Our full review on Samsung’s affordable foldable smartphone

As expected, Samsung presented two new smartphones with flexible screens on the occasion of the Unpacked conference in August 2021: the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The third small foldable smartphone from the Korean brand after the Z Flip and the Z Flip 5G, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 aims to democratize this form factor, thanks to a price largely revised downwards and a design corrected where needed. Does the result live up to the ambition? Answer in this comprehensive test.

Whether we like flexible screen smartphones or not, everyone agrees that Samsung is a pioneer in this market segment and is helping to broaden its adoption. And the Korean firm, which (fortunately) does not wish to base itself on its achievements, has just presented two new spearheads for its Galaxy Z range, the range reserved for smartphones with folding screens: the Galaxy z flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3. They were formalized in August 2021, during the Unpacked conference where the Galaxy watch 4 and the Galaxy Buds 2.

After the Galaxy Z Fold 3, tested in our columns this week, here we present the full test of the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the smallest of the duo. A smartphone presented by Samsung as the most affordable phone with a flexible screen. It is indeed much cheaper than its predecessors, since its price is around that of a flagship with a rigid screen that you find at Oppo, Xiaomi, Apple or… Samsung! As expensive as a Galaxy S21 +, it is cheaper than a Galaxy S21 Ultra. A significant price drop therefore, without compromising on design and performance. This is a beautiful promise. What about in real life? This is what we will see in this full test.

Our video test

Pricing and availability

As we mentioned in the preamble, one of the strengths of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is its price. It is much cheaper than the Galaxy Z Flip 5G. The smartphone comes in two configurations. The first integrates 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. It is therefore marketed 1059 euros. This is a 30% drop from the launch price of the Galaxy Z Fold 5G. The second takes advantage of double the internal storage and the same amount of RAM. It is sold 1109 euros. Or 50 euros to double the space: it is rather a good deal.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is already available for pre-order on the Samsung website and is available in stores today, August 27, 2021. Four colors are available from all retailers upon release: Cream, Black, Green, Lavender. Three other dresses, Gray, White and Pink, are only available on the official Samsung store. Until August 27, you could get a € 200 trade-in bonus that can drop the price of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 up to € 800 cheaper.

Technical sheet

Galaxy z fold 3
Screen Internal screen:
6.7 inch
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Full HD + definition (2640 x 1080 pixels)
Resolution 426 pixels per inch
22: 9 ratio
Adaptive 120 Hz cooling

External screen:
1.9 inch
Super AMOLED
Definition: 260 x 512 pixels
60 Hz cooling

Chipset Snapdragon 888 (5nm)
BONE Android 11
One UI 3.1
RAM 8 GB
Storage 128/256 GB
microSD No
Photo sensors Main :
12 megapixel definition
pixel size: 1.4 µm
lens opening at f / 1.8
optical stabilization
dual pixel autofocus

Ultra-wide angle:
12 megapixel definition
pixel size: 1.12 µm
lens opening at f / 2.2
viewing angle: 123 °

4K video @ 30 frames per second

Selfie sensors 10 megapixel definition
pixel size: 1.22 µm
lens opening at f / 2.4
Drums 3300 mAh
15W recharge
Wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
5G Yes
Connectivity Wifi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB 3.2 (type-C)
Biometrics Fingerprint reader on the edge
Audio two AKG stereo speakers
AKG USB Type-C headphones included
Water resistance IPX8

Unboxing and Design

Let’s start this test with an unboxing. The box itself is incredibly simple. On the main face, we find the name of the smartphone as well asa big “Z” in its center, divided into two parts, one gray, the other holographic. The left edge will take the name of the device while the right will display the Samsung logo, some classic information, such as the IMEI, serial number and barcode will take place on the lower edge, and … that’s it .

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Upon opening, we come face to face with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G. He is opened and wrapped in protective plastic. Below, we find a small cardboard pocket including a USB-C cable, a traditional accessory allowing the ejection of the SIM card drawer and a very fine quick start documentation. Samsung has chosen, like Apple, to no longer supply mains adapters in the boxes of his smartphones. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is no exception to this rule. This makes the unboxing experience very quick, with a slight taste of “not enough”.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Now let’s move on to the smartphone itself. From the first glance, the latter inevitably has its effect. The clamshell smartphone gives off a flavor of yesteryear, tirelessly providing a feeling of satisfaction with each opening and closing. We usually like smartphones for their designs and features, but also for the feel they give when you get started.

