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  • Post published:07/10/2021
  • Post last modified:07/10/2021

We can still remember when phones with foldable screens were a ludicrous concept. Until we started seeing them in tech conventions, then first market-ready models came out. Now, some of them are in their third iterations, just like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

The first Z Fold, despite being a commercial device, still felt a lot like a prototype. It took them a year to polish things for the Z Fold 2. So now, we’re excited to see how the South Korean tech giant can take the foldable category further with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. Here’s our full review.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Specs

  • Android 11, One UI 3.1
  • Dual SIM, Dual standby
  • 7.6-inch QXGA+ Super AMOLED foldable screen, 2208 x 1768 pixel resolution, 374ppi, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
  • 6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x display, 2268 x 832 pixel resolution, 387ppi, 120Hz refresh rate
  • 2.84GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 octa-core processor
  • 12GB RAM
  • Adreno 660 GPU
  • 256GB/512GB UFS 3.1 internal storage
  • 4-megapixel under-display front camera
  • 10-megapixel cover camera
  • 12-megapixel (OIS, f/1.8, dual-pixel AF) + 12-megapixel (ultra-wide) + 12-megapixel (2x telephoto, OIS) rear cameras, LED flash
  • IPX8 water resistant
  • S-Pen support
  • Fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
  • HSPA+, 4G LTE, 5G
  • WiFi 6, dual-band
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • USB Type-C
  • Dimensions: 158.2 x 67.1 x 16mm (folded), 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm (unfolded)
  • Weight: 271g
  • Colors: Phantom Green, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver
  • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, Armor Aluminum frame
  • 4,400mAh non-removable battery

Design and Build Quality

Obviously, the main highlight of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the form factor. There’s an enormous, tablet-like 7.6-inch screen, which folds like a book when you want to use the more compact 6.2-inch cover screen.

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The Z Fold 3 is designed a lot like its predecessor at first look. There’s the almost bezel-less outside screen with a punch-hole for the camera and a sturdy hinge that becomes hidden when you fold it open.

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You’d notice some key design changes on the back, primarily the cameras. From the rectangular island on the Z Fold 2, it now looks more streamlined with a slimmer glass that houses the triple cameras and LED flash on a single line.

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Another key design change is the under-display camera on the main screen — the first Samsung smartphone to have it. The idea is to keep the screen seamless and free from punch-holes. Although, the low pixel density that’s supposed to hide it still makes the camera fairly visible. But it does disappear if you’re not intentionally looking for it.

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Possibly the groundbreaking feat here is the waterproofing. An expected feature on normal phones, but quite an achievement with a device with mechanical parts. This one has an IPX8 ingress protection rating, but no shield from dust.

Besides water protection, the Z Fold 3 is also tougher in general. One of the issues about foldable phones was their durability. That’s something that Samsung wants to address as they use a material called Armor Aluminum for this model. It’s apparently “super-strong” while also staying lightweight.

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Samsung also claims that the screen is 80% more durable thanks to the added PET top layer. This is necessary since it can now accommodate an S Pen.

Samsung also improved the hinge’s stability and smoothness. You can essentially use it from any angle. For one, you can lay it on a table like a laptop.

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Compared to the Z Fold 2, the third model is also noticeably thinner when folded. It’s barely noticeable if this is your first time in the series, but it’s definitely the thinnest as it can be — at least for now.

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All the hardware are in their usual locations, apart from the fingerprint scanner, which is side-mounted like in its predecessors and not an under-display one like other flagships.

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Overall, we really like the design and build of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. It’s far from the prototype feel that the first-gen had. The outside screen is more usable on its own and switching to the larger screen for more serious tasks is quite seamless.

Display and Sound

Let’s begin with the main foldable screen. This one is a 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x panel with an ultra-smooth 120Hz refresh rate and 2208 x 1768 pixel resolution.

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A screen this large can really make things feel really immersive. Since it’s a fast and vibrant screen, watching movies and playing games is a joy on this device.

The large screen real estate is also great for multitasking. You can run up to 3 apps side by side.

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Flex Mode is also here. When you fold it halfway, the top half becomes the main screen while the other is for controls. Say you’re watching a movie, the play/pause, volume, and others are on the bottom.

You can also have the keyboard on the bottom when typing. Lay it on a table and have a laptop experience.

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Let’s move on to the cover screen. This uses a similar Dynamic AMOLED screen but with a narrower 6.2-inch size and a sharper 387ppi. The biggest upgrade here is the 120Hz refresh rate.

