Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

Why YesWhy Not
Excellent Build QualityThe same features lag against the competition
Compact When FoldedBattery life, not impressive
Improved DisplayAverage camera Performance
IPX8 Rating
Great Performance

The new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 might not be on the same level as other USD 1,000 flagships when thinking about performance, but the folding factor is what really makes the difference, thanks to this innovative experience it is a device that worths taking a chance.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 marks a shift in strategy for Samsung’s foldable phone. The company promised it would make its foldable devices more available and accessible to more people and their showing that they are good on their word.

First, they did it by dropping prices. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 cut a significant USD 400 from the cost of the outgoing Z Flip 5G and It’s a USD 800 cheaper than Samsung’s other new foldable, the Galaxy Z Fold 3. With this new price tag, the Z Flip 3 sits at the same price range as many of today’s standard flagships making it more accessible to a larger number of consumers.

Now in its 3rd generation, the Z Flip 3 takes everything that we liked about the 1st generation and adds new and thoughtful upgrades that really improve the experience of using the phone daily without sacrificing the character of the original.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

What is to know about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

 Price Tag:

  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 (8GB/128GB): USD 999 / €999 / £949
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 (8GB/256GB): USD 1,049 / €1,049 / £999

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is Samsung’s smaller, approachable, and more affordable folding phone. Where the Z Fold 3 opens reveals a tablet-sized screen, the Z Flip 3 is a normal-sized phone that bends in half to something more pocketable in a simpler clamshell form factor.

The original Z Flip and the Z Flip 5G were priced around USD 1,400 at launch, though later the price dropped to USD 1,299. The base model Z Flip 3 is available for just USD 999, a big discount from the previous generations. The 256GB model is just USD 50 more, making it more attractive for those who need extra storage. These prices line the Z Flip 3 up with the likes of the Galaxy S21 series, the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, and other flagship phones in the USD 1,000 space.

To make the deal more attractive, Samsung is offering aggressive trade-in deals and discounts on the Z Flip 3 for those willing who preorder the phone up to under USD 500 with the right trade-in. 

The phone is available in two storage sizes and in multiple colors. The basic model can be selected in  Cream, Phantom Black, Lavender, Gray, White, and Pink. These last three are exclusive to Samsung’s website. The 256GB model is available in Phantom Black, Gray, White, and Pink. Black is the only matte all the rest are glossy. The box includes just a cable and a SIM tool; unfortunately, the device has no charger.

Regarding the hardware is much better than its predecessors. The Z Flip 3 has the same Armor Aluminum and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus as the Z Fold 3. These updates make the Z Flip 3 tougher than the outgoing phones. Samsung says its Armor Aluminum is stronger than 7,000 series aluminum, and Gorilla Glass Victus is the best Corning has to offer at the moment, with improved brake and scratch protection. The shape of the glass panel has also been changed and curved on the original Z Flip. The Z Flip 3 glass is flattened out, with a simpler rectangular panel that slots into the metal frame. Corners have been rounded and the metal frame has a delicate contour. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

The hinge is stronger than ever, the spine disappears completely when the phone is opened all the way and will hold any angle you set. Samsung was sure to improve the durability of the display and the screen is covered with a stretchable polyethylene terephthalate film improving the strength by 80%. It feels more robust and the Z Flip 3 is less fragile than its predecessors.

The phone has earned an IPX8 rating for protection against water but is not protected against dust, only water. The IPX8 rating means the phone can stay in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes and handle sweat or rain, but no dust, sorry. 

The controls are easy to access. The device has a combo screen lock button/fingerprint reader on one side which makes it hard to locate in a hurry sometimes but is fantastically quick and accurate once trained. The phone relies on USB-C for charging and data transfer. The SIM slot works only for a single SIM card and does not support expandable memory cards. An eSIM is also built into the phone.

The device has a stereo with Dolby Atmos thanks to a pair of speakers, one is embedded in the phone’s earpiece and the second is on the phone’s bottom edge. The Z Flip 3 doesn’t enjoy quite the same crisp and balanced sound as the Z Fold 3 but still does well. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

How’s that display bends?

