Moto Z2 Force Review: Truly A Force Or Not?

Welcome to my Moto Z2 Force review.

It’s been a bumpy few years for Motorola, what with their acquisition by Google in 2012, before being steadily forced out of the door to live as part of the Lenovo family a measly 2 years later in 2014. Under Google’s watchful eye, we started to see a Motorola that people could be proud of, with phones like the  budget Moto G and the feature-packed Moto X, but when it was later announced that Lenovo would be acquiring the Motorola brand, people got a little be skeptical, believing that Lenovo would undo the hard work Google brought to the table.

Well unless you have been living under a rock for the past three years, you’ll know that fortunately, this hasn’t been the case and Motorola has continued to release awesome and innovative devices while under the Lenovo umbrella. Their most innovative launch to date has to be their Moto Z line that was launched in 2016 with the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. these phones offered something no one else seemed willing to try, well with the exception of LG and their LG G5, they offered a modular designed that allowed the user to buy different mods they could use to enhance their phone’s capabilities. Such mods included things like a speaker attachment, a projector, and even battery packs, just to name a few. Unlike LG and the G5 though, it would seem that Moto has found their modular smartphone series to be a success and here we are a year later with their 2017 flagship Moto Z2 Force. Just like last year’s Moto Z’s the Z2 Force is Moto Mod compatible.

I have managed to get hold of a Moto Z2 Force and Moto Mod Moto Gamepad to review. I have been in possession of the phone for two weeks and have been using it as my daily driver, to ensure this review is as in-depth as possible.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Product Specifications, performance and user interface

Following a typical flagship pattern, the Moto Z2 Force is a powerhouse of a device. Under the hood is 6GB of ram paired with 64GB of onboard storage (128GB also available) and running the show is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 SoC complete with an octa-core processor and Adreno 540 GPU. On paper, these are impressive specs and in real life, the same can be said. The phone has been running smoothly for me, even when multitasking. When I multitask I really do push my phones to the limit. I had this one playing music while playing Need for Speed and other games like Asphalt, as well as having other applications such as the web browser, texting app etc open in the background at the same time.

One thing people were worried about with the Lenovo purchase of Motorola, was the effect it would have on the unskinned Android OS that Moto introduced under Google. Well if you have been following Moto throughout its journey from Google to where it is now, you’ll already know that Lenovo, like a good parent, left its child to dow hat it was used to in this department. The U.I is a clean mostly untouched version of Android 7.1.1. I have always been a fan of ”Vanilla Android” and prefer it to the skinned versions from the likes of Samsung or LG just to name a couple. The fact Moto has kept to it is a nice reminder that companies do sometimes listen to their customers.

The benefits of a plain Android experience are really worth the trade-off in my opinion. You get a faster O.S, barely any bulky pre-installed applications that you may never use yet can’t remove and an experience that is much easier to tailor to your own requirements. There is one Moto application pe installed, but this one related directly to some very interesting features the phone. This application is the Moto application and a click of the icon opens up a menu that allows you make changes to Moto Actions, Moto Display, and Moto Voice. If you have followed Moto since the Motorola X, then you will already have a brief knowledge, particularly of Moto Actions and Moto Display.

Actions allow you perform various actions from your hands that give the phone an input command to do something. For example, if you perform a chopping motion twice in quick succession the flashlight will turn on or if you twist your wrist twice in quick succession the camera application will open quickly ensuring you can get that once in a lifetime shot. There are other actions to perform as well and admittedly they are a nice touch to have and I often have found myself using them. Having owned the original Moto X, I sort of got into using them and the same is to be said of the Z2 Force.

Display is a little less exciting and is something I have turned off, just because I’m not a fan of it. That isn’t to say, it doesn’t have its benefits, particularly if you want to lessen your blue light exposure at night or have friendly fading in and out notifications.

Lastly, there is Voice, which is simply Moto’s voice command system that can be used to launch applications and command the phone. It’s similar to many other voice command systems from other manufacturers.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Design

I personally am a huge fan of this phone’s design. It looks stylish and feels good in the hand. There are a few criticisms out there on the web about how it looks similar to last years models, but given the fact, there are a tonne of Moto Mods out there all designed phones with a similar style, it only makes sense that Motorola doesn’t force previous owners of Moto Mod compatible handsets to have to go out and buy their mods again.

At the front of the phone is the 5.5-inch screen. The screen is shatterproof, meaning that if you accidentally drop the phone you won’t have broken glass everywhere. There is a layer of plastic that coves the main screen. This is known as ”Lens’ to the Motorola and while it does a wonderful job of protecting the main screen from shattering, it also suffers a slight flaw in that it becomes scratches very easily and is also prone to dents and other cosmetic issues. The review unit I received was a brand new unit but within a week the display was showing small scratches, that would be irritating me by now if I owned the phone.

At the top of the front end of the display side is the earpiece for phone calls, a front-facing camera and lastly the most interesting part a front-facing flash, for taking selfies with more light (perfect for nighttime selfies). At the bottom are a microphone and a fingerprint scanner for unlocking the phone using your fingerprint.

