Small, square, but very promising: the Galaxy Z Flip3 from Samsung just might make foldable smartphones mainstream.
Samsung should certainly be considered the king of foldable smartphones by now. It is the only company that has invested so much (and clearly) in the development of this technology and has demonstrated consistent evolution over the past three years. The model does not necessarily target only new technology enthusiasts, and not only women, although it is probably the main target group. The Galaxy Z Flip is a series that should first appeal to fans of small smartphones, but what else is there?
Let’s try and find the answer together.
Why Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3?
Instead of the classic Note series model, Samsung introduced the third generation of the foldable Galaxy Z Fold smartphone and the second version of the Galaxy Z Flip3 5G in mid-August. The Galaxy Z Flip3 again uses the clamshell design, and in addition, the entire device is waterproof according to the IPX8 standard.
Also, the foldable smartphone is interesting for its large external display, as well as the internal one that has also been improved, and now has a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Thanks to the clamshell design, the Galaxy Z Flip3 has a really high chance of attracting a large group of customers. They can also be attracted by a fairly affordable price. Right now the phone costs about $1,150) for the 8/128 GB version. The cost is almost comparable to some of this year’s flagships. And this is, for a moment, a foldable smartphone with flagship characteristics. See for yourself.
- Processor: 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, 2.84 GHz, Adreno 660
- Main display: 6.7 inches, Dynamic AMOLED, 2640×1080 pixels, 120 Hz refresh rate, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, HDR 10+, 425 ppi
- External display: 1.9-inch, 260×512 pixels, Super AMOLED, AOD
- Camera: double, 12 MP, f/2.2 (wide-angle) + 12 MP, f/1.8 (primary)
- Video recording: 4K UHD (3840×2160)
- Selfie camera: 10 MP, f/2.4
- RAM: 8 GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 128 or 256 GB
- Battery: 3300 mAh
- Fast charging: 15 W
- Operating system: Android 11 and One UI latest version
- Communication: USB Type-C, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, LTE, 5G, eSIM, NFC
- Dimensions: 86.4×72.2×15.9 mm (closed) / 166.0×72.2×6.9 mm (open)
- Weight: 183 g
- Sensors: accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope, lighting sensor, proximity sensor, Hall sensor, face scanner, fingerprint scanner in the power button
- Color options: Phantom Black, Green, Lavender, Cream, White, Pink, Grey.
What’s in the box
Not much is included in this year’s package. The company has always been generous and has put a lot of accessories in the box with flagship models. However, following the example of Apple, there is no charging adapter in the set now, which you will have to additionally buy or use the one you always have. Personally, I perceive this as a significant disadvantage, although I have a faster charger.
Samsung has decided that as part of the fight for the preservation of the environment, it will significantly reduce the size and contents of the boxes in which it supplies its flagship smartphones. The company, to some extent, rightly admits that people interested in the best models already have enough chargers and headphones at home, and the case you’ll buy separetely. That’s why all you get is the Galaxy Z Flip3, a SIM eject tool, a USB Type-C cable and papers. That’s all. Last year, for example, there was also a protective cover.
Design and build quality: very attractive clamshell design
Samsung boasts that their latest foldable smartphones are made of the most durable aluminum ever used in the Galaxy models. In addition, these devices have received IPX8 certification, so they are waterproof (without dust protection). However, even without a certificate, the Galaxy Z Flip3 makes a very good impression.
The entire clamshell design feels rigid and durable. The finish also looks good. The device structurally is almost the same as last year’s model, which, however, is not bad; it is still an elegant smartphone with a large display, but thanks to the folding design, you can easily hide it in your pocket.
Koreans chose a matte finish that collects dirt to a lesser extent. Glossy faces and inserts, of course, collect fingerprints, but in general the Galaxy Z Flip3 looks very good in this regard.
The smartphone is divided into almost two halves connected by a massive hinge. It is made of very durable aluminum, and all glass surfaces are made of the latest generation of high-resistant Gorilla Glass Victus glass.
The smartphone looks elegant and durable. The build quality is at the highest level. When the phone is open, it’s thin, but even in the closed state it’s not that thick. The smartphone is long, but when you close it, it turns into a beautiful and compact unit.
Overall, the design has been massively improved. Last year’s model was very shiny, with rounded and shiny edges. The new appearance has become much classier, and now the smartphone looks like a premium device.
The size has hardly changed compared to the previous generation, the smartphone has become a millimeter thinner but the mass remained the same – 183 g.
