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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Review: One small step for Samsung, one giant leap for Foldables

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 brings new levels of practicality to the foldable form factor, but is it enough to earn a recommendation?

September 10, 2021 / 02:13 PM IST

In August, Samsung revealed two foldable devices in the form of Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. While the Galaxy Z Fold 3 (Review) goes all out, offering a one-of-a-kind ‘phablet’ experience, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 takes the traditional smartphone route with a twist, or should I say, “Flip”.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is available in two configurations – 8GB/128GB (Rs 84,999) and 8GB/256GB (Rs 88,999). At a starting price of Rs 84,999, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 demands a flagship’s ransom. But is the Flip 3 really worth a flagship’s ransom, well; stick around and let’s find out.

Design

Starting off with the design, it was nice to see Samsung retain all the best aspects of the Galaxy Z Flip 2 while improving on the not-so-good areas. The clamshell folding mechanism is the same, with two halves of the device separated by a large, and from the looks of it, pretty sturdy hinge. We’ll take a deep dive into the Flip 3’s design in our full review, but straight off the bat, the folding mechanism felt solid.

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One noticeable change on the back of the Flip 3 is the size of the cover display. The back of the phone is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, while the inner screen has a ‘glasstic’ flexible plastic display. The Flip 3 has a volume rocker and power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader on the right and a SIM tray on the left. You don’t get expandable storage, so it might be better to opt for the 256GB model. Additionally, there’s a microphone on the top and a USB Type-C port, speaker, and mic on the bottom.

On the back, you have a two-tone finish with Cream and Phantom Black colour options. Our model arrived in the Phantom Black colour and thanks to the matte finish, fingerprints were easily kept at bay. There’s a hole-punch camera cutout on the inner display, while the rear panel has two vertically aligned cameras.

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Apart from the impressive large secondary display, Samsung has also managed to offer an IP8X rating for water resistance, which means the device can be submerged in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. Coming from a flagship phone, I cannot stress how beneficial water resistance is, especially during the monsoon season.

Samsung

Samsung also sent over the Silicone cover with a ring. The cover adds an extra layer of protection over the already durable Gorilla Glass Victus, while the ring is a neat way of attaching the phone to a bag or purse.

Experience

All things considered, the experience of using the Galaxy Z Flip 3 was quite enthralling, it definitely takes you back to the days of flip phones without compromising on the traditional smartphone experience. Because of the second display on the back, you get a full-fledged smartphone experience and some. Once folded, the Flip 3 becomes twice as thick as a regular smartphone, but that’s a small price to pay for the innovation on display here. The strong hinge design also gave me the confidence to fold and unfold the device to my heart's content at different angles.

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When using the phone at a 90-degree angle, you can separate the two screens (Flex Mode) but very few apps support this split-screen usage. There are very few use cases where you’d need to use this mode, but it is quite useful for making video calls and taking selfies. One inescapable aspect of the Z Flip 3 is the crease in the middle of the device. You can feel it every time you scroll past it and it becomes a little more noticeable when hit by light. However, in most instances, while watching videos, you’ll forget it's there.

Display

The Flip 3 has a 9:22 aspect ratio that makes it slightly taller than most smartphones, but I rarely noticed the difference when making the switch. Samsung has also added a layer of protection over the display, in the form of a factory-installed screen protector that’s made from a harder material than the previous Flip. The feel is not very different from a screen protector though. Additionally, Samsung recommends not removing the screen protector and only getting it replaced, if needed, from a certified repair centre.

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The outer display on the Z Flip 3 measures 1.9 inches and is quite useful for checking notifications, settings alarms, controlling media, etc. You can reply to messages on the outer display, but you’ll need to use Bixby voice commands, let’s just hope it offers Google Assistant support in the future. Another great aspect of the outer display is that you can preview scenes before taking a photo. It can also be used to check previews before taking selfies on the rear cameras. However, it is rather difficult to get a proper preview on such a tiny display, but that didn’t stop me from using it, nie, abusing it for selfies.

Performance

When it comes to performance, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is no slouch. Under the hood, Samsung has equipped this sleek foldable with a Snapdragon 888 SoC, no Exynos comprises this time. The chipset is paired with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Plain and simple, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is quite fast and can handle multitasking or gaming without any hiccups. Plus, the chip can push frame rates past the 60fps mark in games, which will enable you to take full advantage of the 120Hz display.

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But as fast as it is, the benchmark results fall short of other flagships like the Asus ROG Phone 5 (Review) and the OnePlus 9 Pro (Review). While the Z Flip 3 started off strong in Geekbench, the performance took a major dive after a couple of tests, suggesting that there might be some throttling going on to keep temperatures down. However, the Snapdragon 888 SoC here is an absolute beast and you will very notice a difference. I played Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends for an entire hour without any issues.

Cameras

For optics, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a dual-rear camera setup that consists of a 12 MP main camera with f/1.8 aperture Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS and a 12 MP, f/2.2 ultrawide snapper with a 123-degree field of view. On the front, you get a 10 MP selfie camera with an f/2.4 aperture.

