Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Long-term Review: Great Combination of Durable Design, Productivity Features for Power Users

Foldables have been around for over three years now. They bring in good innovation by combining the smartphone and tablet experiences into one device. But still, questions like “Do we really need foldables?” and “Do foldables solve any problem that regular smartphones can’t?” continue to remain among the most asked when it comes to foldables. Well, the user needs and use cases are evolving. Consumers today are more demanding and look for productivity on the go. Samsung addressed this with the Galaxy Note and S-series flagship smartphones, and it is now doing the same with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 shows how far foldables have improved in just three generations. The smartphone now has a more durable design, comes with ultra-thin glass on the main folding screen, and supports the S Pen stylus for taking notes and signing documents on the go. The folding smartphone also comes with an IP rating for water resistance.

We have been using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for over nine months now, and Samsung has delivered on its promise of durability. Below is our detailed analysis of how the foldable smartphone has held up in the long term, its performance as a daily driver, and how the user experience has improved with consistent and timely software updates.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Long-Term Review

1) Sturdy Hinge: Unfolding Confidence

For any foldable smartphone, the hinge is the most crucial piece of hardware. The longevity and durability of the device are determined by the hinge design and mechanism. Even after eight months of using the Z Fold 3 as my primary driver, the hinge mechanism is still strong as it was when I first unboxed the smartphone.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s stable hinge shows off a solid engineering feat.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 are the only folding smartphones with an IPX8 rating for water resistance, allowing you to submerge the device under 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

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During my usage, I did put the Z Fold 3 through the water test – submerging it in a bucket full of water and using it for clicking photos and making calls when caught in unexpected rains – and it survived without a hitch. Do note that the smartphone does not come with dust resistance, so avoid taking it around the beach or dusty area and avoid dunking it in the pool or seawater.

Now, while the hinge is sturdy and all, there is still some gap left when the screen is folded. This results in making the crease easily visible, especially when viewed from different angles.

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You can feel the hinge gap when moving your fingers across the foldable screen. But it is not too intrusive during day-to-day use. We can expect Samsung to improve the hinge design for its next foldable smartphones to minimize the crease marks.

The crease is still visible on the folding screen, but it does not bother when the content is being played.

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Flex Mode: Folding Screen Unlocks New Use Cases

Samsung has designed the hinge in such a way that the screen can hold itself between 75 and 115 degrees. This is where the Flex Mode gets activated, enabling some interesting use cases for compatible apps. Basically, the app interface is split into two parts where the view is on the top and the controls are at the bottom.

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In the case of the camera app, the viewfinder is on the top, whereas the shutter button, gallery, and camera modes are at the bottom half. This also allows you to use it as a tripod when clicking photos and videos. Similarly, on the Netflix app, the viewing area is on the top half and the bottom half has play/pause, volume, and screen brightness options.

The Flex Mode is an interesting feature, but more apps need to adopt it.

Durable Folding Display: Great for Multimedia Consumption & Productivity

One of the biggest changes to the Z Fold 3 display over the Z Fold 2 is that the screen is now 80% more durable, as per Samsung’s claim. It does feel more like glass than plastic like it used to feel in the previous generation, thanks to Samsung now using UTG (Ultra-Thin Glass).

The screen is also brighter at 1200 nits of peak brightness, making it readable under direct sunlight. It is a 7.6-inch foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X LTPO panel that supports an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz. Lastly, the screen also supports HDR10+, making it perfect for all types of content consumption, whether you are reading eBooks, surfing the internet, gaming, or watching your favorite movies or TV shows. Being an LTPO panel, it can adjust the refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz depending on the screen content.

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The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s folding screen has one more trick up its sleeve in the form of the under-display selfie camera. The Fold 3 is Samsung’s first smartphone to come with this solution, offering a great full-screen and uninterrupted viewing experience, be it while watching videos or gaming.

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However, the technology is still in its nascent stage. Due to the low-pixel density covering the camera sensor, it is easily visible when the screen is off, or under light background. We will talk about the image quality of this under-display camera later in the camera section.

The folding screen now feels more like glass and offers a great multimedia experience.

Content like music videos and movies are shot in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. However, the folding screen has an aspect ratio of 5:4, due to which there are thick black bars at the top and bottom while watching videos. There is an option to zoom in for full screen, but it ends up cropping a significant part of the video.

Cover Display: Traditional Smartphone Experience

Moving to the cover screen, you have a 6.2-inch AMOLED panel with HD+ resolution and a tall 25:9 aspect ratio. With a 120Hz refresh rate and vibrant color reproduction, the cover screen offers great viewing angles.

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With its traditional smartphone experience, the cover screen is good for most tasks such as scrolling through your social timeline, surfing the internet, replying to messages, and more. However, apps like Instagram are not optimized for this aspect ratio, resulting in a poor experience.

Also, the tall aspect ratio and narrow width make typing a little cumbersome, resulting in many typos. A slightly wider cover screen, like in the OPPO Find N or HONOR Magic V, will be a welcome change to see in the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

2) Cameras: Good Performance But Could be Better with High-Res Sensor

Unlike Samsung’s flagship S-series, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does not come with a high-resolution 108MP camera sensor or a periscope zoom lens. However, it does pack powerful cameras that can click some great pictures. Color science is good, and photos clicked between different lenses offer consistent results. Hopefully, with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, we can see an even better camera system.

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There are a total of five cameras, including three 12MP sensors at the back, featuring ultrawide, wide and 2X telephoto lenses. Thanks to Samsung’s AI algorithms and post-processing expertise, you can capture some stunning photos, be it in daylight or low light. Portrait mode photos are also good with nice edge detection and proper separation of background from the foreground. Below are some samples:

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 cameras capture good photos under proper lighting conditions.

For selfies and video calling, there is a 10MP camera on the cover screen, which is good enough. There is also an under-display camera under the main folding screen. The quality is just decent for video calls on platforms like Zoom, Teams, or even WhatsApp.

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Photos captured in bright outdoor settings may be passable on social media, but as the lighting gets dull, the under-display camera struggles to capture details. As it is a first-gen under-display solution, there is a lot of room for improvement. Below are some camera samples:

Day Light Camera Samples (Wide & Ultra wide Lens)






2X Telephoto Zoom


Close-up Camera Samples





Portrait Mode Camera Samples



Low Light Camera Samples




Selfie: Cover Camera vs Under-Display Camera

3) Smooth Performance: Thanks to Software & Hardware Optimizations

Under the hood is the Snapdragon 888 flagship SoC from Qualcomm paired with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This hardware combination together with software optimizations does all the heavy lifting, making it a great productivity tool.

