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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Foldable perfection nearly achieved

matt-miller-headshot.jpg
Written by Matthew Miller on
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9.3

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Spectacular
$1,450.00 at Amazon $999.00 at Walmart
Like
  • Stunning achievement in engineering
  • High quality materials, fit, and finish
  • 5G and excellent RF performance
  • Optimized cover and inside displays
  • Ample fast RAM and internal storage
  • Improved software for multitasking
Don't Like
  • No dust/water resistance
  • Expensive

One year ago, I purchased and reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Fold, finding it to be an engineering marvel worth considering. I then spent a month with the Fold before moving on to other new smartphones. However, the first Fold was one of those rare devices I regretted selling, so I longed to get my hands on Samsung's successor.

Samsung is clearly a company that listens to customers, and with the new Galaxy Z Fold 2, there are significant improvements that have been made to this unique folding smartphone. It's still priced at $2,000, so it is not an automatic purchase, but it is compelling for the right buyer. With the new Microsoft Surface Duo, business users are gaining a couple of high-powered devices to help them get work done on the go.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Fold review: Most innovative phone of 2019 nears Holy Grail of One Device

I'll be returning my 14-day Z Fold 2 loaner this week, but my own Mystic Black with Metallic Red hinge model has been ordered and should arrive in about a month. For the past several days, I've been testing the Z Fold 2 side by side with the new Microsoft Surface Duo and provide some thoughts on these two in this review, even though there is a bit of a different focus for each new phone.

Unboxing experience

As a professional engineer with machine design classes in my educational background, I am fascinated by Samsung's engineering chops. There is no doubt that Samsung is a leader in mobile innovation, and the intricate details the company explores to create and refine its products are impressive.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 comes in a black box with colorful elements. Slide the outer sleeve off and a box inside is revealed. Open up the two halves to reveal the Z Fold 2, charger, and USB cable. It would have been great to see the new Buds Live included with such an expensive phone, just like they did with the Galaxy Buds on the first-generation Fold. This effectively makes the Z Fold 2 about $170 more expensive than the first Fold.

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The Z Fold 2 test device is Mystic Bronze, and while it is not my personal color preference, it is well done on the Z Fold 2 with the hinge, edges, and back matte finish glass in this color. There is no case included this year either, another cost difference to consider.

Also: One month with the Samsung Galaxy Fold: Productivity unfolded

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
  • Main display: 7.6 inches, 2208 x 1768 pixels resolution (373ppi), Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex Display, 22.5:18 aspect ration
  • Cover display: 6.2 inches, 720 1680 pixels resolution (399ppi), Super AMOLED, 21:9 aspect ratio
  • Operating system: Android 10
  • RAM: 12GB LPDDR5
  • Storage: 256GB internal storage, UFS 3.1
  • Cameras: 12MP rear f/2.4 telephoto, 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle, and 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide cameras (123 degrees field-of-view). 10MP f/2.2 selfie camera on the main screen. 10MP f/2.2 front-facing camera on the cover.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC, MST
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Capacitive Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
  • Battery: 4,500mAh non-removable with fast wireless charging. Two batteries compose this capacity. Wireless PowerShare is also available.
  • Dimensions (Folded): 68 x 159.2 x 16.8mm (hinge) - 13.8mm (sagging).
  • Dimensions (Unfolded): 128.2 x 159.2 x 6.9mm (frame) - 6.0mm (screen)
  • Weight: 282g
  • Colors: Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze
  • Custom hinge color options: Metallic Silver, Metallic Gold, Metallic Red, and Metallic Blue

Looking at the specs above, the only thing missing compared to other flagships is a level of dust/water resistance. That is going to be very difficult to achieve with the hinge and folding display, but we have seen significant improvements in the hinge mechanism, so dust should not be an issue. I'm definitely not going to test out water resistance with a phone this expensive, but maybe we will see some YouTuber try this in the future.

We see Samsung using advanced internal components, such as the LPDDR5 RAM, which is not found on many other smartphones. This is a high-end phone, so you truly are getting your money's worth.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 first look: in pictures

Samsung conducted market research and performed surveys after last year's Galaxy Fold release. It found that 34% of Fold users were using two apps at once compared to just 4% doing so with other typical smartphones. Fold users increased their video consumption by 71% compared to usage on their previous phones. This level of multitasking and video consumption shows that people were using the Fold in a manner similar to tablet users. The gameplay also increased by 35%, and I cannot wait to try out the new Xbox Game Pass games on the Z Fold 2, launching this week.

Also: Sold the Fold: Samsung's innovative device has room for improvement

Hardware

Prior to assembling this formal, in-depth review, I posted an in-depth look at the hardware that includes the hinge, screens, cameras, and more. It's clear nothing is lacking in hardware on the Z Fold 2, other than S Pen support we see on the Note series.

I know that ZDNet's Larry Dignan is a major S Pen user and likely won't purchase a Galaxy Fold until a model with S Pen support is launched. It's going to be another amazing feat of technology for Samsung to provide a foldable touchscreen display with S Pen support, but if any company can achieve this, it is Samsung.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 in depth: Hinge, screens, cameras, and speakers

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a very expensive device, but the hardware is stunning and nearly perfect. I haven't touched a tablet since using the Z Fold 2 and am perfectly fine with using the large main screen to get work done. Combine the Z Fold 2 with Samsung DeX, and there is little need for a computer. The NexDock 2 provides a mobile DeX platform and the company even has a newer model with touchscreen support.