Galaxy Flip

Just because the cameras on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 are not flagship-grade, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough to get some great shots. For the average user, the cameras on the Z Flip 3 are pretty solid in both indoor and outdoor scenarios. Photos taken on the main camera can appear to look a tad bit oversaturated but the sensor does a great job reproducing vivid colours and handling noise.

It also captures a good amount of detail and has decent dynamic range. When switching between the main camera and ultrawide camera, I didn’t notice a dramatic shift in image quality when operating with good light, dynamic range does tend to suffer a bit. There is quite a bit of software optimisation going on in the background. The phone prolongs shutter speed to compensate for low light in your surroundings.

Galaxy Z Flip 3

At night, both the main and ultrawide cameras on the Z Flip 3 can leverage the phone’s dedicated night mode to get some decent results. Ambient light is key here and without it, the phone will struggle to capture good photos. Additionally, moving subjects tend to appear quite blurred. Portrait mode also works quite well but photos can look unnatural at times due to oversaturation.

Galaxy_Flip

The front camera on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is more than capable of getting excellent selfies in good light with a good amount of detail, sharpness, and vibrant colours. However, the external display can also function as a viewfinder, enabling you to take selfies using the two rear cameras. The good part is, you can take selfies using the rear camera without even opening the phone. A steady hand is crucial when taking selfies on the rear camera, I had to scrap 1 out of every 5 photos, but then again, my hand isn’t that steady.

The great part about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is that it can record 4K video across all cameras. The rear cameras can record 4K video at 60fps, although the ultrawide camera is limited to 30fps in both 4K and 1080p resolution. The selfie camera can also record 4K video at up to 60fps. All three cameras also offer some sort of stabilisation up to 4K at 30fps, while the main camera features OIS. You can also record HDR10 videos on the Flip 3.

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Photos and videos aside, the Z Flip 3 also brings a ton of Samsung’s flagship camera features including Director’s View, Single Take, a Pro Mode, Slow Motion, a Portrait Video Mode, and more. The one downfall of taking selfies with the phone folded is that you will be left with a weird square aspect ratio (Photos – 2992 x 2992 pixels | Videos – 1440 x 1440 pixels).  There’s definitely room for improvements in both the photo and video departments, but the cameras are still pretty good, bordering on flagship-grade.

Battery Life

The Z Flip 3 is powered by a 3,300 mAh battery, which is rather small for a flagship. The 3,300 mAh battery gives you around four to five hours of screen-on time. depending on the task at hand. I found it just about adequate to cover a day’s use, but I often had to reach for the charger in the night or suffer with around 5 percent battery to take into the next day. Now, when I say reach for the charger, I mean a personal adapter. Because you guessed it, there’s no charger in the box, just a USB Type-C cable. Whether it’s to save cost or the environment, you can be the judge of that.

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The phone does support 15W fast-charging and 10W wireless fast-charging as well as reverse wireless charging. I used a 30W brick to power the phone, which took around an hour and a half to go from 5 percent to 100 percent. Charging is relatively slow, but one could argue that faster charging speeds could crank up the heat. It is quite impressive to see the Z Flip 3 last for ‘almost’ a full day, you have to remember that this device literally folds in half so there isn’t much room to work with.

Software

The Z Flip 3 runs Android 11 out of the box with Samsung’s OneUI interface on top of it. The interface is not as clean as stock Android and can seem a bit cluttered but brings a ton of features and customisations. The Flip 3 also offers a seamless UI experience and runs just about every app like a normal phone would. Once unfolded, it functions as a regular Samsung device. You can also personalize the outer display with a select few widgets.

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Samsung has also worked with third-party developers to allow more apps to take advantage of this horizontal folding form factor. But for now, you get all the multi-tasking features of a regular Samsung device. Unlike the Fold 3, the Flip 3 isn’t attempting to be a phablet, so there are no software hurdles to get past. Side note, when folding the device, the volume buttons are interchanged, and I found it to be quite convenient.

Verdict

We end our full review of the Galaxy Z Flip 3, where we left off from the first impressions. Nothing seems to have changed in my mind, the Z Flip 3 is still the best and most complete foldable smartphone Samsung has built. Additionally, its starting price of Rs 84,999 is lower than the launch price of its predecessors. Apart from the unique form factor, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 isn’t the best at anything, but it does everything so well that it almost borders on perfection.

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There are still a few hiccups though. Battery life just about meets the all-day standard but will fall short if you pull an all-nighter. But it is still enough to get you through a full workday. However, I’d say the small battery wasn’t as much of an issue as compared to the lack of a charger. Additionally, the Flex Mode only supports limited apps, while the camera setup still falls short for the price.

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All things considered; the Galaxy Z Flip 3 certainly qualifies for mainstream; the overall experience here didn’t fall too short of ‘flagship level’. The biggest highlight here is the unique form factor, which if I had one word to describe would be ‘eye-catching’. It is also an excellent choice for those who take a lot of selfies. But the Z Flip 3 is more of a novelty device, it was never meant to deliver value or practicality, but Samsung has somehow managed to carve both of these traits into the device, so even though you’d make a few trade-offs, I’d give the Flip 3 an easy recommendation to any looking for something out of the ordinary.
Carlsen Martin
first published: Sep 10, 2021 02:13 pm

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