Whether you are playing the most demanding games or have three apps open in split-screen multitasking mode, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 handles all the difficult tasks without a hiccup.

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Battery life with the 4,400mAh unit is good enough to last a day with moderate to slightly heavy usage, offering a screen-on time of up to five hours. Like other Samsung smartphones, there is no support for crazy-fast charging speeds, but even at 25W, the Fold 3 fully charges in about 90-100 minutes.

Swift performance and good battery life make the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a good choice for power users.

WATCH: Why the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a Great Productivity Tool

Timely Software Updates and Bug Fixes

Samsung has upped its software update game – the Z Fold 3 will get four major Android upgrades, and five years of security updates. Shipped with Android 11 and One UI 3.1, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 got an Android 12 upgrade with One UI 4 skin within three months, which is faster than most OEMs. The smartphone has also been getting regular monthly security patches that bring bug fixes and stability improvements.

One UI 4: A Big Differentiator Among Competitor Foldables

The best part of the folding display smartphone is that you get more screen real estate to run multiple apps side by side. To take full advantage of the folding form factor, Samsung has baked in some interesting features in One UI 4. For instance, the lock screen and home screen wallpapers can be different for the cover screen, and the same goes with the apps, thus offering a different identity to both.

Pop-up View

Second, select apps can open in a floating pop-up window that remains on top of other apps, offering a multitasking experience. This floating app can also be moved around the screen.

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This feature comes in handy in scenarios like the one where you are surfing the internet on a browser and have a YouTube video playing in a floating pop-up window.

Multi-window Multitasking

There is also a multi-window, multitasking feature that allows you to run two apps side by side or one on top and the other at the bottom.

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You can also add a third app to the mix, allowing you to have one vertical app on the left and two apps on the right with one below the other, or you can have one horizontal app on the top/bottom and two at the top/bottom, depending on your preference.

Multi-window feature in the Galaxy Fold series offers the best multitasking experience compared to any other smartphone.

Pinned Taskbar

Then there is the taskbar which can be pinned on the side of the screen with your favorite apps. These apps are easily accessible from anywhere in the UI, as they remain pinned on the side. You can also drag and drop apps to open or run in multi-window mode.

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App Continuity

Another important feature is that apps on the cover screen can quickly scale to the big folding screen when you open it, offering an app continuity experience. The feature also works the other way where apps from the folding screen scale down to the cover screen when you close it.

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This feature comes in handy when using apps like Google Maps on the cover screen. You get a full-screen experience when you open the folding screen, without having to open the app and search again. This also works on apps like Gmail, Chrome, LinkedIn and Netflix.

Microsoft Integration & DeX Mode

Besides these features, the integration with Microsoft apps takes the productivity and experience even further. For instance, the photos from the Gallery app can be synced with OneDrive. Even Samsung Notes can be synced with Microsoft OneNote, which is another good addition.

Samsung DeX mode is also included on the Z Fold 3, both wired and wireless, offering a desktop experience on your Galaxy smartphone. Simply connect to a TV or monitor using a keyboard and mouse, and you have a PC-like experience right from the smartphone. The DeX mode also works on Windows 10-powered PCs.

But there is more to Microsoft integration, one where Samsung Reminders can sync across the Microsoft To-Do app. On Windows 10 OS, Samsung smartphones have deeper integration with the YourPhone app, enabling cross-device continuity. The integration also allows users to access the notifications and messages, make or receive calls directly from the PC, and much more such as Xbox integration for cloud gaming.

Microsoft integration adds great value and differentiates the Galaxy Z Fold 3 from the competition.

4) S Pen Support: Galaxy Note with a Folding Display

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first folding display smartphone to come with S Pen support, but this is sold as a separate accessory that consumers need to buy. Samsung has two different S Pen models – the first is a regular stylus called S Pen Fold Edition ($49) and the other is a Pro ($99) model with Bluetooth functionality that lets you remotely control the music/video playback, control slides, use it as a camera shutter to click photos, and much more.

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Unlike the Galaxy Note series, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does not come with a slot to tuck the S Pen, and you need to buy a cover separately for that. While it does make the smartphone bulky, it does add good protection to it.

Low latency of S Pen offers a good writing and sketching experience.

Do note that the S Pen support is only for the main folding screen and not for the cover screen. It supports ultra-low latency of under 9ms, which makes the writing experience smoother and like you are writing on a paper. While the S Pen is thick and big as an actual pen, it offers a great in-hand feel when holding. The S Pen is good enough for signing documents on the go, taking notes, or just sketching on apps like Pen Up or Sketchbook.

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The Samsung Notes app is very well optimized to use with the S Pen. It can also convert the handwriting to text, which is a good feature, and it works quite accurately, provided your handwriting is clear.

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Key Takeaways:

• The Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes with a durable design and IPX8 rating for water resistance.
• Both the cover and folding displays support 120Hz screen refresh rates and offer a good viewing experience, be it multimedia or gaming.
• The smartphone is equipped with capable cameras that let you capture beautiful photos in good lighting conditions.
• Performance-wise, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does a lot of heavy lifting without any issues.
• Samsung has been consistent in delivering timely software updates with new features, bug fixes and security patches.
• Samsung has upped the software game by a notch by committing to four major Android upgrades and five years of security updates.
• Features like multi-window multitasking, app continuity, pinned taskbar and pop-up window add to the versatility of the folding smartphone.
• S Pen compatibility makes the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a great productivity tool, making it easier to take notes, sign documents on the go, or even sketch.

ALSO READ: Other Strategic Reviews on Smartphones, Smartwatches, TWS & More

OPPO Find N Review: Small Wonder

The smartphone industry is going through a transition phase where form factors are evolving from regular candy-bar ones to foldables that promise different forms and designs. Samsung has been at the forefront of foldables, commanding nearly 84% market share in 2021. It is also driving the clamshell and book-type form factor, making them the industry standard for foldables. But the entry of Chinese smartphone brands should drive further adoption and healthy competition.

