Moto Z2 Force offers an excellent build quality. Crafted out of series 7000 aluminum, the Z2 Force comes with a unibody metal design. The phone is quite sleek, measuring just 6.1mm thick and I liked how light the device is, weighing in at 143 grams.
The corners are neatly rounded and the edges taper nicely along the display. Despite the metal build, the phone did not come across as slippery. The rear side has a nice hairline finish, and all around the edges there is a groove which houses the antenna band elegantly. The circular camera module protrudes out by quite a bit and has dual camera sensors along with the dual LED flash unit below them. Towards the lower half on the rear side, you have the connector to snap on the Moto Mods. Once you snap the Moto mods, the camera tends to be in line with most Mods.
On the front, you have the fingerprint sensor at the base, a 5.5-inch display protected by shatterproof glass, which I will talk about in the Display section. The front camera, proximity sensors, earpiece speaker (which is also the only speaker module) and the dual LED flash units are placed after each other. One thing I did not like was that the place where the glass meets the metal edge, you can feel a sharpness of the top layer of the display. This is the slightly bendable element which tends to spread out the force after the point of impact. But it could certainly have been merged more smoothly with the edge. It also raises fears of that layer coming off, as has been observed by some users.
One thing that is lacking though is the presence of waterproof and dustproof IP certification. Yes, the phone can take splashes of water, but it is not a phone you would want to submerge in water. On the right-hand edge, you have the volume rocker buttons and the power/standby buttons, which have a good amount of feedback. The left edge is clear. At the base, you have the USB Type C port and on the top, there is a hybrid dual SIM card tray.
A favourite passtime with this phone was dropping it randomly and being amused at the shocked expressions of the people around me. Whether it was granite, marble, mud or even tar roads, the Moto Z2 Force took drops on every surface with no signs of cracking. Yes, it did pick up some scratches on the surface though.
The Z2 Force’s 5.5-inch WQHD (2560x 1440) OLED display is adequate for an upper-class smartphone, and the resulting pixel density of 534 PPI is impressive; everything is razor-sharp! Other smartphones featuring an OLED display with a resolution higher than FHD are the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the LG V30. The Moto Z2 Force does not support HDR10.
Thanks to its OLED panel, the display can turn off individual pixels entirely, thereby creating a true black resulting in a theoretically infinite contrast ratio. Accordingly, colors truly pop on this display. The maximum display brightness with enabled ambient light sensor is an impressive 526 nits. It is limited to 348 nits with the ambient light sensor disabled. The APL50 test with evenly distributed bright and dark areas yields a maximum brightness of 580 nits.
Brightness distribution is only 88% and thus comparatively weak. That said, the uneven brightness patterns are only barely noticeable and require large uniform areas. Consequently, while we did see them in our lab, we failed to notice anything in everyday real-world use. Nevertheless, we strongly suggest inspecting the display before purchasing the device or making any purchasing decisions: it flickers at 245 Hz, which can be quite bothersome for some users.
For the last few years Motorola phones have, in my mind, offered the best representation of Android you’ll find outside of Google’s own Nexus or Pixel handsets. This is because Motorola takes a very light touch to the OS, loading it with a bare minimum of extra services, applications and features, and leaving the settings menu and UI pretty much untouched.
As a result the version of Android Nougat loaded onto the Z2 Force looks at first glance like the stock version. Going through the apps menu I found almost no duplicate services or unwanted third-party bloatware. What little additions Motorola’s made are also generally positive or unobtrusive.
Motorola was one of the first handset makers who had stuck to a pure Android experience right from the Moto G days when every other player was offering their own skinned take on Android. Even after being acquired by Lenovo, the pure Android experience has remained. Of course, there are some custom Moto apps, but they do add a lot of value.
The Moto Z2 Force comes with Android 8.0 Oreo with barely any skinning on it. The only bloatware if you will (I won’t call it that) is in the form of Moto experience. This certainly adds a lot of value to the overall experience.
Under Moto Actions, you get one-button navigation, twisting hand gesture to turn on the camera, double chop gesture to activate the light, swiping to shrink the screen, pick up to stop ringing, among other things. I really love the one-button navigation, which eschews the need for on-screen navigation buttons. As it is the display real-estate isn’t much and to add on the nav buttons does not make sense when you have an option to reduce that.
Moto Display lets you set the Night mode timings according to your convenience. It also lets you glance at your notifications even when the phone is sleeping. This is a convenient way to stay connected without having to interact much with the device. You also get the option to respond to messages or send voice messages. Moto Voice may initially seem like bloat, as you already have Google Assistant onboard for voice assistance. But as you use it, you can use Moto Voice to switch between apps, open apps, set alarms, call contacts and more. And of course, there’s the Moto Mods app as well to interface with the mods.
The user experience thanks to the clean OS is wonderful. There was barely any noticeable lag or slow animations. The settings menu still seems a bit dated, but during the day to day usage, things are pretty intuitive.
Current Android games run very smoothly on the Z2 Force, and the gyroscope and motion sensors worked flawlessly. For avid gamers, the Moto Mods gamepad is definitely worth a closer look as it turns the entire smartphone into an arcade-style game station with two joysticks, a d-pad, and four buttons. It also contains an extra 1035 mAh battery which, according to Motorola, combined with a fully charged smartphone should provide enough energy for up to 8 hours of gaming. Using the gamepad is as easy as using any other Moto Mod: plug in and enjoy! The gamepad worked flawlessly with all games that we had the possibility to test it with.
