What’s more impressive is how well it can play games while also allowing you to web browse and watch YouTube videos – even if the audio becomes confusingly mixed together.
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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 – Camera
For such an innovative folding smartphone, the Fold 2 comes with a fairly standard camera package. You get three 12MP cameras each covering the usual ultrawide, wide-angle, and telephoto focal lengths. Unlike Samsung’s Ultra-tier flagship phones, there’s no special hybrid Space Zoom features here, though you can still add up to 10x digital zoom.
As usual, Samsung’s camera sensors and image processing do a bang-up job of capturing vibrant colors with plenty of dynamic range and sharpness. The only problems I have with the Fold 2’s image quality is it can be a little over-aggressive with sharpening extremely complex scenes, like foliage, and the Night Mode on this phone can be a little hit or miss with how it evaluates exposures.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 – Battery Life
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 comes with a decently large 4,500mAh battery, enough to see me through most days with 45% of its capacity still left by the end of them. That’s with daily usage consisting of watching two hours of streaming video, checking around social media for an hour or two, random web browsing, and playing mobile games for an hour.
The good news is Samsung managed to squeeze fast charging into the Fold 2. With the included 25W charger, plugging in for 30 minutes gives you 46% of your battery capacity and an hour of plug-in time brings the capacity up to 86%.