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Moto Z: Is this the Droid you’ve been looking for?

Dan Rosenbaum | July 22, 2016
We review the Droid editions of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, Motorola's latest high-end Android smartphones.

Performance-wise, the phones are as powerful as any on the market. They scored more or less equivalently on the AnTuTu suite of tests: 149220 for the larger Force, 141296 for the slimmer Droid. For comparison's sake, the OnePlus 3 came in at 140208, the Samsung Galaxy S7 scored 13499, and the Apple iPhone 6S hit 133781. (Higher is better.)

Battery life for the Droid Force (using the AnTuTu drain test) came in at nearly five hours -- about an hour longer than other phones in its class. The smaller Droid lasted roughly four hours before dying.

The display can be set to either the default "vibrant," with "enhanced color and saturation," or "standard." Either is fine, although my personal preference is for the less saturated look. Video played back smoothly. Sound through the speakers was tinny compared to real speakers but about what you'd expect from a phone.

The camera bulge, at the top center of the phone's back, is larger than most. The Force's 21-megapixel camera worked well, but it does seem to be chasing pixel count for the sake of pixel count. In other words, the photos are big but the camera's other features are middling. There are the expected panorama, slow motion and "professional" modes. The phone captures 1080p video at 60fps and 4K at 30fps, but won't save RAW stills. You can manually set a focus point, but not an exposure point.

There's no voice control or gesture recognition for selfies, though you can switch between front and back cameras with a couple of wrist twists. On the other hand, the camera uses optical image stabilization, is quick to focus, and has a wide f/1.8 aperture, so it's pretty good in low light.

At first, you might not even notice that the Moto Z is the first smartphone designed without a headphone jack. Read that again: No headphone jack. Instead, Moto includes an easily lose-able dongle that converts the USB-C port to accommodate a headphone. Until someone makes USB-C headphones -- and you know they're coming because I'm reasonably certain that the Moto Z will not be the last phone to omit the headphone port -- you'll either have to deal with the dongle or get friendly with Bluetooth.

Expansion modules

On the back of the phones are three rows of slightly recessed metal contacts. Those accommodate a series of snap-on accessory modules called Moto Mods. At the outset, there are three types available: battery packs (prices ranging from $60 to $90), the JBL SoundBoost Speaker ($80) and the Moto Insta-Share Projector ($300). There are also decorative back plates that will run about $15 each.


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