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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 hands-on review

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with world-first under-display camera on a foldable is official. We've been trying it out

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
(Image: © Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)

Our Verdict

While the cameras around the back are nothing new, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 showcases plenty of world firsts, not least of all that under-display selfie camera which we haven’t seen on any mainstream smartphone before. Add to this the fact it’s hardier than past foldables and includes S Pen support, and we’re inspired with more confidence in the future of foldables than ever before.

For

  • Feels solid and premium
  • IPX8 water-resistant
  • Added pen support

Against

  • Pen support for inner screen only
  • No new camera hardware
  • Expensive given camera specs

Digital Camera World Verdict

While the cameras around the back are nothing new, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 showcases plenty of world firsts, not least of all that under-display selfie camera which we haven’t seen on any mainstream smartphone before. Add to this the fact it’s hardier than past foldables and includes S Pen support, and we’re inspired with more confidence in the future of foldables than ever before.

Pros

  • + Feels solid and premium
  • + IPX8 water-resistant
  • + Added pen support

Cons

  • - Pen support for inner screen only
  • - No new camera hardware
  • - Expensive given camera specs

Samsung has done the unthinkable with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, it’s created a folding smartphone with pen input and water resistance, and we've had some hands-on time with both it and the new Galaxy Z Flip 3 – which are undoubtedly the best fold phones and best flip phones we have seen so far.

So why are pen input and water resistance such a big deal on folding smartphones? Let’s start with pen input. Folding screens are more delicate than traditional alternatives, they're made of soft, bendable plastic, though Samsung also uses a glass material on its Z Fold 3. The notion of prodding a flexible phone display with a pen would have been enough to send shivers down our backs just a few weeks ago. 

As for the water resistance, foldables' moving parts make it much harder for a smartphone maker to weatherproof its mobile, let alone make it properly IPX8 rated, which Samsung’s managed to do. Given durability was the main drawback of foldable phones in the past, the launch of the Z Fold 3 isn’t just a big deal for Samsung; it could be a game-changer in the industry.

Key features

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)

Big picture stuff aside for a moment, what else is so special about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3?

On paper, a lot is very similar to the excellent Galaxy Z Fold 2. Its core design matches, and it’s a similar size, with a tall, slender 6.2-inch, 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED cover display, and a 7.6-inch tablet inner display, which sports the first-ever under-display camera on a folding phone, so there are no punch holes or notches in sight. 

The Z Fold 3's new inner display is around 29 percent brighter, which should make for improved outdoor viewing, and the foldable also sports stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos tuning.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)
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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)
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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)
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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)
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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)

The phone’s durability also benefits from a protective film which makes it 80 percent more scratch-resistant according to Samsung, while on the front and back is Gorilla Glass 7. As for the chassis, the Z Fold 3 is made from Armor Aluminum, adding an extra 10 percent durability when compared to last year’s Z Fold 2. This also makes the phone lighter, which is a big deal for a hefty two-in-one. 

Under the hood, there’s 2021 power in both the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, and what’s great is that there’s no difference in power between the global and US versions. Both feature Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 silicon, making things less confusing than on Samsung’s flagship line, with some Galaxy S21s running with Exynos chips, and others running with Qualcomm chips.

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)

The Z Fold 3 also supports not one, but two S Pens: the S Pen Pro and Fold Edition. The first can be used with most S Pen devices, with a new pen tip (likely flexible display optimized), while the second is a touch smaller and stows into a case Samsung has created specifically for the Z Fold 3.

The phone runs Android with Samsung’s UI, but this time, everything’s been improved to make better use of the big screen, with split-view on the Fold 3 better able to work on the big screen. Samsung has even added a Windows-style bar to the UI so you can easily switch between apps. 

Cameras

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)

Onto cameras, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 features a 10MP front camera and three 12MP rear cameras. The hardware doesn’t seem like anything new, with the main camera featuring 1.8-micron pixels and an f/1.8 aperture, just like on the Z Fold 2. It’s the same story for the ultra-wide camera, with its 1.12-micron pixels and f/2.2 lens, and the 2x telephoto camera, sporting 1-micron pixels, OIS, and an f/2.4 aperture. 

Given the resolution falling short of the 64MP and 108MP Samsung Galaxy S21 series, it’s little wonder 8K video is absent on the Z Fold 3. Given the familiar hardware, it’s clear that this year’s folding flagship won’t be on a mission to take the best camera phone crown, though we always expect good things from Samsung camera phones. 

One handy camera feature is the Dual Preview and Capture View modes have been boosted to make better use of the front display of the Z Fold 3, so you can see what you’re filming while whoever you’re taking a photo or video of can see themselves super clearly.

Pricing and color options

(Image credit: Basil Konfli/Digital Camera World)

Available in Phantom Black, Green, and Silver, the phone might not pack the blingy Mystic Bronze we got on the Z Fold 2, but nevertheless, what it does do is flip the script on the narrative that foldables need to be mollycoddled, which is a huge deal, and Samsung also keeps the price in line with last year’s Z2 Flip at $1,799 in the US, £1,599 in the UK and AU$2,499 in Australia.  

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Basil Kronfli

Basil Kronfli is a freelance technology journalist with a number of specialisms. He started his career at Canon Europe, before joining Phone Arena and Recombu as a tech writer and editor. From there he headed up Btekt as a director and then Future as a Senior Producer, sharpening his considerable video production skills. 


His technical expertise has been called on numerous times by mainstream media, with appearances and interviews on outlets like Sky News, and he provides Digital Camera World with insight and reviews on camera phones, video editing software and laptops, on-camera monitors, camera sliders, microphones and much more.