Tom's Guide Verdict
With a bigger cover display, improved design and innovative Flex Mode, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best foldable phone yet and a productivity powerhouse.
Bigger cover display
Flex Mode adds versatility
More durable design
Apps make use of tablet mode
Not water resistant
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Update: The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is now available with a more durable design, water resistance S Pen support and improved multitasking. We no longer recommend the Galaxy Z Fold 2. See our Galaxy Z Fold 3 review for our verdict.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a quantum leap better than the original Fold. And it needs to be for the high price. The front display is a lot bigger, 5G is standard, and the unsightly notch on the inside is gone. Plus, this foldable is more durable than the first Fold.
Samsung has further innovated to make this phone-tablet hybrid a lot more versatile, thanks to a new Flex Mode. Plus, the multitasking is better for running up to three apps at the same time, and several apps have a dual-pane view for enhanced productivity.
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The Galaxy Z Fold 2’s cameras are not as advanced as what you'll find on the Galaxy S21 Ultra (especially the zoom) and the design is pretty hefty. Plus, Samsung is reportedly prepping the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for a launch that's tipped for August, a sequel that may offer S Pen support along with other upgrades.
But if you're in the market for a foldable phone now, the Z Fold 2 does a very good job of justifying Samsung's high asking price. It's no wonder why we named this the best foldable phone in our Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for phones.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: What I like
- Bigger front display makes a huge difference: The cover display has grown to 6.2 inches, which means you don’t have to use the internal display to get stuff done. The exterior screen is narrower than typical phones, though.
- Apps finally make the most of tablet-size screen: For example, in Gmail you’ll see your list of emails on the left and the body of messages on the right, and Slack will display contacts on the left and messages on the right. The iPhone can't do this.
- The multitasking is better: It’s pretty easy to create app pairs to launch three apps at once. I also like that you can drag and drop content from one window to another in certain apps.
- Flex mode adds versatility: Thanks to the cam mechanism in the hinge, you can open the display at various angles. Flex Mode is there to take advantage of that. For example, in the camera app, you’ll see the live previous up top and controls down below.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: What I don't like
- The main display is smudge prone: Although the Ultra Thin Glass on the 7.6-inch screen is more durable and has a better feel, it picks up smudges quickly. And, yes, the crease is still noticeable.
- Limited zoom: I can live without the Galaxy S21 Ultra's 108MP sensor, but having just 2x optical zoom on a $2,000 phone when you can get 10x on the Note is a bummer.
- No water resistance: When it started to drizzle outside I took the Z Fold 2 indoors because there is no water resistance promised for this device.
- This is a hefty device: At 9.9 ounces, the Z Fold 2 is heavier than the original Galaxy Fold (9.5 ounces) and I felt a bit of strain after several minutes of typing. Then again, you are getting a phone and tablet in one.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Price and availability
OS: Android 10
Main display: 7.6 inch inches 120Hz (2208 x 1768 pixels)
Cover display: 6.2 inches 60Hz (2260 x 816 pixels)
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
Rear cameras: 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto (2x optical/10x digital zoom)
Selfie cameras: 10MP (cover), 10MP (main display)
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Battery life: 10 hours 10 minutes
Size: 6.2 x 2.6 x 0.66 inches (closed); 6.2 x 5 x 0.27 inches (open)
Weight: 9.9 ounces
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 release date was September 18, 2020. It's available for sale through multiple carriers as well as unlocked.
When it debuted the Galaxy Z Fold 2 cost $1,999 for 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. Note that a microSD card slot is not included and there are no other capacities available. These days, after a permanent $200 price cut, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 sells for $1,799 (or less with a Samsung promo code...). That could be a sign that Samsung is looking to clear out stock in advance of the anticipated launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 later this year.
To put the Z Fold 2's price in context, Microsoft charges $1,400 for its Surface Duo phone. To see how similar these two foldable devices are, check out our Microsoft Surface Duo vs. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 face-off.
If you're looking for Galaxy Z Fold 2 deals, the phone has been discounted as low as $999. So it can pay to look for sales on this foldable phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is available through all of the major carriers, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile (Sprint), as well as unlocked.
Samsung offers the Galaxy Z Premier Service for the Z Fold 2, which includes on-demand concierge support from dedicated experts. In addition, Z Fold 2 owners can get a membership to FoundersCard, access to a prepared meal from a Michelin star restaurant and access to a various golf clubs.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Design and durability
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 immediately makes a better impression than the Galaxy Fold because of its larger exterior display. You no longer feel like you're operating Android through a peep hole, and that's because the cover screen has grown from 4.6 inches to 6.2 inches.
The interior display is also bigger at 7.6 inches for the Galaxy Z Fold 2, compared to 7.3 inches for the previous model. Even better, the ugly notch on the main screen is gone, replaced by a small cutout for a selfie camera.
