Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: A productivity powerhouse
Minor changes year-on-year but the Fold 4 is the closest a handset can get to PC-like performance
Foldable phones did surprisingly well in 2021, shipping more than 10 million units globally, according to Samsung. That’s a few million more than the 7.8 million IDC reported, but either way, it’s clear that the foldable has captured a sizable chunk of the smartphone market.
Hoping to build on that success, Samsung has launched a fourth edition of the Galaxy Z Fold, which is being released alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 4. The Fold 4 aims to capture more interest from the business world or at least productivity-centric consumers. But what, exactly, will they be unfolding this year?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: Design
On first impression, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the Fold 3 and the 4. It still looks like a pair of Galaxy Notes (RIP) stuck together. However, the Fold 4 is 2mm wider and that changes the aspect ratio on both the outer and inner displays. Overall it's 158mm tall and 130mm wide (when unfolded) but beyond size and some new colours, there’s very little structural change.
Even the new hinge design looks the same as the previous model, though it has helped to make it the slimmest and lightest Fold to date; it weighs just 263g, which is 8g less than the Fold 3. Surprisingly, that hasn’t affected its durability as it's still independently certified to be unfolded up to 200,000 times, according to Samsung. Once again, it has an Armor Aluminium frame, though this year there is a stronger tier of Corning's Gorilla Glass in the Victus+, which is on both displays and the back cover. That’s in addition to an IPX8 water resistance rating, which allows for submergence in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, in case you drop it in the bath.
Despite the minor physical changes, the Fold 4 is that little bit nicer to look at because it now comes in three colours. Alongside the standard ‘Phantom Black’, the Fold comes in a dark green that Samsung calls ‘Graygreen’ (all one word, apparently) and ‘Beige’ which is actually off-white with a golden chassis. Little tweaks, to be honest, but perhaps they’re just enough to differentiate it from the Fold 3.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: Display(s)
By now we should know what the Fold is about; it's a handset that has two screens, a smaller outer one and a larger one that you unfold. The inner screen on the Fold 4 is a Dynamic AMOLED QXGA display with a 2,176 x 1,812 resolution. It’s still 7.6in (diagonally), but due to that 2mm of extra width and changes to the aspect ratio, the display is that little bit wider. The smaller, outer display is now 6.2in, which is 0.5in less the Fold 3. It is also a Dynamic AMOLED, though it’s only HD+ with a slightly different 2,316 x 904 resolution.
The wider size should be much more comfortable, particularly when using the small outer screen. On the Fold 3 the outer display had some limits, such as the squished keyboard, and it really only suited quick checks at notifications. From our hands-on, we did notice it felt better to type on the outer screen. It was by no means perfect, but a little easier to text and or email.
Once again the Fold will come with a 120Hz refresh rate and features to control how much power it uses. This is essentially a function that limits the use of 120Hz to when it’s necessary, such as social media scrolling. The aim is to save battery power, as higher refresh rates aren’t all that energy efficient.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: Specs and performance
Powering the Fold 4 is a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 (4nm) chip and 12GB of RAM, which is a change from the Snapdragon 888 that was housed in the Fold 3. As it’s 4nm we can assume it’s super fast, though the likelihood is it might not match the iPhone 13’s A15 Bionic chip.
There’s no change in battery size from Fold 3 to Fold 4 as both have a 4,400mAh power source. We can’t say for sure whether or not the battery life will change, but in our looped video test, the larger display on the Fold 3 lasted 18hrs and 28mins. That was a pretty good score for a device with a 120Hz refresh rate and it’s easy to assume the Fold 4 will hit a similar time. However, that will depend on how it manages newer features and its 4nm chip, as the whole system will need to be balanced and optimised.
Samsung suggests that its ‘Super Fast’ charging will allow for 50% charge within 30mins with a 25Wh charger. The Fold (and literally all other Samsung handsets) are actually behind here, as companies like Xiaomi and OnePlus have chargers (and handsets) that go from o% to full in almost 30 minutes. Sadly, if you opt for a Fold, you’ll just have to wait a little bit longer.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: Features
There's an improved taskbar on the Fold 4 that looks slimmer than what was on the Fold 3. It now sits along the bottom, rather than the side, and should work in a similar fashion to a PC. This can be used to open apps, go back into popular ones and also open up screen-sharing modes. When using multiple apps, users can also change the size of each, which is great for apps like Microsoft Teams or multiple Office 365 programs.
As a business-focused device, Samsung has also optimised the screen to work better with Microsoft apps as well as Google Workspace apps and Facebook. The idea is that it’s easier to work with things like Word documents or Excel. This includes the Flex Mode Touchpad which, again, adds a more PC-like feel to the handset by allowing you to use a laptop-style cursor interface.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: Cameras
There’s a significant upgrade for the cameras on the Fold 4, taking it more in line with the S-series. The Fold has a triple-lens setup on the rear featuring a 12MP lens, a 50MP wide one and a 10MP telephoto lens with 30x optical zoom. This is a big jump from the three 12MP lenses that were on the Fold 3. What’s more, there is a 10MP snapper built into the outer screen and a 4MP lens on the larger inner screen. This is still not the level of the S22 Ultra, but the difference will be noticeable compared to the Fold 3.
And there is something fun about taking pictures with the Fold that isn’t available on any other device. The form-factor alone allows users to take better selfies or group photos and videos because it can stand up on its own. In theory, once Samsung finds a way to get the top camera specs in the Fold, it will be the best camera phone around (possibly ever).
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 hands-on review: Early verdict
So we have another Galaxy Z Fold that is a slight improvement on the last, but perhaps not quite the improvement that cements foldables as the replacements for actual smartphones. In essence, this is good, but it could be better.
The cameras are better, but they still lack the sparkle of the S-series. The handset is lighter but still feels unwieldy to hold. And, charging speeds are nowhere near speedy enough. These aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but they should definitely be considered when parting with almost £1,500. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 might be the best foldable around, but it's still not even the best smartphone Samsung has to offer.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 specifications
4GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
6.2in 2,316 x 904 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X cover screen, 7.6in 2,176 x 1,812 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X main screen
Dust and water resistance
3.5mm headphone jack
USB connection type
Memory card slot (supplied)
67 x 155 x 16mm (folded), 130 x 155 x 6mm (unfolded)
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