HONOR, Xiaomi, Huawei, and OPPO have all entered the foldable smartphone space. Even TCL being a vertically integrated player (display business) has showcased its foldable smartphone prototypes for years and is (finally) expected to launch some of them later this year. OPPO took its time to enter the space but ensured to address some concerns users had with other foldables. The Chinese smartphone maker first unveiled a prototype with a rollable display. However, getting the foldable hinge engineering, software optimization, and getting the form factor right has delayed most of the efforts from these upstart brands. Further, getting manufacturing scale and supply for the same is also challenging.

It has been a work in progress, for example, OPPO recently launched a book-type folding smartphone, the Find N, priced at around $1,400. Although it is currently only available in China, we got to test out the OPPO Find N for a few weeks, and here is our analysis of its potential from the form factor, hinge engineering, display, camera, and above all software perspective.

WATCH: OPPO Find N Review

Compact Design Winning Praises 

Whenever I meet my friends, cousins, and even colleagues, the common question they ask me is “so which new gadget did you bring today?” Everyone was excited to see and try out the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in person. But their reaction after seeing the OPPO Find N was completely different. One of them said, “Wow, this is so compact and perfectly sized. When are they launching this in India?” He was a little disappointed when I said it is not coming to India, and his next question was, “Can I import it from some other country?”

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These reactions clearly show that OPPO put a lot of thought into designing the Find N and is winning the mindshare. In my case, switching to the OPPO Find N, after using the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 for over five months, felt different and refreshing. I instantly appreciated its compact form factor which makes it easy to hold, and it is pocketable too.

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The tall and narrow cover screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn’t the most intuitive to accurately type without errors unless you use the swipe-to-type feature. But that wasn’t the case with the Find N. The small, yet wider cover screen makes typing easier. Even single-handed use is quite easy.

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OPPO found the right balance with a compact design while being powerful and functional.

Solid Hinge Mechanism with Gapless Design 

For any foldable smartphone, the hinge design is a crucial element as it has a lot of moving parts, and most of the engineering efforts go there. Unlike Samsung’s wedge-shaped design, OPPO has gone for a teardrop-style hinge that folds the center of the foldable screen in a curved manner. This type of engineering offers two major benefits – to ensure there is no visible crease on the folding screen and ensure there is no gap left when in the folded state.

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OPPO says that the hinge has over 136 components that ensure smooth functioning. Similar to Samsung, OPPO also employs the ultrathin glass (UTG) cover on the foldable display and is tested to bend over 200,000 times without causing any problems. During my usage, the hinge mechanism seemed quite robust.

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Gapless hinge design with less visible crease marks is a solid engineering feat from OPPO.

Similar to Galaxy Z Fold 3’s Flex Mode, the OPPO Find N also comes with a hinge mode of its own. For instance, in the camera app, where shutter button and other options appear on the bottom half whereas the top half has the viewfinder. The mode can come in handy when the phone is placed on a table, thus mimicking a mini tripod. More apps are expected to get support as foldable smartphones become more popular.

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Superb Displays for Content Consumption, But… 

In terms of specifications, the OPPO Find N comes with:

  • The cover screen has a 5.49-inches OLED panel with a 60Hz refresh rate and 18:9 aspect ratio.
  • The folding screen is a 7.1-inch LTPO OLED with ultra-thin glass, a 120Hz refresh rate, and 1000 nits of peak brightness.

Let’s first talk about the cover screen. It’s got nice, rounded corners and a curved edge on the right. This design language adds to its looks and also offers an immersive viewing experience when watching videos on YouTube, Netflix, and other platforms.

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Even the app experience on Find N’s cover screen is good – be it scrolling the Instagram timeline, Twitter, or even reading news on Feedly or Flipboard apps. Viewing experience under direct sunlight was no problem either, and the screen offers a punchy color reproduction too, making the content look more lively. Viewing angles on both the inner and cover screen are good too.

When unfolded, the inner screen transforms itself into a mini-tablet. The variable refresh rate of the LTPO folding panel is between 1Hz to 120Hz. So, depending on the on-screen content, it can dynamically adjust the refresh rate to conserve battery life. The bright display, punchy colors, and fast refresh rate add to the great experience for content consumption such as reading e-books, internet browsing, and app multitasking.

But the same cannot be said for video consumption. The 8.4:9 screen aspect ratio means you have thick black bars along the top and bottom. This is also prominent on the Z Fold 3, but the bars aren’t as thick as on the Find N.

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Multitasking support means you can even have apps like Twitter on one side and a Gallery, Notes app, Video Player, or Calculator on the other side.

Capable Cameras, But Needs More Fine Tuning

Before we talk about the camera quality, let’s first look at the setup. There are a total of five cameras:

  • A 32MP camera sensor each, one on the cover screen and one on the folding screen for clicking selfies and for video calling.
  • There is a triple camera setup at the back having a 50MP primary camera with OIS, a 13MP camera sensor with a telephoto lens 2x optical zoom (52mm), and the third is a 16MP camera sensor with an ultrawide lens.

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Talking about camera quality, the primary camera can click some good close-up and landscape shots with enough details and sharpness. Low-light photography is good as well, but it does not match the level of the flagship Find X-series. Here are some sample shots.




The ultrawide camera is also good enough to capture punchy colors and good details. For landscape shots, there is no visible distortion around the edges, but when clicking photos of buildings and structures, the fisheye effect is noticeable around the edges.



The 2x telephoto camera lets you zoom into the subject, and while it retains good details and structure, the color science is a little inconsistent when switching from main to tele camera.

Wide (1X)


Zoom (2X)


OPPO camera algorithms need more fine-tuning to offer more consistent results between lenses.

The OPPO Find N also supports 1080p and 4K video recording capabilities at up to 60fps. The OIS works well and even at 4K 60fps, the footage I shot was quite stable.

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Selfies shot from both the cover screen and folding screen camera look detailed and retain skin tones. Portrait mode offers a good separation of background and foreground, but the AI also overexposes the clothes, especially outdoors, if you are wearing bright ones. It also makes the skin a little brighter. But other than that, it does a pretty good job.

Useful Software Features, Swift Performance 

  • Boots Android 11 with ColorOS 12 UI.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC, 8GB/12GB of RAM, 256GB/512GB storage.
  • 4,500mAh battery, 33W wired fast charging, 15W wireless fast charging. 

