Artist Review: Samsung Z Fold5 (2023) with S Pen Fold edition

Review unit on loan from Samsung Singapore

This review is from the perspective of an artist, someone who enjoys urban sketching, drawing on location.

The Samsung Z Fold 5 is an incremental upgrade to the Z Fold 4 from 2022 which I thought was a really good phone. And now with the Z Fold 5 out, you can actually find brand new sets of Z Fold 4 (256GB) at around SGD 1100 on Shopee SG and Lazada SG which I think is a terrific deal considering the official retail price was SGD 2398 one year ago.

The Samsung Z Fold 5 still has a 6.2-inch outer OLED display and an unfolded 7.6-inch inner OLED display. This is impressively thin and weighs just 253g which is slightly heavier than the iPhone Pro Max. And the battery life is still surprisingly good. Samsung definitely has something special here that not many competitors can match.


BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Z Fold 5 is beautiful, well engineered and powerful phone with a high price tag to match. This is the ultimate portable digital sketchpad for those spontaneous moments where you want to draw, and you can pull out this phone with pen from your pocket. The alternative is to bring an additional tablet out with your phone and how would you bring that tablet around?

Price and accessories

These are the prices in USA and Singapore:

  • 256GB - USD 1799, SGD 2398
  • 512GB - USD 1919, SGD 2578
  • 1TB - USD 2159, SGD 2938

The prices are similar as the previous model. You can get the phone at lower prices from resellers or from the rather attractive trade-in offers from Samsung as usual. In some countries, you can get 512GB storage for the price of the 256GB model.

These models come with 12GB RAM and the Qualcomm SM8550-AC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm) with octa-core (1x3.36 GHz Cortex-X3 & 2x2.8 GHz Cortex-A715 & 2x2.8 GHz Cortex-A710 & 3x2.0 GHz Cortex-A510), and Adreno 740.


Here in Singapore during the promo period (varies), you will get a free one year Samsung Care+ Screen Care which includes 1 time complimentary screen protective film replacement for cover screen. There's also the option to extend SC+ for one more year at SGD 177 and you can get screen repairs at $128 for during warranty period. The phone is kinda slippery so you may want to consider getting SC+ if you're not using a case with it.

Z Fold 5Samsung has several cases made for the Z Fold 5:

  • Slim S Pen case - SGD 128, USD 99.99
  • Eco leather case - SGD 118, USD 79.99
  • Standing case with strap - SGD 108, USD 84.99
  • Clear gadget case - SGD68, USD 54.99
  • Front protective film - SGD 28, USD 19.99

The case I highly recommend is the Slim S Pen case that provides protection and comes with the S Pen you can store on the case. It is extremely conveniently to have the pen that can stored away easily.


The phone only comes with the USB-C charging cable, SIM ejection tool and user manual. There's no S Pen included.


There's a latch on the Slim S Pen case you can push down to pop out the S Pen.


This case looks quite good. The only thing this case does do is protect the hinge which is exposed but it covers all other edges. This is considered an essential buy if you want to draw with the phone.


And this case doesn't really make the phone much thicker or heavier.

There's also the S Pen Fold Edition which is SGD 88 (USD 54.99). It's probably more worth it to get the case that includes the S Pen.

Note that the Samsung Z Fold phones require their own versions of S Pen (with thicker tip) to work. The S Pens from other tablets and phones will not work here.

Design


The Samsung Z Fold 5 is a beautiful phone with solid build quality and a premium feel. The finishing is fantastic with the rounded edges and corners, thin uniform bezels, glossy display and sides.

If you have not used a folding phone before, I'm pretty sure you will be impressed by the technology and how phones have evolved, and this is the fifth iteration which means many of design flaws are already gone.

Here in Singapore, the phone is available is colours Phantom Black, Icy Blue and Cream. The review unit I have is Icy Blue, but you won't be able to see the colour when there's a case on it.


When folded, it's 13.4mm thick and this new model no longer has the gap when folded so it's even more compact. The inner 7.6-inch display also opens up completely flat too. The two stereo side-facing speakers have loud and clear audio.


This phone is definitely very pocketable.


From left (top) to right, the cameras are 12MP ultrawide, 50MP wide, 10MP telephoto. The camera bump is quite big and the cameras still protrude slightly.


On the side there are a tray for 2 nano SIMs, volume buttons and power button with fingerprint sensor. There's also e-SIM support.