The phone was so powerful that even at maximum details we struggled getting the frame rates to drop below the respective maximum for the games tested. In both “Asphalt 8: Airborne” and “Dead Trigger 2” it only happened occasionally during extremely computationally intensive hectic scenes. Still, after performing the entire benchmarks, both games ended up running at 30 and 60 FPS respectively. Neither game will run any faster since they are both limited to these frame rates.
The camera interface is pretty straightforward if you have used older Moto devices. On the base, you have the shooting modes with the settings menu represented by three vertical dots and on the top bar, you have HDR switcher, flash switcher and timer mode. The Settings menu offers Professional mode (the user interface of which looks ripped off from older Nokia Lumia devices), True B&W mode (which only activates the B&W sensor to capture true monochrome images), Depth Enabled (which helps with getting that bokeh effect) and Panorama mode. In the video section, you get the Slow motion and True B&W modes.
Daylight image quality was excellent. The Moto Z2 Force handled lighting situations pretty well, and even with areas which had tricky lighting, the Auto HDR mode managed to get a lot of shadow detail. Thanks to the fast phase-detect AF, it was a joy shooting in the streets during daytime and evening. Colours do pop out on occasion, and this may not be to everyone’s liking.
But there is a way to tone down the overall vivid display from the settings menu. I liked the True B&W mode which appeared better than just taking a colour photograph and editing it to the B&W setting. Daylight video is also usable but as there is no OIS, if you are walking and shooting, you will notice a lot of wobbles.
Things slide south when shooting in low light situations. The shutter lag is immediately noticeable if using in HDR mode and ensure you have a steady hand or are using a tripod when shooting in HDR at night. Noise is visible in low light photographs, but as long as there is ambient light around, images are still usable. It is nowhere close to the clarity one gets with say a Pixel 2 or a Note 8 in low light situations.
The Moto Z2 Force has a new dual-lens camera on back that takes excellent photos with its own twist to things – a theme for this modular smartphone. It pairs two 12MP cameras, both identical with an f/2.0 aperture and larger 1.25 micron pixels, and uses laser and phase detection autofocus to capture photos faster than last year’s phone, though the focus is not always accurate.
One camera is dedicated to monochrome photos, following the Huawei P10 concept of capturing true black-and-white photos without the need for a filter. Most users probably won’t notice the differences between it and simulated software black-and-white filters, however. What is unmissable is the depth of field capabilities of the Moto Z2 Force camera. Depth photos can apply bokeh (blurring) to the background, like iPhone 7 Plus portrait photos. Motorola goes one step further and lets you use selective black-and-white here, too, for a really unique effect.
But, one step forward and two steps back: Neither camera has optical zoom capabilities like the iPhone and there’s no optical image stabilization. That affects both photo and video shakiness. Moto Z2 Force can record 4K video, yet OIS is sorely missing. The front 5MP camera has a standout feature of its own: a front-facing flash that’s better than a simulated display flash. You can also get a wide-angle 85-degree selfie on this camera with a f/2.2 aperture, which is helpful for group shots.
The Moto Z2 Force cameras aren’t the best we’ve seen from Android phones in 2017, but they’re just close enough for most people to be completely satisfied. Plus they include standout features like selective black-and-white, true monochrome and a front-facing flash to make a difference.
Motorola’s phones are fast, there’s little doubt about that. And the Moto Z2 Force is the fastest amongst them right now, at least in India. I’ve used it for a week now, without any stutters or lags to speak of. That said, I happen to have the OnePlus 5T as my secondary, and that phone remains faster than this one, if only by a sliver. As is often true, I know this only because I was in a position to compare the two phones side-by-side. When comparing the two phones, I had exactly the same apps and items on both, so the difference seen is likely because of whatever the companies do in the background.
Performance is one area in which the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t compromise. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor – clocked at 2.35GHz – an Adreno 540 GPU and 4GB of RAM (European spec). Hardware fanatics will likely bemoan the fact it only has 4GB of RAM, when cheaper phones like the OnePlus 5 have 6GB, but at this point any more is overkill. There aren’t many apps that’ll stretch the Moto Z2 Force’s specs and with everyday use it’s lightning fast.
Multi-tab web browsing is pleasingly chug- and stutter-free, and the Z2 Force opens applications in milliseconds. Even demanding 3D games, such as Riptide GP2, load close to instantly and run smoothly. The phone does heat up with prolonged sessions, but not to the point I noticed any CPU throttling. The the lack of bloatware and superfluous changes to Android also means the Z2 Force is blissfully free of bugs, and I’m yet to experience an application crash or freeze.
The Moto Z2 Force’s synthetic benchmark scores mirrored my real-world experience. You can see how the Z2 Force stacked up against the Galaxy S8
The Moto Z2 Force’s 2730mAh battery is a little on the small side for a phone of this size and offers adequate, not great, usage times. Using the Moto Z2 Force as my main work and personal phone, I never managed to get more than a day’s charge out of it with regular use.
This entailed listening to music on the commute to and from work, sporadically surfing the internet, taking and making a few calls, regularly checking my social media and email feeds, and watching a few cartoons on Netflix before bed.
The battery oozes charge with more intensive usage, however. Using the Moto Z2 Force during a friends wedding with the 360 Camera Mod attached, the phone went from 70% charge to 15% before the end of the reception – though in fairness I was being fairly snap-happy.
Looping video with the screen at 50% brightness the Moto Z2 lost an average of 8-13% of its charge per hour, which is pretty standard these days. Gaming performance was also average, with the phone discharging 14-22% per hour.