Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 Review


Samsung’s new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 handset pushes foldable flip phones to new heights and reaches a growing population segment, thanks to significant improvements in design, user experience, and pricing. Is this the phone for you? Through our experience, you can find out if that’s the right handset for you. Let’s take a deep dive into this exciting phone.

Our test unit is the 128 GB cream AT&T Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G (SKU SM-F711U) with Samsung One UI 3.1.1 with mmWave 5G for optimum peak speeds over 5G. Other carriers might or might not support that type of 5G, so double-check with your carrier before buying the phone.

There is also preloaded software such as DirectTV or the AT&T Cloud and Mobile security that are not included with unlocked handsets or non-AT&T phones. Other than that, the overall experience should be very similar between all Z Flip3 models worldwide.

Design

The folding design is an obvious place to start since it is the essence of this phone. Samsung’s goal (in my opinion) is to create an extremely pocketable smartphone that has no significant downsides as possible compared to classic phones such as the Galaxy S21 and S21+. We posted more photos on Instagram, join us!

Flip phones are proven form-factors, and we already know that people (used to) love them. They were abandoned as the requirement for large, monolithic displays became the norm, but with Samsung’s folding OLED technology, the flip design roars back again.

The Z Flip3 brings important design updates that close the gap with standard phones. Z Flip3 is now waterproof, and that’s extremely important for the phone’s survivability. The glass surface is more resistant, the hinge is better designed, and the overall chassis feels extremely solid despite having moving parts.

Samsung has a vast array of protection options for users who worry about dropping the phone, including very clever cases. 3rd party accessories like skins offer more original options if needed.

The new 2-tones color scheme looks sleek, and we got the black/cream which looks great, but my favorites would be the Pink, Green, or Lavender versions. In any case, the dual-tone design gives a visual clue for the device’s orientation, in addition to the tactile feel of the hinge.

“THE GALAXY Z FLIP3 IS THE BEST-LOOKING FLIP FOLDING PHONE”

It’s fair to say that the Galaxy Z Flip3 is the best-looking Flip Folding phone and is a testament to Samsung’s design and manufacturing prowess. Motorola is the only near competitor, and the rest is pretty much all talk, no product.

For left-handed people, the location of the Power and Volume buttons is a bit too high, but with the hinge occupying quite a bit of space, I’m not sure this could be improved, even in the next generation.

I find the Galaxy Z Flip3 extremely pocketable. Anyone who has carried something like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or S21 Ultra would fully appreciate the difference as the Z Flip3 is very comfortable in pants pockets. Visually, it is a huge success as well, but you can decide for yourself with the photos.

User Experience

Beyond the physical compactness, the Z Flip3 brings unique experiences to users. For example, you can use the phone with the display bent at virtually any angle (Flex Mode) between fully closed and fully opened. Sometimes, it’s just super-convenient.

You can put it on a surface to watch videos, jump into a conference call, or near a window for a timelapse. I love this flexibility, and I suspect that most users will enjoy that aspect of the phone.

Does closing the Galaxy Z Flip3 end a call? The answer is “yes, it can,” but that’s not the default behavior. Samsung has an “Answering and ending calls” setting to choose how to answer or end a call.

“SOMETIMES, IT’S JUST SUPER-CONVENIENT”

The new, larger cover touch-screen makes the phone much more helpful when closed. It is now large enough to provide a typical always-on display experience. On a classic phone, I usually have the clock and music controls visible, but the Z Flip3’s cover screen experience is more important if you don’t want to open/close the phone frequently.

You can choose which app widgets appear there, along with the usual music controls and world clocks. I’m sure most people would want an even larger cover screen, but this one addresses everyday use cases well enough.

I enjoyed that you can easily use the rear camera for higher-quality selfie photos using the cover screen to preview the shot. When closed, you can hold onto the phone much more tightly and use the volume button as a shutter button.

Galaxy Z Flip3 Camera

The Z Flip3 rear camera features Primary and Ultrawide cameras, which is a combo that covers the most essential mobile photo use cases: Day, Night, and Ultrawide photography. There’s no dedicated Zoom camera, and the Primary camera module handles this function the best it can.

If we dig deeper into the Z Flip3 vs. Galaxy S21 camera technicals, we can see that it is underpowered against its S21 cousin. The Z Flip3’s Sony IMX563 is notably smaller than the Samsung S5KGW2 sensor of the S21, and the same is true for the Ultrawide camera.

The likely explanation is that the S21 chassis is 13% thicker than the Z Flip3, giving engineers more room to work with. Larger sensors need more space, and that’s why all high-end phones have sizeable camera bumps, something that seems off the table, for now.

These technical differences show up in our CAMERA HW score, and actual imaging tests show differences in details, color accuracy, noise levels, and other image quality attributes compared to the S21 and S21 Ultra. Once again, camera hardware directly impacts image quality.

