Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Introduction


Smartphones are insanely personal devices, and from the handset we choose, to the platform it runs, to the apps we elect to install, and even to the carrier on whose network we operate, the choices we make about our phones say a lot about how we intend to use these devices and the role we see them playing in our lives. For some people, a one-size-fits-all approach makes a lot of sense, taking excess decision-making out of the process. But there's another contingent of users that strives for a little more flexibility, looking for phones that are able to adapt to the task at hand. For them, this year's rise of the modular smartphone is a dream come true.

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right) - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

The LG G5 and its modular “Friends” add-ons may have brought the subject of modular _phone_ hardware into the public eye, but issues with availability, implementation, and simple desirability got in the way of LG's ecosystem really taking off. Now Lenovo's here to try and make that concept actually work, pairing the new Moto Z lineup with its Moto Mods accessories. Will the Moto Mods become an intrinsic part of how many Moto Z owners use their phones? Will they be an initial curiosity whose allure quickly fades? And if we look past all the hype and potential of the Moto Mods, are the Moto Z phones themselves handsets worthy of wearing the Motorola flagship crown?

In the States, the Moto Z series is debuting as a Verizon exclusive, with the carrier picking up both the Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid. Together, they represent some of the most ambitious smartphones we've seen under the Motorola brand in some time. We've been putting both handsets, as well as the initial wave of Moto Mods add-ons, through their paces. And while it may be too early to tell whether or not the Moto Z family will be able to change the way we look at _phone_ hardware, it's hard to deny that this is the best-executed take on modular smartphones anyone's released to date.

In the box:

  • Moto Z Droid (Moto Z Force Droid)
  • Style Shell
  • USB Type-C charging adapter
  • Headphone adapter
  • SIM tool
  • Introductory guide
  • Safety notice

Design

A phone so thin it feels like it shouldn't possibly exist

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
With the way the Moto Z series is approaching modular design, affixing Moto Mods to the phones' backs rather than attaching them on the bottom like the LG G5, Motorola finds itself in a tricky position: how do you support such an arrangement without handsets quickly growing prohibitively thick?

Simply enough, you start with one of the thinnest phones we've ever seen – and easily the thinnest at this flagship level. Camera bump notwithstanding, the Moto Z Droid measures under 5.2mm thick. And while the Moto Z Force Droid adds a bigger battery and other hardware upgrades that demand a larger body, even that model manages to come in under 7mm thick.

Without any Moto Mods attached, the Moto Z Force Droid feels like a pretty typical flagship. The all-metal construction feels incredibly solid, the fingerprint scanner makes for a conveniently placed makeshift power button, and an angled ridge running the length of the phone's edge helps users maintain a steady grip.

But then there's the Moto Z Droid, which is so thin as to almost feel … well, wrong. Our hands just aren't used to manipulating screens this preposterously thin, and while we didn't get any hint that the phone's structural integrity suffered as a result of its barely-there profile, it took a little time before handling the Moto Z Droid picked up a sense of normalcy. As a result, we found ourselves thickening-out the phone a little with one of the included Style Shell covers, the “dumb” alternative to smart Moto Mods accessories.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

The Style Shells look great, and are available in a variety of materials, but we didn't love the slight bit of play they have when attached to the phones; even with the magnetic connection nice and solid, the covers have just a smidge of wiggle to them that keeps them from staying locked in place. Speaking of locked, though, we found ourselves frustrated with just how hard it can be to remove these guys – while full-blown Moto Mods accessories offer a convenient ridge along their bottom edges to act as a “pry point” of sorts when removing them, the Style Shells lack any such refinement. Motorola says to just use your fingernails, but easier said than done.

 

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1. Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

2. Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

3. Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

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6. Moto Z Force Droid

Moto Z Force Droid

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9.

