The Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung’s new phone foldable smartphone, fixes a lot of the issues that plagued Samsung’s ill-fated first generation.

You might recall that the first Galaxy Fold was recalled because dust and dirt got under the screen, which forced Samsung back to the drawing board. We eventually got our hands on the next Galaxy Fold (the 1.5 version) but found it was still something of a glorified prototype with major durability concerns (with the displays and hinge) and a not-so-seamless experience all around.

We can throw many cliched platitudes here — third times a charm, history doesn’t repeat itself, you get the idea. But the bottom line is that, with the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung fixes a lot of those earlier issues, giving us a device that is more mainstream than ever. Though we use mainstream a bit loosely; it still won’t be accessible to many, with a $1,999.99 price tag, and has surprisingly few goodies in the box.

We’ve used it as our daily driver for roughly a week and a half. Sure, there are some annoyances with the Z Fold 2 — the cameras leave us wanting more and there’s still no S Pen — but it’s leagues better than the original.

It’s all about the hinge

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Easily, the most important part of any foldable or dual-screen device is the hinge. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn’t flip a full 360 degrees, but rather opens like a book from left to right. The front houses the cover display, and opening it not only emits a small sound, but unveils a truly massive 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display.

Opening and closing the Z Fold 2 feels eons better than the original. Not only does it feel more stable in our hands, but it inspires a bit more confidence in the product. Inside the hinge are now eight cams (proprietary mechanisms used inside the hinge), used for opening and closing, along with a few brushes. This all works together to make it feel a bit more sturdy, and those brushes knock away particles.

It’s kind of like a larger version of the hideaway hinge found in the Z Flip or Z Flip 5G, the smaller compact foldable from Samsung. We were quite impressed with the hinge on those phones, notably how it doesn’t need to spring open or spring closed. Those same feelings are felt on the Z Fold 2. Essentially, you can open the Z Fold 2, stop at an angle and the screen will stay open.

We don’t have many concerns about the hinge. Yes, it makes a small noise when opening and closing, but it’s not alarming or a cracking sound like on the Motorola Razr. The ends of the hinge, center on the top and bottom when open or closed, also have a cap. This was added with the second version of the Galaxy Fold, and we’re happy Samsung kept it.

It’s a hefty device

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Combining a tall phone with a tablet takes space. Just think about holding an iPhone and an iPad in your hand at the same time — it’s not a small item. And putting them together creates thickness.

As with the previous Galaxy Fold, the device doesn’t fold flat. At its thinnest, when folded, the Z Fold 2 measures about half an inch thick; at its thickest, it’s about two-thirds of an inch. It weighs almost 10 ounces. It’s not as thin as the Surface Duo, but safe to say, this has 2020 features: near-field communication, wireless charging, five cameras, a sharper display and 5G support.

There’s a camera bump, but it’s not as thick or large as on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The core backside of the device has a frosted glass finish, like on the Note 20 Ultra, and it looks gorgeous in Mystic Bronze. It also hides fingerprints well. There are two speakers on the Z Fold 2 — one on the top and one on the bottom — that deliver a stereo sound experience that’s leagues better than the tinny-sounding Surface Duo.

We’ll touch quickly on the ergonomics of a foldable here as well from a design standpoint. It’s a tall device and narrow when closed. It’s 6.27 inches long, and you’ll need long fingers to reach the top. Most importantly, though, the 10 ounces that make up the mass of the Z Fold 2 are spread evenly, so it’s not top heavy or bottom heavy. Same goes for when you’re opening the device; you can hold it with a single hand, but we’d recommend two.

Two (mostly) impressive displays

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

One of our biggest concerns with the original Galaxy Fold was the tiny (and not flagship level by any stretch of the imagination) 4.6-inch outer display. It was basically just for viewing notifications, but it felt downright unusable. You could barely respond to a text, let alone type an email.

Well, that display is no longer. The Z Fold 2 has a much larger, albeit super narrow, 6.2-inch Infinity-O Super AMOLED display on the front. And yes, it’s still being called the “cover screen” — we’re going to refer to it as the cover display or front screen. It nearly fills the entire front, with only a slim black bezel and then a stripe of Mystic Bronze on the left side. That stripe is of course the main build of the phone. It’s a responsive display and supports tap to wake. It glows to show notification icons, along with the date and time. It’s also quite vibrant and offers a detailed experience.

Our main issue with it is the narrowness of the screen. While it’s much taller and more usable over the original Fold, it’s still cramped to type on, and is tighter than the keyboard on an iPhone SE. You can prop the cover display up at about a 90-degree angle to watch movies or capture video from the front camera. There’s a center pinhole notch at the top that houses a 10-megapixel selfie cam.

