Who doesn’t like to stray off the beaten track once in awhile? Well, off the beaten track is certainly where I ended up when I was given a review unit of the new Moto Z2 Force recently.
The Moto Z2 Force is the successor to the Moto Z2 Play, with the Z2 Force released earlier this summer. The newer device packs the powerful Snapdragon 835 processor, and the feeling you get using this thing is akin to driving a Honda with a Ferrari engine. Don’t get me wrong, the Z2 Force is a lovely device, but it doesn’t feel like a premium device, and there are some things about it that brush my fur the wrong way. Let’s take a closer look.
The Z2 Force sports something Moto is touting as the ShatterShield durability feature. This means that the phone screen won’t shatter (or is unlikely to) if dropped onto a slab of concrete, for example. Well, this sounds impressive, except that when you discover that the screen is essentially a plastic sheet and not the usual Gorilla Glass we’re so used to, you say, “ah”. Yes, it’s plastic, and it feels fine, but is prone to lots of tiny scratches, so you do have to be careful (or install a screen protector).
The overall design of the phone is also something I’m not a huge fan of. The phone is really thin, which some people will love, but this makes it difficult to pick up from a coffee table or desk. It also makes for a phone that isn’t all that comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Thinness is an important factor though, because with the Moto Z2 Force, just as with the Z2 Play, you’ll want to slap on some of the fun Moto Mods on the back, increasing the phone’s thickness. So, the thinner the better, for this reason, obviously.
The Mod that came with this review unit was the rather nifty projector mod. One simply claps the mod onto the back of the Z2 Force, and it immediately grips on magnetically. It grips on tightly, by the way, so there’s no need to fear it falling off. Thanks to the design of the Mods, you can use them almost straight away; the phone wakes up and goes into informing you of a few important pointers about the particular Mod you just placed on the phone. For example, with the projector Mod, advice on not pointing the bright light directly into your eyes is helpful. Unless you feel like being temporarily blinded for a while.
The projector Mod fires up after you press its button and throws the image of whatever is on the screen out to the projector lens and onto whatever surface the lens is pointing at. Obviously, you would try to throw the image onto a white wall in a very dark room, but I had fun trying it out on the ceiling too (no white walls in our house). The sound in videos comes out of the phone unit, and it’s tinny and reedy, so you might want to pair it with a Bluetooth speaker for any movie watching. The projector is a great idea and would be brilliant for watching vacation videos with other people around. I say “with other people” because if you are just on your own it would be a bit silly to use the projector Mod when you could just as easily look at the phone screen. But a room full of seven or eight people? That would be difficult without the projector Mod, and so I can definitely see the advantages to using it. I just can’t see it being something I would use very often, and with a price tag of around $250, it falls into the luxury category rather than the necessity category.
One Mod I would certainly go out and purchase is the Turbo PowerPack, retailing at around $80. This essential Mod gives you an extra battery pack of about 3490 MaH, and some people have reported not having to charge the Z2 Force for 3 days after fitting on this Mod. Something that I feel would come in very handy as the battery in the Moto Z2 Force is a rather puny 2730 MaH, and I found myself reaching for the USB-C charging cable a few times in the day to top up in case I ran dry. And I would start to worry about that in the afternoons, so in order to have plenty of juice for any evening shenanigans a daytime charge was almost a necessity. That said, having fast charging on board helped a great deal.
Overall, the Moto Z2 Force is a quick and capable phone. Running Android 7.1.1, and with the Snapdragon 835 chip under the hood, it flies along nicely. The fingerprint sensor sits below the screen, and while it can be set to be used as your main navigation toggle, I preferred to use the onscreen navigation buttons. The fingerprint sensor is a very responsive one though, compared with my experience on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. As with other Moto phones, there are plenty of quirky “actions” to help you out. We’re all now well-aware of the “turn your phone over to silence it” one which is on many phones, but I think my favourite here is the “double chop” to make the flashlight come in. Fun! (Just don’t chop-chop and throw your phone across the room).
Over on the back, we have a dual camera setup, with two 12MP units: a standard lens and a monochrome lens. However, within the camera UI settings, there is an option to take shots with “Depth enabled”. This is Moto’s version of “Portrait mode” and it’s a bit hit and miss. The edges can be quite “furry” a lot of the time. That said, the monochrome lens isn’t just a black and white filter that’s been applied; there is quite some detail in those monochrome shots, which is very nice if that’s your thing. Moto isn’t the first to bring a second, monochrome lens to the rear of a phone, but their version is excellent. Almost any average user will be happy with the output of the Z2 Force’s camera array. Of course, if you want to go all-out, you can purchase the Hasselblad camera Mod for around $250. This will give you full control over 10x optical zoom, a Xenon flash, and adds the ability to shoot in RAW format. Reviews of this Mod have been favorable, generally speaking.
The device I was given is an AT&T unit. Phone calls were crystal clear, texts shot out and were instantly received, and signal strength in my apartment building’s hallway (my own litmus test for signal strength!) was admirable. The overall signal was strong, with plenty o’ bars of full-strength LTE data speeds outside in and around New York. Incidentally, LTE data speeds picked up in my building topped out at 19 Mb/s down and 5 Mb/s up. Not too shabby at all. In comparison, the speed test was also run on my T-Mobile flavored Samsung S8. Speeds on that came in at almost the same: 18 Mb/s down and 5 Mb/s up.
We must thank Jeff Holmes over at SKDKnickerbocker in New York City for providing us with this trial device. Jeff is always willing to lend a hand with devices that we would like to review here at OneTechStop, and we are very grateful to him for helping us out.