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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6: Brighter, lighter and faster, but is that enough?

Wed, Jul 10, 2024
Ever since the original Galaxy Fold came out in 2019, Samsung has enjoyed a commanding lead over the market for flexible screen phones. But with the introduction of challengers like the OnePlus Open, the Pixel Fold and the 2024 Moto Razrs, the gap between Samsung and its biggest competitors has been shrinking quickly. So while the new Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 - two of several devices announced at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event in Paris - are lighter, faster and more durable than before, I'm not sure if that's enough to keep Samsung's latest generation of bendy handouts at the top of the growing mountain of foldable rivals. The biggest changes for 2024 Improvements to the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip can largely be broken down into two main categories: The expansion of Samsung's Galaxy AI features – which first launched on the S24 series earlier this year – with some tweaks to take advantage of the phones' convertible form factor and an assortment of upgraded components including new camera sensors and faster silicon. However, those looking for major design changes will need to keep waiting, as these devices feel more like refined versions of last year's models than a full rework. Both phones are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip and come with 12GB of RAM, a major boost for the Z Flip 6 which topped out at just 8GB on the previous model. The Flip 6 also packs a 4,000mAh battery, which is the largest ever on any Z Flip, so it should see a noticeable boost in longevity as well. But perhaps the biggest change on the Z Flip is its two new camera sensors that are the same as those on the standard S24: a 50MP main shooter and a 12MP option for the ultra-wide lens.  Unfortunately, despite a higher price tag and a larger body with seemingly more room for fancy camera hardware, the Z Fold 6 is only getting a new 12MP ultra-wide sensor while retaining the same 50MP main cam 3x telephoto used on the Z Fold 5. Samsung has also boosted the peak brightness of the Z Fold 6's interior and exterior displays to 2,600 nits, just like on the S24. Sadly, only the Z Flip 6's main screen is getting that same boost to max luminance.  Elsewhere, the frames of both models are made from Enhanced Armor Aluminum, which the company says is 10 percent stronger than before. Samsung claims it has also refined the folding edge of its flexible screens to better withstand pressure and contact from sharp objects. But the most valuable upgrade for long-term usability may be the company's new Z Assurance program, which will provide owners of the Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 with a free one-time replacement of Samsung's factory-installed screen protector.  As someone who has suffered from bubbling screen protectors across several generations of past Z Folds, I believe this should bring some extra peace of mind to those concerned about committing to a phone with a more delicate flexible screen. Furthermore, Samsung is also offering a one-time discount on screen replacements, with the goal of making repairs cost about the same as fixing the display on a standard S24. Z Flip 6 impressions: A more photo-friendly compact foldable One subtle but stylish design change on the Z Flip 6 is color-matched lens housings on the phone's cameras. Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget Unlike most years where the Flip takes a backseat to its bigger sibling, this year it feels like Samsung's smaller foldable has gotten the most significant changes. The two new cameras can't be understated, especially on a phone that caters towards more fashion-conscious and social-friendly buyers. I really love that by using the same sensors used in the S24, Samsung is bringing more parity between its traditional candy bar-style handsets and its most compact foldable.  On top of that, there's a new auto-framing mode that allows you to prop the phone up on a flat surface and it can zoom in and out depending on how many people are in view or how far you move away. However, during our demo, I did notice that it took a second or two for the viewfinder to adjust, so you will need a bit of patience. Meanwhile, on the Z Flip's outside screen, Samsung has increased the number of widgets you can see on a single page to four while also adding support for a wider range of widget sizes and functions. This makes it even easier to check apps or launch timers without needing to open the phone, which is great for general usability. There are also new interactive wallpapers that you can use as fun timewasters. When it comes to AI, in addition to existing features like browsing assist, dictation and Circle to Search, there's a new on-device texting feature that will read up to seven previous messages to provide you with more useful and contextual smart replies. The idea