The hinge is strong and stiff. The phone is rated for IPX8 which is tested against submersion for 1.5m of freshwater up to 30 minutes, but not dust resistant.

The phone is quite slippery as 3/4 of its surface is glass and the last portion, the back with the camera, is smooth matte surface. Having a case on should help a lot with the grip. Even Samsung also has a case with a strap for fingers. For those are not getting the S Pen case, that case with strap would be a good option to consider especially for those who plan on using the phone while commuting.

Displays


Display on the front (or exterior) is a 6.2-inch 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X with 23.1:9 aspect ratio. Resolution is 2316 x 904 (402 PPI).

Home screen layout for the exterior display can be set to match the interior tablet display. I find it better to have different home screens and only have apps that work better on a narrow display on the exterior display.

One downside to the narrow display is it takes time to get used to typing accurately on a small and squashed keyboard.

The punch-hole camera is a 10MP f/2.2 wide lens.


The bigger display is a 7.6-inch 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X with 21.6:18 aspect ratio. Resolution is 2176 x 1812 (374 PPI). Brightness can go up to 1750 nits. But the inner and outer displays are perfectly using under bright sunlight.

The crease is visible from certain angles and when there's reflected light. I don't find the crease distracting compared to a notch or punch-hole camera on a phone. Actually the reflections are more distracting than the crease itself. The crease isn't something I would even think about when using the phone.

There's a 4MP under display punch-hole camera on the tablet display. Image quality for that camera isn't good.


The phone in tablet mode is as thin as the S Pen Fold Edition.

Weight is 253g which is certainly heavier than most phones this is a phone that can fold into a tablet. It's 10g lighter than the previous model.


The Dynamic AMOLED 2X display has fantastic colours and now contrast ratio is up to 3,000,000:1. Visual quality is amazing. The display is vibrant and sharp with no noticeable pixelation. It's extremely enjoyable and satisfying to use the big display.


When watching videos, there will be noticeable thick black bars at the top and bottom due to the squarish aspect ratio. Some apps may allow you to zoom in to fill the screen at the expense of cropping out wide aspect videos and movies.


For Youtube, there's also this flex (?) mode where you can fold the phone to prop up the display and the Youtube video will size to the top half.


Most phone apps scale up quite well on the tablet display.

Gaming can be really enjoyable and immersive if the game and UI can take advantage of the whole display. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor in the phone is top of the line in 2023 and has no issues with playing demanding games.


The tablet display has many multi-tasking features. When an app is active, a small dock will appear that mirrors the home-screen dock. You can tap and hold the bottom edge of the display to hide the small dock.


There's a slide-out dock with customisable shortcuts that you can hide away easily.


There's of course split screen mode. You can have vertical and horizontal split. There's also pop-up window option.

The phone has many multi-tasking features that you will probably have to watch Youtube tutorials to learn them all.

S Pen Fold Edition

There is no S Pen included with the phone.


This is the Samsung S Pen Fold Edition (EJ-PF926BBEGWW) which is priced at USD 54.99 or SGD 88. There's another pen called the S Pen Pro (EJ-P5450SBEGWW) priced at USD 79 or SGD 168. S Pen Pro is battery powered (16hr) for Bluetooth and can be used for Air Command shortcuts or gestures but otherwise the pen performance is similar to the S Pen Fold Edition. S Pen Fold Edition is not powered by battery. S Pens don't need battery for writing or drawing.

Z Fold 5 only works with S Pens that mention support for Fold devices.


The S Pen Fold Edition comes with its own case and this obviously is not as convenient compared to having the Slim S Pen Case. The pen at the bottom is the S Pen from the Samsung Tab S9 Ultra (full review).


When a non-compatible S Pen is used, a pop up will appear to tell you that your non-compatible pen may damage the display.


The Z Fold supported S Pen have a 1.5mm rubberised tip compared to the sharper tip from other Samsung phones and tablets.

When you buy replacement nibs, you have to differentiate the two types of nibs too.

Drawing performance

My drawing experience is mostly positive and affected only by the inconsistent performance of pressure and tilt sensitivity near the crease. The drawing performance and experience is similar with the Z Fold 4.


These line tests were from Medibang Paint Pro.

Initial activation force is low so the pen is quite sensitive. When drawing diagonal lines slowly, there's slight jitter which is a non-issue when drawing at normal speed.


