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Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2 Is Proof That You Should Skip First-Gen Tech

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2 Is Proof That You Should Skip First-Gen Tech

The original Galaxy Fold was the most important phone of 2019. It showed how flexible display tech could create a totally new type of device with the portability of a phone and the big screen and improved multitasking experience of a tablet. However, like a lot of first-gen products—especially something that ambitious—you really had to question if it was worth putting up with all of the Fold’s issues (of which there were many) to just experience something truly cutting edge.

But now the Galaxy Z Fold2 is here with improvements that address nearly all of its predecessor’s faults, while also adding new features that make it an even better and more forward-thinking hybrid. And while its $2,000 price tag still makes me want to cry, the Galaxy Z Fold2 is a massive second-gen success.

One of the most obvious upgrades on the Z Fold2 is its design. By sharpening up the sides of the phone while smoothing out its finish, the Z Fold2 feels significantly more solid and well-built. Samsung also redesigned the Z Fold2's hinge, so that the screens stay put regardless of how far they’re open, and by adding more brushes to the inside of the hinge and closing up the gaps on last year’s model, the Z Fold2 is much better equipped to deal with dirt. Samsung even borrowed the matte glass back from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra for use on the Z Fold2, which makes the phone more appealing both visually and texturally. That said, it’s important to remember that the Z Fold2 still doesn’t have an official rating for dust or water resistance. We’re talking upgrades here, not magic.

Samsung has also streamlined the Z Fold2's design by axing the original Fold’s large interior camera notch and replacing it with a simple punch-hole selfie cam. In fact, by moving from two interior selfie cams to just one, the Z Fold2 actually has one less camera overall compared to the first Fold, and I think the Z Fold2 is better for it.

Here's how the Z Fold 2 compares in size to the Surface Duo, 2020's other super premium folding phone.
Here’s how the Z Fold2 compares in size to the Surface Duo, 2020's other super-premium folding phone.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

However, weighing in at 9.95 ounces, it’s actually a touch heavier than the original Fold and when compared to something like the Surface Duo, you can really see why Microsoft was so committed to making its take on a foldable phone exceedingly thin and light. So while the Z Fold2's heft isn’t a deal breaker, it’s something I’ll be looking for Samsung to reduce on future models.

But by far, the Z Fold2's most important design win is its significantly larger 6.2-inch Cover Screen, which fully utilizes the phone’s front facade. So now with that extra space, you can finally use the Z Fold2's Cover Display to quickly check emails, view maps, or respond to texts. Sure, compared to most phones, typing on a screen this narrow still feels slightly cramped, but compared to how things were before, it’s practically a non-issue. This means you can finally use the Z Fold2's outside screen for short tasks, while leaving the phone’s flexible display for when you want that full big screen splendor.

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Galaxy Z Fold2 Is Proof That You Should Skip First-Gen Tech
Photo: Sam Rutherford

And what a magnificent experience it is, because in addition to increasing its total screen size from 7.3 to 7.6-inches, Samsung also added support for a 120Hz variable refresh rate. This allows the phone to adjust its refresh rate depending on the kind of content you’re watching, helping you save battery life when you’re looking at static photos, and pumping it up when you’re playing games. Samsung has even improved the Z Fold’s multitasking making it easier to use two apps at once, or even three if that’s what you need. And when combined with a peak brightness of over 650 nits, even the faint crease that runs down the middle of the screen, the Z Fold2's screen looks better than a lot of boring old glass-front displays.

Now I realize that drooling about a 7.6-inch screen on a phone is like one step away from officially embracing grandpa status doing stuff like taking everyday photos with a tablet. But for so many different activities, bigger screens are just better. I can more enjoyably watch a movie in bed, or play games without squinting at tiny crosshairs. And because the Z Fold2 features an OLED screen, it downright awesome for reading e-books with a white text on a pure black background. It’s the dark mode dream.

The Z Fold2's screen protector even has a cutout for its selfie cam, which kind of annoying if you happen to brush over it with your finger.
The Z Fold2's screen protector even has a cutout for its selfie cam, which kind of annoying if you happen to brush over it with your finger.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

There’s one thing that drives me kind of crazy though: the Z Fold2's pre-installed “screen protector.” After the debacle that was the original Galaxy Fold’s launch, I thought there was no way that Samsung would allow anything close to that happening again. But for some reason, the Z Fold2 comes with a screen protector that according to the warnings that come with the phone should “not be removed” because doing so “may cause product damage.” What the hell, is it a screen protector or part of the screen itself?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for an abundance of caution when it comes to a phone this expensive, but the problem is that because the screen protector feels worse than the naked flexible display on my Galaxy Z Flip, attract slightly more fingerprints, and has edges that over time might come loose, I imagine that at some point Galaxy Z Fold2 owners will be forced to remove the screen protector or send the phone out for service. And if anything does happen to that screen protector, Samsung wants users to take their phone into service center, because us morons can’t be trusted to do it ourselves. Sigh.