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Front view | Side view
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition
6.04 x 2.96 x 0.2 inches
153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19 mm
4.80 oz (136 g)

Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition
6.14 x 2.98 x 0.28 inches
155.9 x 75.8 x 6.99 mm
5.75 oz (163 g)

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5




Display

Shatterproof is good (but scratchproof would be better)

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Both the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid offer 5.5-inch QHD (1440 x 2560) AMOLED displays. While the Moto Z Droid's screen gets pretty standard Gorilla Glass protection, the Moto Z Force Droid comes ready to withstand some rough handling with the same sort of impact-resistant ShatterShield tech we saw on last year's Droid Turbo 2. That's not going to render the screen immune from the occasional scratch, but it is designed to resist catastrophic failure in the event of dropping the handset onto a hard surface.

Head-on, these displays each look quite nice, and while color temperature (in the “standard,” realistic color mode) is slightly on the cooler side, relative color accuracy is still largely consistent.

The same can't be said for extreme viewing angles, though, and looking at the phones from their edges introduces an unmistakeable greenish hue.

Moto Display is hardly a unique feature to the Moto Z phones, but it's still a welcome addition to the way we interact with the handsets. The handsets detect when you're getting near them, and light up their screens to show time, charge, and selected notifications. If you've never lazily waved your foot over your coffee table to check the time, you're missing out.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 528
(Excellent)
9
(Average)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7209
(Good)
2.17
3.6
(Good)
5.84
(Average)
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 512
(Excellent)
9
(Average)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7212
(Good)
2.13
2.94
(Good)
5.2
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 493
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6586
(Excellent)
2.03
1.47
(Excellent)
2.62
(Good)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Introduction


Smartphones are insanely personal devices, and from the handset we choose, to the platform it runs, to the apps we elect to install, and even to the carrier on whose network we operate, the choices we make about our phones say a lot about how we intend to use these devices and the role we see them playing in our lives. For some people, a one-size-fits-all approach makes a lot of sense, taking excess decision-making out of the process. But there's another contingent of users that strives for a little more flexibility, looking for phones that are able to adapt to the task at hand. For them, this year's rise of the modular smartphone is a dream come true.

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right) - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)

The LG G5 and its modular “Friends” add-ons may have brought the subject of modular phone hardware into the public eye, but issues with availability, implementation, and simple desirability got in the way of LG's ecosystem really taking off. Now Lenovo's here to try and make that concept actually work, pairing the new Moto Z lineup with its Moto Mods accessories. Will the Moto Mods become an intrinsic part of how many Moto Z owners use their phones? Will they be an initial curiosity whose allure quickly fades? And if we look past all the hype and potential of the Moto Mods, are the Moto Z phones themselves handsets worthy of wearing the Motorola flagship crown?

In the States, the Moto Z series is debuting as a Verizon exclusive, with the carrier picking up both the Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid. Together, they represent some of the most ambitious smartphones we've seen under the Motorola brand in some time. We've been putting both handsets, as well as the initial wave of Moto Mods add-ons, through their paces. And while it may be too early to tell whether or not the Moto Z family will be able to change the way we look at phone hardware, it's hard to deny that this is the best-executed take on modular smartphones anyone's released to date.

In the box:

  • Moto Z Droid (Moto Z Force Droid)
  • Style Shell
  • USB Type-C charging adapter
  • Headphone adapter
  • SIM tool
  • Introductory guide
  • Safety notice

Design

A phone so thin it feels like it shouldn't possibly exist

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
With the way the Moto Z series is approaching modular design, affixing Moto Mods to the phones' backs rather than attaching them on the bottom like the LG G5, Motorola finds itself in a tricky position: how do you support such an arrangement without handsets quickly growing prohibitively thick?

Simply enough, you start with one of the thinnest phones we've ever seen – and easily the thinnest at this flagship level. Camera bump notwithstanding, the Moto Z Droid measures under 5.2mm thick. And while the Moto Z Force Droid adds a bigger battery and other hardware upgrades that demand a larger body, even that model manages to come in under 7mm thick.

Without any Moto Mods attached, the Moto Z Force Droid feels like a pretty typical flagship. The all-metal construction feels incredibly solid, the fingerprint scanner makes for a conveniently placed makeshift power button, and an angled ridge running the length of the phone's edge helps users maintain a steady grip.

