Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Google Pixel Fold: We have a clear winner

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Google Pixel Fold: We have a clear winner

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Google Pixel Fold are the two large foldable phone of choice for Americans, and each has clear pros and cons.

  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

    The better all around foldable

    The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a further refined version of the existing formula, with a new hinge that allows the phone to fold flat (finally). While it’s still probably the most well-rounded foldable, its hardware is beginning to feel dated. 

    Pros

    • More capable processor than the Tensor G2
    • Better, brighter screens than Pixel Fold’s
    • Sturdier hinge that can open and close entirely flat

    Cons

    • Thicker than Pixel Fold but with a smaller battery
    • No periscope zoom lens
    • Outer screen may be too narrow for some

  • The back of the Pixel Fold

    Google Pixel Fold

    Best foldable camera system

    The Google Pixel Fold is a sleeker looking foldable than the Fold 5, and its cameras may be the best in any foldable phone right now. But the Google Tensor G2 chip runs warm often here, and it’s among the heaviest foldable phone of them all. 

    Pros

    • Wider outside screen easier to use when folded
    • Thinner than Fold 5
    • Superior camera system than Fold 5

    Cons

    • Tensor G2 runs warm, resulting in minor performance issues
    • Heavier than Fold 5 by quite a bit
    • Can’t open apps in floating window

The debut of the Google Pixel Fold earlier this year was an important event in the mobile world. It not only marked the occasion of the Android maker officially embracing the foldable form factor, but the Pixel Fold also marks the end of Samsung’s complete monopoly on the foldable scene in the West. While we like the Google Pixel Fold a lot, how does it stack up against Samsung’s just-released Z Fold 5? I’ve used both foldable phones heavily for at least a month each, and I think each foldable has clear advantages over the other. However, there is one overall winner, and it’s an obvious one.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Google Pixel Fold: Price, availability, specs

Both phones are officially available now, but one phone has much wider availability. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 can be found at practically every retailer that sells mobile devices around the world, while the Pixel Fold is limited to four countries: the U.S., the U.K., Japan, and Germany.

If you’re in the U.S., you’ll be able to get either phone on all major carriers as well as Best Buy, Amazon, and their respective online stores. Both devices are priced at the same $1,800 mark for 256GB of storage. The Z Fold 5 has more active deals right now, and Samsung’s trade-in deals seem a bit better than Google’s deals. But in terms of overall value, they are pretty equal.

  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Google Pixel Fold
    SoC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy (4nm) Tensor G2 with Titan M2 co-processor
    Display 7.6-inch AMOLED main screen, 6.2-inch AMOLED cover screen, both with 120Hz adaptative refresh rate Cover: 5.8-inch 2092x1080p OLED @120Hz Internal: 7.6-inch 2208x1840p OLED @120Hz
    RAM 12GB 12GB LPDDR5
    Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 256/512GB UFS 3.1
    Battery 4,400mAh dual battery 4,821mAh
    Ports USB-C USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2
    Operating System One UI 5.1.1 (Android 13) Android
    Front camera 10MP cover camera, 4MP under-display main screen camera 9.5MP f/2.2 outer dual PD selfie camera with fixed focus, 8MP f/2.0 inner selfie camera with fixed focus
    Rear cameras 12MP ultrawide, 50MP wide-angle, 10MP telephoto 48MP f/1.7 primary Quad PD with OIS+CLAF, 10.8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide with 121.1-degree FoV, 10.8MP f/3.05 5x telephoto with dual PDAF and Super Res Zoom up to 20x
    Connectivity SIM and eSIM 5G (mmWave+sub 6), Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, UWB
    Dimensions 6.1 x 2.64 x 0.53 inches folded, 6.1 x 5.11 x .24 inches unfolded Folded: 5.5×3.1×0.5 inches (139.7×79.5×12.1mm), Unfolded: 5.5×6.2×0.2 inches (139.7×158.8×5.8mm)
    Colors Icy Blue, Phantom Black, Cream, (Samsung exclusive: Gray, Blue) Obsidian, Porcelain
    Weight 8.92 ounces (252.88 grams) 10 ounces (283g)
    Charging Up to 50% in 30 minutes (25W wired), Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare 30W wired fast charging, Qi wireless charging
    IP Rating IPX8 IPX8
    Security Samsung Knox, Samsung Knox Vault Side-mounted fingerprint sensor, Face Unlock

Design and hardware

The Fold 5 and the Pixel Fold standing up

The Fold 5 (left) and the Pixel Fold (right)

Both foldables are book-like foldables from different philosophies. The Z Fold 5 starts out like a tall, narrow bar phone and opens up to a larger portrait screen. The Pixel Fold, meanwhile, takes on a Moleskin notebook-like form when folded and opens up to look like a, well, open notebook.

Which form factor is better is almost entirely personal preference. I have heard fans say they prefer Samsung’s approach because it’s easier to use one-handed when folded, and it played nicer with apps when unfolded. But I am partial to Pixel’s form because I find the Fold 5’s folded form too narrow to type on, and I have always had a soft spot for Moleskin notebooks.