The Find N comes with Android 11 OS and ColorOS 12 UI on top. OPPO has added some features and optimizations to take advantage of the folding screen form factor like app floating windows and multitasking. There are also screen-off gestures where you draw “V” or “O” to quickly start the Flashlight or Camera app. Swiping down the middle of the screen with two fingers activates split-screen mode. There is also a smart sidebar that gives you quick access to apps like Calculator, Browser, and your choice of apps too.

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Now, as the OPPO Find N is only available in China, our review unit did not come with Google Play Store. Instead, it came with the OPPO app store, but most apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that we use were missing. I was able to download these apps from third-party app stores, but it seems like the OS is optimized for popular Chinese apps only. For instance, the Instagram app does not support floating windows or split-screen mode.

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ColorOS 12 on Find N has some neat and super useful gesture control features.

Talking about performance, the flagship 5nm Snapdragon 888 SoC can handle the processing needs without a hitch. Whether it is multitasking, gaming, binge-watching and just spending time on social networking apps, the Find N can handle all the stress. Though I had come across app crashes at times, those were the APKs downloaded from third-party apps that were likely not optimized for the Find N.

Gaming experience when playing Asphalt 9: Legends was good both on the cover and main screen. The back did get a little warm after 20 minutes, but not to an uncomfortable level.

Lastly, the battery life on the Find N was good too. My usage included watching videos on YouTube or Netflix for an hour, some music listening on Spotify using the phone’s stereo speakers, browsing through Feedly, and some gaming. With all this, I would still be left with a 30% battery at the end of the day, with a screen time of four hours (both using the cover and folding screen). So normally, the battery should be good to last a workday, depending on your usage. 

Key Takeaways:

  • OPPO has impressed us with the Find N’s compact form factor which finds the right balance between being too big and too small.
  • The compact design also offers a comfortable in-hand feel.
  • The hinge engineering and near-invisible crease promise a good future for foldables.
  • Gestures on ColorOS for supported apps make using the Find N a breeze. 

Wish-List for the Find N Successor:

  • IPXX rating for the Find N successor will be a good add-on.
  • ColorOS software needs more polishing and optimizations for apps to take full advantage of multitasking, floating window, and gesture support.
  • The cover screen should also feature a refresh rate of 90Hz or above.
  • Faster charging support for 66W or even 100W like other flagships would add more value.
  • Better cameras with more optical zoom capabilities, like periscope-style zoom, will be welcome.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC Promises to Unlock Faster 5G, Cutting-edge Camera, High-quality Audio Experiences

After hosting an online-only Snapdragon Tech Summit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Qualcomm is back with a physical event this year. The Snapdragon Tech Summit 2021 event is being held in Kona, Hawaii. On Wednesday, Qualcomm announced its next-generation SoC that will be powering premium smartphones in 2022 (potentially an OEM or two in 2021). Qualcomm is changing the naming system with this successor to the Snapdragon 888 series. Ditching the three-digit numbering, the new platform will be called Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

The new SoC aims at offering premium experiences with cutting-edge features, from faster 5G to AI, gaming and camera improvements. Commercial smartphones powered by the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC are expected to be available by the end of 2021. This is happening for the first time in the last half-decade where consumers will not have to wait until Q1 to get a smartphone powered by the latest and greatest Snapdragon chipset. OEM partners such as Black Shark, HONOR, iQOO, Motorola, nubia, OnePlus, OPPO, Redmi, SHARP, realme, Sony, vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE are already working on smartphones powered by the new Qualcomm chipset. Let us look at the new features and improvements that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 brings over its predecessor.

Fast and efficient CPU made on new process node and architecture

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is the first mobile platform fabricated on Samsung’s 4nm process node. Qualcomm says that the new Kryo CPU is 20% faster than the previous generation, while also being 30% more efficient. The SoC still uses a tri-cluster CPU featuring one prime Cortex X2 core clocked at 3GHz, three performance Cortex-A710 cores clocked at 2.5GHz, and four Cortex-A510 efficiency cores clocked at 1.8GHz.

Qualcomm’s new chipset will compete with the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 SoC, which is also made on a 4nm process node (TSMC). The CPU core architecture on the Dimensity 9000 is the same as on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, having a slightly faster prime core clock speed of 3.05GHz, and 2.85GHz for performance cores. MediaTek is going all out with its true flagship SoC, but design wins will hold the key.

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Source – Qualcomm

Lightning-fast connectivity with speeds up to 10Gbps

The new SoC is equipped with 4th gen Modem-RF system which Qualcomm claims is the world’s first 5G solution that can reach peak download speeds of up to 10Gbps. One of the improvements in this new generation is that the modem is compatible with 3GPP Release 16, which brings new features like 5G uplink carrier aggregation. Qualcomm and Verizon also demonstrated a live 8K video call. As mmWave deployments rise, this should come in handy for high-res video calls for work, learning and keeping in touch with family and friends. With FastConnect 6900 Mobile Connectivity System and both Wi-Fi 6 and 6E on board, it can offer peak speeds up to 3.6Gbps.

Up to 4x faster AI performance

The new 7th gen AI engine brings up to 4x faster AI performance. However, Qualcomm did not specify the number of TOPS (trillion operations per second) this time around. For reference, the Snapdragon 888+ offers 26 TOPS. There is also a new always-on camera and always secure AI system powered by 3rd gen Sensing Hub that can process data streams while using low power. At the keynote, Qualcomm also spoke about its partnership with Leica to bring Leitz Look filters that will allow users to capture pro-quality images with bokeh effects.

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Source – Qualcomm

There are other improvements as well, such as a partnership with Sonde Health to analyze vocal patterns of users to detect health condition risks such as depression and asthma. Other hardware improvements include 2x Tensor accelerator performance and 2x large-shared memory while being 1.7x more efficient.

8K HDR, better low-light, and more camera features

The camera system has become one of the biggest differentiators for smartphone vendors. We recently spoke about camera trends for 2022 in our Innovation Talk webinar, and how OEMs and camera module vendors are enabling better photography and videography experiences for their users. With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, Qualcomm is bringing its new Snapdragon Sight technology with an 18-Bit ISP, a first for smartphones. With speeds up to 3.2 gigapixels per second, it can capture 4000x more data over the predecessor, including color, sharpness, and extreme dynamic range. In burst mode, it can even capture 240 12MP photos in a second, which is impressive.