But then there's the Moto Z Droid, which is so thin as to almost feel … well, wrong. Our hands just aren't used to manipulating screens this preposterously thin, and while we didn't get any hint that the phone's structural integrity suffered as a result of its barely-there profile, it took a little time before handling the Moto Z Droid picked up a sense of normalcy. As a result, we found ourselves thickening-out the phone a little with one of the included Style Shell covers, the “dumb” alternative to smart Moto Mods accessories.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

The Style Shells look great, and are available in a variety of materials, but we didn't love the slight bit of play they have when attached to the phones; even with the magnetic connection nice and solid, the covers have just a smidge of wiggle to them that keeps them from staying locked in place. Speaking of locked, though, we found ourselves frustrated with just how hard it can be to remove these guys – while full-blown Moto Mods accessories offer a convenient ridge along their bottom edges to act as a “pry point” of sorts when removing them, the Style Shells lack any such refinement. Motorola says to just use your fingernails, but easier said than done.


Front view | Side view
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition
6.04 x 2.96 x 0.2 inches
153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19 mm
4.80 oz (136 g)

Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition
6.14 x 2.98 x 0.28 inches
155.9 x 75.8 x 6.99 mm
5.75 oz (163 g)

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5




Display

Shatterproof is good (but scratchproof would be better)

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Both the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid offer 5.5-inch QHD (1440 x 2560) AMOLED displays. While the Moto Z Droid's screen gets pretty standard Gorilla Glass protection, the Moto Z Force Droid comes ready to withstand some rough handling with the same sort of impact-resistant ShatterShield tech we saw on last year's Droid Turbo 2. That's not going to render the screen immune from the occasional scratch, but it is designed to resist catastrophic failure in the event of dropping the handset onto a hard surface.

Head-on, these displays each look quite nice, and while color temperature (in the “standard,” realistic color mode) is slightly on the cooler side, relative color accuracy is still largely consistent.

The same can't be said for extreme viewing angles, though, and looking at the phones from their edges introduces an unmistakeable greenish hue.

Moto Display is hardly a unique feature to the Moto Z phones, but it's still a welcome addition to the way we interact with the handsets. The handsets detect when you're getting near them, and light up their screens to show time, charge, and selected notifications. If you've never lazily waved your foot over your coffee table to check the time, you're missing out.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 528
(Excellent)
9
(Average)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7209
(Good)
2.17
3.6
(Good)
5.84
(Average)
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 512
(Excellent)
9
(Average)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7212
(Good)
2.13
2.94
(Good)
5.2
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 493
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6586
(Excellent)
2.03
1.47
(Excellent)
2.62
(Good)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and Functionality

Clean, swift, and useful … with a side of bloat

Just as we'd expect from a modern Motorola smartphone, Android modifications are on the extremely light side, and what we do get is pretty well done. Tweaks include the Moto Display we just mentioned, as well as access to Moto Voice speech controls, and half-a-dozen or so gesture commands, like swiping up for one-handed access, or giving the phones a double-twist to get to the camera.

We also appreciate the level of support for landscape orientation, extending from the launcher itself through into system settings. The home screen layout isn't always great in landscape, but not having to spin the phone around when we're jumping in and out of watching video is a welcome feature.

Unfortunately, these two are Verizon phones (though at least they've resisted conspicuous carrier badging), which means a dose-and-a-half of software bloat. In addition to a glut of Verizon's own software, you get a bunch of we-didn't-ask-for-these freemium games (let us weep for the soul who thought selling a premium smartphone with a slot machine game was a good idea), as well as apps like Slacker, NFL Mobile, and Amazon Kindle, because Verizon loves striking pack-in deals. It's all fundamentally objectionable, and we're forced to just suck it up because Verizon will never change.

Processor and Memory

Brisk and responsive, just like a phone with best-in-class components should be.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
It's not difficult to choose what hardware to put into a flagship smartphone right now: start with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, throw as much RAM as you can at it, and call things a day. And while that's exactly what Lenovo did here – what can we say? It works.

From the second you pick these phones up, software is fast to react, really showing how the combination of recent Android builds (both phones run Android 6.0.1) and top-notch silicon can really deliver a truly smooth UI.

