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Unfold the future: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 reviewed

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It might seem that we have seen it all this year. Highs and lows, latest in tech and automobile and whatnot. But just when we thought we had seen it all, Samsung dropped a spectacular piece of the future. Why do I say that? Because anybody who has used the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 will agree that it does not belong to this century. Well, here is my review of the latest smartphone from the Korean giant.

Touch and Feel:

The experience of using the Galaxy Z Fold 2 begins right out of the box. Quite literally. The box includes a pamphlet that says, “Change the shape of the future” and rightly so. There is also an extremely important and unmissable care instruction pamphlet, which I went through in spite of reminding myself to be absolutely careful.

The box offers a sleekly unfolded piece inside, along with the standard accessories of a 25W charger, USB cable with C-type plugs on both sides, and USB C-type earphones from AKG. Obviously, the phone is the highlight of the box and it feels lavish in the hand even before booting it up.

What’s new and what’s newer:

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a considerable upgrade over its predecessor. Its hinge has a lesser gap when folded and it now offers better structural rigidity. It also contributes to something that Samsung calls “The Flex Mode”, but more on that later. Samsung also mentions an “advanced engineering marvel,” which is essentially a brand-new internal mechanism that employs advanced elastics and a cam design. The hinge also features an internal bristle layer, which keeps it free from any foreign contaminants. Talk about being a stickler for cleanliness!

Samsung has also redesigned the phone to make it look boxier with straight-cut lines as opposed to the curvier design of the previous generation. The Z Fold 2 is also offered in a better colour palette, in a manner of speaking. The main body comes in two options that include Mystic Bronze and Mystic Black. The hinge can also be customized in different colours, including Mystic Black, Metallic Silver, Metallic Gold, Metallic Red and Metallic Blue. However, choosing that option could delay delivery.

Display(s) galore!:

Needless to say, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is incomparable with regards to the display. Look at it one way and it feels like a mini foldable tablet in your palms. Look at it in another way, and you would get the feel of using three phones simultaneously! Well, that’s considering you use the main screen in split mode.

The 6.23-inch front cover display is protected well by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus finish, while the back panel along with the main camera module gets Gorilla Glass 6 protection. Regardless, the phone is relatively fragile but that is understandable given the intricacy of design and the minuscule components.

Open the phone and a 7.6-inch display greets you. It is a Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel that offers bright colours and a crystal clear display. Its brightness is also pretty significant and using it on full brightness could make your eyes water after a while. This time around, Samsung has incorporated “glass-like” materials, which although offer better durability, make the screen sensitive to pointy objects. The main screen offers 120Hz refresh rate, while the outside screen maxes out at 60Hz.

Display settings can be altered between two modes- the default “Vivid” mode or a “Natural” mode. Users can also alter intricate parameters separately using advanced sliders. The phone also has full HDR10+ support, though it is limited to the main screen only. Samsung also got the device  Widevine L1 certified, implying that apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime can offer their fullest HDR quality!

Samsung has also reinforced the screens with a soft protective layer on top of both the displays, though it is a simple external protector and not an integration of the screen itself. This, in turn, leads to trails and grooves being left behind from fingernails, which potential buyers should understand. It also leads to a little more finger traction while sliding across the screen, unlike a smooth and glossy glass finish that you would expect.

Z Fold 2’s Flex (Mode)

Coming to the aforementioned Flex Mode, it allows you to prop the phone up like a laptop and use it so. Naturally, it won’t replace the feel of using an actual laptop, but it does come with its set of UI and UX solutions. A growing number of apps are also offering extensive support for the use of the Flex Mode, but that still left me wanting for more. I would much rather prefer propping up the phone while it is entirely unfolded, a feat that I am yet to achieve. That said, the Flex Mode also allows you to use the external display for content consumption, while the rest of the phone acting as a stand.

But using the Flex Mode does call for some sacrifices. There is no way of propping the phone in a way that exposes both the main cameras as well as the outside display, in case you ever need to click a high-definition selfie. This can only be achieved if the phone is fully open, which makes it impossible to fit in a majority of the gimbals or selfie stick rigs. It is also cumbersome to hold it in that manner for a long period of time.

