Motorola Moto Z2 Force review: Moto’s smashproof phone returns with a slimmer design and a performance boost

Motorola’s indestructible phone returns, this time in a much thinner design and with a handful of new add-ons that instantly upgrade the phone, alongside – of course – its guaranteed shatter-resistant glass screen.

But, are these improvements enough to sway yearly upgraders away from the usual flagship suspects? Okay, possibly not, but the Z2 Force does bring enough new and intriguing features to the table, that it may just about offer an alluring alternative to those typical big-hitters.

Moto Z2 Force review: Design

The Z2 Force is treated to a slight upgrade over last year’s Z Force. Its aluminium unibody is 13% slimmer than the original’s at just 6.1mm thin and is 12% lighter, weighing a paltry 143g. It might not sound like a drastic weight-loss, but pick it up, and it makes all the difference.

The rubberized back plate has disappeared, replaced by a slicker, fingerprint-friendly gun-metal finish. On the sides, you’ll find the volume rocker and power button on the left edge and a solitary USB Type-C port at the bottom.

The 3.5mm headphone jack has also vanished, which is likely to put off many potential buyers, just like the iPhone 7 did last year. Another irritating design flaw is that the Moto Z2 Force’s camera protrusion on the back juts out a rather substantial 2.7mm from the rest of the device. It doesn’t play so well with desks.

A further downside is that the Z2 Force still suffers from the lack of any proper waterproofing, with Motorola’s latest only sporting a “water-resistant” coating. Ridiculous, considering the firm’s “indestructible” claim. Nevertheless, it’s a slick design update that slips into the pocket a little easier than the last version did.

Moto Z2 Force review: Mods

Again, the Z2 Force is compatible with a handful of extra ‘Moto Mod’ add-ons, which easily snap to the back of the phone via a set of magnetic connector pins.

As it stands, there’s a good handful of mods to choose from, too. You’ll find Moto’s Turbopower pack, which adds an extra 3,490mAh battery; the Moto Gamepad with Nintendo Switch-style mini-joysticks and buttons; and the Moto 360 camera which, as the name suggests, adds a 360-degree camera to the back.

These do have to be purchased separately, but the prospect alone is a neat little extra to offer. It’s always welcome to see phone manufacturers’ design innovations deviate from the norm, and it’s a stand-out – if pricey – feature at that.

Moto Z2 Force review: Display

On the front, the Moto Z2 Force features a 5.5in, 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED display, bezels and all. Oh no, this isn’t an 18:9 screen like Samsung’s (now cheaper) Galaxy S8 or the fresh-faced Pixel 2 XL.

It’s clear the display struggled to reproduce colours across the palate, returning an average Delta E of 3.06 (0 is perfect) during our in-depth display testing. Reds, in particular, looked awfully muddy, while whites lacked vibrance. Mind you, contrast ratio was excellent and maximum brightness did reach an almost sunlight-friendly 355cd/m2.

One really annoying factor, however, is that the edges of the screen are slightly raised from the bezel, meaning you can easily catch your thumb when swiping between pages on the screen. Exceptionally irritating.

Moto Z2 Force review: Performance

Powered by Qualcomm’s latest octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, the Moto Z2 Force has seen a pretty generous bump in performance since its last iteration, which employed the older Snapdragon 820. The Z2 Force offers a total of 64GB of onboard storage, expandable up to 1TB via a microSD slot.

Here’s how it did in Geekbench 4’s benchmarks, which measures overall CPU performance:

Given the high-resolution display, graphics performance is less impressive, managing 41fps in GFXbench’s onscreen Manhattan 3.0 tests. It did, however, tie with the Galaxy S8 Plus in the offscreen test at 63fps.

As for battery life, fans of the first phone might be disappointed to discover that because of its slimmer chassis and the electronics needed to accommodate the mods, the Z2 Force has necessitated a reduction in both battery size and capacity.

Despite this, it lasts a good bout longer on a single charge. The Z2 Force reached 16hrs 40mins in our video playback test, which was well ahead of the Honor 9, Sony Xperia XZ Premium and HTC U11, but slightly lagging behind the Galaxy S8 Plus and OnePlus 5.

Moto Z2 Force review: Camera

When it comes to its rear snapper, the Moto Z2 Force sees a rather substantial bump to a dual 12-megapixel camera setup, both with a f/2.0 aperture. It also uses laser and phase detection autofocus to capture photos faster than last year’s phone, alongside a dual-LED (dual tone) flash.

Outdoor shots didn’t pose too much of a problem. In fact, the Moto Z2 Play picks up plenty of rich colours and crisp details in sunny conditions, particularly in hard-to-capture areas like foliage. Flicking on HDR did a great job at lifting the shadows, too.

Where the Moto Z2 Force’s dual cameras struggled, is in low-light photography. Simply put, neither camera let enough light in, with noise-filled shots lacking in detail as the light dimmed. A shame, especially since the Moto Z2 Play did such a good job at producing detail-rich images in low-light.

Moto Z2 Force review: Verdict

Motorola’s latest is a very tempting alternative to the usual crowd of fragile devices we see in shops, but at £735, this indestructible phone is no longer a force to be reckoned with.

Not only does it lack some of those desirable features, such as proper waterproofing, but its camera isn’t quite so good as its similarly-priced rivals, which – sitting in flagship territory – we’d expect it to be.

Despite the ability to snap on whichever mod you see fit, the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t have enough going for it to sway potential buyers away from 2017’s other suite of luxurious flagships. In short, the Z2 Force is a well performing and unique handset that struggles to justify its asking price.

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