The 4GB of memory the phones get feels sufficient for general usage – 6GB is a luxury that's just not needed here – and the 32GB of base storage is easily added upon with microSD expansion. If another manufacturer tries and tell you it can't build a thin phone while keeping microSD support, you just wave the 5.2-mm-thick Moto Z Droid in their lying face.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 143856
LG G5 134074
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 130195
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 128191
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 3960
LG G5 3515
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 3888
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 3198
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 5630
LG G5 4498
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 5721
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 4840
JetStream
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 54.506
LG G5 52.218
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 51.659
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 60.315
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 58
LG G5 54.33
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 58
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 52
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 31
LG G5 17
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 30
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 28
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 2516
LG G5 1913
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 2366
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1761
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 2348
LG G5 2344
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 2361
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 2318
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 5450
LG G5 5442
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 5493
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 5433
View all

Connectivity

When did data cables become so uncool?

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

The nice thing about a carrier-exclusive handset like these two guys are is that you know perfectly well you're not going to run into any issues with band support (god forbid). And indeed, both the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid take full advantage of Verizon's expansive network with support for high-speed Cat 9 LTE.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Wi-Fi support hits 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, there's Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and the phones are both compatible with NFC interactions.

For physical connectivity, each phone has a single USB Type-C port – and that's it. This move has implications for audio output, which we'll get to in a moment, but also accessing phone data. The problem there is that the charger that comes with these phones has its USB cable permanently affixed to the power adapter, so it can't be disconnected and used to access phone data with your PC. We suppose picking up your own USB Type-C data cable is no big deal, but that's not an accessory everyone has sitting around just yet, and Motorola absolutely should have included it in the package.

Camera

Whether you go 13MP or 21MP, you're in good hands

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

One of the big differences between the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid hardware is the rear camera you'll find present, with the former getting a 13MP sensor, and the latter upgrading to an 21MP component with phase-detection auto-focus.

Both cameras employ optical stabilization, offer laser-assisted auto-focus, and have an ƒ/1.8 aperture.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
They also share matching 5MP front-facers, with wide-angle lenses, an ƒ/2.2 aperture, and a couple decisions to help with low-light performance: big 1.4um pixels, and the all-too-rare presence of a proper front-mounted flash.

Image quality

Not the best anywhere, but really solid efforts from both phones

Much like the cameras we just looked at on the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus, you're going to see some very similar performance out of the sensors on these two Moto Z models. There's good reason for that: Lenovo can't risk there being a “bad” Moto Z Droid, so neither camera should exhibit obvious shortcomings – and we didn't notice anything of the kind. Basically, the Moto Z Force Droid takes everything the Moto Z Droid camera does well, and slightly ups the resolution.

Focus times are fast on both phones, even with the Moto Z Droid lacking phase-detection mode, and the camera app itself is swift to come up and start taking shots, whether you're launching it from your home screen or with a gesture control. Color accuracy is similar between the two sensors, as are exposures – though a bit surprisingly, in more than a few tests we noticed the 13MP Moto Z Droid delivering some better-looking shots than its higher-res cousin.

Really, though, these two are closely matched, and the worth of the Moto Z Force Droid's camera will largely be determined by your need for exceptionally high-res shots.


Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 1.3
1.7
688
333
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1.5
1.6
283
261
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 1.7
2.2
562
567
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
View all

Video recording

4K without a hitch

We're not let down when it comes to support for 4K video, with each Moto Z phone producing some sharp ultra-HD footage. Here, the benefits of the beefier Moto Z Force Droid were a bit more obvious to see, and its 4K video appeared slightly sharper to our eyes – though both phones demonstrated quick video re-focus times.

Full HD 1080p didn't disappoint, either, and both 30fps and 60fps modes generated satisfyingly crisp video. But while there's plenty of detail in these shots, we noticed the phone being a bit aggressive with video compression, resulting in plenty of artifacts on playback. Some artifacting is to be expected, but we would have appreciated a way to control the bitrate in order to minimize its effect on important shots.