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Source – Qualcomm

The new Snapdragon mobile platform is also the first to offer 8K HDR video capture even with HDR10+ format. Users will also be able to record 8K videos and 64MP photos simultaneously. The platform also includes a dedicated bokeh engine for 4K video capture to help you record videos with beautiful background blur. It is similar to the cinematic mode in the new iPhone 13 series, but the benefit here is that the resolution is not limited to 1080p.

The triple 18-bit ISP supports camera sensors up to 200MP. There are many other camera additions such as a new dedicated ultrawide engine to de-wrap and correct chromatic aberration. There are also neural nets for auto exposure, autofocus and auto face detection. Qualcomm also claims that the new ISP offers 5x better clarity for low-light photos.

The new Snapdragon SoC also enables an always-on camera. So, the front camera will always be securely looking for your face, even if it is lying flat on the table. The goal is to be able to unlock your device in messy situations (say when your hands are full when in the kitchen). It eliminates the need to raise your device or tap the screen to wake it. Qualcomm says the aim here is to maintain your privacy.

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Source – Qualcomm

In case someone is looking over your shoulder while you are reading something, it can black out your screen, or even lock your phone. But then there are times when you are showing something to your family members or colleagues, and a notification pops up. Here, the always-on camera will hide notifications and other pop-ups. While this sounds good to protect privacy, things could get difficult when you are using public transport where many other people are traveling along with you.

Snapdragon Elite Gaming with 50+ new features

According to the data shared by Qualcomm, there are over 2.5 billion mobile gamers across the globe. It is a huge community to cater to. During the keynote, Qualcomm mentioned that it works with game developers, smartphone OEMs and gamers to bring premium experiences with Snapdragon Elite Gaming features. There is a new Adreno GPU with next-generation architecture that offers 30% faster rendering while saving 25% more power over the previous generation.

counterpoint qualcomm snapdragon 8 gen 1 soc gaming
Source – Qualcomm

Over 50 features are coming to the platform, such as Game Quick Touch to reduce the latency between touch and the corresponding reaction. Other features include Game Smoother, support for high frame rate up to 144fps, true 10-bit HDR, Game Color Plus, Desktop Class Rendering, and updatable GPU drivers. There are also features like variable-rate shading, which increases the rendering quality and performance by changing the shading rate for different areas of the frame. Qualcomm has also added a new Frame Motion Engine that can double the frames for a game, thus offering a smoother gaming experience. There is also the Adreno Control Panel to customize GPU parameters such as resolution, FPS (frames per second) cap and texture filtering. This is similar to what we have seen on the Asus ROG Phone 3 and ROG Phone 5 devices.

counterpoint qualcomm snapdragon 8 gen 1 soc elite gaming
Source – Qualcomm

Qualcomm also briefly spoke about its partnership with ESL, which is the world’s biggest eSports company. The companies did not reveal the exact details of the partnership. A big announcement is expected sometime next year.

Snapdragon Sound for CD-quality Bluetooth audio streaming

With this pandemic and prolonged working from home, global TWS sales grew 27% in Q2 2021. People are using TWS earbuds to listen to their favorite music, watch TV shows, play games, and even take calls on platforms like Zoom, Teams and Slack. Qualcomm is looking to deliver premium audio experiences with Snapdragon Sound technology on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC.

Support for Bluetooth LE Audio enables an end-to-end broadcast audio experience, stereo recording, and more. The Snapdragon Sound tech can offer CD-quality, 16-bit/44.1kHz lossless audio streaming over Bluetooth. It also supports AptX Lossless wireless audio. This will come in handy when more TWS earbuds offer high-res and lossless audio support to further enhance the listening experience.

Key takeaways: Camera, 5G, audio are key differentiators for Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC

  • 18-bit Triple ISP, a dedicated bokeh engine for 4K video capture, always-on camera and 8K HDR are some key camera features that will differentiate the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-powered Android smartphones from the competition.
  • 4th gen Snapdragon X65 5G modem with support for mmWave with peak download speeds of up to 10Gbps, upload speeds of 3.5Gbps, and Sub-6GHz carrier aggregation are some of the key features showcasing 5G advancements Qualcomm is bringing to Android smartphones.
  • Support for CD quality, 16-bit lossless audio streaming over Bluetooth will pave the way for headphones and TWS earbuds to deliver music in its purest form, especially when listening on platforms like Apple Music and Amazon Music HD.

Related Posts

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Long-term Review: Smooth Performance, Refined Software Offer Best Android Experience

  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the first S-series smartphone to support the S Pen stylus.
  • The smartphone has a 108MP primary camera with 100X space zoom capabilities.
  • It flaunts a stunning WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display with refresh rate between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the on-screen content.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 series in January 2021, which was well over a month earlier than its usual February launch schedule. The new smartphones bring key improvements like slightly brighter display, faster chipset and storage, and improved software. However, all this and more come at a starting price of $799 for the Galaxy S21, which is $200 lower than the Galaxy S20.

The flagship smartphone of the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, carries a price tag of $1,199, which is also $200 less than last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. According to Counterpoint’s Component Practice Research, the S21 Ultra costs 7% less to produce compared to its predecessor. This cost reduction is also due to the removal of the charger and headphones from the box.

As Samsung is skipping the flagship Note series this year, the S21 Ultra gets support for the S Pen stylus (sold separately), which is coming to the S Series for the first time. With all these upgrades, has Samsung done enough to offer the absolute best of Android experience? Here is our long-term Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review after using it for over six months.

Elegant Design, Phantom Black Color Give it a Classic Look

  • Gorilla Glass Victus protection front and back.
  • IP68 water and dust resistant.

Samsung has always focused on the CMF (color, material, finishing) for both the Galaxy S and Note lines, and the new S21 line-up is no exception. At the launch event, Samsung spent some time explaining the lengthy process involved in creating the perfect black color finish. It finally settled on a black film with haze glass (Gorilla Glass Victus) on top.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review cmf

The result is a clean and smooth black finish which not only offers a good grip when holding the phone but also keeps smudges and fingerprints at bay. Even after six months of usage without a case or screen guard, Gorilla Glass Victus holds up well and there are no scratches so far.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review matte black

The camera module bump at the back still exists and the phone wobbles when kept face up on the table, but that is not a deal-breaker. The module perfectly curves into the phone’s body.

Phantom Black on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best black finish we have seen so far.

Display: One of the Best Smartphone Screens

  • 8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, 120Hz refresh rate (LTPO), HDR10+, 1500 nits.
  • WQHD resolution (1440×3200 pixels, 515ppi).
  • Qualcomm second-generation ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.
  • 9ms latency for S Pen support.

