For more than a decade I’ve been enthralled by the potential of Android mobile devices. From the days of emulated NES games, to the rise of the most popular and profitable platform in the gaming industry today, mobile gaming has advanced in many ways. To this day, however, there are pitfalls that have prevented me from utilizing mobile as my primary gaming device. Whether the hardware just wasn’t up to snuff, the games were too shallow, or even in the event that you were able to get good title on mobile, the screens were far too small to hold and play games comfortably, mobile phones were always a poor substitute for more gamer-focused handhelds like the Nintendo Switch and the new(er) Steam Deck.
All of these pitfalls are what drove me to purchase the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Advertised as a premiere productivity powerhouse, the specs and features enticed me to shell out ample funds, and make this enormous foldable my new daily-driver. As we ease into my experience, I want to be clear that this is not a review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. As the phone has been out several months now, and plenty of reviewers have taken a hard look at all of its features, including how gamers perform. Yet, as an MMORPG gamer, and a gamer of high-quality RPGs as a whole, I have been looking for a phone that could bridge the gap between the PC titles I’ve come to love, and the flexibility of a mobile device. Stated plainly, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has become that bridge, but is it worth the hassle in comparison to other options, such as the Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Specifications at a Glance:
- 7.6” QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (21.6:18)
- 2176 x 1812
- 374 ppi
- HDR10+ certified
- Up to 120Hz refresh rate
- 6.2” HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (23.1:9)
- 2316 x 904
- 402 ppi
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 4nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 3.18 Ghz (Maximum Clock Speed)
- 12GB RAM (UFS 3.1)
Network & Connectivity
- 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6/mmWave
- Enhanced 4x4 MIMO, 7CA, LAA, LTE Cat.20
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, HE160, MIMO, 1024-QAM
- Bluetooth® v 5.2, USB type-C, NFC, Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou)
(For Full Specs See Samsung Official Site)
How Does the Fold 4 Stack Up to the Competition?
Mobile gaming is hot, certainly, but there have been numerous hardware manufacturers that have wanted to bring complete, PC and Console games to a mobile audience. The Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch both come to mind when you take into account more of a traditional gaming feel on a handheld device. The Fold 4 is a very different animal when you compare these devices and that’s due to the fact that the Fold 4 is a multi-faceted tool, made to handle everything your social life, work life, and recreational life has to offer in one sleek package. The Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch are both primarily gaming devices, and they’re built with that in mind.
Both the Switch and Steam Deck are also built and priced accordingly as gaming handhelds. The Steam Deck, for instance, boasts a powerful custom build AMD APU, more RAM than the Fold 4, and dedicated hardware buttons. However, the Steam Deck’s default resolution is 1280x800, with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. By comparison, the main screen for the Fold 4 runs at a 2176 x 1812 resolution and a maximum refresh rate of 120hz. The Steam Deck also has a 7-inch diagonal screen size, which is the same size as the Nintendo Switch OLED model. Both fall short of the Fold 4’s larger main screen at 7.6 inches.
Of course, it’s hard to compare apples to apples, as even the most expensive models of both handheld consoles are half the price of the Fold 4. Both handhelds also have their own libraries where most games are built to work within the framework of those consoles out of the box. Steam, of course, has the largest library of some of the best games the PC has to offer, while Nintendo’s first-party titles like Super Smash Brothers and the Legend of Zelda series have become instant classics time and again. With such stiff competition, how could the Fold 4 stack up at all?
Are Games Made for Mobile Any Better?
If you have a mobile phone right now, you have hundreds of thousands of games available at your fingertips. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to play a dozen of them. Generally, the games I’ve come to play on mobile have been very limited. Mobile games do have a slight advantage when played on the Fold 4 for several reasons. Mobile games are streamlined in a way that they generally work well without fiddling with your settings. They also scale extraordinarily well whether you’re playing on a 5-inch cell phone, or a 10-inch tablet. The Fold 4 is unique in that there are multiple ways you can actually play your games.
The cover screen of the Fold 4 is relatively small and skinny. At 6.2 inches tall, and 2.6 inches wide, you don’t really have a lot of viewable space to play most games, but they still run more than adequately, without having to unfold to the full 7.6 diagonal main screen. I did, at times, utilize the small screen for certain mobile games when I was too lazy to open the screen all the way, or the game played better on a smaller screen. Obviously, the main draw for a device like this is to make use of the nearly 8-inches of visual real estate of the main screen, and while it does provide ample space for playing games, there are quite a few pitfalls related to how some games display their controls.
Recently I did a review of Tower of Fantasy which is a game that I’ve actually come to enjoy. Playing Tower of Fantasy on the Fold 4 is similar to when I played it on my Note 20, save for a few important distinctions. The larger screen does allow me to see more of the world around me on the fold, over the smaller devices. The main issue, however, is that the controls don’t always display properly. Tower of Fantasy allows me to change the position of some of the on-screen buttons, but fidgeting with the layout doesn’t always yield the exact results I want. Virtual buttons are somewhat of a pet-peeve of mine to begin with, but it gets compounded when I can’t place the buttons exactly where I want, which was not an issue on screens that more easily conformed to a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Fold 4, on the other hand, provides a 21.6:18 aspect ratio, which makes it difficult for a lot of games to actually conform on-screen controls properly.