The front side of the smartphone in unfolded state boasts even bezels and factory film on the display, which is better not to remove. The edges around the display protrude slightly above the surface and can serve as additional damage protection.
Of course, the flexible panel is pleasant to the touch and has a visible fold along, but it does not interfere with everyday use at all. You get used to it over time. The selfie camera hidden in the screen is quite good, although Samsung should still think about improving it. At the top end of the device there is a good speaker that is part of the stereo system.
Flexible hinge mechanism
According to the manufacturer, the hinge can withstand more than 200,000 opening and closing cycles, which is more than enough. So even if you open and close it 100 times a day, it will last about 2.7 years.
The hinge also allows you to fix the top half in the range of approximately 45-145 degrees. Once you open it even more, the mechanism will completely open the phone. If you like to make video calls or stream on YouTube or Instagram, you will like Galaxy Z Flip3. All you have to do is put it on a flat surface, adjust the display so that the front camera captures you and everything is ready. The bottom of the smartphone in this case works as an excellent stand.
The advantage of the folding design is also that when you drop the phone in the closed state, in most cases there is no risk of damage to the internal display. There is a gap of about 1.5 mm between the top and bottom of the display when closed, but in practice it does not matter. The display itself is slightly below, so there is almost no danger of damaging the panel.
Initially, the internal display is equipped with a protective film, which should be 80% stronger than the previous generation. In case it starts to peel off, you can replace it at the Samsung service center. It’s a pity that in the area of the selfie camera the film is a little strangely cut (not fixed at the top above the camera).
Outside, the Galaxy Z Flip3 has almost no camera lenses protruding above the surface. They are placed on a glass surface, behind which an additional display is also hidden. Of course, it’s easy to see where the device folds, but everything is quite flat. You will not find such design in the other models of this price segment.
Ergonomics and connectors
Over time, I got used to the ergonomics of the device. It’s just something other than what you’re used to when using conventional smartphones. Opening will take some time, and you will need both hands. The phone opens quite inconveniently with one hand.
But you don’t have to close it every time. The smartphone was on my desk during the day, and it usually remained open. It seemed more practical to me. In short, I treated it like a regular smartphone and closed it only when I carried it in my pocket or bag. Although, I must admit that the pleasant click that accompanies closing the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a bit addicting. This sound needs to be heard!
At the bottom of the smartphone there is a USB Type-C connector (3.1) and a stereo speaker by AKG. It is useless to look for 3.5 mm audio output – the Galaxy S10 was probably Samsung’s last flagship with support for audio jack.
On the right side at the top there are two volume buttons, and below them there is a power button with a built-in fingerprint scanner.
There is also a slot for two SIM cards, dielectric stripes and microphones on the sides.
It’s easy to get used to using the smartphone in question. It is worth noting the comfortable location of the keys. You will appreciate the compactness of the device, and of course, you will be pleasantly surprised by the fast operation of the fingerprint scanner.
During the entire period of using the device, I was so used to bend and extend my smartphone that I was afraid I would bend my Huawei Mate 40 Pro. It’s a very convenient form factor for me.
Water is no problem
One of the best new features of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is its waterproofness. This means that rain or spilled water is no longer a problem. The smartphone has IPX8 protection, so at a depth of 1.5 m underwater it should last 30 minutes. It’s incredible that Samsung did it with a flexible device. Water can only penetrate inside the joints, but it shouldn’t bother you.
The lack of this function may have scared away many potential buyers of previous generation devices. However, the only thing that is still missing here is dust resistance. It can get into the mechanism and damage it. So you’d better avoid dusty rooms and take care of the phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 comes in four colors – in the elegant gold I tested, in pink, green and conservative black, which is the only one with a fully matte coating. Personally, the matte surface seems more attractive to me, but other colors stand out more.
Fingerprint scanner on the side and face unlocking
You can use a fingerprint scanner for authentication, which is hidden in the power button. I must say that the button is a little higher than I would like, and I wouldn’t mind at all if it were about an inch lower, but apparently the flexible design did not allow it. During the first few days, I struggled a little. From the front, the scanner is almost invisible and you need to guess where it can be.
But I must admit that this is definitely one of the fastest scanners. All you have to do is touch it slightly, at least for a moment, and the fingerprint is immediately recognized and the smartphone unlocks.