Elsewhere, the Z Fold2 has expectedly powerful specs including a Snapdragon 865+ processor (which includes support for 5G), 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, side-mounted fingerprint sensor, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. Even its speakers sound louder and clearer, which means the only things you might be still be longing for are a headphone jack and a microSD card slot.

The Z Fold2's battery has also gotten bigger at 4,500 mAh, which is good because between that 120Hz display and 5G, it needs all the juice it can get. On our video rundown test, the Z Fold2 with 120Hz mode turned on lasted just over 10 hours, with 120Hz disabled, it fared much better with a time of 15:03. That’s still short of the 17+ hours I got from the original Fold, and I suspect that enabling 120Hz causes YouTube to suck up more juice than it really should because in normal use, its battery life is prodigious. Often, even after a full day’s use, I would still have 40% or more battery before plugging in back in around midnight.

Finally, with its triple rear cameras which include a 12-MP main cam, a 12-MP ultra-wide cam, and a 12-MP 2x telephoto cam, the Z Fold2 is a strong, well-rounded shooter. Now it’s true that compared to a Pixel 4, the Z Fold2 still loses when it comes to pure image quality (though it’s close). But considering that even the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra doesn’t consistently outperform Google’s best, that shouldn’t really be a surprise.

For all the people who are wary of first-gen products (and rightfully so), the Z Fold2 is a shining example of why it makes sense to wait. It’s faster, it’s got a hugely refined design, and thanks to its improved and enhanced flexible display, the Z Fold2 is an even better replacement for a multitude of gadgets in your life.

It’s a phone, it’s a tablet, it’s an e-reader, and with its gorgeous, perfectly-sized display, it’s an almost ideal comic viewing device too. That’s three, maybe four devices in one. It’s a futuristic visage of tech convergence that’s available today. And thanks to a stronger, more stable hinge, the Z Fold2 is also a part-time cameraman too, allowing you to record video of yourself simply by setting the phone down, tilting its rear camera up, and hitting record.

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Galaxy Z Fold2 Is Proof That You Should Skip First-Gen Tech
Photo: Sam Rutherford

The only thing Samsung didn’t really fix is the Z Fold2's price. $2,000 isn’t just expensive, it’s almost downright absurd, and I can’t fault anyone for turning a cheek or immediately banishing it from their mind due to its cost. For a lot of people, the typical single-screen slab is perfectly adequate.

But for anyone who has dreamed about tech that allows phones to do more, the Z Fold2 is a pioneer of the post-phone era. The Z Fold2 offers an experience unlike anything else on the market, so while that price might not make any logical sense, somehow it’s still not completely outlandish.

README

  • Thanks to a larger Cover Screen and flexible main screen with support for a 120Hz refresh rate, the Z Fold2 is an ever better phone/tablet hybrid than before.
  • Even though the top layer of the Z Fold2's screen is still made out of softer plastic, the rest of the Fold feels significantly more substantial and durable.
  • Unlike last year, the Z Fold2 doesn’t come with any bonus accessories like a pair of Galaxy Buds.
  • Samsung’s Z Premier Service for foldables devices includes a one-time $150 screen replacement and a couple other perks like escalated tech support and discounts on fancy stuff like, wine, country clubs, and more.
  • The ability to transform into multiple modes and replace various standalone gadgets never ceases to delight.
  • Yes, there’s still a crease.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

rockology_adam
Spessartine

I realize that I am, more and more I guess, in the minority here, but I cannot bring myself to pay $2000 for something that cannot do everything for me. And I mean everything.

For two grand, I need a device that, on top of being a top-notch smart phone, also takes amazing pictures, and when I take it out at home or at work, also functions as the centrepiece of my workstation or gaming station. I’m not doing high-level video editing or 4K gaming, but at that price point, the idea that I also need a computer (sizable laptop or desktop) to effectively flip lessons and grade digital assignments (I’ve tried docked tablets, and they just don’t cut it; I need more space and more multi-tasking/multiple windows) or play Brawlhalla locally with my son, galls.

Maybe I’m just used to needing larger workhorses, or maybe I’m just getting old, but I cannot understand the use case for this that isn’t better served by a low-to-mid-range phone-only and a computer, and maybe a decent camera.