The only foldable smartphones readily available in India are made by Samsung, which means no matter which review you read, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the best foldable around. But, jokes aside, uber-rich tech enthusiasts have been sceptical about adopting Samsung’s Galaxy Fold-series, given its tumultuous past.
But the tides have turned, and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a seriously durable, powerful and flexible luxury smartphone – the last part is extremely crucial, as it’s status quo more than anything. Starting at Rs 1,54,999, it’s clearly not within reach of the average consumer, but does it finally make sense for its opulent target audience? Find out in our review.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: A show-stopping design
Taking the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 out in public is an event – some people stare in awe, some people roll their eyes, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. A friend of ours, rather seriously, offered to trade his seven-year-old with the Z Fold 4. Even three years later, the Fold has held up its uniqueness. You won’t get much attention with the latest and greatest iPhones or even the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
The Z Fold 4, as usual, has two displays – an exposed hard glass cover display on the front and a foldable display on the inside, both of which are AMOLED with 2K resolution. The cover display and the rear of the Z Fold 4 are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+, the toughest glass protection for smartphones, whereas the inside display is made of ultra-thin foldable glass.
The hinge of the Z Fold 4 has been made much slimmer than before. As a result, the cover display appears to be bigger even though it’s nearly the same size as before. The frame and hinge of the phone are made of Armor Aluminum, just like the Z Fold 3, although because there’s less metal being used, the weight has dropped from 271 grams to 263 grams.
In two weeks, the phone didn’t develop any major scratches other than those on the camera lenses, and we can assure you that we took care of the phone. The only hardcore place it visited was perhaps our jeans pocket.
The gap between the two sides of the flexible display in the folded state is slightly narrower, but you can still see through the other end. Also, like the Z Fold 3, the phone is IPX8 rated, so it’s waterproof, but dust is still its enemy.Despite the incremental improvements in making the hinge smaller and the phone lighter, the Z Fold 4 is still not a very practical phone for one-handed use. It’s still very slippery, and unfolding the phone takes a considerable effort, which somewhat discourages you from using the foldable display. Also, if you’re a person who likes using the phone in bed, be prepared to get your nose smashed because it likes to fall over on your face due to the way its weight is balanced.
Over two weeks of using the Z Fold 4, the unfolding mechanism has become a little squeaky. It’s not a loud sound and only happens about three times out of ten, but it’s still there. We find it satisfying, though. There haven’t been any bubbles forming on the flexible display or the crease getting deeper than it did initially. Also, every single time we unfolded the phone, there was grease and lint on the flexible display.
You get certain perks due to the foldable nature of the phone, but we will get to those later in the review.
Overall, in terms of design, the Z Fold 4 is a bulky smartphone, no doubt, but it’s also going to get you a ton of attention.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: Better hardware chops than the S22 Ultra
Because the Galaxy Z Fold 4 was launched in the second half of 2022, it gets the latest and greatest hardware in the industry. It is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen-1 SoC with a constant 12GB of RAM but three different storage configurations of 256GB, 512GB and 1TB.
There’s no mention of a fancy vapour cooling system, but the 8+ Gen-1 is way more efficient and marginally powerful than the vanilla variant of the processor. Given the limited space within the Z Fold 4, it doesn’t heat up or throttle all that often, and performance is always on tap.
Not that the target audience would care at this price point, but it shatters benchmarks with an overall score of 936001 on AnTuTu v9, putting it easily in the top fastest smartphones on planet Earth. In Geekbench v5 single-core and multi-core tests, it was able to manage scores of 1291 and 3819, respectively, which is somewhat in iQOO 9T territory, despite not being a gaming smartphone. These numbers become far more relevant when you factor in the software tweaks Samsung has brought this year to the One UI, especially for the Z Fold 4.
We ran some games on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 too. Call of Duty: Mobile could run on High graphics with Max frame rates; after 20 minutes of gaming, the glass back of the phone was warm to touch, but not as hot as Snapdragon 8 Gen-1 devices would normally get. We also tried Pokemon Unite – the game is pretty well optimised for the display, and the controls can be nicely moved to the bottom third of the flexible display to let you enjoy the rest of the screen. Otherwise, we mostly enjoyed colourful, casual games such as Infinity Loop that look amazing on the interior display.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: Software tweaks to compliment the displays
We usually merge the software and performance aspects of a phone review, but given the nature of the Z Fold 4, we believe the display and software are way more closely linked.
While the appeal of the Z Fold 4 lies in its foldable screen, we found ourselves using the cover display a lot more. It spans 6.2 inches and has an awkward aspect ratio of 23.1:9 but is mighty crisp, at 904 x 2316 pixels resolution.
The same awkward aspect ratio carries forward to the 7.6-inch foldable display – 21.6:18 with a resolution of 1812 x 2176 pixels. This, too, is a crisp panel with 1200 nits of brightness. Both displays refresh at 120Hz, and we love that level of consistency.