Multimedia

Pour one on the curb for the humble headphone jack

The single front-facing earpiece speaker on each Moto Z phone may not be the fanciest around, and while it doesn't blow us away with real room-shattering bass, it does manage to keep things sounding clear and balanced even at high volume levels. As far as output goes, our tests showed both phones to be on par with much of their handset competition, though objectively we found ourselves cranking up the volume to max more than we'd like to – it's like the Moto Z phones don't sound as loud as they actually are.

But then there's the headphone jack – or the lack thereof. The Moto Z Droid has the excuse of being stupid-thin, but the Moto Z Force Droid follows its lead and decides to do all its audio output over USB Type-C as well. Motorola's kind enough to include a headphone adapter in the box of both phones, but that still feels like a less-than-graceful solution. Perhaps we'll stop harping on this issue in another year when the headphone jack on phones is really and truly dead, but for now it's still an adjustment we'd rather not be making.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 0.99
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 0.993
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 0.707
LG G5 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 72.6
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 73.8
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 72.9
LG G5 73
View all


Call Quality

Can you hear me now? Sure, but with a little interference

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Just like with data connectivity, the two Moto Z Droid phones have the luxury of tapping into Verizon's rock-solid network, and call quality didn't disappoint. And if the party you're calling also supports it, the phones let you take advantage of higher-quality HD Voice support.

We did experience one small issue, though, and during calls we were able to perceive a slight hiss from the earpieces of the phones. It was very quiet, and you're likely to experience far more interference when the person you're calling moves into an area of poor reception, but it's still just enough to take away from an otherwise stellar call experience.

Battery Life

For phones this thin, we'd expect a lot less.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
A smartphone as thin as the Moto Z Droid looks like it should get you – what? – one, two hours of solid use on a charge? Instead, we clocked just under six hours of operation in our custom testing. While plenty of phones do better, none are this thin, which says a lot for the Moto Z Droid and its 2,600mAh battery.

The Moto Z Force Droid does better still, but we're a little disappointed it didn't last longer than it did. The phone's 3,500mAh battery is 35% larger than the Moto Z Droid's, but the just-over-seven-hours of battery life we measured represents only a 22% improvement. Considering the battery's size, we'd hope for closer to eight hours.

Both phones recharge quickly with their included Turbo Power adapters, with the Moto Z Droid in particular impressing with going from zero to full in just 72 minutes. The only annoying part here is that the USB cables are hard-wired to those adapters, making packing and traveling with them a little more difficult.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 7h 18 min (Good)
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 7h 9 min (Good)
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 5h 52 min (Average)
LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 99
Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition 110
Motorola Moto Z Droid Edition 72
LG G5 76
View all

Moto Mods

Lenovo aims high and pretty much nails it

These handsets are special in that we're not just reviewing the phones themselves, but also their Moto Mods add-ons. To be a successful modular platform, Lenovo's going to have to keep the accessories coming, and it's off to a good start: the Moto Z phones are launching with the JBL SoundBoost Speaker, a variety of Power Pack extended batteries, and the Moto Insta-Share Projector – already off to a better start than the LG Friends.

The JBL SoundBoost Speaker is a lot like the sort of battery-powered Bluetooth speaker you might carry around with you, only it attaches to the rear of Moto Z phones with its powerful magnets. A built-in battery offers up to 10 hours of playback time, and while its dual 3-Watt speakers aren't the loudest we've ever heard, they're a nice way to boost either phone's native output without taking up a lot of extra space – though to be fair, this is the bulkiest of the Moto Mods.

The JBL SoundBoost Speaker - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
The JBL SoundBoost Speaker - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

The JBL SoundBoost Speaker


A built-in kickstand helps prop the speakers up to let sound flow out into the room, while also giving users a convenient way to watch videos on their phones. And if you're taking a lot of voice calls, the speakers function as a hands-free speakerphone.

The Moto Insta-Share Projector is a lot of fun, as you'd expect a smartphone projector would be. It's got a 50-lumen output that lets it project a screen up to about 70 inches diagonal, and packs its own 1,100 mAh battery. A stand helps aim its picture up at a nearby wall, and keystone auto-correction keeps the image straight (though you can always tweak that in software). In addition to a power button on the projector, there's also a scroll wheel for adjusting focus, though we found it to be a little finicky for our tastes – it was easy to overshoot the focal sweet spot, and immediately dialing back in the other direction often failed to reacquire focus.

