Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 Review: Solid Form, but Lacks the Factor

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2019 was suppose to be the year of 5G and foldable phones. For whatever reason, neither materialised as expected, with both Samsung and Huawei having different issues with their foldable devices. The South Korean has continued in foldable efforts, and its latest offering is the Galaxy Z Fold2. Having learned from the errors of its predecessor, does this new device make a better case for foldable in 2020?

We spent the past couple of weeks with the Galaxy Z Fold2 to find out.

Before we delve into the various elements of this device, it’s important to address one crucial aspect – price. At a recommended R49 999, the Z Fold2 is one of, if not the most expensive smartphone to go on sale in South Africa.

Is any smartphone worth R50k, especially given the turmoil of 2020? The simple answer is NO.

Yes, we know that many a consumer who gets the Z Fold2 will likely be doing so on contract, but there is simply no getting around the fact that this foldable phone is an expensive piece of kit that most South Africans will not be able to experience.

Improved build quality

Now that we’ve addressed that, let’s take a look at what Samsung has done to improve the overall design of the Z Fold2. One of the first of several things in this department is the cover screen.

It’s now increased to a 6.23″ Super AMOLED display (2260×816), and it supports many of the elements that the main unfolded screen does. To that end you can still get a lot done on the cover screen without having to unfurl the Z Fold2.

That said, the amount of screen real estate on offer, specifically how tall it is, has its limitations. This mainly crops up while watching media on the device, or crafting any kind of message that’s longer than a simple reply on WhatsApp.

Still the new cover screen onboard is a nice upgrade from the previous version, and allows you to be more surreptitious when needed.

The other big improvement is on the central hinge of the Z Fold2. Here Samsung took some of the lessons learned from the Galaxy Z Flip, as well as adding tiny brushes to the internal mechanism to ensure that no debris gets inside or underneath the flexible screen.

Main attraction

Speaking of which, when unfolded, the Z Fold2’s main screen is 7.6″. It also sports 2208×1768 resolution and support for HDR10+.

This aspect is a little puzzling as the quality when watching videos on the Z Fold2 proved a tad disappointing. This may have something to do with the platform available, with content on Netflix for example looking for better than that of YouTube.

It should also be noted that the punch hole housing the 10MP selfie camera may get in the way depending on the orientation you have a video playing in. It’s not a deal breaker,  but something you’ll have to learn to cope with when watching lots of content on the unfolded form of the Z Fold2.

As for the centre crease on the screen – it is there, and particularly noticeable when the device is unfolded, but not powered on. Whether consumers are keen on such a look remains to be seen, but it also needs to be mentioned that this is cutting edge technology, which will likely be perfected over time on new iterations. Consequently, it is something you’re simply going to have to live with.

One final element worth noting on the screen is that it feels a little sticky at times. This may be the result of the foldable display tech, but those expecting the same seamless experience from glass will take some time to get use to this new texture.

Going through the design of the Z Fold2, it certainly feels like a well manufactured piece of hardware, with it feeling fairly hard wearing, not that we were reckless with a R50k foldable phone. What we’re getting at here is that the concerns around build quality are gone with this iteration of Fold.

Power in all departments

Now that we’ve tackled all the design aspects, let’s move on to the performance. Here the Z Fold2 was a pleasure, not once giving us any issues or concerns that it was struggling as we multitasked, ran benchmarks or watched hours of video.

In this respect, a special shout out must go to the 4 500mAh battery onboard this foldable phone. We though that battery life would be way down on this device, given its form factor, but Samsung has managed to ensure that we got on average two days of “heavy” use out of a fully charged Z Fold2.

The aforementioned benchmark tests were also solid, with Geekbench (5.2.0) yielded single-core and multi-core scores of 959 and 3 130 respectively. On the visual side of things, 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme registered an overall score of 7 289.

As such, there are no concerns about whether the Galaxy Z Fold2 is powerful enough.

Before we get onto the multitasking functionality of this device, some may be asking what the camera performance is like? On that front – very good.

There are a total of five cameras onboard, with a 10MP lens on the cover screen and for the selfie camera. On the rear a trio of 12MP lenses are present – wide-angle, ultra-wide and telephoto. Thankfully no gimmicky zoom elements are found, and the result is a camera setup on par with most flagship offerings at the moment, as evidenced by the shots below.

No stylus?

Now we need to talk about the most important element of the Z Fold2 – does it work well both folded and unfolded? Here the experiences are a little mixed. Folded this device works quite nicely, and you never feel the need to unfold it while working on the cover screen, outside of interacting with more visually rich or multitasking-focused applications.

Unfolded we think that Samsung has missed a trick here, which is made all the more apparent given that it pioneered phablets (as they were called back then) with the Galaxy Note series and its S Pen stylus.

To that end, the 7.6″ of screen you have to work with seems like the perfect digital canvas for a stylus.

Whether the foldable screen can’t handle the nuanced pressure of a stylus is unclear, but it is something that Samsung should have definitely added to the mix, especially as the Z Fold2 is billed as a “perfect” multitasking device.

Right now, when unfolded, the Z Fold2 just feels like a big smartphone screen, and Samsung needs to do more to bring it to life and make the most of the form factor.

Foldable phones are suppose to bring new experiences to the fore, and the Z Fold2 is not doing that at the moment, which is a little disappointing given the price tag.

Final verdict

It is hard to justify the R50k price tag on the Galaxy Z Fold2. That said, no other device on the market at the moment features the kind of hardware onboard that this one does. It is also clear that a lot of work has been done to improve the overall build quality of the Z Fold2, not to mention the powerful components, great all-round camera and superb battery life on offer.

If we are going to fault the Z Fold2 on anything, it’s that the 7.6″ unfolded flexible display is not being used to its full potential. Whether a stylus would have improved the experience, more multitasking features were added to the mix or the UI was better tailored to this form factor, is unclear.

What is clear though, is that this second generation of Galaxy Fold has addressed the design kinks, so the next generation has to make multitasking a core part of the experience.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.