The main screen had a couple of updates. Samsung strengthened the materials protecting the screen, and the refresh rate has been boosted to 120Hz.

As noted above, the 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex Display features a new protective layer that boosts durability. Similar to the Z Fold 3, the Z Flip 3’s outer layer is reflective, leading to a higher amount of glare from time to time.

The resolution is 2,600 x 1,080 with a pixel density of 425ppi looking sharper and more colorful than ever. The adaptive 120Hz refresh is impressive, the shape is tall and narrow with a 22:9 aspect ratio and makes it natural to scroll down through social feeds. The adaptive refresh rate can be set to the standard 60Hz if the user wants to preserve battery life.

On the downside, the fold in the middle of the screen is visible to the naked eye and easy to locate by feel with the unknown on how well it will last over the years.

What can users do with the new cover screen?

The older Galaxy Z Flip phones featured a small 1.1-inch strip that was good only to show the clock and flash notifications. The Z Flip 3 features had doubled the size to a 1.9-inch Super AMOLED panel that boasts way more functionality and can host swipe gestures.

The Cover Screen acts as the device is the always-on display. Tapping the glass will reveal the clock, date, and battery level, and can be set to be always on. Unlock the phone via the fingerprint reader and you have access to a handful of widgets. We can swipe and see notifications, access Samsung Pay, and adjust the brightness and mute level. Look for weather, calendar, music, timer, alarm, and Samsung Health widgets. The notifications are particularly helpful, we can open emails and text messages and scroll through the content.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

The Cover Screen also supports a camera preview functionality so it can be used to take selfies and allow those you’re photographing to see the shot before you snap it. 

Are the cameras up to the job?

The Z Flip 3 has three cameras. There are two 12MP shooters on the outside, which include a standard lens with Dual Pixels and OIS at f/1.8 and an ultra-wide-angle lens at f/2.2. Samsung says it improved the glass covering these lenses with tougher, clearer stuff than that used on the Z Flip 5G. The user-facing camera, which is visible in the punch hole at the top of the display, is a 10MP job at f/2.4.

Samsung didn’t make any changes to its camera app, it includes core shooting modes such as photo, video, portrait, and Single Take, the camera does a good enough job, but is far from impressive. 

Below you can see different daytime shots below with the basics such as focus, white balance, and exposure are on point. Color is, in typical Samsung fashion, pushed a little bit. The auto HDR tool, which is turned on by default, helps the balance out images.

The colors are less vibrant when shooting after the sunsets. During twilight, the HDR wasn’t quite able to keep up with the shadows. Further, the shots I took from under the bridge are very noisy.

Pictures shot in the dark or near dark had mixed in quality. In the samples below, the two buildings were captured with the camera in regular mode while the river scene needed night mode to pull out all those details. It’s impressive much the camera was able to “see” in the dark. The samples from the Z Flip 3 show more noise than similar samples taken with the Z Fold 3; neither compares to the low-light capabilities of the Galaxy S21.

Zooming is accomplished via digital crop. The ultra-wide camera handles shots at 0.5x. with the color and exposure of daytime wide-angle shots, but a bit of distortion is noted in the corners. The main lens handles everything else, which means up to 10x zoom. Zooming up to about 4x is fairly usable, but anything beyond that is not worth capturing. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

Portraits and selfies are decent. The inner selfie camera captures regular shots and portraits alike. There’s also a toggle to switch between wide-angle selfies so you can include more people or more background in the shot. Edge detection is not as clean and the backgrounds were sometimes over blurred, making them look unnatural. I also saw a bit of noise from the selfie camera.

One thing worth pointing out: selfies taken with the exterior Cover Screen are limited in aspect ratio to 1:1. Samsung There’s no way to change the aspect ratio of these shots.

Video capture is possible up to 4K resolution at 60fps. That’s pretty standard compared to the 8K capabilities offered by most competing $1,000 flagships. The Z Flip 3 shoots solid video that captures fine detail, motion, and color. 