Another way to unlock the smartphone is to use face recognition. This function works flawlessly, even in poor lighting conditions, and will pleasantly surprise you with its speed. Double-tap the screen, remove the phone from the table or open it and it will unlock. However, it should be borne in mind that this is 2D scanning, which is not as safe as 3D scanning.
Huge 120 Hz display
The foldable 6.7-inch 120 Hz Dynamic AMOLED internal screen has a resolution of 1080×2640 pixels (426 ppi) and unusual aspect ratio (22:9). I must note that Samsung has improved the UI of the camera, gallery, calendar and some of the main Google apps, taking into account the features of the folding smartphone. If, for example, you start YouTube, when you open the screen at a small angle, the part with the movie being played will be placed in the top half of the display, and the controls will be placed in its bottom. In the gallery, in turn, the photo will move to the top of the screen, and at the bottom you will see the available parameters and thumbnails of the remaining images.
Of course, some apps will still be displayed with black stripes at the top and bottom of the display. The quality of the displayed image is very good – after all, it is Dynamic AMOLED 2x. The colors are attractive and saturated, the contrast is perfect, the brightness of the screen is high, the viewing angles are wide. The layer of polyethylene terephthalate, which covers the screen in the form of pre-applicated film, is now said to be 80% stronger, but the manufacturer advises not to press the screen with your nail and protect the screen from exposure to harder objects. In other words, you still have to be very careful with the Galaxy Z Flip3 screen.
The element of the screen to which we should get used is a clearly visible and tangible notch under the finger on the bend. At first, it’s annoying both visually and tactilely when you move your finger on it. Over time, a person gets used to it – you begin to move the contents of the screen with the movement of your finger only on the lower half, and pay less attention to this strip. However, this feature of Samsung foldable screens has not gone anywhere.
The smoothness of the display can be set either in automatic Adaptive mode (adaptive 48, 60, 120 Hz, although sometimes when the device was unlocked, a fairly unusual value of 96 Hz appeared), or Standard (60 Hz). As a rule, the smartphone set 120 Hz mode for about 2 seconds each time you touch the screen, and then returns to 60 Hz power saving mode. However, there are exceptions, applications such as Google Maps or the camera always work at 60 Hz.
On the other hand, in games, thanks to the Game Booster in the Game Launcher settings, we can force the constant refresh rate of the image: 48, 60 or 120 Hz. And… it would be a great solution (it works well in games such as Asphalt 9 or Brawl Stars) if it were not for exceptions to this rule. For example, in PUBG Mobile we will easily reduce the image refresh rate to 48 Hz, but we will not be able to raise it to 120 Hz more. The game remains stays on 60 Hz.
The smartphone screen can operate in two modes: bright (color space DCI-P3) or natural (narrower sRGB). In the first mode, we additionally have a 5-position slider to change the color tone or white temperature. It allows you to get the value you want: 7460K, 7052K, 6700K, 6273K, or 5801K, but this is all within the norm for this model. Since the 6500K is the default temperature, the 6700K feels a little too cold, but it’s not a problem.
But the range of colors has been slightly expanded beyond the DCI-P3 standard in terms of blue and green colors. However, the average DeltaE 2000 error remains stable at 2.58.
The brightness of the AMOLED panel used is also commendable. In manual control mode, we get a white brightness of 497 cd/m2, which is quite typical for AMOLED panels, but if you allow the automation to work, then in sufficiently bright light the smartphone will raise the brightness to 808 cd/m2 (for 90% white on the screen) or even up to 1047 cd/m2 (for 50% of the displayed white). Thus, the Galaxy Z Flip3 inner screen is very bright, readable in bright light and ideal for viewing HDR content (the device supports HLG, HDR10 and HDR10+ standards).
By choosing a natural mode, we force the screen to limit the range of colors presented according to the requirements of the main sRGB color space. Therefore, they will be a little more restrained. The color tones in this mode are slightly warmer (6346 K), but the big plus of factory calibration is that the average color error for DeltaE 2000 is 2.01, which is quite good.
The external display has finally become convenient
The most striking change in the design of the new Galaxy Z Flip3 is the external Super AMOLED screen, which, compared to the previous version of the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, has been enlarged significantly from 1.1 inches to 1.9 inches. Thanks to this change and better resolution (260×512 pixels), it has become much more functional. Now you can use a full-fledged Always On screensaver, control multimedia playback, answer a call, view the content of a text message (but you can’t reply still), check the weather and even use this screen to preview the photo when taking photos.
