Motorola Z2 Force review

Motorola finally nails the modular phone concept

13 November 2017
by Stuff Staff

PRICE: US$735

The Moto Z2 Force 2 is here with its guaranteed shatter-resistant glass screen and even more MotoMods, including a 360-degree camera and a Game Pad. You’re going to pay a price for the mods, but it’s the first time we can actually say someone has done it right.

Every Android phone in 2017 is starting to look the same. In fact, they’ve been looking the same for the guts of two years now. The Moto Z2 Force is different and not just on the surface level.

The Moto Z2 Force is really thin, with a fast processor and great battery life. It can survive drops without shattering (within reason). The new dual rear cameras have some cool features we haven’t seen before. Motorola’s step-up sequel to the Moto Z2 has great features and solid design, but the competition it still ridiculously fierce – but they don’t have mods.

DESIGN & BUILD: MUCH OF THE SAME, AND THAT’S A GOOD THING

AT 6.1mm thick, this phone is thin. It also weighs in at just 145g – which is necessary when you consider the bulky weight of carrying around any mods with you.

If you’re familiar with the Z Force from last year, the design is almost identical. This is definitely not by accident as this year’s model not only supports a new range of MotoMods (see below) but is also compatible with the ones that came out with last year’s handset.

The aluminium body feels premium in your hand and adds a level of extra durability to the phone. It’s an attractive look, and it’s lost the rear glass inserts from last year that added nothing to the design.

The Moto Z2 Force has a very noticeable camera bump on the back but that becomes a non-issue once a MotoMod is attached. The lack of a 3.5mm jack is unfortunate but Lenovo bundles a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter in the box. Sadly, you don’t get full waterproofing here, just a simple splash-proof certification.

DISPLAY: SHATTERPROOF, BUT NOT SCRATCH FREE

The 5.5 inch AMOLED display is part and parcel of your premium Android phones today. It just might not look as pretty as your Galaxy S8 or LG G6 that have foregone the need of bezels.

Still, what makes this screen special is its Shattershield tech. Claiming to be completely shatterproof is almost the biggest selling point in itself in today’s clumsy customer market. That said, the screen is essentially protected by a thick layer of plastic and, while it does do its job of preventing the screen from shattering, it’s much more prone to scratches, nicks and dents – not exactly good for looking at.

CAMERA: GOOD ENOUGH FOR INSTAGRAM

Two 12-megapixel cameras on the back are Motorola’s first foray into dual camera territory, joining the iPhone 8 Plus, Samsung Note 8, OnePlus 5 et al. A few new features come aboard with them.

In a similar setup to the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, one of the two cameras is monochrome, while the other snapper shoots in colour. A truer black-and-white mode claims better black-and-white photos. And while shot did look great, we’ve never really had problems shooting black-and-white before with a filter so it might have been a bit superfluous.

More impressive is the camera’s  trick of mixing of black-and-white and colour shots, giving clear, bright images that while not up to the grade of a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or Pixel 2 are decent enough for government work.

Overall the quality of the camera is good, but as with many smartphones, lowlight performance still leaves a lot to be desired, and autofocus tends to have a mind of its own. It’s no substitute to using a proper DSLR, but will get you by in a pinch as good as any flagship from 2017.

PERFORMANCE: AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Skinny phones mean, sadly, thinner batteries – ergo less battery life throughout the day. At a 22% decrease in battery size compared to last years model, we’re a bit confused as to what Motorola’s thinking was on this. We just about managed to eek a day’s worth of life out of the Moto Z2 Force, but with any heavier usage than email and light web browsing you’d struggle without the help of the battery MotoMod.

Thankfully, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, an Adreno 540 graphics chip and 6GB of RAM, this phone is a proper powerhouse in use. From games to app switching, everything zips by and we experienced no major hiccups in our testing.

SOFTWARE AND OS: IT’S PRETTY MUCH STOCK ANDROID

While Motorola isn’t a Google company anymore, one of the best assets of the Z2 Force is that uses a very clean version of Android N with very few refinements, and the few ones that are present, we actually like. Hopefully we should see an update to Oreo in the coming weeks which should bump things up even further in terms of usability.

It’s the cleanest software experience you’ll find outside of a Pixel or a OnePlus 5. That’s the best compliment you can give a phone today.

MOTOMODS: I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

Want to give your Moto Z an ego boost? Tack on one of these magnetic modular backs.

Motorola provided us with three of their new generation MotoMods to play around with – the TurboPower Pack, the Moto Gamepad and the Moto 360 camera.

TurboPower Pack

This offers an additional 3,490mAh battery on top of the one already inside your Moto Z handset, and at 6.58mm it doesn’t add an excessive amount of bulk to the phone. But you will notice it’s there.

Moto Gamepad

Gaming on your mobile phone has never been perfect, but this little add on makes it that much more bearable. We’re still waiting on some updates, but this is a handy little addition to your gaming library when you’re on the go.

Moto 360 camera

As the name suggests – allows you to capture full 360 degree 4K video with 3D audio as well as ultra-wide, 150-degree images. This is one of the most compact 360-degree cameras we’ve ever played with, and it streams beautifully to service like Facebook Live. Check out the video below we shot from high above Dubai in a gyrocopter (and excuse our Editor’s terrified demeanour).

It’s taken a minute for phone manufacturers to get their head around how a modular phone system should work but Motorola have finally cracked it here,  the execution of MotoMods on the Z2 Force is almost flawless.

For the US$735 pricetag Motorola is throwing in a choice of mods from its current range between the JBL Sound Boost 2, Moto GamePad or TurboPower pack.

VERDICT: AN EARLY ADOPTERS DREAM, IT WORKS

If you’re excited about the idea of a modular phone that actually understands how modules should work, then the Motorola Z2 Force is for you.

There are definitely better Android handsets out there with longer battery life like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and superior cameras like the Pixel 2 – ones that aren’t concerned about thinness and your willingness to buy its accessories, but there is genuinely nothing else out there like the Moto Z2 Force right now and that’s something that should be applauded.

STUFF SAYS…

Score: ****

This is a daring phone for early adopters, and it rewards you for your courage.

 

Words: Greg Synnott

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