The cover display is, in fact, wider and shorter than the previous generations, and Samsung believes it feels much more like a regular smartphone. However, in reality, it’s still very narrow and combined with the thickness and slipperiness, it’s a chore to type on with a single hand.
There’s a good chance you’ll develop serious forearm strength from day three of using the phone, half of which is used in countering its weight and half of it is to keep it from slipping.
S-Pen support is also here, just like the last time, and there’s no way to holster it to the phone other than buying a dedicated holder. Unfortunately, the S-Pen doesn’t support the cover display, so you can’t take notes in a rush like you would on Note 22. Sorry, the S22 Ultra. Still, it’s cool how Samsung has squeezed in a digitiser within such a slim body.
Did the crease bother us while consuming content? Not when we were looking at it head-on.
But, it still has colour-shifting tendencies, especially when it’s in a semi-folded state. It’s also annoying for hardcore S-Pen users because the crease acts as a hurdle for a smooth stroke on display. So, there’s no way you can draw a straight line edge-to-edge.
Let’s move on to the biggest addition to the UI that we raved about in our first impressions – the taskbar. This year’s pitch of the Fold is ‘PC in your pocket’. The taskbar allows you to excuse the multitasking gesture/button and dive into other apps by tapping on their icons. Switching between apps is super quick, almost as quick as a fully-loaded PC. It’s extremely convenient, and we can’t wait to see the rendition of it on other tablets, although Xiaomi did a slightly different rendition of it in the Xiaomi Pad 5.
The taskbar makes other productivity features easier to use, like split-window multitasking. So, you have to drag and drop an app icon on an area of the screen to get started. You can open up to three different apps in a proper split window view. But if you want to go beast mode, you can open more apps in floating windows. We opened as many as nine apps in total, and there was literally no single frame drop or stutter. And the best part? No heat! Even when GPS-intensive tasks are running simultaneously with casual games and YouTube videos. This is an awe-inspiring feat that we haven’t seen any Android smartphone do, not even the crazy powerful iQOOs or ROGs of the world with their state-of-the-art vapour chambers and ludicrous benchmark figures.
But here’s the important question – would you ever bother multitasking on such limited screen estate? There’s a fun Twitter thread going on at the moment on the same topic, where many users believe it’s just for show boarding. But then, isn’t that the whole point of having a phone that costs Rs 1.5 lakh?
Fun fact, the Z Fold 4 runs Android 12L, a special version made specifically for larger devices, and the taskbar is a result of that.
Productivity apps such as Basecamp and Trello appear gorgeous on the Z Fold 4, and take full advantage of the interior display. Editing and writing stuff on Docs, too, is fantastic.
Some Flex Mode features are also brought to the Fold from the Flip devices. YouTube, Zoom and the camera app now support the flex mode, in which some UI elements are brought to the bottom of the display.
Still, there are a few things that put us off.
The Galaxy Fold has been around for about three years, but it’s disappointing to see poor app support for it. For example, Instagram, one of the most popular apps in the world, is still not optimised for the Z Fold 4. Sure, the app runs okay on the cover screen, but when you unfold it, there’s no good way to use it. And when you fold the screen back and start using the app on the cover screen, the text spills from the side of the screen, and the only way to get it back to working normally is by restarting it. Reels, too, aren’t optimised – the cover display shows you letterboxes, whereas the interior display crops the videos when being used in full-screen mode.
This is just the beginning of something we like to call the ‘Foldable tax’, a theme found in both the Fold 4 and the Flip 4 that we will be reviewing shortly.
For instance, there’s still no right way to watch any kind of video content without having giant letterboxes on both displays. Further, because there’s no kickstand, you can’t watch full-screen content on the flexible display by keeping it on a surface. Sure, Samsung has brought the ‘Flex mode’ to YouTube, in which the video is tossed on the top of the crease, and the comments and recommendations are shown on the bottom half.
This kind of defeats the purpose of having a tablet-like display folded within a smartphone form factor because the area taken up by the video now is really small, and the elements around it are distracting. You can’t fully enjoy the full video on the screen either because of the colour shifting that takes place on the display when the phone is semi-folded. It’s almost as if the phone is mocking you by saying, ‘oh, if you want to keep making a fortune every month, you better not be having fun’.
Also, while Netflix and YouTube supports Flex mode, Amazon Prime doesn’t, along with a bunch of other important apps.
The new taskbar and the extreme multitasking capabilities are jaw-dropping, no doubt, but there’s still some optimisation to do on Samsung’s part, at least in basic apps such as Instagram and YouTube, because all work and no play will definitely make you a dull person.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: Hits a home run with the cameras
The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s rear camera system has been given a nice little refresh with an optically stabilised 50-megapixel camera leading the way along with a 10-megapixel telephoto with 3x optical zoom and 30x hybrid zoom and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. In addition, Nightography, Teleportraits and 8K video recording make the camera system even more appealing than before.