Pixel Fold and Fold 5 screens

There are plenty of other areas where there are objectively clear winners and losers. The Fold 5’s screens are flat-out better than the Pixel Fold’s, especially the larger folding screen. Both phones have OLED displays on the front and inside with up to a 120Hz refresh rate, but the Z Fold 5 reaches a higher peak brightness — 1,750 nits vs 1,450 nits. The Pixel Fold’s screens aren’t bad per se – they can even be described as good in a vacuum — but its larger screen has a softer, almost plasticky coating compared to the Z Fold 5’s more glass-like feel.

The hinge is also a clear win for Samsung, as it’s much sturdier, can stay in place at virtually any angle, and opens and closes all the way with a satisfying snap. The Pixel Fold’s hinge doesn’t open all the way flat on some models and generally feels a bit less premium.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Google Pixel Fold 3

The Fold 5 (left) is thicker than the Pixel Fold (right).

But Google’s foldable is thinner, has a larger battery, and folds 100% flat. Samsung foldables previously left an awkward gap when closed, and even though the Fold 5 mostly fixes it, I’d say it’s still not a 100% even fold. And while I understand why Samsung is cautious with battery capacity, the 4,400mAh cell in the Fold 5 is small compared to every other large foldable on the market.

In terms of the brain, the Z Fold 5 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip, while the Pixel Fold is powered by the Tensor G2. The Snapdragon chip is a more capable and powerful chip if we’re going by raw horsepower, but Tensor G2 is custom-built to handle Google’s machine learning, so this area isn’t as black and white as benchmark numbers would suggest. Still, the Tensor G2 runs warm, even on thicker devices like the Pixel 7 Pro. The thinner Pixel Fold has less room for heat to dissipate, so thermal throttling is indeed an issue.

Both phones have an IPX8 water resistance rating, pack a triple camera system, and have great haptics and stereo speakers. Wireless charging is on board for both, but the Z Fold 5 supports dual physical SIM while the Pixel Fold supports only a single physical SIM. As a frequent traveler, having a dual physical SIM is more convenient.

Cameras

Fold 5 (left) and Pixel Fold (right) standing up side by side

The Z Fold 5’s main camera system consists of a 50MP, f/1.8 main camera, a 12MP f/2.0 ultrawide, and a 10MP f/2.2 telephoto zoom lens that can do 3X optical zoom. The Pixel Fold, meanwhile, offers a 48MP main camera with f/1.7 aperture, 11MP ultrawide, and 11MP periscope zoom lens that can do 5X zoom. The image sensor sizes of Google’s rear-facing cameras are all relatively smaller compared to the Z Fold 5’s cameras, particularly the main camera, which sees Samsung take a 1/1.57-inch edge to the Pixel main camera’s 1/2-inch sensor.

This means Samsung’s hardware is physically able to take in more light and image information. However, Google, of course, is counting on an ace up its sleeve. The Tensor G2 was built to handle Google’s machine learning tasks, including and perhaps especially computational photography. As a result, I generally prefer photos captured by the Pixel Fold. It has that Pixel color science that I like, and the Pixel Fold handles exposure almost brilliantly in every case, rarely ever blowing out lights or underexposing.

But color science and HDR exposure are all software smarts. In terms of raw hardware, the Pixel Fold’s tiny sensors result in photos that do not hold up if you zoom in at all. Every Pixel Fold image is slightly soft on details if you blow up the image and examine it. Of course, most smartphone users won’t need to do that. We are at an age where most photos are consumed via social media on phone screens, and for that purpose, Pixel Fold’s images are perfectly fine. It’s only if you move them to a larger screen like a monitor that you’ll notice the lack of details, especially compared to the Z Fold 5’s photos.

The Z Fold 5’s cameras are also very good in their own right and, in some areas, beat the Pixel objectively. For example, Google’s cameras rely very heavily on night mode in low-light situations, while the Fold 5 can sometimes just snap the shot. This means if you’re trying to shoot action scenes in low light, the Pixel Fold will fall short. I think Samsung’s 3x telephoto lens is also very, very good and keeps up with the Pixel Fold’s 5x zoom.

pixel-fold-xda01178

The selfie camera situation is a virtual tie to my eyes. Both phones have two selfie cameras, and they can capture selfies perfectly fine. Overall, I’d give the slight edge to the Pixel Fold for the full camera experience, even accounting for the fact Google’s photos don’t hold up as well on screens larger than 11 inches.

Software

Pixel Fold refusing to open Twitter full-screen

Pixel Fold refusing to open Twitter full-screen, while the Fold 5 will do it. 