Another mobile game I tested was Albion Online. My test of Albion actually went quite a bit more smoothly, and the larger screen size gave me a much broader top-down view. Granted, there were far more people in the main hubs, and my screen was still inundated by players, but the virtual control scheme worked like a charm, and with my hands at the bottom of the immense screen I was able to see what was going on more easily. Albion was far more enjoyable to play on the Fold 4 screen than on the smaller phone screens I have used before. Mobile design comfort does play a big part. Pokémon Go was a major outlier where I could not play the game utilizing the main screen, and found it far easier to play utilizing the smaller cover screen. That way, I was able to tap with one hand, and throw my poke balls without sliding my finger up this monstrous screen every time I tried to catch a Charmander.
Getting By with a Little Help from My Friends
Thus far, I’ve talked about playing mobile games on a mobile phone, and I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that my experience was only marginally better. Where the Fold 4 really shines though, is in its versatility as a Cloud PC conduit. Many people don’t want to buy a phone for nearly $1800.00 USD and then want to shell out for cloud services and peripherals to make their gaming experience worthwhile, and that’s completely understandable. For me, however, I already subscriber to numerous Cloud gaming subscriptions like GeForce Now and Amazon Luna, and I’ve made use of Xbox Gamepass and aspects of their Cloud Streaming before, so these were not additional costs I incurred. What I did need to buy, however, was a way to realistically play these games, which meant I had to find a mobile controller that could actually work with such a large screen.
I settled on the PowerA MOGA XP7-X Bluetooth controller. It was the only controller that had the form factor that I was looking for, that could actually fit a nearly 8-inch screen. The XP7-X was built for cloud gaming, and while it was a little pricey, it has turned out to be one of the better accessories for my phone. It’s lightweight, and easy to carry, and when I’m ready to cloud stream my favorite games, I simply place the phone in the controller, turn it on, and Bluetooth takes care of the rest. I’ve been able to play many of my favorite games, including Cyberpunk 2077 on GeForce Now, and Fallout 76 on Xbox Cloud Gaming. Both run flawlessly on the Fold 4, and the ability to navigate through both the controller and touch makes the entire process feel much more intuitive. GeForce Now also syncs with my Steam Library, so I have access to many of my favorite Steam games, even if they don’t always conform to the PowerA Xbox Cloud controller.
Luckily, I also own a generic Bluetooth tablet keyboard and mouse. While it’s rare to want to carry those peripherals around, I have used them on occasion in coordination with my Fold 4 to play games like New World and Guild Wars 2 while streaming through GeForce Now. New World is somewhat frustrating, as there is some controller support for the game, but I often have to fiddle with it if I intend to play it with the PowerA XP7-X. However, when I utilize the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, everything works as if I were on a laptop, which begs the question, if you intend to play PC games, and lug around extra peripherals, why wouldn’t you invest in a laptop?
I think the Fold 4 has become an adequate middle ground for me. With the Fold 4, I’m able to stream games through a 5G network or WiFI, and the XP7-X is small enough that I can fit it in the pocket of my cargo shorts, or in a small backpack. The benefits of having a versatile screen at the palm of my hand has been a major boon to me as a gamer. Not only do most mobile games feel better on the larger screen, I’m able to utilize the cover screen for games that can be played with one hand, like Pokemon Go. Meanwhile, I don’t have to sacrifice my eyesight if I want to play PC games at the palm of my hand, as the screen is larger than both handheld competitors, the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck. Finally, the Fold 4 is pocket sized, unlike a laptop or a tablet, so I have my favorite MMORPGs right there in my pocket, no matter when I want to play.
It’s Not for Everyone, Yet
Nobody knows whether foldables will take hold as the dominant form factor in the future. Samsung is already working on “rollable” displays, and the crease in the middle of the Fold 4 can be annoying at times, even though you can’t really see it when you’re looking straight at the screen instead of from an angle. The price to make my current setup work is also way out of the price range for most gamers. I consider myself an enthusiast, so if I want to play Fallout 76 while I’m waiting for my takeout order, it makes sense for me to do so. I don’t see many gamers wanting to drop nearly $2000.00 on a phone, various cloud streaming services, and a controller or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to make the dream of big-screen PC gaming a reality when they can spend less than $600.00 on a Steam Deck for their top-of-the-line model.
But if you’re like me, and you are in the market for a foldable phone, take heed that the Fold 4 has potential to be a mobile and cloud gaming powerhouse. If Samsung’s flagship foldable is any glimpse to what the future holds for cloud-gaming on the go, the future for MMORPG’s and RPGs is looking very bright.