Battery Life

The Z Flip 3 has a split 3,300mAh battery with half living on each side of the phone. Used carefully, the phone can push through a full day. However, if we take full advantage of the Cover Screen to view notifications and the display set to the default 120Hz adaptive mode it will last only four hours. That’s far behind the six-hour minimum expected from modern flagships in the same price range.

Samsung gives plenty of ways to optimize power consumption. First, we can set the display back to a consistent 60Hz, as well as control brightness, time-out length, and the like also kill off background apps or take advantage of similar power-saving features. 

Charging speeds are on the slow side for a $1,000 phone. Wired charging is only 15W, and there’s no charger in the box. The battery is rather small for a flagship and it doesn’t take as long to charge. The phone powered to full from zero in one hour 40 minutes. That’s not bad.

Wireless charging is slower at 10W and charging the battery from zero to full took more than two hours wirelessly. Like the Z Fold 3, reverse wireless charging is limited to 4.5W, which is rather slow and best limited to emergencies given the lower overall capacity of the battery itself.

The Z Flip 3 doesn’t last as long as regular flagships do in this price tier.

How powerful is it?

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review
Image Source: Samsung

The Z Flip 3 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The Snapdragon 888 is one of the top-performing chips in the market right now and it delivers plenty of power.

Every experience with the phone was quick. Apps open in a blink, screens transition was smooth, and nothing slowed the phone down. Games ran at their best.

Samsung included the latest wireless specs, which means sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, as well as Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5

Anything else?

  • Software: The phone ships with Android 11 running Samsung One UI 3.1. Samsung promised three years of system updates and four years of security updates. One UI itself is the same version that’s available on the Z Fold 3, Galaxy S21, and other modern Galaxy phones
  • Multitasking: The Z Flip 3’s 22:9 aspect ratio display makes it great for multitasking. It handily supports two app windows at the same time.
  • Flex Mode: Like the Z Fold 3, the Z Flip 3 supports Flex Mode. This tool lets you launch a separate control panel on half the screen when you have it set as a tiny laptop. 
  • S Pen: The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not compatible with any of Samsung’s S Pen stylus accessories, not even the new S Pen Pro, which supports a handful of legacy Galaxy Note and Galaxy S phones. No stylus for you!

Value and competition

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 features a bevy of upgrades over its predecessor, including a tougher screen and an IPX8 rating, and starts at under $1,000.

The company is offering aggressive trade-in deals and financing if you preorder the phone via its website before general sales start on August 27. For example, I could trade in my Galaxy Note 10 Plus and earn $475 toward the Z Flip 3. Samsung is allowing for the trade-in of up to four devices during the preorder period, which means you can really knock down the final cost of the Z Flip 3. The company is also offering discounted accessories, such as cases, smartwatches, and true wireless earphones — so it’s best to act quickly.

What about competitors? There are two obvious ones. Naturally, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 (USD 1,799) should be the first you consider. The Z Fold 3 may be a different animal from the Z Flip 3, but it’s still a bendy phone from Samsung that offers a dual-screen experience with a large internal display that excels at multitasking. It costs a pretty penny without trade-in discounts, but it really impresses.

Then there’s the Motorola Razr 5G (USD 1,399). Motorola’s nearly year-old folding phone is the most similar device to the Z Flip 3 in the market right now. Motorola has been offering steep discounts on the Razr of late, so you can get it for the same USD 999 price tag as the Z Flip 3.

The verdict

Samsung tweaked the Z Flip 3 to make it an attractive option for regular consumers. It’s the first foldable created for regular buyers rather than early adopters, it delivers the whole smartphone experience at an attainable price point. 

The Z Flip 3 is a more robust smartphone thanks to the new glass, aluminum, display cover, and IPX8 rating. The processor does an admirable job, as does the 5G connectivity, and Samsung gave the phone powerful software tools for making use of the folding screen.

Some things are worth taking a chance on and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of them.

As for the cons, well the battery and camera are what bug me the most. Nearly any other $1,000 flagship will beat the Z Flip 3 in those clutch categories. It’s all about what you’re willing to compromise on.

There’s no question the Z Flip 3 is an enjoyable smartphone to use. t’s not a perfect phone and certainly has its share of faults, but some things are worth taking a chance on — and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of them.

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