Pressure sensitivity isn't as good near the crease. When you lift the pen near the crease, the strokes will taper abrupt. When you draw elsewhere away from the crease, you can create tapered strokes easily.


You can draw across and on the crease without any broken lines. The crease isn't deep so drawing direction isn't affected although if you want to draw a perfectly straight line with the help of the crease you can. The app I've used above is Infinite Painter which works great on small displays because of the minimal UI.


When you use tilt brushes across the crease, the tilt effect is distorted. Even if you can't see the crease in the photo above, you can tell where the crease (coloured blue) is looking at where the tilt brush effect was distorted.


I also found out tilt sensitivity is random and inconsistent with Concepts app, which for me is a huge bummer because that's my favourite app for sketching.


This was drawn with Concepts. I did not experience any issues while drawing this. The crease did not get in my way.


Most phones do not have pen support so to be able to draw with a pen on a phone is incredible.


This was drawn on a moving train. And this is a spontaneous moment where you can just pull a phone out of your pocket and draw. The main issue I encountered while drawing was with the inconsistency with tilt sensitivity. Sometimes the lines will come out broader due to tilt even though the pen wasn't really tilted that low.


The other issue is drawing while holding the phone with no surface to rest the drawing hand will take time to get used to. I used to draw on the train with my pen and sketchbook but it's just way more convenient with a phone that has pen support.


This was drawn with Infinite Painter. If you use a brush that doesn't have tilt features, you won't be affected by the inconsistent tilt performance.

FYI, the S Pen Fold Edition doesn't work quite right with Samsung tablets that support the S Pen. The S Pen Fold Edition can be recognised but whether the pen will write, erase or do nothing will depend on the app you use. Don't buy the S Pen Fold Edition to use with Samsung tablets.

The S Pen Fold Edition nibs are not interchangeable with the normal and original Samsung S Pen nibs.


S Pen has good note taking and handwriting performance. You can write across the crease and handwriting is not affected.

Samsung Dex


This phone has Samsung Dex, the desktop UI for Android. I use Samsung Dex occasionally with an external display to get work done faster so I find Samsung Dex to be useful.

Samsung Dex on the Z Fold 5 can connect to wireless displays and computers (Windows). You can also connect external displays with cable connection.

Battery life


This phone has a 4400mAh battery capacity and I was able to easily get 9 hours of use. Battery life is at least 1 hour longer than Z Fold 4 which already has pretty good battery life.

The other day I spent 45 minutes drawing while commuting on a train and it drained 9%. And the screen was really bright due to the strong sunlight that was in the train. According to calculations under such conditions, the phone can still last 8 hours.

The phone supports 25W charging which will get you 50% in half hour.

Conclusion

The Samsung Z Fold 5 is a phone with premium look and feel. The performance is good and battery life is impressive.

With two displays, you have the option to choose which to use. The large 7.6-inch display is just a fold away. That big display is just so satisfying to for gaming, web browsing, multi-tasking, working and even watching videos if you don't mind the thick black bars which I don't mind because the display is huge.

Drawing experience with the S Pen is good except for the tilt sensitivity performance not working as well near the crease. The Z Fold 5's almost squarish aspect ratio and large display is great for drawing.

As to whether it's worth the money, you can decide. If you don't mind getting the older Z Fold 4, you can actually save a lot of money and that's still a pretty good phone with similar drawing performance and experience. There aren't many folding phones out there with pen support.

Alright, downsides.

Location of the power button is not ideal at the right side in the middle. When I grip the tablet display, my middle finger is right on top of the power button and there can be accidental presses. But thankfully the power button is actually recessed so accidental presses are rare.

The S Pen is not included and only compatible S Pens can be used with the phone.

The pricing of USD 1799 or SGD 2398 is really quite high even with pre-order goodies thrown in to sweeten the deal. Whether it's worth the money will depend on what you value.

There's no microSD card slot which isn't a significant downside considering the upgrades to storage capacity isn't too crazy but having a microSD card slot would be extremely welcome.

Availability

For those in Singapore, if you want to trade in an older phone, you can take advantage of the trade-in offers from the Samsung website.

If you don't need the trade-in offers, you can find the Z Fold 5 with 256GB storage at around SGD 1750 on Shopee SG and Lazada SG.

For those outside of Singapore, you can get the phone from Samsung website or from Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES)

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.