The new Galaxy Z Fold 4 sets the bar higher for all foldable and is the most advanced, most expensive Samsung Galaxy smartphone. In this fourth generation, Samsung brings an array of incremental but significant upgrades we have tested and analyzed using our experience with prior Galaxy Z Fold smartphones and a good knowledge of the competitive landscape.
Note: our specific unit is the AT&T Galaxy Z Fold 4 (model SM-F936U) with 256GB of storage. AT&T sells it for $1799.99 (or $50/mo). We have the Black version, but the same carrier also has it in “Beige” and “Graygreen” which is probably the best of the three.
This AT&T unit supports both mmWave and sub-6Ghz 5G connectivity, so you can get extremely fast peak downloads where mmWave is available, and the roaming compatibility seems to be extremely high if you’re a world traveler. Select carriers may discard mmWave support in their units. Do your homework.
The usual AT&T security apps, including Call Protect and AT&T Cloud, offer free incoming calls and browsing security and very affordable cloud storage to their customers. That aside, the experience should be very similar to other Galaxy Z Fold 4 phones.
The Z Fold design is one of the most intricate smartphone designs on the market and has objectively been years ahead of the competition. As of today, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 design sets a new bar and progresses in key areas: cover screen, camera, and durability.
The cover screen is 3mm wider, which is hugely important because, as a primary phone, it’s likely that you’ll use the cover screen more often than the primary folding display. Essentially, this makes it a more classic smartphone experience even though it is still narrower. Samsung has slightly changed the display ratio, and the new Z Fold 4 is not as tall as the Z Fold 3, which is good.
This 3mm gain was acquired thanks to a more optimized hinge design. The new hinge does not protrude as much, and that’s partially how the cover-screen’s left bezel size was reduced.
In the back, the Camera bump is a bit taller because the camera system has been changed to better match the Galaxy S22/S22+ performance. This is one of the most anticipated changes, and that’s a good reason for the bump to be larger.
Some people freak out when the phone wobbles a bit if used on a flat surface, but it’s never been an issue for us, especially as a trade-off for a high-performance camera. Packing a great camera in a thin phone is physically impossible without a sizeable camera bump.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is waterproof (IPx8, so not dust-proof), and Samsung remains the only folding phone OEM that produces a water-tight device. It also has an 88% market share in the foldable phones space and uses its first-mover advantage very well.
These three areas aside, the industrial design feature more minor changes such as a more durable external glass surface (Gorilla Glass Victus+) similar to the S22 Ultra or a nearly invisible selfie camera under the folding screen.
The chassis is extremely rigid. Closed, it won’t bend or shear under strong forces. The internal display is extremely well protected from drops onto hard surfaces, but remember that the cover display is like a classic smartphone and can crack.
The Power button doubles as a fingerprint reader on the right side. It makes sense since it needs to work when using either screen. A good strategy is registering a few fingers to accomodate every possible grip (we noted three).
The audio quality is excellent, and nominal loudness aside, it’s better than many laptops we’ve tested in the past. The sound is powerful and clear, making the Z Fold 4 a great desk companion for watching TV shows or video news while working on a computer.
The foldable design features a radically different experience vs. classic phones or larger tablets. Overall, it feels very similar to what we had last year, but for those who are just getting interested, there are highlights you should not miss.
First of all, the 7.6″ OLED display brings a vastly superior visual experience for consuming content in general. text, websites, games, videos, and images are much better represented, and that’s the fundamental reason why people are willing to spend that much.
The Flex Mode (folded at ~90 degrees) lets you naturally rest the phone on a flat surface to watch videos, participate in video calls, or even take photos. It can be extremely convenient and is essentially a natural tripod.
The large display brings a world-class tablet experience in a unique pocketable format. The Galaxy Z Fold phones are just starting to get some competition and are undoubtedly the 7.6″ Android tablet with the best performance/size or performance/weight ratio.
“THE WORLD’S MOST PRODUCTIVE PHONE”
The Z Fold 4 keeps the “world’s most productive phone” title in the family. Samsung has refined the split-screen experience, making it easier to open multiple apps simultaneously. Having two vertically split apps is the best option for us, but Samsung supports up to four tiles + 1 floating app.
There’s ample room on the screen, so Samsung’s latest One UI 4.1.1 adds the Android 12L taskbar at the bottom, letting you switch to the most recent or your favorite apps without going back to the home page.
On top of that, it supports an optional S-Pen digitizer which takes the whole thing to the next level for those who like taking notes, making sketches, or doodles. The S-Pen can also become a remote control for presentations or photos. The competition is left in the dust.
