The Galaxy Z Fold 4 isn’t just a good phone — it’s also my favorite computer

Samsung is good at making some of the best phones money can buy. Samsung also does a terrible job marketing these great phones. In fact, the company is crap at it. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the best example of Samsung’s failure to tell a great story around an attractive product. Now, I’ve never recommended that a person drop $1,799 on a smartphone unless that person happens to be an enthusiast with deep pockets. I know several such people. But almost every time I see them playing with a Samsung foldable device, I feel like screaming “you’re holding it wrong,” sort of like the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

But I remember telling a few proud Galaxy Z Fold 4 owners that “you’re not pushing hard enough.” The Z Fold 4’s folding tricks and hidden selfie camera are great, but the aspect that really stands out to me is the phone’s ability to turn into a great secondary display and full computing machine that can run its own peripherals. For this reason, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has become one of my favorite computers.

Goodbye, distractions

Running mobile apps on a PC is a hugely underrated convenience. Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

I’m not a fan of putting my phone on Do Not Disturb while I’m working, mostly out of fear that I’ll miss a hot Twitter tidbit that might turn into breaking news, or that I’ll miss a delivery call and starve. The same applies to important calls and SMS control codes.

For me, the best way forward was the Link to Windows system, which connects the Galaxy Fold 4 to my computer using the Phone Link app. Once connected, I can answer my calls directly from my Windows PC, check messages and app notifications without having to pick up my phone every time the alert tone sounds.

Pairing happens wirelessly, which is quite convenient. Another bonus is the app’s interface. As soon as you open an app from the virtualized Android UI ported from your phone to your computer, the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s screen goes blank.

So if I launch the mobile version of Twitter in the Phone Link app on my computer, I no longer have to check what’s going on in the notification shade on my phone, because it’s a blank slate. Likewise, I can run Instagram, WhatsApp, or any other app in a vertical window like a phone on my computer and keep track of all conversations without my phone getting in the way.

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Plus, there are some sweet bonuses. For example, all of my phone notifications are neatly arranged inside an expandable window in the Windows 11 footer. Second, I no longer have to mess with nearby sharing, Bluetooth, or emailing myself photos if I want to access media stored on my phone.

galaxy-fold-4-gallery-on-pc.jpg?fit=720%2C480&p=1Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

The Phone Link app allows me to copy images stored in my phone’s gallery to my computer’s clipboard and paste them into the editing app of my choice. All this happens without the need for me to touch the Galaxy Z Fold 4 lying on the workstation.

Of course, it’s not perfect. You can’t fully resize the app window on a PC because it’s locked to the same portrait aspect ratio as the phone’s flip screen. In hindsight, it’s probably for the best. You don’t want to see Twitter’s mobile UI stretched into a square window on your laptop. It would look terrible. I also remember not too long ago scrolling past Instagram’s unoptimized, heavily stretched version on the inner screen of the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It was the worst Instagram experience I’ve ever had. Scaling that horror to a 16-inch laptop screen or a beautiful 32-inch curved monitor would be a nightmare.

I just wish Samsung (and Microsoft) would fix the latency issues for the phone to PC interface.

A sleek secondary display for your computer

Windows 11 on Galaxy Z Fold 4Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

Isn’t the whole point of turning on Do Not Disturb to avoid disturbing your phone? That’s a valid question. As such, using the Link to Windows feature defeats the entire purpose, as you still have all your mobile apps available, albeit on a much larger screen.

This is where the Smart View feature comes to the rescue. It’s basically built to stream your media to a larger screen like a TV, but it has a few hidden tricks up its sleeve. One of them is the Second Screen, which is hidden in the Smart View developer settings and must be enabled manually by tapping the “about” page 10 times.

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Once activated, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 turns into a secondary display for your Windows PC. The whole system works the same way a secondary monitor works when connected to a computer, but without any wiring issues. AND Ctrl + K command pulls up a broadcast menu, where you select your phone and the Windows desktop appears on the Galaxy Fold 4’s screen.

Running YouTube on Galaxy Z Fold 4.Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

Now, I wouldn’t advise you to leave your computing duties to the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s external display. Not because it can’t handle the processing load of a desktop-class app, but because the internal 7.6-inch foldable display is too small for hardcore computing. Try running something like Excel or Asana and you will really you have to close your eyes.

I overcame the limitation in two ways. First, I use a stand with an extended arm that puts the Galaxy Z Fold 4 much closer to my eyes. That way, I can keep an eye on basic communication apps like Teams and Slack without having to rely on them. Second, when it’s not working, I mainly use it to control music playback on Spotify and monitor Discord Chat while playing games.

The only downside is that I can’t get rid of the letters despite experimenting with the screen scaling and resolution numbers while using the Galaxy Z Fold 4 as a secondary display. And once again, there’s a noticeable lag, which is likely due to the wireless nature of the pairing and the display’s refresh rate mismatch.

Switch to a mobile device on a desktop computer

Samsung DeX mode.Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

Over the past few months, I’ve been using tablets extensively as my primary computing machine, and I’ve found the Android experience on the Galaxy Tab S8 to be more user-friendly than iPadOS. So it was natural for me to push DeX onto a curved 144Hz gaming monitor, and the experience did not disappoint.

All I needed was a USB-C cable to connect the Galaxy Z Fold 4 to the monitor, and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip inside did the rest without breaking a sweat. I comfortably ran more than a half-dozen apps — including Chrome — with three of them always on the screen split into windows of the same size.

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I worked for three days using the Galaxy Z Fold 4 as a computer running its own external monitor and I didn’t go crazy. When I told my sister, an AI research candidate, that my extremely cluttered screen was running the Galaxy Z Fold via a USB-C cable, she was pleasantly surprised by the phone’s prowess.

Now I love my app windows and keep them nicely spread out across the screen. Surprisingly, DeX offers even more window management tricks than Windows 11. For example, you can stack app windows and adjust their transparency, and even create app pairs for quick access to your work/play app duo.

Using DeX mode on a Windows computer.Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

All my notifications on the phone are easily accessible, as well as quick access buttons to use the screen recording tool, quick action switches and more. Additionally, most Windows shortcuts work well on DeX.

I also really like the fact that I didn’t have to struggle with switching the sound with the Bluetooth headphones. Again, while my DeX-powered monitor was dedicated to hard work, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 was used to find new memes on Reddit, all for research purposes. I will discuss this alleged interference with my editor separately.

This is one serious workhorse

link-to-windows-in-action.jpg?fit=720%2C480&p=1Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

At the end of the day, if you’ve decided to spend $1,700 or more on Samsung’s hybrid phone and tablet, go ahead. But just be careful not to leave it sitting idle on your desk. Instead, push this foldable device because it’s so much more than just a phone.

More precisely, it is an excellent secondary screen with a powerful processor. It is a machine that offers the ability to run two and a half operating systems: Windows 11, Android and DeX. I’ve used the Galaxy Z Fold 4 extensively, less as a phone and more as a mini-tablet that’s also the most versatile computing machine I’ve ever used.

However, here are some tips. If you plan to push your Galaxy Fold 4 in the same way as described above, try using a docking station and wired peripherals. Initially I experimented with wireless keyboards and mouse but I noticed some lag. However, the transition to wired peripherals eased the situation.

And, Samsung? I would have appreciated more detailed brightness control in screen mirroring mode for DeX. Thank you!

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