The Moto Insta-Share Projector - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
The Moto Insta-Share Projector - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
The Moto Insta-Share Projector - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

The Moto Insta-Share Projector


Getting the right location for projector usage is key to its enjoyment, and you're going to want a dark environment with an unobstructed, light-colored wall. Finding that's easier said that done, but even if the situation you're in is less than ideal, being able to share your phone's screen like this is so novel that we imagine the Insta-Share Projector's going to find a lot of success. Maybe its biggest limitation is its battery life, and just projecting a music video or two can easily take 10% off the unit's internal battery.

As for the Power Pack, you'll find a variety of design options, and the plain black Tumi model we checked out augmented battery capacity to the tune of 2,200mAh hours. Unlike the speaker and projector, this one doesn't have its own USB Type-C port for charging, and instead can only be recharged when attached to the phone itself – a slight inconvenience, but we understand how it helps keep size down. When full, it will help keep the phone's battery charged, meaning you can run down the Power Pack and later pop it off, enjoying a slimmer phone with 100% battery as your work day winds down.

The Power Pack - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
The magnets for the Moto Mods accessories are quite strong - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

The Power Pack

The magnets for the Moto Mods accessories are quite strong


The magnets used by all Moto Mods accessories are quite strong, and we had no misgivings about anything shaking loose. These magnets are in the modules themselves, and while stray paperclips or twist-ties will stick to them all too easily, the actual smartphones won't be picking up any stray metallic items.

Software is also really well done, and the phones recognize each Moto Mod by name when attached, greeting you with an introductory slide show and offering configuration options where available. Also critical to the success of this project, the phones can keep users informed of available Moto Mods options, letting them discover new accessories as they come out.


Conclusion


Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right) - Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review

Moto Z Force Droid (left) and Moto Z Droid (right)


Moto phones don't always seem like the most impressive handsets around. They can be stylish, sure, and their software is often well done, but it's been difficult for them to really wow in the face of more polished handsets like the Galaxy S7.

But with the Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, and their Moto Mods, Lenovo has really given us reason to pay new attention to what Motorola phones can be capable of. Spend a little time with options like the Insta-Share Projector, and you quickly see how this could be huge – and we mean as it impacts the smartphone market, because even with the projector attached, the Moto Z Droid still comfortably fits in a pocket.

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
From the secure magnetic hardware, to the friendly software, to just how much these Moto Mods actually add to the user experience, it's really awe-inspiring what Lenovo has managed to put together here. Still, there's plenty of ways Moto Mods could go wrong, form third-party developers failing to deliver compelling new options (though Lenovo's really encouraging them to come up with hot new Mods, as it makes a dev kit available), to prohibitive pricing keeping Moto Z Droid owners from taking full advantage of the hardware ecosystem available. But while it remains to be seen if Moto Mods can thrive where LG Friends have not, Lenovo is already in a much stronger starting position.

And honestly, even if there were no modular hardware here, the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid would still be some really attractive handsets. The super-thin design is stunning while still feeling robust (even if it's tricky to get used to handling a phone so svelte), performance doesn't let us down, and both models offer some decent camera output.

Both phones are available for pre-order today, and arrive in one week, on July 28. The Moto Z Droid will run you $624, while the Moto Z Force Droid costs nearly $100 more, at $720. There's nothing particularly surprising about either of those figures.

As for the Moto Mods, they'll also all be available on July 28, when you can pick up the JBL SoundBoost Speaker for about $80, various Power Packs ranging from $60 to $90, or that Moto Insta-Share Projector for a cool $300. We'd have loved for all those prices to be a bit lower (as affordable availability would do nothing but drive sales of the high-margin smartphones themselves), and the Power Pack pricing seems especially high. But if you've got the cash, Lenovo and Verizon are happy to give you all the options you'll need for one of the best-equipped smartphone solutions you can find anywhere.

Software version of the review unit: Android 6.0.1; Build Number: MCL24.203-22