Things get really interesting when we go to the back of the phone. For the most part, it’s just like any other phone, there’s a dual camera complete with flash and a logo. The real difference lies the bottom, which is home to a set of 17 pins and metal strip. These pins and the strip are your Moto Mod connection points. These are the contact points which deliver to and receive information from the attached Moto Mod. While this is the natural rear of the phone, you can choose to use the supplied yet optional rear cover, known as the Moto shell. If you use this cover, you will cover over the pins, but you will also get another benefit, in the form of wireless charging, which uses the middle pin of the 17 pins as a contact point.

The bottom of the phone is home to a USB type C charging port. There’s a noticeable lack of a 3.5mm audio jack. Instead of an audio jack, you get a 3.5mm audio adapter in the box that plugs into the type C port and gives you a connection port for your favorite earphones. The other option, of course, is using Bluetooth earphones. The top of the phone is home to a sim/MicroSD tray.

The left-hand side of the phone is home to nothing at all. While the right-hand side is home to the volumes buttons and a textured power button. These three buttons are very well responsive and feel well in place within the phone’s body.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Display

The Moto Z2 Force packs a 5.5 inch AMOLED display that boasts a resolution of 2560 X 1440 with a pixel density of 551 ppi. Since this is an AMOLED display it packs vibrant colors, brilliant contrast and very deep blacks.

For the most part, it’s a wonderful that display that makes browsing the web, playing games and watching movies a pleasurable experience without any real issues. Though don’t expect it to be easy to see outside as it’s not too good under direct sunlight, even with the brightness all the way up.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Battery

With only a 2,730 mAh battery, the Moto Z2 Force is a bit of a let down when it comes to power and screen on time. While it is easy to keep the phone running all day on a single charge with light use, anything more will see you needing the charger by the middle of the day for a boost to get you through the rest of the day. It’s a disappointment considering last year’s Moto Z force has a larger 3,500 mAh battery. Do the math and you’ll release that’s a 22% decrease from the Moto Z Force to the Moto Z2 Force.

I am lucky to get around 4 and half hours of screen on time with this device. that’s poor, considering my Xiaomi Redmi 4A can give me about 8 hours. Ok the Redmi 4A is nowhere near as good and the specs aren’t as power demanding, but still, there’s a point here and that point is the battery in the Z2 Force is a disappointment.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Camera

The Moto Z2 Force has a dual camera setup on the back. It features two 12 megapixel cameras with f/2.0 aperture and PDAF. Each of the 12-megapixel sensors on the dual camera setup plays a different role. One is an RGB sensor, while the other is a monochrome sensor. Combining these two sensors creates the opportunity for some decent shots.

In terms of photo quality, it’s pretty good, but it isn’t without its issues. During my time with it, I encountered autofocus issues and found it to sometimes be a bit slow to capture the image. In low light situations, it wasn’t exactly perfect.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Moto Mod Gamepad

Now I’m just going to spend a bit of time talking about the Gamepad Mod. I was lucky enough to be sent one to try with the phone. With a cost of around £80, the Gamepad is a bit steeply priced, particularly for what it is. For half of that, you could buy a Bluetooth controller that works with any phone, not just a few. So is it worth this steep price? My short answer would be no, it’s not.

While it’s a great product and a brilliant idea for the world of Moto Mods it has its flaws. The biggest one has to be its design. As you might have known, Moto Mods are designed to fit on the back of the phone. This one does that of course, but the D-pad and buttons come out on each end of the phone. Not so bad as they need to be at the side of the display so you can use them, but the button layout is just wrong, so wrong in fact it is noticeable when using the device. There are two analog sticks, just like you’d find on an Xbox or PlayStation controller (one at each side). Unlike these controllers though, the D-pad and action buttons are very much poorly located. The D-pad which sits below the left analog stick isn’t so bad as I barely ever found myself needing it, although if you do need it, it is just as bad as what I’m about to explain. The action buttons that sit below the right analog stick, are where I really felt the impact of a poor design choice. There’s literally no distance between the stick and the four action buttons, this means to use them, my thumb would have to move down into a very awkward position that caused all sorts of discomfort issues.

The poor design choice aside, the control did work really well as everything just seemed to do its job. The buttons were responsive and the Mod held in place on the phone with no issues at all. The first time I used it, the phone recommended a Moto game application to me, that has links to Playstore games that are fully compatible with the Gamepad. This was a nice little feature as it meant I didn’t have to hunt around for games that may or may not work with it.

Even if the poor design wasn’t in place, I still wouldn’t want to spend around £80 on this Mod. It’s far too steep and there are plenty of other options out there. Most of which will work with any Android smart phone.

Moto Z2 Force Review: Overall

The Moto Z2 Force is certainly a good phone, but it is let down by some flaws and the biggest of those flaws, in this case, is the poor battery. It is simply terrible, particularly for a flagship 2017 device. I must admit most other aspects of the phone did win my appreciation, such as the design, the performance, the Moto Mod compatibility and the shatterproof display. The Gamepad Mod was a letdown, particularly as it cost around £80 and isn’t very comfortable to use.

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Vanilla Android
  • Shatterproof display
  • Moto Mod compatibility

Cons

  • Poor battery
  • No earphone jack
  • Weak camera in low light situations
  • Screen is easily scratched

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