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

The main display is a massive 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display. Since it’s an AMOLED, it offers bright colors, delivers on vibrancy promises and can show deep blacks for contrast.

The display has a screen protector, and you can’t remove this yourself. Samsung suggests you reach out to the company to get this removed, and after the horror stories of people removing the protector on the original, we’d strongly advise you to take that advice.

Secondly, the awkward sensor and front camera housing (as well as the all-around bezel) are gone on the main display on the Z Fold 2. You’re left with a pinhole notch that houses a 10-megapixel selfie cam on the left side of the main display, sans any ugly bezels. Samsung has actually stretched the main display to nearly all of the edges. It’s much easier to get immersed in the content now, although it is quite reflective, which might be from the screen protector.

This main display is also not entirely glass, but rather Samsung’s Ultra Thin Glass technology, essentially a proprietary mixture that has glass injected inside plastic and other materials. While on the Z Flip the screen felt much harder, it’s a little less rigid here. Not as plastic-feeling as the original Galaxy Fold, but also not as hard as real glass.

Samsung originally marketed Ultra Thin Glass as “tough but tender,” and that’s still fair. We’ll take its word that there’s glass in here, but you also have plastic around it and a screen protector. It’s less spongy and more tender for the Z Fold 2.

Still, the display is a joy to use. You can multitask with three apps and yet another floating. Unlike the Surface Duo, which limits the orientations of the two displays, you can control the height and width of any app window when you’re multitasking, giving you customization.

And as with any folding device, there’s a crease in the middle. It’s much more noticeable on lighter content — think bright whites — as you can see a dip. Of course, you’ll also feel it when you run your finger across the display. It’s a known factor with foldables and it’s likely not going to be solved for a while.

Both screens have an adaptive refresh rate, so the front and main displays will reach 120Hz. We highly recommend keeping this on and didn’t find that it detrimentally affected the battery life.

Samsung’s software and zippy performance

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

The Z Fold 2 is a beast of an Android device. It’s powered by the same chipset as the Note 20 Ultra: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor with 12GB of RAM. It blazes through tasks, allows for continuity between the front display, and the main one and breezes through multitasking.

We normally save benchmarks for later, but let’s just get the numbers out there. Using GeekBench 5, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 scored a 960 on single-core and a 3,165 on multi-core. That puts it in line with other flagship devices and beats other foldables, like the Surface Duo. It safely surpasses the first generation Galaxy Fold.

All of this is great, and we’re happy it’s a fluid experience, but let’s also remember that this is a $2,000 folding smartphone. Speed is a necessity here, and it would be a big let down if it wasn’t here.

And with everyday tasks — like core phone tasks — the Z Fold 2 handled them like a champ. On the front display, even though it’s a crowded keyboard, you could still swiftly open Slack, Messages, Messenger, WhatsApp and countless other services.

What’s really cool is what Samsung calls “Continuity,” which is essentially whatever you have open on the front screen will appear when you open the main display. Messages on the front expands to a bigger screen, same with a YouTube video or Gmail. While this is not new with the Z Fold 2 (it was a feature of the Galaxy Fold), it feels more swift.

The true power of the Fold comes with multitasking. You can essentially have two core apps open, splitting the screen 50-50 or whatever ratio you’d like. In fact, you can even open three or even four apps. Essentially, you start with your main app. You’ll then see the familiar edge app drawer, and sliding it out will let you select an app. You then simply drag and drop it onto the display where you would like it to open.

We enjoyed splitting Slack and Gmail, so much so, that we created an App Pairing. This is kind of like App Groups on Surface Duo, as you can save the pairing of apps (side by side) for easy opening. Unfortunately, you can’t save these to the home screen and the App Groups will live in the Edge drawer. You can think of it as your App Library, which will become a main go-to for Z Fold 2 users.

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

And when you’re using just one app on the massive 7.6-inch display, you may find that not all of them are properly sized. This isn’t Samsung or Google’s fault, but mostly falls on the developer of the app. Instagram, for instance, doesn’t stretch to fill the display and delivers black bars on the left and right side. Instagram also doesn’t support the multitasking experience, which is frustrating. It can really slow down your flow, but it’s not a true deal breaker. Many of the core apps work just fine in multitasking and we found that having the split-screen capabilities on the go aided productivity.

We desperately missed the S Pen on the Z Fold 2. Just imagine using that 7.6-inch display for note taking. It seems like a match made in heaven and we can’t wait for Samsung to eventually add it.