Samsung has gone with a slightly brighter display (1500 nits) compared to the S20 Ultra (1400). Wide viewing angles and vibrant colors let you enjoy HD content with stunning clarity. Whether you are playing games or binge-watching content on Netflix or YouTube, the viewing experience is fantastic. There is a center-aligned hole-punch cutout on top of the display for the front camera, but that doesn’t cause much of a hindrance when watching videos or playing games.

Unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra, you no longer need to choose between the highest resolution and highest refresh rate. Instead, you now get an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate at WQHD resolution. The interesting highlight of the display is that it uses LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) technology to ensure optimum battery usage. This allows the screen to intelligently switch between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the screen content.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review screen

For instance, in the case of static wallpapers or when you are reading e-books, the refresh rate can go down to as low as 10Hz. When playing graphic-intensive games or watching videos and movies, the screen refresh rate automatically increases to reach a maximum of 120Hz. There is an option to lower the refresh rate to a constant 60Hz, but you won’t be able to force it to run at 120Hz all the time, and that is not a problem at all.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G comes with a gorgeous screen and quick-touch response time.

For security, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s second-generation ultrasonic under-display fingerprint scanner. It comes with a 1.7x more surface area, and over 50% faster recognition. In my six months of usage, I did find the scanner to be faster and accurate in recognizing the fingerprint and unlocking within a second.

Performance: Blazing Fast Yet Efficient

  • 5nm Snapdragon 888/Exynos 2100 (region dependent).
  • 5G support for both mmWave and Sub-6GHz.
  • 8GB/12GB/16GB RAM, 128GB/256GB/512GB storage (no expandable storage).
  • 5,000mAh battery; 25W wired, 15W wireless and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the first smartphone to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US. The global variant (like my Indian review unit), on the other hand, is powered by the Exynos 2100 SoC. Both chipsets are fabricated on Samsung’s 5nm node. (We are reviewing the SKU with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.)

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review front

Performance-wise, the smartphone is a powerhouse. During my long-term usage, I did not notice any stuttering or slowdown. Whether it is using everyday communication apps or web browsing or gaming, the apps do not feel sluggish at all. Samsung seems to have worked on improving memory management.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra does all the heavy lifting without breaking a sweat.

With a few apps minimized in the background, the system is not aggressive in killing background apps, even when running demanding games. It allocates enough resources for the game to run smoothly. Samsung clearly has done a good job optimizing the software and hardware.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review gaming

However, the thermal management could have been better. After playing graphic-intensive games like PUBG Mobile, the back of the phone gets considerably warm in just under 10 minutes. While this was at 120Hz, lowering the refresh rate to 60Hz did make the phone warm, though it took a little longer at about 25 minutes. Similarly, the thermal management is good when recording videos at 1080p, but the moment you switch to 4K 60fps, the phone gets too warm in about two minutes of recording.

Gaming experience is smooth, but the back of the smartphone gets warm when the refresh rate is set at 120Hz.

Another area of improvement could be the earpiece. The in-call volume is too low. I had to hold the earpiece too close to the ear to hear what the recipient was saying. But when playing media on stereo speakers (with the earpiece acting as the secondary speaker), the audio output was loud enough.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review battery life

Lastly, the battery life of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is pretty good. With the refresh rate set at adaptive 120Hz and general daily usage including social media apps, listening to music over Bluetooth TWS, and smartwatch connected all the time, it lasts a workday. In terms of screen time, I got just a little over five hours. Switching to the standard 60Hz refresh rate, the battery life with the same usage came close to six hours.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra battery lasts a typical workday without breaking a sweat, but Samsung needs to catch up with competitors to offer faster charging capabilities.

Cameras: Excellent Shooter in Every Light Condition

  • Quad rear cameras, including two telephoto lenses.
  • 108MP wide (24mm), f/1.8, OIS, PDAF, Laser AF.
  • 10MP, f/4.9 periscope telephoto (240mm) with OIS for 10X optical zoom.
  • 10MP, f/2.4 telephoto (70mm) with OIS for 3X optical zoom.
  • 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide (13mm) with PDAF.
  • 40MP, f/2.2 wide (26mm) for selfies and video calling.

Samsung has made major improvements to the camera system on the Galaxy S21 Ultra over last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. The primary camera now has the in-house 108MP ISOCELL HM3 image sensor (1/1.33″, 0.8µm) which brings improved auto-focus, low-light and HDR performance. It uses Nonapixel technology with 9×1 pixel-binning to produce 12MP photos by default. You can click full 108MP resolution photos too by turning on that feature in settings. Photos shot in full res are about 30MB in size, whereas pixel-binned images are around 7MB.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review cameras

The Pro Mode also lets you click RAW photos that you can edit later. These files are about 24MB in size. There are other interesting modes, such as the Single Take, which records a 5-15 second video clip. The AI then analyses the video clip and picks the best moments in the form of photos with filters, portrait mode, short video clips such as boomerang, dynamic slow motion, and more. I tried it a couple of times, and the results were impressive.

Talking about the quality, the camera captures some stunning photos with great details and a wide dynamic range. The photo below was clicked on a rainy day. It captures the clouds, greenery, the water in the lake, barbed wire and the stones very well.


Close-up shots look detailed. The photos below are able to capture the dust particles on the leaf, water droplets on the flower petals, or the cupid that is well in focus and the background is blurred.





Daylight and close-up shots from the Galaxy S21 Ultra look stunning and detailed.

If you want more clarity in close-up shots, there is a “Focus Enhancer” mode that switches to an ultra-wide lens. The whole frame is in focus now instead of just the subject with a blurred background.

The night mode sees major improvements where it takes advantage of the large 108MP sensor in which nine adjacent pixels are combined into one pixel to absorb more light. The AI can intelligently select appropriate ISO settings between high and low. The result is a bright image with less noise. The photos below were captured around midnight in a pitch-dark environment, and they showcase the AI capabilities of the smartphone.

Night mode has vastly improved, and the photos look bright and sharp.

Now, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra featured 10X hybrid zoom using a 48MP telephoto lens, the new Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with two telephoto lenses with each sensor having 10MP resolution but different focal lengths (70mm to 240mm equivalent). This allows for 10X optical zoom, and up to 100X Space Zoom. Photos clicked with 10X zoom are sharp and detailed.