is that if you're on the go, you can more accurately respond to friends and family without needing to type things out yourself. And even though the Z Flip 6 has a much smaller exterior display than the Z Fold 6, Samsung also included the ability to do multi-screen real-time translation. This allows you to face the cover display towards someone else, so they can see messages translated in their language while you see their responses in yours. Then, when you factor in significantly more base RAM, a larger 4,000mAh battery, a brighter main display and the new Z Assurance program, it really feels like Samsung is eliminating a lot of the shortcomings of the Z Flip when compared to the standard S24. That means people who want a truly compact device don't need to make any compromise, potentially opening up the Z Flip to a much larger audience. The Z Flip 6 is also getting a vapor chamber for the first time to help provide better sustained performance. And if that's not enough, Samsung has a huge array of accessories including new cases with built-in LED lighting, you know, in case your foldable phone wasn't drawing enough attention. Z Fold 6 impressions: Sharper and sleeker Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget With an extra generation under its belt, you could argue that the Z Fold 6 didn't need as many upgrades as the Flip and Samsung seemingly agrees. There's not much change in terms of memory, storage capacity or general design. That said, the switch to a new dual-rail hinge and the use of Samsung's enhanced Armor Aluminum means that the Z Fold 6 now only weighs 239 grams (8.43 ounces). That's 14 grams lighter than last year's model and only a few grams heavier than the S24 Ultra. That might not sound like a lot, but its something you notice immediately as soon as you pick it up. Furthermore, while the Z Fold 6's main screen is staying pat at 7.6 inches across, it's actually around 3mm wider and 1mm shorter to deliver a better viewing experience when watching movies. And it's a similar story for the exterior display, which is about 1mm wider. This change provides more room for the phone's onscreen keyboard and makes typing easier. Meanwhile, to better support gamers who often gravitate towards the Z Fold's roomy internal display, Samsung increased the size of its vapor chamber by 60 percent to ensure graphics remain smooth even during longer sessions. As for AI, Samsung is expanding the Z Fold 6's toolkit with a few new features including dual-screen translation and translation overlay, the latter of which can change words in place instead of spitting things out into a big blob of unformatted text. On the more fun (but frivolous) side of things, the new Portrait Studio feature allows you to generate a stylized image (comic, watercolor, 3D cartoon, etc.) from an existing shoot. Alternatively, the Sketch to Image tool allows you to doodle a rough drawing of an object on top of a photo (like a crown or sunglasses) before generating a more realistic replacement using on-device processing. The results were surprisingly lifelike, though I'm not sure how useful it is aside from possibly pranking your friends. My concern with the Z Fold 6 is that while it still feels very much like a flagship foldable thanks to brighter screens (2,600 nit peaks for both), a lighter design and an upgraded processor, there are a handful of long-awaited features we still didn't get. This includes things like a built-in stylus and S-Pen slot and better main and telephoto cameras. With the Pixel Fold, Google proved that big flexible phones don't need to be saddled with downgraded photography. Samsung also hasn't made any changes to the under-display camera beneath the Fold's main screen. But my biggest gripe is that both Z Fold and Z Flip 6 cost $100 more than last year's phones. Price has long been the biggest barrier to entry for people curious about foldables, which goes double for premium models like the Fold that go for just shy of $2,000. And after five generations, I was really hoping to see Samsung leverage its scale to deliver a more affordable big-screen option. An example of Samsung's new AI-powered Portrait Studio feature.Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget The Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Z Flip 6 will be available for pre-order today starting at $1,900 and $1,100 respectively, with official sales beginning on July 24. The Z Fold 6 will be available in three main colors: Silver Shadow, pink and navy, with two additional colors (Crafted black and white) available exclusively from Samsung. The Z Flip 6 will be available in four main colors: Silver Shadow, yellow, blue and mint with Crafted Black, white and peach variants only available on Samsung.com. Catch up on all the news from Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked 2024 here!This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-galaxy-z-fold-6-and-z-flip-6-brighter-lighter-and-faster-but-is-that-enough-130027947.html?src=rss
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