Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 review

Samsung's butterfly-screened smartphone spreads its AI wings Tested at £1799

What is a hands on review?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 opened up
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

Early Verdict

With a slimmer aspect and wider screen, Samsung's latest folding friend looks like an attractive proposition thanks to its appealing design and AI-boosted powers.

Pros

  • +

    Natural, clean and detailed display

  • +

    AI features add serious usability benefits

  • +

    Wider and lighter than its predecessors

Cons

  • -

    Samsung doesn't seem to have improved the camera

  • -

    Screen may be too wide for some to hold

  • -

    More testing time required

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Samsung sees its future in AI, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Korean giant's latest batch of recently unveiled tech. Debuting alongside the equally enticing Galaxy Z Flip 6, not to mention some premium smartwatches, the much-vaunted Samsung Galaxy Ring and two new pairs of wireless earbuds, the new Galaxy Z Fold 6 is a big phone with an even bigger bag of tricks. 

As we'll get to, most of those tricks revolve around the implementation of onboard AI, something we saw used to great effect with the classy and clever Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, but the Fold looks to take things a step further thanks to a widened foldable display, a thinner outline and even artificial intelligence. We took a trip to Samsung's impressive KX centre in the heart of London's King's Cross to check out the Fold 6 and a lot more besides...

Price 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 in navy blue sideways shot

Although it's a little susceptible to a few greasy fingerprints, the Fold 6 looks neat and attractive when closed in on itself. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Galaxy Fold 6 isn't what you'd call a budget smartphone. If you're after the base 256GB model it will set you back a substantial £1799, while 512GB will take that figure to £1899 and a whole terabyte pushes that figure all the way up to nearly £2000. We'll furnish you with further regional prices as we get them, but wherever you live, you're probably not going to be picking one up on the cheap.

For context, the outgoing Fold 5 started at £1749 / $1800 / AU$2600, while the comparative Google Pixel Fold made its bow at £1749 / $1800 for 256GB and £1869 / $1920 if you wanted 512GB. For a cheaper alternative, the Motorola Razr Plus boasted a launch price of £1050 / $1000 / AU$1699, although you could expect to nab a cheaper, stipped-back version for roughly £850 / $700 / AU$1200. 

Galaxy Z Fold 6 preorder: up to £640 when trading in at Samsung

Galaxy Z Fold 6 preorder: up to £640 when trading in at Samsung
If you can't wait to get hold of a Samsung Z Fold 6, you can pre-order one now directly from Samsung. You can also get between £100-£640 off Galaxy Z Flip 6 preorders when you trade in an eligible device, with an S24 Ultra, for example, giving you the full £640 to go towards your new phone. The standard price of the 256GB black model will set you back £1799, with trade-in discounts depending on the type of phone being traded and the condition of the device. You can also get a year's worth of accidental damage care or a free case worth £90 as part of your purchase.

Design and build 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 in pink sideways shot

In its folded form, the Fold 6 looks pretty much like any other non-hinged smartphone.  (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

As is its wont, Samsung has kept things relatively simple and utilitarian with the Fold 6, especially when the foldable smartphone sits in its standard, closed-book resting position. In this state, the Fold does little to differentiate itself from its competitors, sporting a rectangular outline with hard, linear edges that are only slightly rounded off at the corners. 

With summer approaching, the Fold 6 has been on a crash diet, with Samsung informing us that the overall weight of just 239g makes the sixth-iteration model the lightest Fold ever. It's thinner, too, at just 5.6mm thick when opened up for greater comfort in your hand or tucked away in your pocket, and while Samsung has been shaving off the grams, the overall size of the display has increased, with a broadened aspect ratio of 153.5mm x 132.6mm adding 2.7mm of width to the folded out display. It's an impressive display, although if your mitts are on the smaller side, you may find it tricky to hold onto the Samsung with a single hand. 

The small glass panel supporting the Samsung's camera array is about all the colour contrast you'll get, while generic side-mounted volume and power buttons could have been taken from almost any popular phone or PMP brand you'd care to mention. At the phone's top left-hand rear corner, you'll find the usual cluster of lenses, with three cameras arranged vertically and accompanied by a flash, all surrounded by a glass backing.

A little generic it may be, but none of this is in any way "bad" or offensive, and we've no issue with phones opting for a more stripped-back aesthetic, especially if you're a frequent commuter or city-dweller and don't want to draw unwanted attention to your multi-thousand-pound pocket companion. If you do want to add a bit of spice to your life, a selection of seven colours – silver, yellow, blue, mint, black, white and peach – should have you covered. Note, though, that some of the finishes – we found blue to be a particular culprit – can be susceptible to fingermarks, so do bear in mind that if you're on the greasier end of the sticky finger scale, it might be best to go for a darker colour...

Features 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 with Galaxy buds

Samsung is making a big deal of its new models' AI capabilities, and the Fold 6 is very much leading the charge.  (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

It won't come as a surprise to learn that the Galaxy Z Fold 6 is designed to be the cornerstone of a wider Samsung ecosystem, one that uses the power of the brand's impressive AI capabilities to help you get the best from your ever-smartening smartphone. AI continues to grab all of the headlines, with many of the canny features we've already seen impressively integrated within the S24 Ultra

Picture editing tools such as smart select for cropping out unwanted clutter from your images and then replacing the cropped culprits with artificially generated content are on board, while fun features such as "Sketch To Image" can edit and use generative AI to doctor pics more naturally – our demo involved whacking a pair of realistic looking shades onto an unsuspecting pug portrait. 