Even at 30X, the text on the trucks parked some 800 meters away was readable. The 100X ones are decent and usable, but that’s about it. What Samsung has done with the zooming capabilities of its S and Note series smartphones is commendable. Some shots are posted below (ultrawide, 10X, 30X, 100X).





The zooming capabilities are much improved now, with text readable even at 30X.

In the photo below, the parrots are sitting on a hanging cable about 100 meters away from me, and even at 10X zoom, the details are brilliant. The eyes look sharp, and the feather pattern and colors look crisp and clear too.



Samsung has had a lot of competition with the likes of Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo introducing smartphones with a periscope-style zoom. But one impressive thing that I have noticed about Samsung after also using the competitor devices, is the color consistency between ultra-wide, wide and zoom lenses. Below are three photos – in ultrawide, 1X and 10X – to show how good the camera system on Samsung is.




The space zoom works at night as well and I was able to capture some good shots of the moon. Below are some shots at 30X and 100X.



Lastly, the 40MP front camera is also able to capture good selfies. The skin tones look natural, and the AI is not too aggressive in smoothening the skin. Portrait mode is good too, and the edge detection works well in separating the foreground from the background.

The S21 Ultra also supports up to 8K (24fps) video and 4K (60fps) video recording. The 8K video quality is good, and it also lets you take high-resolution 33MP snaps from the video itself. Our Apple MacBook Air M1 first impressions video was shot in 8K on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the photos used in the blog are still screenshots taken from the video. 4K videos are quite stable. Below is a small cinematic footage to show how good the recording quality is.

S Pen Support: Great Add-on, Less Functionality

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first S-series smartphone to support S Pen functionality, and it makes sense as there will be no Note series this year. The move was inevitable as the screen size difference between the S and Note series has narrowed down. The novelty factor of the Note series has lost its sheen, with the only big difference between the S and Note series being the S Pen support.

However, the S Pen for the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a few things missing when compared to the Note series:

  • It does not come bundled with the smartphone.
  • No dedicated slot for keeping the S Pen.
  • No support for Bluetooth functionality.

Before I talk more about the S Pen features, I would like to recall the first iPhone launch in 2007, where Steve Jobs shared his thoughts on phones with styluses: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck!” Four years later, Samsung addressed this concern by introducing the Galaxy Note with a dedicated slot for the S Pen stylus. Since then, Note smartphones have been popular among power users. Now, in the current scenario, you need to buy the S Pen separately. To ensure you don’t lose it, you will have to buy Samsung-built or third-party cases.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review s pen

The S21 Ultra display comes with the same 9ms latency as the Note 20 Ultra for the S Pen to work smoothly. Air Command features work perfectly, and the note-taking experience is like the Galaxy Note series. But you miss out on the Bluetooth feature that lets you remotely control the camera shutter, media, presentations, and more. These also include gesture controls to increase/decrease the volume or to zoom in and zoom out.

The S Pen works fine, but you will miss the gesture control features from the Note series.

Software: Closer Integration with Microsoft Services and Galaxy Ecosystem

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G boots Android 11 with One UI 3.1 skin on top. The new One UI skin heavily focuses on optimizations and bringing the connected ecosystem within Samsung devices even closer. It is also closely integrated with Microsoft services.

Samsung has been promptly pushing out monthly security updates, which is a good thing. But it could improve the experience by adding support for seamless updates which Google introduced with Pixel devices in 2016. Some Nokia, OnePlus, Sony and Sharp smartphones also support this feature. The benefit of this feature is that updates are installed on a secondary partition while the system is still running. This eliminates the downtime while updates are installed, especially the annoying “Optimizing Apps” process that takes a little longer.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review ui ads

Moving on, the other complaint is “Ads in UI”, which is not something you would expect in a top-of-the-line premium Android smartphone. Although it is not as bad and aggressive as seen in some affordable smartphones, these ads are visible in the weather app. You also get push notifications from the Galaxy Store about offers and deals on Samsung products.

Samsung offers timely security updates, but ads in UI are a little intriguing.

There is the DeX mode which lets you transform your phone into a PC by connecting it to a monitor or a TV using the HDMI cable, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You can view and edit your Word and Excel files, run presentations, browse the internet, access emails, and more.

Connected Ecosystem Makes Handoff Between Devices Easier

Major smartphone brands are now heavily focusing on the 1+x+n connected ecosystem strategy. But unlike other brands, Samsung has a big advantage with its wide range of portfolio, which includes smart home appliances, TVs, audio products, laptops, and much more. SmartThings, which is baked right within One UI, makes using these devices easier.

For instance, I can easily control my Samsung Smart TV and Wi-Fi-enabled soundbar from the smartphone itself. You can do all this from an iPhone app or any Android smartphone too, but the close integration with Samsung smartphones means these features are available right within the Quick Settings and Notification Shade as a part of the UI.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra connected ecosystem

Devices such as Galaxy Buds series TWS, Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Tab models are all closely integrated too. Say you are watching a video or listening to music on your Galaxy Tab and you get a phone call, the video/music will pause, and once the call has ended, it will resume playback. All this happens in a hassle-free manner.

Microsoft Integration Allows Running Android Apps on Windows PC, and More

The YourPhone companion app enables seamless and wireless connection between the PC and smartphone. For this to work, both the phone and PC need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. This integration allows replying to notifications right from the PC. You can also see your text messages and reply to them from the PC. But that’s not all, you can also access the photo gallery to wirelessly export photos to the PC and delete them as well. Sadly, you can only download one at a time.

counterpoint - galaxy s21 ultra your phone notifications

But the most interesting aspect of the YourPhone app is that you can access and run Android apps on the PC. You can browse your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feed, or even order food from delivery apps. You can also run games, but there is too much lag.

counterpoint - galaxy s21 ultra your phone apps

YourPhone companion app allows you to check and reply to notifications from PC, rather than constantly unlocking the phone to do so.

Besides YourPhone, other integrations include the ability to sync photos from your Gallery to OneDrive, and sync and back up reminders from Samsung Reminders to Microsoft To Do. You can also sync Samsung Notes to the OneNote app. Outlook emails and calendars can also be synced with the Samsung Calendar app and vice-versa.