Both phones run Android 13 but with different UX elements. The Pixel Fold’s software is perhaps the “official” Android software, and while I like it a lot, I prefer Samsung’s One UI more, mainly because the latter has much better multitasking. On the Pixel Fold, you can only run two apps at once in split-screen mode, but on the Z Fold 5, you can run up to three apps in split-screen mode. Better yet, you can launch apps in resizable window mode, which supports up to five apps at once. I know, I know, five apps at once is overkill on a tablet screen, but being able to run apps in floating windows that are resizable is a superior way to multitask than being locked to a split-screen grid.

The Fold 5 also supports Samsung DeX, which can output a Windows-like sandbox UI to external screens wired or wirelessly. The Pixel Fold can do no such thing. In fact, the Pixel Fold’s USB-C port can’t even output the display at all. Finally, while both phones can display a persistent dock that allows quick app switching, I find One UI’s take to be superior; it’s smaller, more responsive, and displays more apps at once, so I can, in theory, quickly cycle through six or seven apps.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5's software

Moving away from multitasking, the Pixel Fold works well as a mini tablet. I like that the Pixel Fold is fully aware of which apps aren’t optimized for widescreen and will thus force it to open in portrait form with pillar-boxing filling out the dead space. It’s an inelegant solution for sure, but still better than letting the app open in full screen and looking ridiculous.

The Pixel Fold, being Google’s baby, also has more optimized Google apps that are designed to display on the wider screen. But the Z Fold 5 has a lot of customization, too, including the ability to turn the bottom half of the screen into a virtual trackpad for some games or videos.

Performance

samsung-unpacked-2023-fold-5-flip-5-watch-6-tab-s903528

As mentioned earlier, the Z Fold 5’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip has more raw power than the Tensor G2, especially in GPU tasks. So whether you’re playing games or editing video, the Fold 5 is more capable. This is particularly noticeable when putting together an Instagram Reel, which requires stringing together a series of short video clips within the Instagram app. The Pixel Fold really struggles with the task, often stuttering when I try to preview a clip or freezing for a few seconds before I can proceed with another action. I have no such issue doing the exact same thing on the Z Fold 5 or other Chinese foldables like the Xiaomi Mix Fold 3, for that matter.

While the Pixel Fold performs mostly fine, the Fold 5 takes the win as an overall performer simply because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip is more efficient than the Tensor G2.

To be clear, I can still make Instagram Reels on the Pixel Fold, it’s just a slower and more tedious process. The problem is Tensor G2, which runs warm, and when the chip gets too hot, it throttles performance. If you’re not a creative type who fiddles with videos at all on the phone or a heavy gamer, then you may not encounter any issues with the Pixel Fold. The phone can certainly handle casual smartphone tasks without issues. But do anything more, like filming a 20-second clip and then sending it over Slack or loading photos from Adobe Lightroom, you’ll notice the Tensor G2 runs warm.

The Fold 5 has no such problems, it zips through all the tasks I mentioned above. However, the Pixel Fold has many of the smart Pixel features that we love, such as the ability to actively identify music playing near the phone or its Magic Eraser, which can remove people from photos. I also like the context-aware homescreen widget that will show me upcoming flight information (provided I’m using Gmail and the airline has sent a confirmation email).

casetify-pixel-fold-xda-case02581

I also think Google’s on-device voice dictation is the best in the industry and actively changes how I use a phone. When I’m on a Pixel, I find that I use my voice to type a lot more than I normally would because it’s so reliable.

The Pixel Fold also takes the win in battery life, as it can consistently last through a full day of heavy use, while the Fold 5 can’t get to the finish line as consistently. For reference, a “heavy day” for me is using the phone actively to take a lot of photos and videos and editing them during a 12-13-hour period. While the Pixel Fold performs mostly fine, the Z Fold 5 takes the win as an overall performer simply because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip is more efficient than the Tensor G2. Ironically, the reason the Tensor G2 suffers from thermal issues is because it’s based on Samsung’s Exynos architecture.

Which foldable phone is right for you?

For the majority of people, the Z Fold 5 is the runaway winner. It has a more capable and efficient SoC, better displays, and better software for productivity. Plus, for some readers outside the U.S., they may not even be able to buy the Pixel Fold without jumping through hoops, while the Fold 5 is likely available for purchase right away.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Most well-rounded

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is probably the most well-rounded foldable right now, thanks to its 7.6-inch main screen and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor.You can score up to $1,000 off with trade-ins at Samsung.com.

But with that said, I still hold a soft spot for the Pixel Fold due to my personal subjective feelings. I love that Pixel Fold opens up like a small notebook, I like the Pixel Fold’s camera color science, and small touches like the phone actively identifying a cool song I just heard at the bar add to the overall Pixel experience. I actually prefer using the Pixel Fold over the Fold 5 due to these things. Sometimes a phone is more than raw silicon power or specs, but rather how it makes you feel.

Porcelain Google Pixel Fold on transparent background.

Google Pixel Fold

For Google fans

The Pixel Fold is rougher around the edges but has a lot of compelling features too, and it works well for photography thanks to the Tensor G2 chip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *