Published: Wednesday, 29 September 2021 04:20
With a lower price, 120Hz refresh-rate screen, an "aluminum armor" body and an improved cover screen, Samsung's new smartphone could be the most "normal" foldable available. +27 More
Under those smudges, the screen supports a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, which is lovely. Indoors the screen looks fantastic. Outdoors on a bright sunny day, the screen is easy to see and is brighter than the original Z Flip and Z Flip 5G. Overall the main screen is right on par with other phones at this price.
The Z Flip 3's cover screen is a step in the right direction
The new cover screen is four times bigger than the tiny pill-shaped one on the original Flip. A single tap of the screen reveals the time. A double-tap brings up an animated animal to greet you. It's an unexpected and silly delight. The animals do nothing but jump up and down, but they make me happy.
Swipe to the left to reveal your notifications. It can display up to four lines of text at a time, and you can scroll through notifications. Swipe up to change the cover screen brightness or volume. Swipe down to use Samsung Pay. Swipe right to use cover screen widgets for the weather, alarms, a timer, music controls, your daily step count and your schedule. It's such an improvement. I'm curious to see if Samsung will add other widgets, especially from popular apps, in the future.
On the left is the original Z Flip with its tiny cover screen. On the right, is the Z Flip 3 which has a cover screen that is four times larger.Sarah Tew/CNET
The new cover screen is a couple of steps closer to the excellent Quick View display on the Motorola Razr 5G. But it's still limited. For example, I can view an entire notification but I need to open the Z Flip 3 to respond to it. You can use Bixby Voice to reply to text messages if you don't mind dealing with Bixby.
Overall this is a step in the right direction, but I wish there were basic reply prompts for texts.
The Z Flip 3 captures good photos and videos
Samsung didn't upgrade the camera hardware. It has wide and ultrawide cameras on the cover and a selfie camera housed inside a hole-punch in the main display. These are the equivalent of the cameras you'd find on a $700 phone, which for most people will be more than fine. The Z Flip 3 costs a grand because it folds in half, not because of its cameras. But that unique build makes taking a photo or recording a video a unique and wonderful experience.
The foldable shape and size mean you can put the Z Flip 3 just about anywhere to get a truly one-of-a-kind shot. I put it on the dashboard of my rental car, behind a tiny statue of a mouse on the sidewalk and next to a dog's water dish to capture a time lapse. The Z Flip 3 is essentially its own tripod. I found myself wanting to take more photos and videos just because of its flexibility.
As far as image quality, its photos look good in bright lighting. In medium and low-light conditions, such as a dimly lit living room, photos look rough. The phone uses a long shutter speed to compensate for less light, so your subject can look soft because of motion blur if they're moving even just a little.
In good lighting, the Z Flip 3 yields good photos. It doesn't hurt to have a wonderful view.Patrick Holland/CNET
It can capture a good amount of detail and has a decent dynamic range.Patrick Holland/CNET
Skin tones look good without too much smoothing.Patrick Holland/CNET
The ultrawide camera gives you a dramatic perspective but has less dynamic range and makes things look a bit contrasty.Patrick Holland/CNET
In lower-light situations, like under an outdoor dining area in the early evening, you can see the Z Flip 3 struggle.Patrick Holland/CNET
Samsung peppers in new camera modes from the Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra such as Director's View, which gives you a live preview from all three cameras, and Single Take, which captures a series of photos and videos of your subject as determined by AI. You can use the cover screen to display a preview from the cameras on the outer case. This is great for filming yourself or offering your friends a chance to see what you're capturing. Interestingly, if you do this when the phone is closed, photos have a more square aspect ratio, but if the phone is open, you see the full image.
Night mode on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 delivers some decent results.Patrick Holland/CNET
Night mode photos look soft compared to those from the Galaxy S21.Patrick Holland/CNET
Night mode is impressive for this camera setup. I'd say the results fall firmly between the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy A52 5G. Videos are okay, but suffer from moire, also known as the "screen door effect," and there is noticeable image noise except in the most ideal situations. If you drop down in resolution from 4K to 1080p you can take advantage of Samsung's Super Steady Shot, which works like a charm.
Take a look at some videos I shot with the Z Flip 3 below.
The tiny Z Flip 3 has a tiny battery life
One feature that wasn't upgraded was the Z Flip 3's dual 3,300-mAh batteries. On medium-to-heavy use days, with the screen at the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and the brightness at 80%, I make it about 11 hours. And that's starting with the battery fully charged. During my 10 days with the Z Flip 3, I averaged 3 hours of screen-on time a day. There was one day where I was only connected to 5G and the screen-on time was 3 hours, 34 minutes.
In comparison to other phones, this isn't great. But it's one of the trade-offs with owning a small phone. The Z Flip 3 supports 15-watt fast-charging as well as wireless and reverse-wireless charging. You need to have your own 15-watt charger or wireless charging pad, because the phone doesn't come with one. Also, 15-watt charging isn't that fast.
