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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: The best foldable just got better

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,649
inc VAT

The Galaxy Z Fold returns for 2022, with a handful of subtle upgrades as well as a slight price increase

Pros 
Waterproof design is still unmatched
Multi-tasking improvements
Huge increase in gaming performance
Cons 
More expensive
Flexible display still looks and feels fragile
Poor quality under-screen selfie camera
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Samsung’s large-screen foldables are here to stay, at least for a little while longer. Shown off during its August 2022 Galaxy Unpacked event, the brand-new Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the bigger brother of the pocketable Galaxy Z Flip 4, with a bigger price to match.

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Appearing alongside a new pair of Galaxy Watch 5 wearables, as well as a fresh pair of ANC earbuds, the 2022 Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the latest in a long line of foldable smartphones from the company, although this time around the upgrades are much harder to spot than in previous years.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: What you need to know

With the launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, we’ve finally entered the stage where foldables are simply being refined and tweaked, rather than receiving drastic design overhauls. Samsung is clearly satisfied with the general look and feel of the Fold 4, so expect things to remain as they are, at least for a little while longer. A dramatic redesign, this ain’t.

That’s not to say the Fold 4 lacks any improvements over its predecessor, however. Perhaps the biggest change is the inclusion of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, which promises a major performance uplift compared to the Snapdragon 888 it replaces.

Likewise, the Z Fold 4 uses the same rear camera array as the Galaxy S22. What this means is you’re now getting a 50MP main sensor, 10MP 3x telephoto and 12MP 123-degree ultrawide, alongside a pair of selfie cameras: one on the front and another that sits underneath the inner display.

The hardy “Armour Aluminium” frame makes a return, albeit with a slimmer hinge, slightly narrower cover screen bezels and reduced overall weight, and the new design is now rated to withstand up to 200,000 opens and closes. Samsung’s foldables are still the only IP-certified waterproof flexi-screen phones on the market, too, with an IPX8 rating.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: Price and competition

Sadly, those slight changes come with a slight increase in price. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 starts at a whopping £1,649 for the 256GB model, which is a £50 price jump from the previous iteration. If you need more storage, you can always pay more for the 512GB or 1TB versions, but here you’re looking at paying either £1,769 or £2,019 for the privilege.

If anything, I was hoping for a price reduction this year, especially if Samsung is really hoping to push foldables into the mainstream. Again, the Flip 4 and its retro clamshell flip-to-open design is the affordable option, although it, too, has increased in price to £999.

There’s not much out there when it comes to bendy alternatives, either. The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is the only other rival you can buy in Europe, and it costs more than the Fold 4 at a lofty £1,700. Since it also lacks access to Google’s core suite of Android applications, this isn’t something we’d recommend buying, however.

Non-folding phones don’t quite get that expensive, although some of them do come close. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, for instance, starts at £1,049 but can be configured with a healthy 1TB of storage for £1,549. Sony’s Xperia 1 IV is also ludicrously expensive, with prices starting at £1,299, with the stylus-friendly Galaxy S22 Ultra fetching another high fee of at least £1,149.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: Design and key features

The core functionality of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 remains the same as past iterations, and its overall design hasn’t changed much, either. When folded, the handset looks and functions the same as any regular smartphone, albeit a relatively thick one. Fold it open, however, and it doubles in width, transforming into a tablet and revealing a large 7.6in inner display.

The Fold 4 is lighter than the previous model, weighing 263g – a reduction of 8g. In addition, the hinge is supposedly slimmer, and both displays are 3mm wider, with narrower bezels. You also get a choice of three colours: Phantom Black, Beige and Graygreen, which is the model I received for review.

It’s far less unwieldy than you might expect. Measuring 15.8mm when folded, the Z Flip 4 isn’t much thicker than my iPhone 13 Pro Max in its protective case, and is roughly the same height (155mm), too. Likewise, the big bonus of its folding design – aside from the large inner screen – is that the Fold 4 isn’t as wide as regular smartphones, either, measuring 67mm across compared to 78mm on the iPhone.

The circumference of the phone has switched from a matte plastic to a reflective silver, and in my view this looks a lot nicer than the previous model. The rear camera array is positioned in a vertical traffic light formation in the top-left corner, much like Samsung’s S22 series, and this only protrudes from the rest of the frame by a few millimetres.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4 remain the only foldables on the market with an IPX8 certification. What this means is that both phones can survive being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5m, although dust protection is still absent. The front and back of the phone are coated in a protective layer of Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, too.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: Dual displays and multi-tasking

The 23:9 6.2in cover display is the same size as the 2021 version, with a resolution of 2,316 x 904 and a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. The size of the square (22:18 aspect) 7.6in inner screen is also unchanged, and likewise supports 120Hz, with a boosted resolution of 2,176 x 1,812. The under-screen selfie camera on the inside is now much less visible to the eye – although quality suffers as a result, as you’ll see in the camera section of this review.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 supports Samsung’s S Pen stylus, which we didn’t receive for review, alongside a handful of new productivity features courtesy of Android 12L and Samsung’s One UI 4.1 interface. The first is a Windows-like taskbar that appears at the bottom of the screen when you open an app in big-screen mode. This allows you to add your favourite and most-used applications, as well as the option to group launch three apps at once for instantaneous multi-tasking.