We got easily used to the narrow aspect ratio and keyboard. Unlike the first Fold, it’s a completely usable screen instead of being an auxiliary one just for notification and other extras.

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The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 also has a great pair of speakers. The stereo speaker setup positions the drivers on each side to make watching videos or playing games on this enormous screen more enjoyable.

It delivers good loudness and the right amount of balance. Plus, since the speakers are loud and positioned far enough from each other, the stereo separation is really discernable — great for shooter games like Call of Duty Mobile.

Hardware and Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs on the trusty Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor, with 12GB of RAM, Adreno 660 GPU, and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage that’s disappointingly non-expandable. If you want more storage, you can get the 512GB, but it’d cost you Php8,000 more.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 benchmark scores

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AnTuTu | GeekBench | 3DMark | PCMark

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 is possibly the fastest CPU today, next to the Snapdragon 888 Plus. That said, we really have no complaints here.

You can run all the apps you can fit on the screen simultaneously, play games at the highest possible settings, and do so much more without any resistance. But, there’s one caveat.

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Call of Duty Mobile on the Galaxy Z Fold 3

The device’s performance is being brought down by its poor thermal management, possibly due to the fact that it is only 6.9mm thin from side to side and Samsung had to cram a lot of hardware inside it. Also, the Snapdragon 888 chip is obviously power-hungry.

That said, the device tends to get hot after extensive heavy use or when you’re just running errands on a sunny day. This results in CPU throttling that noticeably slows down the performance, even on basic tasks.

Software and User Interface

With its unique form-factor, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs on a special Android 11-based One UI 3.1.1 to fully utilize its enormous screen. Sadly, there are still third-party apps that can’t take advantage of this aspect ratio.

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For one, the Facebook app looks more comfortable on the narrow cover screen than the wide main screen.

On the upside, the main display really makes for a great multitasking experience. You can have Facebook in a narrow layout on the left screen and Google Chrome on the right. You can even add a floating app in the middle in popup mode, and minimize it as an easily accessible bubble on the side.

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You can go back to your previous split-screen setup or access your recent apps with the Edge Panel that’s always accessible on the right side. Instead of apps, you can have Edge Panels show live messages, important contacts, tasks, smart select, weather, tools, reminders, or clipboard.

You can also see how having virtually two screens make the menu settings and other app interface looks more intuitive to use. The main menu is on the right, and tapping on any items will reveal its contents on the right without having to close the main one. Pretty neat.

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Edge Panels

The main interface features of the Fold line are the Flex Mode. In certain apps, you can fold the screen halfway, lay it on a flat surface like a laptop, and the top screen will become your main one and the bottom will display controls.

For example, in the camera app, the top will be your viewfinder, while the bottom will house the shutter button, camera switch, image preview, and more. Also, in document apps, the bottom screen will entirely turn in to a keyboard, to make you feel like you’re working on an actual laptop.

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Another cool feature is called Continue apps on cover screen, which also works in vice versa. Say, you play a YouTube video on the small screen, you can switch to the large one seamlessly with the video still playing and not skipping a beat.

Samsung is giving you tons of keyboard layouts on the main screen. There’s the regular one with the keys spaced out. Some people would prefer this familiar layout. However, since the screen is large, some keys are hard to reach. I personally prefer the split type with a huge gap in the middle, making the keys more accessible on your left and right thumb. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

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There’s also a more regular-sized keyboard style, which looks more familiar, but way harder to reach as it is in the middle.

The cover screen’s keyboard is much narrower but easy to get used to. Actually, you should really learn how to use it since it could be the screen you’d be using when making quick replies to texts, chats, etc.

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Overall, we’re really liking the interface of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. Like the hardware, the software has evolved in just three generations. Let’s just hope that this form factor becomes mainstream so more Android app developers will adopt it.

Cameras

It may not be the best camera phone in the market, but it tries its best to give you everything you need. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has three 12-megapixel sensors on the back. The main one has OIS, f/1.8 aperture, and dual-pixel AF. The second one has an ultra-wide lens, while the third also has OIS and 2x telephoto.

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There’s also a 10-megapixel selfie camera on the cover screen and another 4-megapixel under-display sensor on the main display.

Adding to the camera experience is the Z Fold 3’s unique form factor. The Flex Mode on the camera separates the viewfinder and the camera controls on each half of the screen. Also, thanks to the cover screen, you can use the triple cameras on the back for selfies.