There’s also no in-screen fingerprint sensor. Rather, it sits on the left side of the device, but is quite responsive. The Z Fold 2 also supports face unlocking, but it’s not as advanced or as secure as Face ID on the iPhone.

Speaker quality is surprisingly good. Samsung was able to fit a decent sized stereo speaker pair inside this foldable. It achieves solid mid and high tones, but there’s no low or bass tones. Still, jamming out to Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter To You” was enjoyable, as was watching movies or TV shows. There’s a speaker on both the top and bottom.

Like most foldables, the Z Fold 2 has two battery cells that combine for a 4500mAh battery. That’s a lot bigger than the Surface Duo, but the Z Fold 2 has even better battery news: It supports fast charging from a wired connection or a wireless connection via the Qi-enabled standard. You can also reverse wireless charge other devices with Wireless PowerShare.

It all comes together for a nice power package. And over our testing period, we averaged 7 to 9 hours of screen time. It lasted for a full day of work, but we did hit the 20% warning toward the end 14-hour days with heavy use. Still, that’s quite good for a foldable.

Five cameras = an average, but dependable, shooter

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

There are five cameras on the Galaxy Z Fold 2:

  • A 10-megapixel selfie cam on the front display
  • A 10-megapixel selfie cam on the left side of the main display
  • 12-megapixel ultrawide on the back
  • 12-megapixel wide-angle on the back
  • 12-megapixel telephoto lens on the back

There’s no 8K video recording. No 100x Space. No 50x Space Zoom. And no laser autofocus sensor. As Samsung has done with other foldables, the cameras aren’t the star of the show like on the Galaxy S20 Ultra or Note 20 Ultra. Rather, you get five pretty average cameras. That’s not to say they aren’t dependable.

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Either front-facing camera is on par with almost all other front-facing cameras we’ve tested, both at lower price points (iPhone SE or Pixel 4a) and flagship level prices (iPhone 11 Pro Max and Note 20 Ultra). You can see a few examples of selfies in our test library below.

On the back, you have the triple lens trifecta of all 12-megapixel lenses. They’re average, but sometimes getting the perfect shot was difficult. Still, no slow shutter issues or issues with the camera app opening like on the Surface Duo. The Ultrawide is great for capturing a wider frame, like a city skyline or a big tree, without moving. The standard wide-angle lens is what the camera app defaults to and captures a nice range of a frame. Telephoto is for zooming in without actually moving.

All are handy, and we’ll let you judge for yourself in the gallery below. The maximum video recording is 4K. But that’s not a deal breaker for most people and we’d go out on a limb and say that no SpaceZoom isn’t one either.

Let’s talk cases

Alongside testing the Mystic Bronze Z Fold 2, Samsung sent along some cases for us to test:

Let’s point out the obvious – it’s likely not easy to make a case for the Z Fold 2. There’s only one side without a screen (the back rear, which has a camera bump) and there’s a hinge which gets covered and uncovered. The solution for providing some protection? The covers only cover the rear side.

The leather cover feels pretty similar to previous ones made by Samsung. It acts a bit like a snap case onto the back half, providing protection for the top and bottom of the left half of the Z Fold 2 5G. It includes cutouts for the microphones and a USB-C port. The case itself is pretty standard and nearly eliminates the wobble from the camera bump on the back.

Similarly, the Aramid Sanding Cover provides a bit more function in a case that just snaps to the back. It’s built from Aramid Fibers and it’s definitely thinner than the leather case. There’s a bit of a texture from the fibers, but it doesn’t provide any extra grip. There’s also a kick stand built into the back for propping up the Z Fold 2. It doesn’t really provide much use as you can’t prop the front screen up for a more comfortable viewing. But it does successfully prop the device up horizontally, with the Fold 2 vertically it props it up quite low.

Bottom line

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Samsung has made seriously impressive improvements over the original Galaxy Fold.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 gets a lot right: A stronger and more effortless hinge, a larger cover display, better hardware and an even bigger main display. Samsung did a terrific job with the software. It feels refined and lets you take advantage of folding into a larger display. Most importantly, we don’t have major concerns about durability.

The issue? Well, it’s $1,999.99 for a smartphone that will likely be replaced with a new generation in a year. Yes, we can’t change planned obsolescence, but Samsung has to figure out how to make foldables for the masses.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is an outstanding device for the person who has $2,000 to spend and who wants a phone that can fold into a tablet. For everyone else, stick with a classic glass slab smartphone or hop on the more affordable foldable train: The $1,380 Z Flip or $1,400 Z Flip 5G.

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