And this Galaxy Z Flip 3 surpasses any experience in this area. Each opening / closing is a mixture of amazement, facing the folding screen technology, and pleasure, gradually observing the smartphone transforming in the hand and seeing its hinge disappear. Handling the Galaxy Z Flip 3 will never tire you, as its design is undeniably successful.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

The hull is covered, at the top and at the bottom, by Gorilla Glass Victus. The set is based on an aluminum frame which is, according to Samsung, more resistant than that of the previous Flip. It is true that the Z Flip 3 gives off an impression of solidity. But it doesn’t just come from the materials. The construction is also reason. If the first Flip was already attractive, it now looks pale and looks more of a prototype alongside its younger brother. There are five colors of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. You can discover the cream dress here, in soft and sweet tones.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Let’s go around the slices. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 integrates, in the left edge, the SIM card drawer and, in the right edge, the volume controls as well as the button allowing the on / off and unlocking of the smartphone. In this key, you will also find the fingerprint reader. On the bottom edge, we see a USB type-C charge and transfer port and a speaker which, coupled to the telephone receiver located at the top of the screen, will deliver stereo sound.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

The front side houses the immense 6.7-inch 22 / 9th screen. This main screen offers a selfie sensor at its center and top, integrated into the device in a “drop” type notch. Let’s finish this owner’s tour with the black part of the top cover. You will find the double photo module, as well as a 1.9 inch secondary screen. Unlike that of the previous model, this screen becomes much less anecdotal, Samsung having found a way to give it all the interest it deserves.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Finally, it should be noted that Samsung has succeeded, by combining various solutions, in making the Galaxy Z Flip 3 water resistant. It benefits from the certification IPX8. A first in the world of folding-screen smartphones, since the waterproofing of the hinge constitutes a technological challenge. Samsung has yet to find a solution to the dust.

Screen (s)

Now let’s take a closer look at the screen. When opening the phone, the display surprises. First of all by its format, since we are facing a slab Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex 22 / 9th, all in length. The definition is 2640 x 1080 pixels. Either Full HD +. The resolution therefore reaches 425 pixels per inch. The refresh rate can go up to 120 Hz. And it is obviously adaptive.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

The choice of this atypical format is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the length of the screen is an undeniable advantage, for example making it possible to display more information when consulting articles or websites. On the other hand, you have a diminished multimedia experience. Viewing films and series, designed for a 16: 9 aspect ratio, will show on either side of the image of large and thick black borders. You can zoom in the image to occupy the entire screen area. But then you lose too much information to make it worth the effort.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Another question that many people ask themselves: is the fold of the screen visible? And the answer is inevitably ” Yes “. You will see it as soon as you pay attention to it. However, in 90% of cases, the latter will prove to be very discreet. You will also feel it under your finger during the passage. If the feeling of going from flat to curve at the level of the central demarcation is somewhat confusing at first, the habit comes relatively quickly and the first apprehensions quickly disappear.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Technically, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 benefits from the brand’s know-how, offering a screen that covers 125% of DCI-P3 spectrum with a perfectly calibrated screen (as always with Samsung). If the vivid mode (one of the two color display modes) tends to push cold colors and increase the saturation, the natural mode offers a very pleasant visual reproduction. The colors are shimmering, the details precise, and the contrasts are very deep, typical characteristic of AMOLED screens. The brightness of the smartphone is also excellent since it approaches 800 nits to the maximum, which will ensure full readability even outdoors, in direct sunlight.

Secondary screen

If the secondary screen of the previous Galaxy Z Flip was anecdotal, that of the Z Flip 3 is of more than certain interest thanks to the increase in its size. The latter is activated by a double tap as soon as the valve is closed. Once turned on, it allows you, via classic navigation gestures (swipe, press), toaccess many useful features. Time, music control, alarms, timer, calendar, health and notifications. Each of the dials is customizable and allows you quickly, without having to open the smartphone, to take a quick glance at all the essential information for your day.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Another very fun and practical function is the activation of the photo mode via a double press on the unlock button, which will transform the secondary screen into a relatively complete photo / video return. In addition to being able to take photos and videos, you can switch between the two lenses of the smartphone with a gesture to achieve your best selfie in an instant. A feature certainly dispensable at first glance, but we quickly get into the game of unsheathing the smartphone, always folded to take a small photo.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Audio

Now let’s talk about the sound qualities of the Z Flip 3. If it is stereo compatible, the audio is not really the strong point of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Up to half power, you will be able to benefit from a correct reproduction, but as soon as you increase the volume, the whole will be more messy. The bass will subside and the high mids will tend to be garish. However no discernible saturation, making listening certainly not the most convincing, but still respectable.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

As usual, the use of an external distribution system is to be expected. And note thatUSB-C to 3.5mm mini jack adapter is not supplied. You will therefore have to acquire one separately, or opt for a wireless or USB-C solution, which, in any case, will allow you to enjoy your playlists or videos much better than the integrated speakers. Note that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 should come with headphones (certainly the same ones offered with the Galaxy Z Fold 3). But our test unit lacked it.