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As for image quality, the main camera of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is quite impressive. They look vibrant without being too much, have enough contrast, and acceptable dynamic range. Unlike before, Samsung has also toned down the post-processing on its images.

Thanks to its OIS, the low-light performance looks top-notch, too. Things can get visibly bright and detailed with the noise kept at the minimum.

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12-megapixel, OIS, f/1.8 aperture, dual-pixel AF
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12-megapixel, OIS, f/1.8 aperture, dual-pixel AF
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12-megapixel, OIS, f/1.8 aperture, dual-pixel AF
12-megapixel, OIS, f/1.8 aperture, dual-pixel AF

The images from the ultra-wide camera are nothing too special, but it gets the job done. We really liked playing with it, especially in selfie mode, making it great for group shots.

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12-megapixel, ultra-wide, 123-degrees, f/2.2
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12-megapixel, ultra-wide, 123-degrees, f/2.2
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12-megapixel, ultra-wide, 123-degrees, f/2.2
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12-megapixel, ultra-wide, 123-degrees, f/2.2

We also have the telephoto lens that offers 2x optical zoom. This level of zoom is actually most suitable for taking portraits, but it can do up to 10x of digital zoom if you really want to punch in.

The overall image quality, like the other cameras, is just fine and acceptable.

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12-megapixel (2x telephoto, OIS)
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12-megapixel (2x telephoto, OIS)

Next stop, we have the 10-megapixel selfie camera. While other phones have 16-megapixel and 32-megapixel front-facing sensors, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 makes do with only having a low-resolution camera.

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Having a low resolution means individual pixels are larger, which helps to capture brighter and surprisingly sharp images, and it shows.

Unsurprisingly, the 4-megapixel main selfie camera takes poor-quality images. Even with extreme post-processing, selfies would still look really soft and grainy.

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But as you know, this is Samsung’s first take on under-display camera technology, so it will only get better from here.

Battery

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a 4,400mAh battery that’s split into 2,280mAh and 2,120mAh modules on each side. With a screen this large, a chipset this powerful, and everything else, it’s no surprise that battery longevity is its main weakness.

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As per usual, we ran PCMark’s battery test for this one. It loops synthetic workload while the WiFi and Bluetooth are off and the screen brightness and volume at 50%.

We ran the test on the large 7.6-inch AMOLED screen and it had a screen-on time score of only 6 hours and 51 minutes. On average, regular-sized smartphones will get 13hrs-14hrs on this test.

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Sadly, neither our review unit and the retail box comes with a free charger, so we can’t test that out. What’s weird is, despite having two separate battery modules, the charging speed is capped at 25W — way slower than other devices of this caliber.

11W fast wireless charging is also on board. Plus, 4.5W reverse wireless charging for your Galaxy Buds and other accessories.

Connectivity

A high-end smartphone like this covered the connectivity department very well. It has everything you might need: dual-band WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC for wireless payment and accessory pairing, USB Type-C, Ultra-Wideband (UWB).

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We plugged in a DITO SIM and the VoLTE icon showed up. That said, voice calls are clear on this one.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has greatly evolved since the first generation, making it a more proper and market-ready smartphone.

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It now has a sturdier design, an improved and more usable cover screen, flexible cameras, and few tricks up its sleeves like UD-camera technology. The S-Pen support also makes its large screen even better for multitasking.

However, there’s no denying that not all everyday people will like this device. Other than the novelty of having a tablet-like screen, not everyone will find a use for a display this large. So if you just want a screen that folds while staying in the normal smartphone realm, then you might want to check out the Z Flip 3 instead.

Also, the fact that it overheats on hot weather conditions, especially here in the Philippines, is a bit of a downer. A faster charging support would be nice too.

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Bottom line is, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a great all-in-one machine for those who want a real workhorse for work, business, and entertainment. But if you want something more practical, there are smaller and cheaper options out there.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 pricing and availability in the Philippines

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is much cheaper than its predecessor. It starts at only Php87,990 for the 256GB model, while the top-tier 512GB variant is at Php95,990. In comparison, the Z Fold 2 arrived in the Philippines for Php109,990.

Pros

  • Refined design and build with waterproofing
  • Improved display with 120Hz on cover screen
  • S-Pen support
  • Refined interface for multitasking
  • Flexible camera lenses and usability with the cover screen
  • First-gen UD camera tech works, but still needs improvement

Cons

  • Prone to overheating that affects performance
  • No fast charger included, max speed capped at 25W

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