Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip impresses with a glass display, smooth hinge and flagship specs

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu February 13, 2020

Samsung's second foldable is the Galaxy Z Flip, which switches from a horizontal fold to a vertical one. Rather than expanding from a normal-sized smartphone into a tablet, the Z Flip starts compact (about half the size of an average smartphone) and expands into a 6.7-inch smartphone. And those bezels are pretty thin.

The big news with the Galaxy Z Flip? The 6.7-inch display is made from an ultrathin glass. It has flagship specs, like 256GB of storage, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor and 8GB of RAM. Its hinge has an extra protective layer and can lock at a right angle.

If you're sold on the Galaxy Z Flip, it launches February 14 for $1,380 in Mirror Black and Mirror Purple. Samsung, AT&T, Sprint and BestBuy will all be taking orders. Globally, the Z Flip is also launching in Mirror Gold, but all models will be in limited quantities.

If you're still contemplating the Z Flip, here's my hands-on.

I spent about 30 minutes with the Galaxy Z Flip on Tuesday, along with extra time with it here and there. It feels like the best foldable yet, the most put-together, both on the inside and out. The purple color looks much better than black, and there is a big difference between a plastic display and a glass one, even if it doesn't remove the crease.

Hardware and software

Unlike other foldables, namely the razr from Motorola, the Z Flip is a flagship when it comes to specs.

It runs Android 10.0 with a Samsung user interface. Plus, Samsung worked with Google to develop custom software that will eventually roll out to other foldables. It creates unique experiences on the Z Flip, since you can rest it with the bottom half sitting flat on a surface and the top half facing you.

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor powers the software and is paired with 8GB of RAM. There's also 256GB of storage inside, but no micro SD card slot. The Z Flip has a 3,300-mAh battery that's not removable and is split between the two halves.

I felt it to be a seamless experience. There weren't any big slowdowns and the system was quite responsive. I especially liked the different modes that made optimal use of the top and bottom halves when it was set at a right angle. For instance, when browsing photos, you can keep the photo at the top and use the bottom almost as a control. That allows you to swipe forward or backward to scroll through a series of photos or even high-speed scrub in a video.

When folded, the Z Flip can fit quite comfortably in the palm of your hand and is only 17.3 millimeters (0.68 inches) thick. It's also lighter than the razr at 183 grams versus 205 grams.

The front of the Z Flip also has a small screen in the bottom left corner that is just a 1.1-inch Super AMOLED display. It's meant to be used for light information like checking the time and notifications or as a viewfinder for selfies. You just double-tap the power button to engage this mode and hit the volume rocker to snap a shot. It was easy to use, but the front display feels like the world's smallest viewfinder. It can be tough to set the shot, but this will certainly be fun in the real world.

You get a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens and a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens. Quality seems on par with other Samsung smartphones, and while these likely won't capture as crazy shots as the S20 family, this is certainly good. You can expect to see familiar camera modes; using the main cameras gets you a high-quality selfie. On the inside though, dead center at the top of the 6.7-inch display is a 10-megapixel selfie camera. It's essentially an Infinity-O style display on this ultrathin glass.

It feels like a normal display that can bend

I'm impressed that Samsung uses real glass on the Galaxy Z Flip. I could instantly notice a difference in the feel compared to the original Galaxy Fold or the Motorola razr that uses a plastic OLED (pOLED). The Z Flip doesn't feel nearly as malleable and seems more durable, which is a good feeling on any smartphone display. You don't feel the inner workings of the device, such as bumps or lumps on the screen. It's 6.7 inches of real glass and it presents a vibrant experience.

Specifically, it's a FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display set in a 21:9:9 ratio. It's quite tall and even wider than a typical smartphone. That means you'll be able to scroll through more on Instagram, as well as pack more on to any given window. Android with the Samsung user interface supports multitasking in multi-window. The display also packs 425 pixels per inch with a 2636x1080 resolution.

And yes, you can clearly see the crease on the display, but it doesn't seem nearly as distracting as the one on the Galaxy Fold. Touch also fully works over that point, so I don't think this will be a pain point for many.

Simply put, Samsung is impressive with a glass display on a foldable phone. It's really what all foldables should have.

The hinge

Make no mistake, the original Galaxy Fold had its fair share of problems before a successful launch last year. And it's clear that Samsung has been improving and wants to avoid other issues. It's fair to say that foldables are an area of investment for the company.

The Galaxy Z Flip uses a hideaway hinge that has three core positions: folded, unfolded and a half fold. The latter presents the Z Flip almost in a tabletop mode with the bottom half flat on a surface and the top half standing up. From the side, it looks like a right angle, and the phone is essentially standing up by itself. It also allows for a number of new features, like the Z Flip being its own tripod for shooting time-lapse video or extreme HDR shots, as well as being perfect for a hands-free selfie or for video calls.

I like the new halfway mode and am eager to use it more, and I also found the hinge was smooth and responsive to how I moved it. You can easily use the Z Flip with one hand and flip it open with just a finger or two. Samsung also added an additional protective fiber layer to ensure dust, bag lint and pocket lint won't get inside, which should prevent instances of items getting under the display and causing bumps or lumps. Samsung put a lot of thought into this feature, and I'm looking forward to testing it.

But as far as first impressions go, the Galaxy Z Flip is an intriguing and exciting device. I'm digging this new form factor and am especially appreciative of the new places you can hold it. Plus, Samsung is providing a flagship-level device with build materials, the hinge, a glass display and hardware.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip will be available for $1,380 on February 14.

Stay tuned to CNN Underscored for full coverage of Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.