Thus, the functionality of the external screen has increased significantly, but… it is still not perfect. What surprised me a little was the lack of automatic brightness adjustment. Of course, the lighting sensor is located next to the internal screen, but next to the external screen there is a main camera which can probably get relevant data on current lighting.
In everyday use, it turned out that in bright sunlight the screen is not readable, and at night it is too bright. It’s a pity, but fortunately, we have many options for personalizing the appearance of the elements on the smaller Galaxy Z Flip3 screen.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is equipped with a powerful Snapdragon 888 chipset based on 5-nm technology. This chip has a total of eight processor cores (1×Kryo 680 with a clock speed of 2.84 GHz, 3×Kryo 680 with a clock speed of 2.42 GHz and 4×Kryo 680 with a clock speed of 1.8 GHz) and an Adreno 660 graphics accelerator. The smartphone also has 8 GB of RAM and, depending on the version you choose, 128 GB or 256 GB of storage (without the possibility of further expansion with the memory card). Therefore, it is not surprising that the device is fast and smooth, and its performance allows you to use any app you need or play demanding games.
The performance of the device is close to perfect, it can cope with any game with a frequency of up to 120 FPS. Just be careful, the phone heats up a little behind the camera when stressed. Unfortunately, Qualcomm’s flagship chipset has a reputation as a fairly solid heater. This is all the more true when it comes to foldable design. The motherboard with chipset is located somewhere in the area of the external display, and if you play a demanding game for 10-15 minutes or use it with other apps, it can heat up a lot at this place. But this is nothing new, as heating is observed in almost all smartphones with the mentioned processor, but this is definitely worth mentioning.
Unfortunately, only one card can fit in the side slot – nanoSIM. Therefore, memory expansion with a microSD card is not possible. However, you can make use of eSIM and get a second number on your phone if you wish.
Thanks to the new chipset, the device received support for all known standards and modules. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 supports 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. There are also NFC, GPS (A-GPS), GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO and UWB (Ultra Wideband) to search for the other Galaxy devices.
One day of battery life and 15W charging
The two non-removable batteries together have a capacity of 3300 mAh; the same as the first Flip. It’s not much, and given that there are two displays, I believe that the battery life is an issue here. On usual script, my smartphone worked from morning to evening, but I finished the day with only 10% charge, and sometimes I had to charge it during the day if I played games or filmed videos.
The largest energy eaters are displays, especially with Always on enabled. Battery life is also strongly affected by the refresh rate of 120 Hz. If you turn off Always on and turn on 60 Hz, you can get one and a half days of battery.
As I wrote above, sometimes you will need a charger during the day. And charging is also not fast. The smartphone can be charged with a charger up to 15 W, so it takes 1.5 hours to fully charge. It’s a pity that Flip3 does not support faster charging. However, keep in mind that if the temperature on the chipset rises above 37°C, the charging power will be reduced to 10 W, and then the process will take more than 2 hours.
However, there is also wireless charging up to 10 W and Wireless PowerShare (4.5W) charging function, thanks to which you can charge other devices that support Qi/PMA wireless charging on the back of the smartphone.
Android 11 and excellent One UI 3.1 interface
The smartphone uses Android 11 operating system, which is supplemented by the One UI shell in version 3.1. The system is lightning fast and offers many improvements compared to pure Android. In my opinion, this is one of the best shells ever created for Android.
The UI probably does not need further analysis and evaluation, so I will focus on the most important thing – the Flex mode. It is designed specifically for folding devices and allows them to use their full potential.
This mode is probably the most useful for the camera and gallery app. Its task is to distribute content correctly on the display.
In the camera application, the viewfinder is in the top half of the screen, and the control buttons are at the bottom. Thanks to its flexible design, you can also use the phone as a tripod not only for taking self-portraits, but also for classic photography.
Photos/videos are displayed at the top of the gallery and file information is at the bottom. Apps that support screen splitting can also be switched to Flex mode. At the bottom there are buttons to display the notification section, take a screenshot, adjust brightness and sound.
And you can use split screens on the Galaxy Z Flip3 in different ways. For example, you can play videos/music on one half and browse web pages or social networks on the bottom half. The format is also great for video conferencing when you put the Galaxy Z Flip3 on your table and conveniently point your selfie camera at yourself.
Only two main cameras, no telephoto lens
Samsung smartphones have always been among the best on the market in terms of cameras. The Galaxy Z Flip3 has almost the same sensors as last year’s Flip. But let’s just say that this photo system takes photos in the same way as this year’s S21 and S21+ models. All that’s missing is a telephoto lens. It’s a pity that the manufacturer at least did not add the main sensor with higher resolution.