The display crease in the middle can sometimes be felt when writing with the S-Pen. It’s no big deal; you should check for yourself in a store. What is rather extraordinary is to have this option at all. It would be wonderful if Samsung could integrate the pen into the chassis someday.
Technically, both displays feature incredible image quality and comfort and can go from 1Hz to 120 Hz for optimum power consumption. You get butter-smooth scrolling or gaming when you need, and save power when you don’t.
Key numbers: 940 NITs (manual setting, measured), 1200 NITs (peak brightness specs, auto-mode) , dE2000 of 1.0 (excellent color accuracy, in “natural” mode)
Samsung has made subtle changes in the aspect ratio, which is excellent because it improves the proportions of the handset, but it does not affect how the phone feels or is used vs. the Z Fold 3.
“INCREDIBLE IMAGE QUALITY AND COMFORT”
The 4MP selfie camera under the folding display is very well hidden and nearly invisible. Samsung engineers have doubled the pixel density on top of the camera, and you might have to squint to spot it. That said, it also seems to slightly decrease the image quality because it does block some of the incoming light.
There’s no need to delve into all the technical details, as this Samsung OLED display’s capabilities are beyond what your eyes can perceive and are among the best today’s technology can produce.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 brings a camera performance closer to the one found in the Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22+, some of the best on the market. In the rear, there are three cameras:
- 15mm 13-MP f/2.2
- 23mm 50-MP f/1.8 (Primary) +OIS
- 62mm 10-MP f/2.4 +OIS
There are also two selfie cameras
- 25mm 10-MP f/2.2 (punch-hole in the cover display)
- 30mm 4-MP f/1.8 (under the foldable display)
Our algorithmic CAMERA HW score ranks the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (score=155) which is now closer to the Galaxy S22+ (score=166), a great score as independent reviewers recognize the S22+ as an outstanding shooter in the high-end segment.
The Z Fold 4 new GN3 primary sensor is ~26% larger, which is significant, but the sensor pixels are smaller than the Z Fold 3 (50MP 1.0 microns vs. 12MP 1.8 microns). Note that smaller pixels also decrease the light capture efficiency. Additionally, we estimate there’s 17% more light getting to that larger sensor, so gains might not be as dramatic as the sensor size alone suggests, but it’s a positive change.
“UBERGIZMO CAMERA HW SCORE: 155”
The Samsung GN3 sensor is more flexible and adaptable to different scene conditions. More importantly, Samsung engineers have extracted every bit of quality from it. For example, if there’s ample light, Samsung is one of the rare OEMs to offer a full-resolution 50 Megapixel capture in “auto” mode that should yield more details.
The new 3X optical zoom camera is also slightly better, with a 62mm lens vs. the previous 52mm one. The difference is slight, but it’s worth noting. For reference, the 10X optical long-zoom of the S22 Ultra is a 230mm zoom.
The better selfie camera is on the cover screen, which makes sense because you capture selfies with one hand. The 4MP selfie camera is for video calls (+Flex Mode), and that activity is mainly limited by network connectivity, so 4MP is enough.
Thanks to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the computing performance of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is without reproach, with outstanding CPU speed. With such a screen, graphics performance is even more critical. In our tests, it was up to 82% faster and on par with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
In “stress tests” like 3DMark Wildlife extreme, this smartphone showed excellent cooling capabilities and would be an impressive gaming phone. That aligns with Samsung’s goal of building a productivity and multimedia champion, and users can be assured they are getting the best level of Android performance in 2022.
The 4400 mAh battery capacity is identical to last year’s Z Fold, and it’s normal since it is limited by the chassis size, which is 2% smaller than its predecessor. That said, it does have longer battery life, and our experience suggests that it could be as much as 20% higher depending on your activity.
Two optimizations could induce such a gap: the variable display refresh rate and the higher power efficiency of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 platform. Still, the larger display and smaller battery (vs. the S22 Ultra) means the battery life is shorter than a regular phone, perhaps slightly above a full day’s work for most people.
The charging speed was also slightly improved but pales compared to recent phones from OnePlus, Infinix, and others. Since battery capacity is unlikely to go beyond 5000 mAh any time soon, charging speed is the new battleground.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a technological marvel that remains way ahead of the competition despite a decreasing pace of innovation. It has become the de-facto best folding phone in the world, providing the best visual experience, productivity, and excellent durability.
These facts alone would qualify it as your foldable phone of choice if you made a purchase decision. That said, it’s (sadly) not for everyone, and owning a folding phone remains a very different smartphone experience that should be considered carefully.
To the right audience, the Z Fold 4 brings an unparalleled experience that explains why this category grows very fast, even with the $1799.99 start price.
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