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    Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: stick or fold?

    (Image credit: Samsung)

    Samsung currently has two premium flagship phones on its roster, both offering cutting-edge features for a four-figure price. So which is better – the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra?

    For arguably the first time, Samsung is offering genuine differentiation between its two flagship options. That’s quite exciting.

    Really, this is a clash of approaches. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra represents the pinnacle of established smartphone design, while the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an impressive glimpse at where the smartphone might go next.

    So, which is the better buy?

    Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra price and availability 

    The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 landed on August 27, 2021 in the US and UK, while Australia will see it appear on September 10. Prices start at $1,799 / £1,599 / AU$2,499 for the 256GB model, while $1,899 / £1,699 / AU$2,649 gets you 512GB of storage.

    The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra hit shops on January 29, 2021. Prices start at $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,849 for the 128GB model. The 256GB model costs $200 / £200 / AU$300 more, and the 512GB model bumps that price up by the same amount.

    This is one of the very rare comparison cases where the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes in cheaper of the two – and by several hundred dollars / pounds at that.

    Design

    Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra is a decidedly traditional smartphone, albeit a particularly handsome one, with a stealthy matte finish and a distinctive swooping camera module. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, on the other hand, is a third-generation device, yet it still looks and handles like few other phones on the market.

    The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a large smartphone at 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm, and heavy too at 229g for the mmWave model and 227g for the Sub6 model. Neither is as heavy as the Galaxy Z Fold 3, mind, which weighs in at a formidable 271g.

    The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a much squarer 158.2 x 128.1mm device, and it’s also more slender at 6.4mm. Those proportions speak to the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s core feature – the ability to fold out from a more normally proportioned (albeit thicker) smartphone into a mini-tablet form factor.

    This is a much tougher, tighter design than previous Fold devices, offering a solid hinge mechanism and an IPX8 rating. The latter provides the first case of water-resistance in a foldable, although you still don’t get proper dust-resistance.

    The Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t have any such problems with moving parts, boasting a full IP68 rating. It’s an altogether tougher, more road-tested design.

    Both phones use premium materials, with Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back and aluminum frames. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 spoils the premium feel ever so slightly with a plastic display cover, however.

    Display

    Hand in hand with those contrasting designs come contrasting displays.

    The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra screen is just about the best in the business. It’s one of the biggest at 6.8 inches, one of the brightest at 1500 nits, it has one of the sharpest 1440 x 3200 (aka QHD) resolutions, and it can refresh at 120Hz.

    But the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a different kettle of fish altogether. For one thing, it packs two displays – and the main one is something special.

    Once unfurled, you get a 7.6-inch Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 1768 x 2208 resolution. That’s much less pixel-packed than the Galaxy S21 Ultra equivalent, but it’s also way bigger. You get the same 120Hz refresh rate, too.

    Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

    Together with a 24.5:9 aspect ratio, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has become our go-to device for reading ebooks and surfing the web on a phone, while it also makes spreadsheet work feasible. It presents a far better experience for gaming, too, as your fingers don’t cover so much of the screen.

    The only downside is the crease down its middle, although an in-display selfie camera means that it doesn’t have the invasive hole-punch notch of the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

    When the Fold 3 is closed, you have a 6.2-inch AMOLED Cover Display to call upon. It’s a fine display in its own right, with a 832 x 2268 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate of its own.

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