Software

The hardware improvements are just what Samsung Fold users were looking for, and the only other features I would like to see in the future are some level of water resistance and S Pen support. So, with nearly perfect hardware on the Z Fold 2, it was up to the software to convince me the Z Fold 2 is worth my $2,000.

After using the Galaxy Fold and then a couple of LG devices with Dual Screen displays, the LG V60 and LG Velvet, I have several expectations for foldable and dual-screen devices. I occasionally used multiple apps at once on the original Galaxy Fold, but felt that Samsung didn't maximize productivity aspects of the software. LG's Dual Screen experience is compelling with wide-screen apps, the keyboard on one screen, gamepad on one screen, and more. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to improve the dual-screen software experience there as well.

Samsung advertises Flex Mode with App Continuity for enhanced software experiences. Multi-Active Window is provided and one of the major functions. Check out my in-depth article on the Z Fold 2 software where you can read the details of how Samsung hit it out of the ballpark with software improvements. I honestly cannot think of any other way Samsung could improve the software experience given the 7.6-inch main screen.

Also: Galaxy Z Fold 2 in depth: Flex Mode, App Continuity, and multitasking

Make sure to visit the screen layout and zoom settings on the Z Fold 2 where you can toggle between 420 and 540 dpi modes. You can see more content or larger sized content, depending on your needs. There are many more settings to optimize the overall experience on the Z Fold 2 as the Surface Duo is more focused on a stock Android experience.

The major limitation on using more than one application at a time on the Z Fold 2 appears when you try to enter text. A pop-up keyboard is needed to enter text, but there are options within the Samsung keyboard to reduce its footprint on the display. You can also switch to the Microsoft SwiftKey keyboard to really minimize the keyboard and enhance the multiple app experience. Voice-to-text is also a great option for text input while maximizing the apps on the display.

Price and availability

Unlike most Samsung phones, there are very few options for the Galaxy Z Fold 2 with a single RAM and storage capacity model. There are two colors, Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze, with a price of $1,999. Customers do get a choice of hinge color with four options available.

Original Galaxy Fold and Z Flip users can trade in their existing device for a value of up to $800. You can save up to $650 on other devices too. Samsung also has a Guaranteed Buyback program, where you pay 50% in 20 payments and then get 50% back once you return the device.

There is also a Thom Browne model available, as part of a larger bundle that includes a Galaxy Watch 3, Galaxy Buds Live, and custom accessories with Thom Browne design and colors. This bundle was available for $3,300 but is currently shown as sold out already.

Z Fold 2 vs Surface Duo

My primary computer for my professional engineering work is a Surface Pro 6, and I've been using Microsoft Surface devices since the first Windows RT model launched in 2012. I've also been using Pocket PC devices since 2000, so I couldn't resist ordering my own Surface Duo device to test out. It arrived last week, and so far, I find it to be a wonderful productivity device with stunning hardware and acceptable software.

The hardware specifications don't match up well with the flagship Z Fold 2, but the 2019 internals are holding their own. The focus of this device is not on camera performance, media experiences, or other advanced functionality but is designed to be a workhorse for full-screen multiple application usage.

There are some hardware trade-offs made by Microsoft that you will not find on the Z Fold 2. These include a lack of NFC and no support for wireless charging. This means you cannot use Google Pay on the Surface Duo, so you may need a watch or other device for wireless payments.

The Microsoft software with Groups and unique gestures works well most of the time with a few bugs and pauses appearing here and there. Microsoft promises regular software updates, and I also have 60 days to decide if it is a keeper or not.

Just like I did with the LG V60, I ran the same apps on the Surface Duo and Z Fold 2. While the split main screen on the Z Fold 2 is taller and narrower than the two Surface Duo displays there honestly is not much difference in the amount of content shown, while drag-and-drop works a bit more consistently on the Z Fold 2 than on the Surface Duo.

Conclusion

Last year, I traveled eight hours round trip to purchase the first Galaxy Fold, sight unseen. I regret getting rid of that device because it was nearly perfect for my life as a train commuter, engineer, and mobile tech reviewer -- where it served as a capable smartphone and small tablet in a single device. It would be less expensive to purchase a tablet like the Galaxy Tab S7 and a Galaxy phone, but the engineering put into Samsung's foldable phones is tough for me to ignore.

As I was riding the train last week, I realized I had a powerful 5G smartphone and 5G small tablet in hand, where, in the past, I usually owned Wi-Fi tablets. Having a single connection and a convertible device was an awesome revelation that made the Z Fold 2 even more compelling to me. The RF performance was also amazing and the 5G speeds I saw on the Z Fold 2 were faster than anything I had seen before.

When I show the Z Fold 2 to family and friends, they drool at the way the device opens up to reveal the large main screen. It's a stunning device, but even better is the way the software performs flawlessly to help you get work done on the go. As my eyes start to age, I also find significant appreciation in having an individual application open on the large 7.6-inch display.

If you want the ultimate Samsung device, then look no further than the Z Fold 2. If you want the best in foldable technology, then look no further than the Z Fold 2. Yes, $2,000 is a lot of money for a mobile device, but if you use it as a phone, tablet, and DeX-based computing platform, and you need to increase your productivity and efficiency, then it may just be worth the price.

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