Of course, there are also two ‘front’ cameras, depending on the screen you’re using. The cover display hosts a 10-megapixel sensor in a circular cutout, whereas inside, there’s a 4-megapixel in-display camera. This year, the latter has been improved to be less distracting, and it works well when there’s darker content on display. The pixels surrounding it jitter in white backgrounds, making it a bit distracting.
As mentioned before, the camera app takes full advantage of the Flex mode by putting the gallery on the left side of the crease and the camera viewfinder and interface on the right. Sometimes, your framing might take a hit because the crop factor of the viewfinder and the final output would vary. The cover display also lets you take selfies with the more powerful rear cameras, although you’d find your eye level a little off while doing that.
Nevertheless, the rear cameras are extremely reliable and very rarely do you end up with a poor photograph. Sure, some images have the characteristic Samsung processed look with heightened blue and green tones in sceneries, but it was okay with us as the naturally saturated look took away the extra step of editing before uploading on social media.
In the daytime, the shots taken by the rear cameras were crisp and well-detailed across cameras. The HDR works beautifully to recover lost shadows, and the shutter lag is next to none. The ultra-wide has some obvious warping around the edges, but the photos are sharp. The 3x telephoto coupled with 30x hybrid zoom is far more useful compared to its 2x predecessor. It lets you get real up-and-close with far-off subjects and works wonders in teleportraits. We seldom used 1x portrait mode because framing a close-up was so addictive. Processing photos in HDR and portrait mode takes about a second, but the result is far superior.
We also took the zoom capabilities a notch further and shot the Supertech Twin Towers explosion’s timelapse in the video mode, which restricts the hybrid zoom to 12X. Take a look at it on our Instagram reel or YouTube Short.
Night shots were excellent too. Yes, sometimes the light glare results in a purple tint, but the noise reduction worked its magic where it was required and not throughout the image. As a result, the images clicked at night appeared nice and sharp and not softened. Night portraits were also fun to click, but the output was grainy despite the noise reduction. We preferred shots of human subjects without Night mode because it tends to be too aggressive in the shadows.
In extreme low light, the primary camera manages to click colour-accurate images, but the ultrawide misses out on the reality entirely, compensating too much for warm tones.
8K recording is also present here, but the crop factor is a bit too much, and the output appears a bit shaky compared to the 4K/60fps and 1080p/60fps modes. HDR10+ recordings can be taken only in the 1080p/30fps mode. We mostly shot in 1080p as social media anyway requires downsizing of quality, plus the HDR10+ made things appear slightly better in videos, at least to our eyes.
The 4-megapixel in-display is a computer webcam from the 2000s in your smartphone – it takes blurry photos and videos. It’s excusable as it’s only intended to be used for video calls.
The ‘real’ front-facing camera clicks good photos day and night. It can record up to 4K video too.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: Needs a mid-day charge
No matter how you use the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, you’ll have to find a way to charge its 4,400mAh battery at least once before your day ends, even after starting the day with a full charge. The claims of 50% charge in 30 minutes didn’t live up, at least by our testing methodology – it took about 40-45 minutes to get to the halfway point. However, it’s still marginally better than the previous generation because the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is a far more efficient processor.
Charging the phone entirely takes about an hour and 30 minutes without the ‘Protect battery’ mode enabled. It feels like an eternity to charge it, and we seldom manage to get it to a full charge simply because of how long it takes.
The phone also doesn’t ship with a charging brick, but finding a USB-PD charger capable of 25W charging isn’t that difficult to find.
After starting the day at around 85% at 7:30, we usually had a charging break at around 4 pm when the battery would reach 15% charge. After taking the battery midway from there, the phone would again show the ‘Low Battery’ prompt by 10:30 pm. This isn’t an all-day phone by any means, and if you are using the foldable display, your battery usage will be even more. So it’s important to travel with a charger with this one.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: Verdict
Revisiting the ‘PC in your pocket’ tagline of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, it does seem like Samsung succeeded in making an extremely capable device that’s versatile as a smartphone as well as a pocket tablet, thanks to the new taskbar.
The all-new camera system is also a significant improvement over the previous iteration of the Z Fold 3, with all of its Nightography and 8K glory. We haven’t had many durability issues either, the flexible display is intact after two weeks, and there aren’t many scratches or sounds that bothered us.
But there are a few things that need to be addressed, like stability and bugs for the apps that are considered bare-minimum, such as YouTube and Instagram. Also, we aren’t sure how useful multitasking capabilities would be even for the most productive people on the planet.
Nevertheless, this is the most polished Fold ever made, so in a way, yes, foldable has peaked.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4₹1,54,999
DESIGN & BUILD9.0/10
VALUE FOR MONEY8.0/10
What Is Good?
- Gorgeous displays
- Great cameras
- Crazy multitasking capabilities
- The taskbar is a meaningful addition
- Design is still unique
What Is Bad?
- Battery charges slowly
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