This is what $2,000 feels like
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The Galaxy Z Fold2 is easily the most exciting Samsung smartphone of 2020, and maybe the most exciting smartphone of 2020 period. While I’m saving judgment for our final review of the Fold2 (coming soon), I do have some initial thoughts for folks considering a pre-order. And in short, I feel pretty positive about the phone so far.
Beyond “Ultra” hardware
Admittedly, I’ve only had a few hours to play with it, leaving plenty of time for issues to rear their head later on. But so far, I’m impressed with the Z Fold2 — especially when it comes to build quality.
The design is pretty striking, even with the added folding chonk. Our review unit is in Mystic Bronze (closer to a shade of rose gold in person than anything else), and it seems like the color to get. The phone sports a brushed aluminum frame, matte glass back, glossy hinge, and similarly glossy display frame for the outer screen.
Fold the phone open — taking it in two hands and bending it as you enjoy the smooth and satisfying resistance — and the interior display is rimmed by a black plastic-feeling bumper and a pair of matching guides just over the hinge itself. Slide it shut, and it’s svelte enough to fit in a pocket much better than its overall thickness would imply, though it is very heavy.
While the outer screen is glass (Victus, we’re told), the matte back is Gorilla Glass 6, and the interior display is a screen protector-topped polymer-and-glass affair, layered like a very transparent and expensive cake. We’re told it uses much of the same materials technology that’s present in the Z Flip, though with a few tweaks to the specific layers. If performance is similar, it should end up being durable enough in normal use. I never got the complimentary screen protector installed on my Z Flip after I bought it, and apart from a few very very light scratches in the outermost polymer layer (which you can’t see with the screen on), it’s held up well. Whether you think of its composite structure as plastic or glass, the screen feels solid under your touch, with no flexing, creaking, or sound of any kind as you slide it around the display — even under reasonable pressure.
Like the Z Flip, the fold in the display is always present, but I didn’t find it distracting then, and I don’t think it is here, either. The width and depth of the crease are also smaller than on my Z Flip, though I don’t know if that’s a result of the younger age of the new screen in my Z Fold2 or engineering improvements on Samsung’s end.
I was also a little bit worried about the quality of the display since Samsung’s recent 120Hz screens are usually a little uneven (which drives me absolutely insane with dark themes at night). But, like my Z Flip, the panel in my Z Fold2 is exquisite and perfect.
Physically, the phone feels solid and expensive, with more rigidity and substance than you expect for something with so many moving parts. The motion of folding and unfolding the phone is also very satisfying and must have been precisely tuned to provide just the right feeling of almost continuous resistance. When it’s just about fully open, the mechanisms in the hinge ramp down the resistance fast enough that it slips satisfyingly into position with a heavy, almost cushioned feeling. The same goes for closing the display, which shuts with an equally satisfying magnet-assisted snap.
Of course, nothing about the Z Flip felt “cheap” either, and though we didn’t review it and I didn’t buy one for myself, my short time fondling the original Galaxy Fold (primarily courtesy of my friend and fellow folding fanatic Michael Fisher) also imparted a feeling of quality. But the new phone steps things up for me, feeling even more substantial and solid than either of the others did, and much closer to what I expect for the money. Put simply, everything about this phone physically feels like it justifies that $2,000 price. While it’s a bummer there aren’t any Bluetooth buds in the box, like the original Fold got, the hardware here is unarguably better.
There are only a few things about the physical design that bother me — though, in each case, I don’t have a better solution. For one, the fingerprint sensor can be a bit awkward to use if you open the phone before unlocking it, as that thumb-to-the-side motion isn’t very natural to do with the bigger screen, and using a different finger isn’t much better. But even just getting the phone open is a little hard to do sometimes. If you want to be careful and avoid indenting the screen with a thumbnail (which can make a permanent mark), then it’s a two-handed operation, and the shape of the sides makes it a little tough to get a grip. Maybe if the edge was more rounded, it would be easier to hook.
…but software is the question
As with the Z Flip, I think my final judgments over the new Z Fold2 will come down to software rather than hardware. What Samsung built here, in a purely physical sense, is impressive. But the change in form factor is having a bigger impact on how I use the phone than I originally anticipated, and already I kind of wish a few things about multitasking on a bigger screen were different — though it might just take some time for me to get acclimated.
I’m still forming my thoughts when it comes to the phone, but my initial impressions of the hardware are positive, and I’m very impressed with what Samsung has accomplished. Already the question of that $2,000 price tag has been physically justified in my mind, and that’s probably one of the biggest hurdles the Z Fold2 has to clear.
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