Performances

Samsung has significantly lowered the price of access to its folding smartphones, but without making any concessions on the performance part. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 thus benefits from a very high-end SOC, one of the best on the market. It’s about Snapdragon 888, the latest a premium octo-core from Qualcomm. This is made up of eight Kryo 680s (clocked up to 2.84GHz) and an Adreno 660 graphics chip. 8 GB of RAM and your choice of 128 or 256 GB of non-expandable storage. This is more than enough to animate its Full HD + screen.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

In terms of benchmarks, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 does not have much to envy other high-end smartphones on the market. A score of 1105 points in single-core and 3456 points in multi-core on Geekbench 5 show that it surpassed without any problem a Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G which reached scores, respectively of 960 and 3176. These are figures very similar to those of the Z Fold 3.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

It is however on the graphic part that the result is more nuanced. If 3D Mark’s Slinghsot Extreme is out of date, use on one of the most power hungry games around shows the limits of the Snapdragon 888… Or, at least, the way Samsung has integrated the SoC. Genshin Impact (since it is about him) turns, but jerks quickly when there are a lot of items to display. If the game is fully playable once the graphics settings are set to the lowest, the experience is different when you want to increase the quality a bit. A concern linked in part to the game, but which nevertheless constitutes an indication of the possibilities of this smartphone.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

You won’t have to worry about playing the better optimized games, like Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9, which run smoothly, delivering a really pleasant experience. And for all uses that do not involve a great graphics load, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 will meet all your expectations. Fluid, fast and pleasant, both in single task and multi task.

Two small regrets to finish on the technical part. We would have liked to take advantage of an SD card storage expansion. Likewise, dual SIM compatibility would not have been refused. The Z Flip 3 will only offer one SIM card slot, 5G compatible obviously. To this are added the Bluetooth 5.2 and Wifi 6E, latest developments in wireless connections. A very good news.

Autonomy

One of the weak points of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is its theoretical autonomy. The latter displays, on paper, onlya 3300mAh battery, consequence of the compactness of the product. Coupled with an AMOLED screen whose refresh rate can go up to 120Hz, this battery made us fear that the autonomy does not exceed the day. And this has unfortunately been verified in practice.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

During a day of versatile use, but not very greedy (including a few videos on YouTube, a tour on social networks and a few photos here and there, especially to illustrate this test), the Galaxy Z Flip 3 reached quickly its limits. We weren’t able to finish a day without having to plug the phone into a charger. Autonomy below 8 hours with standard use is clearly a problem. This is one of the main black spots of this Z Flip 3, especially if you tend to be on the go on a regular basis.

It is all the more of a problem that the load is restricted to 15W. A full charge at this power takes an hour and a half. We would have liked a faster charge, 20W or 25W for example, to compensate for the Z Flip 3’s poor battery life (and reduce phone downtime). The Galaxy Z Flip 3 also offers an energy transfer mode for recharging another device via the Qi standard… This function must obviously be avoided so as not to impact the autonomy more than reason.

Interface

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 works on Android 11 and One UI 3.1. We no longer present the Samsung interface. The general experience is very close to what we presented to you during the tests of the Galaxy S21 Ultra or Galaxy Z Fold 3 (in addition to the S-Pen compatibility not available on the Z Flip 3). However, this version is not devoid of new features specific to this atypical smartphone.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Indeed, as for the Z Fold 3, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 benefits from a mode specific to flexible screens: the Flex mode. This mode must be activated by the user from the “Labs” section, well hidden in the phone settings. As soon as the mode is activated, the interface changes significantly, showing the content of your application on the upper part of the screen, and dedicated controls at the bottom. Take the example of Spotify. We find on the lower part all the music control buttons and on the upper part the photo of the album, the lyrics or the playlist. Likewise with Gallery: Flex displays a large tactile zone at the bottom allowing you to control the photo located at the top.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

Flex mode is disabled by default. Also, once it is activated, you need to activate it for each app that you want. Flex integration is still very limited, and some applications benefit better than others. This is particularly the case with YouTube which, once Flex is activated, will position the video on the top screen, allowing you to take advantage of the lower part to browse through the comments for example, or browse through all the videos in our website. string to fill your queue.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Examples of Flex integration with Spotify (left) and YouTube (center and right)

You will understand, if this Flex mode offers interesting solutions for the rapid control of certain functionalities, it still lacks more advanced integrations, fault of the developers of applications who do not hurry to make their software fully compatible. Perhaps it will come with time and the democratization of this format (hoped for by Samsung with this Flip). In any case, we hope so.