However, Samsung decided to use classic 12 MP sensors:
- Main 12-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and f/1.8 aperture. The chip size is 1/2.55′′, i.e. the pixel size is 1.4 μm. The focal length is 27 mm, and there is no phase focus thanks to Dual Pixel technology.
- Wide-angle camera with 12 MP resolution, coverage angle 123° (focal length 13 mm), f/2.2 aperture and only fixed focus.
- Both lenses are covered with Gorilla Glass DX protective glass, which should mean higher strength and less glare.
The camera app is not new. You can use gesture control, there are many modes, including the popular Single Take, when the smartphone shoots and takes pictures for about 10 seconds, and then offers you a set of edited short videos and various images. The already mentioned Flex mode is also supported.
Great photos in any conditions
With normal lighting, the images from the main camera are quite good, but slightly brighter greens is possible. The photos have good dynamic range, high level of detail, perfect sharpness and low noise. There’s also 10x zoom.
The wide-angle lens also shoots well, but the main sensor loses in level of detail. The color reproduction of both cameras is no different, which is why I praise Samsung. I’m very sorry that the focus is recorded only by a wide-angle camera. Therefore, it cannot be used to take macros, like you could with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Nevertheless, macro photos taken by the main camera are great. Focusing takes place at an acceptable distance of about 7 cm. I emphasize the level of detail and beautiful bokeh effect, although it is a little better with larger sensors.
Photo shoot at night
When shooting at dusk, in poor light indoors and in the dark, the quality of the pictures is more than decent. The photos have relatively low noise, good sharpness and brightness. To improve images, you can use night mode, in which shooting is performed with a longer shutter speed, and then images are improved using software.
Instead of automatic mode, you can choose the maximum scanning time. It can be more than 10 seconds. You can place your phone anywhere and get great images without blurring. However, optical stabilization also does a great job.
The front-facing camera is located at the top of the display. Its resolution is 10 MP, it has fast PDAF focusing and f/2.4 lens aperture (focus distance 26 mm, pixel size 1.22 μm).
The quality of images is sufficient, but in low light I recommend using the main camera, which has a better aperture and a larger stabilized chip for taking selfies.
It’s also nice that you have the opportunity to automatically make a selfie by simply showing your palm. And if the program detects more than one person, it automatically expands the viewing angle.
The video quality is amazing
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 can record video at a maximum resolution of 4K at 60 frames per second, both on the main and selfie cameras. 4K at 30 frames per second allow for better stabilization. The wide-angle lens in this format can also be used, but it’s a pity that it can’t shoot 4K/60 fps.
You can switch between cameras during recording. There is also ultra-slow motion video recording or the ability to record video with HDR10+ support. Of course, there is an image stabilizer or live focus video mode.
The recording quality is excellent, and even in the worst lighting conditions I was surprised by the relatively low noise level and successful stabilization of light sources. I didn’t like only the microphones that are too sensitive with strong wind.
Overall, I rate the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 very highly. It seems that foldable devices are fully suitable for everyday use. I note the presence of water resistance, stronger aluminum body, glass panels and displays. I also praise the larger external screen, thanks to which you do not need to constantly unfold the smartphone. My only complaint is the unpleasant glare when using polarized glasses.
Other disadvantages include the average battery life, 15 W charging and the lack of a charger in the box. Despite the fact that the Galaxy Z Flip3 takes good pictures and videos, I really wanted to see telephoto lens and a wide-angle sensor with autofocus. Hardware is quite good.
The main advantage of Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is its compact size that makes it very portable. But there’s also a large display with an excellent user interface with many features. Fans of a stylish and original clamshell smartphones swill also be pleased with its price.
If you are looking for an elegant, classy foldable smartphone, then the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 might be the best choice. It really is at the forefront of technology: it has the unusual form factor and offers high performance, excellent cameras and a magnificent screen. Two, even.
- a breath of fresh air
- compact, rugged body, very pleasant to use
- convenient display, small size when folded
- attractive design
- IPX8, premium finish
- powerful hardware
- ideal for video calls, serves as a tripod
- larger external display, Flex mode
- photo and video quality
- operating system and One UI.
- average battery life and 15 W charging
- rainbow effect when using polarized glasses
- wide bezels around the display
- nothing in the box
- lack of a telephoto lens
- fixed focus of the wide-angle module.
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