The Xbox integration allows you to stream and play games from your console to your Galaxy phone using the Xbox controller. This feature is offered in those countries where the Microsoft XCloud cloud gaming service is available.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers the best premium Android experience, thanks to powerful hardware and a more refined software that closely integrates Microsoft services and the connected ecosystem experience.
  • The high-resolution primary camera, coupled with an ultra-wide lens and two telephoto lenses for zoom, offers a versatile photography and videography experience.
  • Elegant design, classic black finish, stellar display and a battery that lasts a day, all make the Galaxy S21 Ultra a fully loaded smartphone for power users.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest Smartphones

First Impressions: Asus ROG Phone 5 Brings Promising Upgrade, But Competition Gets Fierce

  • The Asus ROG Phone 5 is powered by the latest 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC.
  • It is one of the first smartphones to feature up to 18GB of RAM.
  • The gaming smartphone supports Sub-6GHz 5G and Wi-Fi 6E connectivity.

Asus has refreshed its gaming smartphone line-up by introducing the ROG Phone 5 series nearly three months earlier than the usual June time frame. This time around, there are three models – the regular ROG Phone 5, followed by the ROG Phone 5 Pro variant, and then a special limited-edition device, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. Compared to the ROG Phone 3 which we reviewed last year, the new smartphones bring a bold design language, powerful stereo speakers, and display with the lowest touch latency on a smartphone, among many other features.

One of the highlights of the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate edition is that it comes with a whopping 18GB of RAM from SK Hynix. I got a few hours to spend with the regular ROG Phone 5 and below are my first impressions.

Asus ROG Phone 5: Specifications, Pricing and Three Device Strategy

The bump in specifications along with new and improved features has also resulted in a price increase over the previous generation. While the ROG Phone 3 was priced around $560 in regions like India and around $820 in the US, the ROG Phone 5 starts at $950 in the US. In India, the same sees a jump to around $690. A lot of factors could contribute to the price rise, such as the ongoing global chip shortage, and increase in prices of key components like PMICs for 5G and display.

Commenting on Asus’ strategy, Senior Research Analyst Maurice Klaehne said, “The latest Asus ROG 5 devices once again push the boundaries for gaming smartphones a little further. The devices once again feature a 144Hz refresh rate and AMOLED screen, but bump up the touch-sampling rate to 300Hz, and touch-sampling rate of 24.3ms which is the lowest on a smartphone. The latest 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC makes the phone blazing fast. Asus is also coming out with three different models to cater to its growing customer base. While the devices still lack wireless charging and camera features continue to fall behind the competition, Asus is clearly showing it wants to differentiate by focusing on gaming-specific enhancements and features.”

counterpoint rog phone 5 series specifications

Improved Gesture Controls Along with Unique Unboxing Experience

Right from the unboxing experience, Asus has given special attention to offering something unique to the users. After you unbox the phone and begin the setup process, a screen will prompt you to give camera permissions to be able to scan the augmented reality (AR)-based graphics printed on the box. It makes the characters come alive and is an experience that you will not find with other smartphones.

Talking about the design, Asus has constantly improved the look and feel of the ROG Phones. These refinements also aim towards offering a console-like gaming experience, and the ROG Phone 5 takes it a step further. It offers a glass back with a nice two-tone texture with gaming aesthetics. The RGB logo still exists, but it now has a dot-matrix anime style that stands out, without looking too flashy.

counterpoint ROG Phone 5 back

The four ultrasonic touch controllers (Air Triggers) on the right edge, along with motion control, rear touch and buttons on the aero active cooler, now offer a total of 18 controls to enhance your gaming skillset. Aeroactive cooler accessory is bundled along with the smartphone and offers a USB Type-C port for charging, a 3.5mm audio jack, a dedicated cooling fan, and a kickstand.

counterpoint ROG Phone 5 aeroactive cooler attached

Fastest Hardware, More Responsive Touch, and Immersive Audio

The Asus ROG Phone 5 features the fastest hardware available today to offer the best experience. This includes a 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC with 8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM, and 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage. As mentioned above, there is also an Ultimate edition model that gets 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. But Asus is not the only gaming smartphone maker to offer 18GB of RAM, even nubia Red Magic 6 Pro has a variant with the same RAM and storage configuration.

Moving to the display, you get a Samsung AMOLED panel with a 144Hz screen refresh rate and FHD+ resolution. But Asus has improved the touch sampling rate to 300Hz, and latency to just 24.3ms, which is the lowest on any smartphone to date. This should improve the touch response when gaming. Asus has also added a Pixelworks i6 co-processor for dark noise suppression, skin tone management, real-time SDR to HDR conversion, and more.

counterpoint ROG Phone 5 front

For sustained peak performance during your gaming sessions, keeping the thermal levels low is important. And the ROG Phone 5 comes with a centered CPU design, and a larger 3D vapor chamber cooling using graphite sheet along with direct airflow design. Asus says it helps in lowering CPU temperature by 10%, and surface temperature by up to 15%. With the entered CPU design, the ROG Phone 5 also comes with two separate 3,000mAh batteries with up to 65W HyperCharge technology. However, the box comes with a 30W adapter.

Lastly, Asus has also brought back the legacy 3.5mm audio jack. It features an ESS DAC and Dirac tuning for better frequency response, and clear audio. You also get front-firing stereo speakers on the smartphone. In the little time when I used the smartphone, the audio was loud enough with a wide soundstaging. The volume was the loudest I have experienced on a smartphone yet.

Initial Impressions: Can Powerful Hardware, Improved Gesture and Touch Controls be Enough?

The ROG Phone 5 brings a striking design that sets it apart from the competition. Under-the- hood improvements in terms of more RAM, new Snapdragon 888 SoC, dual battery and improved thermal management make it a promising upgrade. Asus has also improved the audio quality and refined the software among many other changes. Asus says it has fine-tuned the cameras as well. Given that the ROG Phone 3 cameras had mediocre quality, it will be interesting to see how the new smartphone does it better. We will answer that in our detailed review, so stay tuned for that.

Besides, the ROG Phone 5 also faces fierce competition from nubia RED Magic 6 series which brings 165Hz screen refresh rate, and top end model with 18GB of RAM. Even Black Shark launched the 4 and 4 Pro gaming smartphones yesterday, whereas Lenovo is set to launch Legion 2 Pro gaming smartphone on April 8. Certainly, more smartphone makers are now focusing on the hardcore gaming users.

BONUS VIDEO: Unboxing and Top 5 Features of Asus ROG Phone 5

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest Smartphones

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