Samsung also made several enhancements fo the Galaxy Z Fold 2 to improve durability and usability. This includes a sturdier new Ultra Thin Glass display, which is designed to provide a better touchscreen feel than the plastic screen Fold, and a Hideaway hinge that uses sweeper technology to prevent dust and dirt from entering the phone.
In a third-party test by YouTuber JerryRigEverything, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 survived having dirt thrown on it, which suggests that the new hinge works better than on the original model.
Similar to the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, the Galaxy Z Fold 2's hinge uses a CAM mechanism that allows you to position the screen in multiple positions. And while there's still a gap between the two sides of the phone when closed, it's narrower than before.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 comes in two colors: Mystic Bronze and Mystic Black. But you'll be able to add some flair in the form of four hinge color options if you order through Samsung.com. Options include Metallic Silver, Metallic Gold, Metallic Red and Metallic Blue.
Measuring 6.2 x 2.6 x 0.66 inches when closed and 6.2 x 5 x 0.27 inches when open, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is slightly shorter but wider than its predecessor. It's also heavier, as the Z Fold 2 weights 9.9 ounces, compared to 9.48 ounces for the original model. I definitely felt a bit of strain after using the phone several minutes and typing out messages.
Another bummer: The Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn't offer water resistance, so you can't get it wet as you can with other flagship phones.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Display
In addition to a larger size, the 7.6-inch main display on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 boasts a 120Hz refresh rate, so you should enjoy smooth scrolling and overall performance compared to the 60Hz rate on the Galaxy Fold. Plus, because the panel is adaptive, it's smart enough to dial the rate down or up based on the content on screen.
The cover display on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 does not offer a 120Hz refresh rate, but it's still a heck of a lot better than what the first Fold featured. Measuring 6.2 inches, this OLED screen is big enough to perform pretty much any task, and you can still instantly resume what you were doing on the main display when you unfold the device.
Just keep in mind that the aspect ratio on the Z Fold 2's cover display is narrower than most phones, so typing can feel a bit cramped.
Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Software and Flex Mode
One of the complaints we had about the Galaxy Fold is that many of the apps just felt like blow-up phone apps in tablet mode. But Samsung is addressing this drawback with the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
For example, in Gmail I could see my messages on the left and the body of emails on the right. And in Slack my contacts were on the left and messages on the right. You need to flip the Galaxy Z Fold 2 display's orientation to landscape mode to see these changes, but it makes a huge difference in productivity. And it makes the Galaxy Z Fold 2 feel more laptop-like. Samsung also promises an optimized viewing experience in Microsoft Office and YouTube.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2's Flex Mode gives this foldable phone a lot of versatility. The idea is that you can have controls or settings on one side of the display and content on the other for maximum productivity.
I really enjoyed using Google Duo in Flex Mode, as it lets you set the phone down in a laptop-like position and have a video call with the other person without having to hold the device. It's something I immediately wished my iPhone could do.
Samsung says that Flex Mode is supported by several Samsung apps, including Camera, Video call, Gallery, Video player, Clock and Calendar. And Google is supporting Flex Mode with YouTube as well as Google Duo. Samsung is working with third-party developers as well to create Flex Mode optimized apps.
Another key Galaxy Z Fold 2 upgrade is multi-tasking. With the improved Multi-Active Window feature, you can open up to three apps at the same time and can quickly create presets called App Pairs that you launch with just a tap.
I tried this with Slack, Twitter, and Spotify as well as YouTube, Photos and Messages, and it was very cool to launch three apps at once.You can also quickly re-arrange the layout with a tap or drag an app from one window to another.
Even cooler, you can also drag and drop content from one window to another. I had no problem dropping a photo from the Gallery app into an outgoing message. However, it didn't work with the Google Photos app. Multiple Samsung apps support Drag and Drop, as does Microsoft 365, Gmail, Chrome and Google Maps.
Samsung's App continuity feature is also on board from the original Galaxy Fold. The idea is that you can start an app on the cover display, open the main display and pick up right where you left off. This worked in most apps, but the Sky Force 2 game forced to me restart the app when moving to the bigger canvas.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 cameras
It's a bit strange to say this, but the $2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2 represents a step down from the $1,300 Galaxy Note 20 when it comes to the cameras. You don't get a 108MP main sensor, a 5x optical zoom or a 50x Space Zoom, but you do get three capable shooters you can use in a variety of ways.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 features a 12MP main wide-angle camera, a 12MP ultra-wide angle camera with a 123-degree field of view and a 12MP telephoto lens with a 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom.
The fun really starts with the camera features that are unique to the Galaxy Z Fold 2. For example, Dual Preview lets subjects see how they're going to look using the front display while you're taking the shot. You can also take higher quality selfies with the rear cameras.
All you need to do is fire up the camera on the cover display and then press a button in the top right corner, then the Z Fold 2 will invite you to unfold the device and you'll see a live preview.