UI and UX:

Given that the Z Fold 2 is Samsung’s latest product, it also runs on the company’s latest One UI 2.5 Android, based on the core of Android 10. This, coupled with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage implies the phone is not only a beauty but also a beast. There is virtually no force that can stop or even slow down the phone and it can handle the heaviest of apps or tasks without breaking a sweat. Well, extensive gaming will heat the phone up slightly, but that is a universal problem that smartphone manufacturers are yet to resolve. First things first, I was greeted with Samsung’s Always-On display feature,  albeit in a slightly altered manner. Now, users get the option of glancing at the display only after double-tapping on it, while its usual features of setting up a daily schedule and choosing different clock styles remain unchanged.

The home screen and app drawer are both a class apart and can be accessed from either the front screen or the main screen. As mentioned earlier, this gives the feeling of using multiple phones at once! Then there is the Bixby feed which is just a left-swipe away at all times.

Talking about dual screens, the phone has an innate ability to offer split-screen options for every application possible. This can either be had in a horizontal position or vertically.

Buttons and hardware:

When folded, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 will feel quite familiar in your hand. It has the usual volume rockers on the right side, just below which is the lock button and the fingerprint scanner. Speaking of, it has a lightning-fast response and reads my finger accurately even at the slightest touch. It is also a nice change from the usual Ultrasonic under-display scanners that most Samsung flagships currently have. Honestly, I prefer the one in the Z Fold 2 over under-display scanners any day. The phone gets a single tray for the nano-SIM card and while the phone offers full 5G support, it is obviously a long-shot in India as 5G is yet to be fully established.

The speakers are also present on one side of the phone which can get troublesome while holding the phone in one manner. However, it is easily rectifiable by simply flipping the phone over. The sound output is benchmark-setting and the phone speakers alone are capable of giving you a full surround sound effect. At full volume, there is hardly any noise that can dim the output of the Z Fold 2, sans a loud ruckus or a heavy-duty speaker. The speakers complement the main screen perfectly and both combine to offer an almost theatre-like experience. That is saying something, considering it is what every modern phone aims to achieve.

Camera quality:

While the Z Fold 2 is a leader in almost all aspects of a smartphone, it slightly lacks in the camera department. Not that there is anything to with for, of course, but it borrows its camera setup from other phones in the family. The main snapper is a 12MP unit that gets Dual Pixel Phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). It is accompanied by a 12MP ultrawide lens, as well as a 12MP telephoto lens. The telephoto lens offers 2x optical zoom, along with PDAF and OIS. These goodies have been lifted straight from the Galaxy S20 though, and hence are not unique to the Z Fold 2.

However, what the phone does have unique to itself is the wide range of options available to click your perfect photograph. Not just for selfies and landscapes, but also for food photography and the likes. What’s more, the AR zone has a dedicated makeup mode with official products from leading manufacturers like Maybelline, which will allow women to preempt their perfect look without even owning the product! There is also food photography to allow you to click the perfect plate shot without letting the food go cold!

Talking about the selfie camera is easy, as there are two dedicated 10MP units for the same. One is on the cover display while the other is on the main, foldable panel. Both are housed inside snug punch holes which do not interfere with either display. They are nothing out-of-the-box but do a pretty decent job.

Power core (Battery):

Talking about the battery is a tricky one since it is basically split into two parts. Both halves of the phone have a battery pack, which totals up to roughly 4500mAh. Using the main screen for a significant amount of time on 120Hz will take a toll on the battery, but that is nothing to be concerned about. The phone lasts throughout the day regardless of the extent of the usage and lowering the settings or using battery saving options will only increase the duration.

The Z Fold 2 supports 25W fast charging, as well as 11W wireless charging. This means even if the battery somehow drains out, it won’t take long to juice right back up! The phone took slightly more than half an hour to charge up to 30% from nil, while it crossed the halfway mark within the hour. The phone will be completely charged and ready to go within a couple of hours, meaning you can binge-watch any series all night long and still go to the office with enough juice the next day.

Verdict:

While the Z Fold 2 will definitely burn a big hole in your pocket, there is hardly any other smartphone that can be considered a worthy alternative. Among all other accolades, it is the display and the sound setup that takes the biggest trophy. There is only one alternative in the form of the Huawei Mate Xs, but since both phones cost almost the same, it would be wiser to stick with the Z Fold 2.

With a price tag of ₹1,50,000, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 has to be an option to ponder over for some time. But after shelling out the bucks, it is definitely worth the price.

Advait Berde
When not riding thinking and dreaming tech.

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