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Moto Z and Moto Z Force hands on

Drop the X, bring on the Z! What do the latest modular flagships from Motorola bring to the table? We find out, in this hands on with the new Moto Z and Moto Z Force!

Published onJune 10, 2016

At the end of the keynote, just when it started to seem like the announcement may not even happen at all, Lenovo took the wraps off of the latest Motorola flagships to great dramatic effect. All the rumors and leaks that have led up to this launch have been true for the most part, and there are certainly some aspects to get really excited about.

A new moniker in tow, what do the latest high-end offerings from Motorola bring to the table? We find out, as we go hands on with the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force!

As the name would suggest, the Moto Z takes things a couple of (alphabetical) steps ahead of the previous Moto X flagship line, by bringing modular capabilities into the mix. The great news here is that Motorola has managed to do so in a far simpler and easier to use iteration that what we’ve seen from LG. The very noticeable connectors on the back allow for various components and covers to be magnetically attached to the phone with a snap, and everything is truly plug and play here, without the need for the phone to be restarted, or to remove and swap the battery. Before diving into the various attachments that are currently available, let’s take a look at the phones themselves.

Both smartphones feature 5.5-inch AMOLED displays with Quad HD resolutions, resulting in a pixel density of 535 ppi. This makes the devices quite large, not helped by the distinct top and bottom portions up front that house a multitude of sensors, but the overall footprint isn’t that much more than most other smartphones with similarly-sized displays. The Moto Z is also one of the thinnest smartphones around, with a thickness of just 5.2 mm, while the Moto Z Force does have a little more girth to it, likely to accommodate the additional layers that help make the display shatterproof.

Under the hood, both smartphones come with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, clocked at 2.15 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. This processing package is the current gold standard when it comes to 2016 flagships, and with the performance of other high-end smartphones this year being very impressive, we can certainly expect more of the same from the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. You also get the usual suite of connectivity options with these devices, including NFC, that can be useful for its application in mobile payment systems.

Given how thin the Moto Z is, it isn’t surprising that the camera module on the back does protrude quite significantly. However, when a cover, or MotoMod, is attached to the phone, the camera ends up sitting flush with the extended body of the phone, which makes for another nice reason to pick up one of the stylish shells that Motorola has on offer.

The additional thickness that is found with the Moto Z Force also allows for more room to pack in a larger 3,400 mAh battery, compared to the 2,600 mAh unit found with the Moto Z. The Moto Z Force also comes with the faster quick charging capabilities, with Motorola claiming that you can get 50% of the battery life back in just 15-20 minutes. Of course, the Moto Z does come with its own fast charging, but it won’t be as fast as what is available with the Z Force.

Other differences between the two include the camera, with the Moto Z Force featuring a 21 MP rear camera, compared to the 13 MP camera of the Moto Z, and of course, the display of the Moto Z Force is also shatterproof. The Moto Z Force does make for a compelling device, but the ultra-thin Moto Z is what you may find more attractive at first glance.

As mentioned, both devices feature different primary shooters, but the camera app remains the same, and is quite intuitive and easy to use. The cameras seem to work well from what we were able to see so far, and we can’t wait to put them through rigorous testing in upcoming reviews and camera shootouts to see whether they manage to stand out from the crowd in this highly competitive aspect of the smartphone experience.

The Moto Z is an extremely thin phone, and the Z Force isn’t that much thicker either, and not unexpectedly, there has to have been some compromises made in order to achieve these aesthetics. In this case, this comes in the form of a lack of the headphone jack. Instead, what you will get is an adapter that plugs into the USB-Type C port, and that is how you will be able to use this device with regular headphones and earphones.

On the software side of things, Motorola keeps everything very simple and familiar, with the devices boasting an almost stock iteration of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Everything is where you’d expect it to be, and Motorola’s useful additions make a return as well, including Active Display, various motion gestures, and more.

Of course, the big story with the Moto Z and Moto Z Force has to do with their modular capabilities. As mentioned, the implementation is far simpler, and doesn’t require the battery to be removed, or have the phone be rebooted. The peripherals just snap on to the device via the strong magnetic connectors, and you are good to go as soon as they are in place.

For starters, there are a number of stylish covers, or shells, available, and considering how thin the Moto Z is, it almost feels like its needs these covers to really round out the look and feel in the hand. There are covers that bring a little more functionality to the table as well – including battery cases made by Incipio and a pico projector – that does make the devices quite thick, but allows for an easy to way to share information from your phone.

Finally, there is a JBL speaker that can also be snapped into place, and provides for a very enhanced audio experience. The speaker and the projector also come with built-in batteries that are utilized first, before these accessories start drawing any power from the phone itself.

So there you have it for this first look at the Moto Z and Moto Z Force! Overall, we are very impressed by what we’ve seen so far from Motorola’s latest flagships. There have been some trade offs made, such as the removal of a headphone jack in favor of a thinner profile.

The Moto Z and Moto Z Force do have some key differences between them in terms of features and specifications, but both feature the same modular capabilities, and with the execution far better this time around, this may be the innovative step forward that we were looking for.

What do you think of these two handsets and do you plan to buy either? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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