A very life-like reference image shot with the S21 Ultra. This is very close to what the eyes see in the real-world. We will crop the green area, but note the great consistency of Samsung’s image tuning across the Z Flip3, S21 and S21 Ultra.

Samsung’s color tuning is excellent and very consistent across phones, despite significant differences in camera equipment. No amount of (software) tuning can ultimately make up for the difference in actual image quality. But it can help preserve natural colors and the scene’s mood as much as the optics and sensors can capture.

“THE PHOTO QUALITY IS GOOD IN RELATION TO THE PHONE’S THICKNESS”

Some of the image quality differences such as details or noise are not very visible on social media or on the phone’s screen. However, they would stand out more on a laptop or a TV.

Overall, the photo quality is outstanding in relation to the phone’s size. I believe that Z Flip3 buyers will be satisfied with the camera experience, especially since its camera is better than its main rival, the foldable Motorola RAZR 5G, according to our CAMERA HW ranking.

Display

Looking at the phone straight on, the crease is nearly invisible

As usual, the image quality (100% sRGB) and the 720 NITs brightness of the 6.7” OLED display is top-notch, and people have gotten used to it from Samsung.

The most frequent questions about it revolve around the crease located just above the hinge mechanism. Can you see it, and can you feel it?

During normal usage, you don’t tend to see the crease (see photo above), and I often forget it is even there until I look at the screen from an angle, or if the image is very dark and the surface caught a reflection from a nearby light. The brighter the environment is, the more likely you’ll see the crease, but it’s never been a problem in the user experience.

But depending on the angle, reflections can reveal it

On the other hand, you will feel the crease on your fingertips as you use the touch screen in that area. Thumb-scrolling typically stays within the bottom half of the screen and well below the crease. Index scrolling tends to hit the crease more often. Is it a problem? I don’t think so, but you can always try for yourself to be sure.

The 120 Hz refresh rate is new for this model and ensures the smoothest experience possible without affecting battery life much as it automatically goes down to 60 Hz when appropriate. Once you get used to 120 HZ it might be hard to come back to 60 Hz.

Samsung said that the new (flexible) glass is about 30% harder than the previous generation, and that’s in addition to the plastic screen protector.

Performance

From a performance standpoint, the Snapdragon 888 platform ensures no tradeoff compared to most Android flagships equipped with the same processor, such as S21 and S21+. The performance is excellent, including for intensive graphic applications such as modern games. It’s not far off the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which has a fancier cooling system.

The 8GB of RAM is tighter than other Android handsets, and people who like to install a ton of apps (100+) might want something more sizeable, but it’s not a problem for most people. The base model has 128GB of storage, and the maximum is 256GB as there’s no micro-SD option.

I would have liked to see a 512GB version for a slightly higher price, but the motherboard is tiny, so we might have to wait for denser memory chips to reach that storage capacity in this design. In 2022 perhaps?

Battery life

Due to the nature of the chassis, the battery capacity is relatively small at 3300 mAh, which is significantly lower than the S21+’s 4800 mAh. Given that both run on a comparable processor platform and have equivalent display surface area, you should expect a drop in battery life proportional to the capacity difference.

And that’s what (web browsing) battery tests show. The Galaxy S21+ lasts 10 hours, while the Galaxy Z Flip3 would probably go on for 6.5 to 7hours. For light use, you might have to charge only daily. However, heavy users would have to be more careful about managing the battery life.

A small battery could be mitigated by super-fast charging, but unfortunately, the Z Flip3 does not charge particularly fast. 15W wired charging and 10W wireless charging are today’s basic charging speeds at this price point, and there are many faster options.

The unique industrial design challenge and heat dissipation are most likely the main challenges to making this phone charge any faster. The battery life is the Z Flip3’s primary Achilles’ heel compared to its classic S21+ cousin.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Z Flip3 is a unique phone with one goal: give you an ultra-compact foldable phone with as few tradeoffs as possible compared to a similarly priced “classic” Galaxy phone.

And for the most part, it does deliver a near-identical compute performance and legacy functionalities. However, the shorter battery life and lower camera performance (in that order) are essential elements to consider. So far, the Z Flip3 customer satisfaction rate is very high, and I expect it to remain that way.

It brings unique user experiences and a form factor adored by many buyers who are willing to overlook the few weaknesses we highlighted in favor of a satisfying look, feel, and usage model. As I look around me and online, I see more and more people willing to “go Foldable,” and it is projected that Samsung will ship many more foldable phones this year.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 might not be for everyone, but every indicator show this market snowballing fast. Samsung has created the large screen display category, and it would be interesting to see if Foldables follow a similar trajectory.

If you’re considering getting a Galaxy Z Flip3, check Samsung’s official page for discounts and other incentives. At publishing time, it was possible to trade in old phones like the iPhone 7 for about $300.

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