Another perk: you can prop up the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in what looks like laptop mode and it will keep your subject in focus when shooting video using a feature called Auto framing. Thanks to Flex Mode, you can also review recent pictures on the bottom half of the screen while maintaining the live preview in the top half.
The Z Fold 2's camera did a fantastic job capturing a close-up of these yellow and violet flowers. You can make out fine details in the petals and even fine droplets of water when you zoom in.
I also took this selfie using the rear 12MP camera and the Z Fold 2's cover screen as the viewfinder. The blue in my shirt pops, and the surrounding trees and grass look vibrant. You simply can't do this on an iPhone.
As expected, the 10x digital zoom proved disappointing compared to the more powerful Space Zoom on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. As we zero in on the tree and hanging flower baskets, there's a fair amount of grain. It's certainly passable, though.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 did a fairly good job in this portrait shot, artfully blurring the photos in the background. The bokeh effect is better on the Z Fold 2 than the iPhone 12. However, my face is a bit more blown out in Samsung's shot.
In this shot of fall decorations, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 delivers a brighter overall image, and you can make out lots of detail in the turkeys. The iPhone 11 Pro Max does a better job rendering the hay but overall I give the edge to Samsung here.
The Galaxy Z Fold's 2 Night mode worked well in this shot taken in near darkness of a wall hanging. However, the iPhone 11 Pro Max's Night mode captured a considerably brighter image of the scene.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Performance
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 sports a Snapdragon 865 Plus processor along with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage (UFS3.1). So we would expect similar performance to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 scored 3,193 on the mult-core portion. The Note 20 Ultra with the same chip scored a slightly higher 3,294 and the Asus ROG Phone 3 hit 3,393. The iPhone 11 Pro was fastest with 3,500.
On the GFXBench graphics test, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 scored 1,461 frames on the Aztec Ruins (High Tier) off-screen benchmark, compared to 1,455 for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and 1,657 frames for the iPhone 11 Pro.
Overall, the Z Fold 2 offers smooth performance, but I noticed minor software glitches at times. The YouTube app view didn't change I switched screen modes at one point, but restarting the app resolved the problem.
In terms of 5G, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz flavors, so you should have no problems tapping into 5G networks where there is coverage. I didn't see the best results in central New Jersey. On AT&T's network the Galaxy Z Fold 2's download speed hit only 22 Mbps, but on T-Mobile it was a much higher 122 Mbps in the same location.
Because the Z Fold 2 also supports Ultra Wide Band technology, you can leverage Samsung's Nearby Share features to quickly share files with other compatible devices, which thus far only includes the Note 20 Ultra.
Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: battery life and charging
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 packs a 4,500 mAh battery, which should be able to get you through most of the day. The Galaxy Fold had a slightly smaller 4,380 mAh, so this is a step up.
On our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 lasted 10 hours and 10 minutes on the 60Hz display setting. That's not enough to make our list of best phone battery life, where are the handsets last longer than 11 hours. But given the size of the Z Fold 2's display that's pretty good endurance.
As expected, the battery life dropped on the Z Fold 2 with the display set to 120Hz (adaptive), with the phone lasting 9 hours and 5 minutes.
Anecdotally, the battery life on the Z Fold 2 is pretty solid. I started using the phone at 10 am and after a day of heavy usage it had about 18% juice left at 10 pm.
The Z Fold 2 supports 25W fast charging, as well as fast wireless charging and PowerShare reverse charging. But we didn't see the best results in our testing. After 30 minutes the Z Fold 2 was at 46% and we would expect 50%. By comparison, the Note 20 Ultra hit 56% in the same amount of time.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: Verdict
Note that a Galaxy Z Fold 3 is rumored to launch this summer. It's expected to include a faster processor, S Pen support and perhaps an under-display camera, among other upgrades. So you'll probably want to hold off until mid-August until you make a move.
Overall, though, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the quintessential example of a company listening to its customers and delivering a wide range of improvements they asked for. Even at its reduced $1,799 price, this is a phone that's still very much for early adopters. At least the Z Fold 2 seems a lot less like a prototype and more like a viable product.
The front display on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 alone is a huge upgrade. I also really like Flex Mode and the versatility that gives this phone. Being able to prop up the device at various angles really makes the Z Fold 2 feel like a brand new type of device. And while the Mult-Active window multitasking requires a bit of a learning curve, it maximizes productivity.
If you want a more powerful phone and better cameras, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the better option, but Apple doesn't have anything nearly as innovative in its lineup to take on the Z Fold 2. An iPhone Flip could be on the way at some point, but we doubt it will be anytime soon.
Overall, I am really impressed with what Samsung has accomplished with the Galaxy Z Fold 2. This is clearly the best foldable phone yet and a sign of great things to come in the category.
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.