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Moto Z Force review: Motorola's beefier Z smartphone is better without its mods

Florence Ion | July 26, 2016
It's too bad Motorola's better-performing flagship phone takes a back seat to the svelte Moto Z. The Z Force is worth the higher price.

With a lighter, thinner chassis, the Moto Z (reviewed here) certainly pairs better with Motorola’s snap-on Moto Mods. But because the higher-spec’ed Moto Z Force is so dang good, it can stand all on its own, with no speaker, projector or power pack accessories necessary. In fact, the Moto Z Force ($720 via Verizon) is the better choice for people who have no interest in Motorola’s modular smartphone concept, and if I had to name Motorola’s marquee device for 2016, I’d put the Z Force in front.

This smartphone must be considered an option for anyone who just won’t consider the Samsung Galaxy S7. Just be aware that while the Moto Z Force is compatible with the various Moto Mods, it’s better off as a standalone device.

Design: Like the Moto Z, but thicker

The Moto Z Force is the decidedly thicker sibling of the Moto Z. At 7mm thick, the Z Force is noticeably larger than the 5.2mm Moto Z, though it’s still thinner than both the Nexus 6P and OnePus 3. Sans accessories, it’s relatively light, too.

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Florence Ion

If you’re hoping to pair the Z Force with one of its Moto Mods (like this Kate Spade-themed battery pack), be forewarned that the total package gets quite heavy.

The Z Force’s larger body makes it a bit easier to hold than its slimmer sibling, which often felt like it was going to slip from my hand during testing. Unfortunately, once you tack on a Moto Mod accessory, the Moto Z really shows its heft. I never thought my arm could ever get tired from simply talking on the phone, but that happened with the Z Force when I attached the Kate Spade Power Pack.

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Florence Ion: The Moto Z Force employs USB Type-C. 

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Florence Ion: The Moto Z Force is thinner than the Nexus 6P, but only barely.

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Florence Ion: The power and volume buttons are easy to reach and make a satisfying clicking sound when pressed.

At least the Z Force has a valid excuse for its thicker chassis: The phone employs Motorola’s ShatterShield technology, which protects the display from major disasters. This five-layer system has a plastic hard-coating on top that keeps the actual display layers underneath well-protected.

Yes, the top layer can scratch, but it can also be easily replaced for about $30. And in case you drop the phone on concrete, ShatterShield will absorb the impact. It’s sort of like having an automobile bumper: a relatively cheap part that’s designed for replacement in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, the Z Force isn’t resistant to water like other flagship phones.


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