On that note, some applications now work better with one another in the multi-window mode. For instance, you can now scroll your Facebook feed and reply to messages in Messenger at the same time, and you can finally join Google Meet meetings directly from the Calendar app.

Quality-wise, both screens are rather good. They each have two colour modes to choose from, with the Natural setting being the preferred mode as it remedies the exaggerated colours of the default Vivid setting.

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Switching to the Natural display mode, the Z Fold 4’s inner screen achieved an average Delta E (colour accuracy) score of 1.19 when tested against sRGB. The only fly in the visual soup is the slightly over-saturated red tones – otherwise, all colours are represented perfectly. In short, this is an astonishing screen for both media consumption and social scrolling.

HDR video looks top-notch, with dazzling specular highlights piercing through dark scenes. I measured a peak brightness of 838cd/m2 during HDR playback, and 720cd/m2 during regular use with the brightness slider at maximum and the phone’s ‘Extra Brightness’ setting engaged.

The main disadvantage of flexible screens still remains, however. The Fold 4’s vertical crease in the middle of the display is as noticeable as it was in previous versions, and there’s a possibility that things could get worse after months or years of use. The initial setup process is another reminder of how fragile this screen is, too, since it warns you not to scrape your fingernail across the surface lest you suffer scratches or dents.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: Performance and battery life

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 has received a major speed boost courtesy of the new Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset. Replacing the Snapdragon 888 of the previous model, we’ve seen this chip deliver some big performance increases on other handsets, so it’s no surprise that it repeats the feat here.

The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 inside the Galaxy Z Fold 4 achieved a multi-core processing result of 3,924 in the Geekbench 5 CPU test. This means you’re squeezing an extra 10% worth of performance out of the Z Fold 4 compared to the previous model, and it really shows in operation – apps load instantly and multi-tasking is a breeze.

There’s an even greater uplift when it comes to gaming, too. Displaying a practically perfect 119fps average in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 on-screen test, the Z Fold 4’s gaming credentials have been improved by a massive 65% – that’s the biggest gen-on-gen jump we’ve seen in a number of years.

Storage configurations include 256GB, 512GB and 1TB versions, with 12GB of RAM across all models. Like last year’s phone, a 4,400mAh battery keeps things ticking along, which supports 25W wired charging alongside wireless and reverse wireless PowerShare functionality.

Battery life has improved, but as you’ll see in the chart below, the Fold 4 has gained only one minute on its predecessor. That said, displaying a looped video in unfolded mode for 18hrs 24mins is still a remarkable result for a phone with a screen as big as this.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: Cameras

The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s camera array consists of the same lineup as the Galaxy S22 series of smartphones. What this means is we’re getting a 50MP (f/1.8) main camera, 12MP 123-degree ultrawide and a 10MP 3x telephoto zoom with up to 30x ‘digital Space Zoom’. Samsung says that the optical image stabilisation has been enhanced on both the main and zoom cameras (OIS isn’t available on the wide), and the wide sensor gathers 23% more light than the previous model.

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Like the phone’s gaming upgrades, this is an area where the Z Fold 4 is massively improved. Images look exceptional, no matter the lighting conditions, with punchy, vivid colours and an astonishing amount of detail capture between 0.6x and 3x zoom. Pictures are captured in the blink of an eye, and the camera software is as intuitive and easy to use as ever.

Clarity is reduced once you increase the zoom level past 3x, but even then the results don’t look too bad. As you can see from my picture of Canary Wharf’s One Canada Square building below, the Z Fold 4’s 10x digital zoom images can look rather good on occasion – provided you’re blessed with decent lighting and a steady hand.

I even preferred the Z Fold 4’s low-light images to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Indoors and with the lights switched off, pictures taken on Apple’s flagship looked quite soft. Intricate details such as the wood grain of my bookshelf were lost, and it also introduced a greater amount of visual noise. The Samsung exhibited none of these issues.

The image quality of the under-display selfie camera, meanwhile, still leaves a lot to be desired. Portrait selfies lack any discernible definition, and the spotlight bloom in the background is quite distracting. Thankfully, the regular front-facing camera is as good as any other – just make sure to turn off any face-smoothing beauty effects first.

Video can be recorded at up to 8K resolution at 24fps, or 4K resolution at 60fps. The latter is my preferred method of shooting, however, since the 8K mode looks quite choppy and lacks image stabilisation.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: Verdict

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 doesn’t deliver much in the way of talking points – it’s more an inter-generational upgrade than a substantial leap forward – but as the Fold 3 was the first foldable to hit the mainstream, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

The IPX8 waterproofing remains a big bonus, and the design, despite imitations coming thick and fast from other manufacturers, hasn’t been matched. Last year’s phone defined the formula, and this year’s model stirs in a handful of minor quality of life improvements – all of which make the phone more well-rounded than ever.

Except, of course, those slight changes will cost you. Starting at £1,649 for the 256GB model and rising to £2,019 for the 1TB version, this year’s Fold is £50 more expensive than the last. Sure, with a starting price as high as that, this increase is a drop in the ocean, but it certainly doesn’t make the Galaxy Z Fold 4 a more appealing purchase.

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