AI comes in handy for more than just doctoring photos. As we saw on the S24 Ultra, Circle to Search returns, letting you draw a ring around pretty much anything on your screen to perform an impromptu web search. AI transcription will transcribe and even summarise your meetings or conversations for you – akin to Otter or Amazon Transcribe – while "Browsing Assist" will quickly summarise web articles if you just want the meat and potato facts in an instant. Perhaps most remarkably, an on-the-fly live translate function quite literally translates calls between speakers of different languages so that you're always hearing, and your partner is receiving, the right native tongue. Impressive. 

It's not all about AI, though. Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Mobile Platform for Galaxy lets you play responsive, low-latency titles such as League of Legends and Diablo 3 directly from your mobile. Let's not forget about battery life, either, with Samsung packing in the same 4400 mAh dual battery as found in the S24, though we haven't had official figures for the lifespan of the Fold 6 from full to empty just yet. 

How about that camera? Samsung didn't make a huge deal of the sixth-gen Fold's picture-snapping capabilities, with a 50MP main camera offering no difference from the primary lens of the outgoing predecessor. It's a pretty decent performer, though, and our impromptu snaps of the spacious Samsung KX facility felt natural, well-ordered and nicely lit, even if we were unable to test the Fold's credentials when it came to taking pics in low light. A test for later, then. 

Picture and sound 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 opened up

The Fold 6's display melds appropriate levels of vibrancy and sharpness without feeling unnatural or in-your-face.  (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

A big, broad butterfly of a screen might as well be a proverbial caterpillar if the display itself doesn't actually look the part, but our precious moments spent with the Galaxy Z Fold 6 assuaged nagging doubts of style over substance, at least for the meantime. It's tricky to get a proper indication of a screen's performance when there are more lights and reflections in your venue than your average Taylor Swift concert, but we did our best to give Samsung's new boy its dues. 

Booting up YouTube and scurrying off to a deserted corner of Samsung's rather capacious hosting venue gave us time to see just what that eye-grabbing screen was capable of. Whether folded away or opened to the fullest, we were impressed with the levels of detail and refinement on display, with a crisp and sharp character that rarely omitted the particulars. A trailer for Mad Max: Furiosa gave the Fold 6 a chance to showcase its optic credentials, showing off the fine, granular nature of the sandy desert while conveying the emotion and points of light painted across Ana Taylor Joy's unmissable eyes. 

In terms of colour and tone, the Fold 6 does an equally solid job. While there's vibrancy and energy to the colours and textures on display, the Samsung doesn't over-egg the pudding in this regard, retaining a pleasingly natural, balanced palette that felt easy to look at without coming across as boring or lacking in life. More time with the Fold 6 will leave us with a more rounded assessment, but from our hands-on testing time, we found the experience to be a rewarding one, especially when we loaded up Deadmau5's The Veldt music video and noticed the clean, authentic solidity and warmth the Samsung brought to the bold, stylised mini-saga.

Samsung's latest also seems to handle dark tones with confidence, preventing murky or shaded areas from becoming detail-free black spots, an impressive trick considering the screen glare we were constantly working against. Few films give you a better indicator of a screen's capabilities in this arena than The Batman, with a YouTube trailer of Matt Reeves' noir superhero flick coming across as brooding and solid rather than murky and hard to distinguish.  

Audio was a trickier test, but we like to put in the hard yards, so don't think we didn't try. Getting a pair of headphones hooked up wasn't possible, but we did manage to use our handy hidey-hole to surreptitiously see what the Fold's speakers were capable of. Whacking up a trailer for city-smashing epic Godzilla: Minus One revealed a surprising amount of detail and sharpness from the in-built speakers, be it the rattle of a mounted machine gun being fired or the throaty roar of 'Zilla himself preparing to turn downtown Tokyo into a heap of broken matchsticks. Maybe there could have been more bass, but given the short test time and the lack of lower-end weight you get from even the best smartphone speakers, we'll reserve proper judgment in this area for the moment.   

Galaxy Buds 3 Pro preorder: £30 when you trade in headphones at Samsung

Galaxy Buds 3 Pro preorder: £30 when you trade in headphones at Samsung
If you want to guarantee you'll get some shiny Galaxy Buds to go with your new phone, you can preorder a pair now via Samsung's official website. Even better, you can get a guaranteed £30 off when you trade in any headphones (subject to terms), regardless of the make or model of the device you're swapping out. 

Early verdict

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 array of three colours

We need more time, as ever, but our early impressions? Not bad, Samsung. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We enjoyed our time with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 and that, in itself, is usually a good sign. It's a good deal more expensive than the standard Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, and we'll concede now that nearly £2000 is a lot to spend on a smartphone – even one that can do all of the fancy things of which the Fold is capable. 

If it can deliver on its many promises, though, the signs are good. AI powers combined with some high-end internal hardware and that mighty display certainly coalesce to create a tempting proposition and, while we always need more time with any product to appreciate truly its pros and problems, our initial impressions were of a smartphone that has its sights set on the very top of the pile.

MORE:

Read our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

Plus our Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra hands-on review

As well as our Google Pixel Tablet review

Or even our Apple iPad Air (5th Generation) review

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. During his time at the publication, he has written countless news stories alongside features, advice and reviews of products ranging from floorstanding speakers and music streamers to over-ear headphones, wireless earbuds and portable DACs. He has covered launches from hi-fi and consumer tech brands, and major industry events including IFA, High End Munich and, of course, the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or trying to pet strangers' dogs. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.