There were several times where the Z Flip 3 got noticeably warm. For example, I recorded a video, uploaded it to Instagram over 5G and then listened to a playlist on Spotify over and the phone was warm. Fortunately it never got hot, but I'm sure its petite size means it'll sometimes act as a hand-warmer.
The Z Flip 3 get Samsung flagship phone specs
The Z Flip 3 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and 8GB of RAM. It runs Android 11 and Samsung's OneUI 3. In use, it was peppy and fast. Its benchmark scores were on par with the Galaxy S21. See the Z Flip 3's benchmark test scores below.
3DMARK SLINGSHOT UNLIMITEDSamsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G 9,250 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 7,957 Motorola Razr 5G 4,378 Samsung Galaxy S21 10,070
Note:Longer bars indicate better performance
GEEKBENCH V.5.0 SINGLE-CORESamsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G 1,089 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 722 Motorola Razr 5G 587 Samsung Galaxy S21 1,084
Note:Longer bars indicate better performance
GEEKBENCH V.5.0 MULTICORESamsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G 3,427 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 2,512 Motorola Razr 5G 1,755 Samsung Galaxy S21 3,282
Note:Longer bars indicate better performance
You can use the Z Flip 3 like a regular phone, but if you dive into settings, you can customize which apps take advantage of Flex Mode, which is when the phone is left half-open like a laptop. The good news is there are more apps that take advantage of this than on the previous Flips. For example, if I open Spotify, the main window for the app is on the top half and the playback controls on the bottom.
Some apps only move the app window to the top without adding any additional functionality to the bottom half. And other apps, even Samsung's own Gallery app haven't been fully optimized. When I edit photos in the Gallery app, it moves the photo to the middle of the screen which is just annoying. All of this takes a little getting used to.
I'd still like to see more apps take advantage of Flex Mode. Can you imagine a game where you play it in Flex Mode with the controls on the bottom and the game on the top?
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G specs vs. Motorola Razr 5G, Galaxy Z Flip 5G, Galaxy S21
Galaxy Z Flip 3 Motorola Razr (2020) Galaxy Z Flip Galaxy S21 Display size, resolution Internal: 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED; 2,640x1,080 pixels. External: 1.9-inch AMOLED; 512x260 pixels Internal: 6.2-inch, foldable pOLED; 2,142x876 pixels (21:9). External: 2.7-inch glass OLED, 800x600 pixels (4:3) Internal: 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED; 2,636x1,080 pixels. External: 1.1-inch Super AMOLED; 300x112 pixels 6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 2,400x1,080 pixels Pixel density 425ppi (internal) / 303ppi (external) 373ppi (internal) 425ppi (internal) / 303ppi (external) 421 ppi Dimensions (Inches) Folded: 2.84x3.40x6.74 in. Hinge: ~0.66 in (sagging). Unfolded: 2.84x6.54x0.27 in Folded: 2.86x3.61x0.63 in. Unfolded: 2.86x6.66x0.31 in Folded: 2.99x3.44x0.61 ~ 0.68 in. Unfolded: 2.99x6.59x0.27 ~0.28 in 2.80x5.97x0.31 inches Dimensions (Millimeters) Folded: 72x86x17.1mm. Hinge: ~15.9mm (sagging). Unfolded: 72x166x6.9mm Folded: 73x92x16mm. Unfolded: 73x169x7.9mm Folded: 87x74x15.4-17.3mm. Unfolded: 167x74x6.9-7.2mm 71.2x151.7x7.9mm Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.46 oz; 183g 6.77 oz; 192g 6.46 oz; 183g 6.03 oz; 171g Mobile software Android 11 Android 10 Android 10 Android 11 Camera 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 48-megapixel (exterior) 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 20-megapixel (interior) 10-megapixel 10-megapixel Video capture 4K (HDR 10+) 4K 4K (HDR 10+) 8K Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ Snapdragon 888 64-bit octa-core processor 2.8GHz (max 2.4GHz+1.8GHz) Storage 128GB/256GB 256GB 256GB 128GB/256GB RAM 8GB 8GB 8GB 8GB Expandable storage No No None None Battery 3,300 mAh 2,800 mAh 3,300 mAh 4,000 mAh Fingerprint sensor Side Back Side In-screen Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C Headphone jack No No No No Special features 5G enabled, foldable display, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, 15W fast charging 5G enabled, foldable display, time of flight sensor 5G enabled, Foldable display; wireless PowerShare; wireless charging; fast charging IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 30x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 120Hz display Price off-contract (USD) $1,000 (128GB), $1,050 (256GB) $1,400 $1,450 $800 (128GB) Price (GBP) £949 (128GB), £999 (256GB) £1,400 £1,229 £769 Price (AUD) AU$2,499 (128GB), AU$2,649 converts to AU$1,920 Converts to AU$2,070 AU$1,249
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