Photo

Now let’s talk about another sensitive part of the Z Flip 3: the photo part. Make no mistake, Samsung is not trying to sell this smartphone for its photo performance. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a showcase for the brand, mainly for its screen. And this is felt on the photo part which seems light compared to what the Galaxy S21 Ultra can offer … not to mention the competition.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

The Z Flip 3 offers a dual rear photo module as well as a selfie sensor. At the back, we find a wide-angle lens and an ultra-wide-angle lens. The sensors associated with them benefit from a definition of 12 megapixels. The selfie sensor displays 10 megapixels. No telephoto lens in this product, no macro sensor, or even a TOF (Time of Flight) sensor. Some might find this setup a bit light.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Main photo sensor, automatic mode
samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Main sensor, night mode

The photos taken by the two 12-megapixel sensors are really nice, without being transcendent. Both sensors also tend to lose quality and sharpness as you move away from the foreground. Especially when the smartphone has to manage a large amount of detail in similar color ranges (a forest for example, grass, or pebbles). We therefore end up with a background, or a difficult to read backdrop that looks more like a mush of pixels.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Main sensor, automatic mode

Thanks to the software part which carries out efficient post-processing of the images and offers a good quality rendering. However, some negative points should be noted. The first is digital zoom. Beyond the 2x ratio, the picture clearly loses detail and close to the limit of the unusable. It will be necessary to limit oneself to this very reduced report so as not to lose too much in quality. We will also note the propensity of digital zoom to excessively saturate the colors, offering a result less faithful to reality.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Main photo sensor, automatic mode, 2x (left) and 4x (right) digital zoom

HDR is generally well handled. Certainly, we lose sharpness in certain dark areas, but the readability of the scene remains constant, therefore allowing convincing shots to be taken, as long as they are not cropped. The ultra wide-angle offers beautiful shots which has the advantage of not distorting the straight lines by making them curved, however we will detect here and there from small chromatic aberrations if we zoom in on the image. Once again, reframing should be avoided.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Ultra wide angle sensor, automatic mode
samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Ultra wide-angle sensor, night mode

Positive point, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes out of the game on recognition of scenes and objects. Indeed, the algorithm offers a rather reliable detection and applies relevant settings. An example opposite with the beautiful pictures of plants which benefit from a very satisfactory clipping. The portrait mode is not left out. The clipping is precise, even against the light, allowing you to take beautiful portraits. When applying the bokeh effect, the smudges here are borderline indistinguishable. Samsung is, in this exercise, an example for many others to follow.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Main sensor, automatic mode (left), portrait mode (right)
samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Wide-angle sensor, automatic mode

Let’s move on to the 10 million pixel selfie camera overlooking the main screen. The latter also offers satisfactory shots. The rendering is natural. The saturation is not too exaggerated. And dynamic management doesn’t tend to burn out bright areas, even when using it in shady conditions.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Selfie sensor, automatic mode (left), portrait mode (right)

However, we will quickly prefer use the Z Flip 3 in the closed position. We have indeed mentioned it previously: with a simple double click on the unlock button, we can turn the secondary screen back to take advantage of the main sensors to take self-portraits of much better quality. The selfie camera therefore becomes almost anecdotal, if not for videoconferences for which it will be largely sufficient.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test
Selfie sensor, backlighting, automatic mode (left), portrait mode (right)

On the video side, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 offers to film until 4K @ 60 fps. Note, however, that filming in this quality will have a downside: almost no stabilization. On the other hand, if you fall back on Full HD @ 60 fps, the stabilization will do a good job here, offering great videos.

Conclusion

Certainly, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not without worries : Battery with still questionable autonomy, absence of dual SIM or memory extension (something that we are starting to get used to on the high end at Samsung), audio experience in decline, photo equipment far from being the best in the world. Marlet. But Samsung’s proposal for this third iteration of the Flip is still attractive. Very seductive.

samsung galaxy z flip 3 test

As much at the level of design that we never tire of, that ofscreen of excellent quality, or even all the little ones features that are offered by the external display and which very quickly become welcome on a daily basis. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a technological demonstration that is beginning to show its full potential, and draws a bright future for the smartphone industry and related innovations.

Samsung offers here a totally different experience of what we usually encounter. It renews the sensations felt by using our pocket companion. But it is at the price level that the brand is strong: folding screen technology becomes accessible to more and more people. Yes, we stay on a premium price. Yes, 1059 € is a rather high access price. But compared to the proposal of some competitors, or the previous generation, Samsung is making an effort to offer you a Galaxy Z Flip 3, the result of innovations on which the brand has been working for 3 years now.

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