Moto Z2 Force review: Slim, sleek, modular, and not just for Verizon

Available on AT&T and all major carriers

Following last year’s sleek, modular flagship duo, Motorola is back with the Moto Z2 Force. With a new presence on all major carriers, including AT&T with the device I used, and some interesting changes to the hardware, is it worth your attention? Let’s take a look.

Design

The Moto Z2 Force has an extremely thin body housed in metal and featuring a 5.5-inch P-OLED shatter resistant screen. The phone feels solid and comfortable in the hand, but it does take a little getting used to having such a thin phone. The screen looks great with the deep blacks and saturation you expect from an OLED screen, and bonus it is also shatter-resistant.



This is perfect for accidental drops, but in my experience, while these screens may not shatter, they pick up scratches far more easily. It is a lot easier to live with some scratches than a cracked screen, of course. If you’re concerned, it would be smart to pick up a screen protector to prevent scratches.

The screen also has an interesting pattern you can see when light reflects off of it. This doesn’t affect the picture quality but certainly looks odd when the light hits it and is worth pointing out.

Motorola has packed a lot on the front of this phone. That includes the fingerprint scanner, speaker, and a front facing flash for the selfie camera. Having only one speaker on the device was an interesting choice but it worked out pretty well. It’s not the best sounding speaker I’ve ever heard as it doesn’t offer much range or volume and can sound a little tinny. However, the fact that it’s actually facing you makes it sound a lot better than the sound of a speaker on the side muffled by my hand on the bottom or rear of the phone.

As audio goes, it’s unfortunate to see the lack of a headphone jack. There is an included USB-C dongle (who doesn’t love more dongles right?), so don’t fret all you audiophiles out there. Regardless of the inclusion of an adapter, it still seems inconvenient for me to be forced to use a dongle for the many headphones that I own. At the very least, you can use a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Another glaring omission is the lack of IP68 or IP67 waterproofing. Unlike much of the competition. The Moto Z2 Force is splash resistant as most Moto devices are, but you’ll want to be more careful with it around water than other flagships from this year like the Galaxy S8.

Moto Mods

The back of the phone has a slick looking brushed metal treatment along with the contacts for Moto Mods. Moto Mods are Motorola’s take on making your phone more modular. These accessories attach directly onto the back of your phone and extend its capabilities. Mods are easy to attach and stay connected with magnets.

If you buy the Moto Z2 Force before October 6th the Insta-share projector comes as a bonus. The projector mod doesn’t offer great picture quality or get very bright. Within 8ft. pixels were clearly visible and it needs to be fairly dark in the room if you want to see anything. The fan could also be pretty noisy. Overall it’s not really the best experience if you’re hoping for a high-quality way to watch videos, but if you’re just wanting to share some videos or photos with a group it’ll work just fine and is quite fun to use.

 

On the plus side, the Insta-share projector felt solid and offers an adjustable stand as well as controls for brightness and keystoning. In my experience, it did a good job of self-correcting the picture dimensions as long as it is facing directly at the surface you are using. I’d also recommend using a Bluetooth speaker because the Z2 Force speaker can be a little lacking.

Performance

Inside the Moto Z2 force is rocking a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of RAM giving it plenty of horsepower. Paired with Motorola’s light touch on the software and this phone is super snappy, making my S8+ feel rather sluggish in comparison. Switching apps is fast and games generally played smooth, although I did notice a hiccup in gameplay here and there.

Software

Software is something Motorola has always had a good reputation for. The Moto Z2 Force is running Android 7.1.1 Nougat and per usual includes some of the helpful little tweaks to enhance the experience, while not changing the aesthetics to offend any Android fans.

A couple of my favorites are the double chop for the flashlight and the double twist to launch the camera. These two shortcuts spoil me entirely too much and it becomes frustrating when I pick up a phone without them.

Motorola also includes a way to navigate without the nav bar using only the fingerprint scanner. As well as a one handed mode that shrinks the screen making it easier to reach the items at the top with one hand.

Camera

What probably draws the most attention on the back is the huge camera bump that resembles a smiley face with two lenses and the flash. While camera bumps have been disappearing over the years Motorola doubled down here. By making the Z2 Force even thinner and making the camera bump look even larger. This camera bump at least serves a purpose, as it is used to line up Moto Mods such as the Insta-share projector.

Inside of that massive camera bump on the back is the dual 12MP cameras, both featuring an f/2.0 aperture but lacking optical image stabilization. This adds up to a camera that does pretty good in well lit situations but struggles in low light. The exposures, for the most part, had a decent balance to them but occasionally blew out the highlights losing detail. The colors looked well saturated and were accurate the majority of the time, with maybe a slight hint of a warm tint.

The dual camera setup uses one RGB sensor and one monochrome sensor. Offering you some interesting effects such as a true black and white mode and depth sensing mode to add bokeh or a portrait like effect to your photos. As with most cameras using this system the depth mode can be a bit hit or miss especially with subjects that have fine detail.

The front facing camera uses a 5MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. It also includes beauty and panorama modes, but the true stand out here is the dedicated flash. Thanks to this you’ll be able to take selfies in any light.

Battery Life

The Moto Z2 Force has surprisingly good battery life for a phone with only a 2730mAh battery inside. It wasn’t fantastic by any means, but I was seeing an average of 4 hours screen on time. Compared to the S8 models this isn’t quite as good, but for most light to moderate users, this will get you through the day.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it the Moto Z2 Force has some unique features and selling points. Similar to most phones there are some trade offs and compromises to be made. While the screen can take a beating it’s not going to be pretty, the battery life and camera are also a little lacking. But in the end, the Z2 Force offers a slim, fast, and modular phone making it stand out from the crowd.

However, that might not be enough when you consider the asking price and the competition. Something else to keep in mind is even though the mods are fun they also add to the overall price.