I just took the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Google Pixel Fold outside — and it's not close

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Google Pixel Fold
(Image credit: Future)

If you're going to spend $1,800 on a phone, you'll want to see that screen in direct sunlight, right? Well, you technically can on both the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Google Pixel Fold, but one premium foldable is much, much brighter. 

Like way brighter.

I'm working on my Galaxy Z Fold 5 review in progress and I just took both of these foldable phones outside on a very warm 88-degree day in New York City, and to be fair, both the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold are fairly visible in the shade. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Google Pixel Fold displays

(Image credit: Future)

As you can see in the above photo with a bit of sunshine on the table under some trees in Bryant Park, the Z Fold 5 and and Pixel Fold both do a fine job displaying an ultrawide photo of the park taken with the two camera phones. Yes, the bezel on the Pixel Fold is very noticeable, but that's another story.

Google Pixel Fold next to Galaxy Z Fold 5 in direct sunlight

(Image credit: Future)

But when I took these foldables into very bright sunlight the Pixel Fold's display started to decrease dramatically after 30 seconds. And this was with adaptive brightness on for both devices. Lots of phones start to dim their screens in order to not overheat in the sun, but as you can see the Galaxy Z Fold 5's panel remains way brighter.

In fact, it almost looks like the Pixel Fold's screen is off. Just to make sure this wasn't a fluke I let both phones rest in the shade and tried again. 

Google Pixel Fold next to Galaxy Z Fold 5 in direct sunlight

(Image credit: Future)

This time the Pixel Fold's screen was more legible, but the Galaxy Z Fold 5's panel appeared more luminous once again. This not a big surprise given the rated display specs for these handsets.

According to Google, the Pixel Fold is rated for a peak brightness of 1,450 nits, while the Galaxy Z Fold 5's inner display is 1,750 nits. We'll be performing lab tests to back that claim up, but it looks like these numbers are legit. 

Still, I think something else is going on here. The Pixel Fold is aggressively dimming the brightness after hitting its peak. I asked Google about this behavior during my initial review, and here's the response I got:

"To protect the longevity of the screen, the higher brightness range for outdoor visibility is only enabled for a limited time. After which, the user can continue to use the phone with normal brightness, and the higher range will automatically be available again after a short timeout."

The bottom line is that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold both have very good displays, but there's a clear winner in direct sunlight. I'll have more to say once I've completed my Galaxy Z Fold 5 review and we've updated our Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Pixel Fold face-off with an overall winner. 

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Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • RG Geiger
    Nice to know👍 I've recently begun to worry that goggle code to sniff device will be looking at the ratio of screen height to width to calculate if the device is a foldable one and the changes to apps in the play store will only display foldable UI if the ratio matches the pixel fold. The height and width are much closer (squarish) than is the galaxy fold (more rectangular) 🤢