Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Moto Z2 Force hands on

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Motorola announced the much anticipated Moto Z2 Force yesterday in New York City, bringing next gen specs and a few other minor changes to its modular formula. This time around, Motorola’s new flagship will be available on all four major U.S. carriers from day one. In another shift from its predecessor, there’s also no Droid branding and there’s no Moto Z2, just the Force edition (and the previously announced Z2 Play).

The Moto Z2 Force is a solid upgrade from the original Z Force, but should it be your next phone? While we won’t be able to fully answer that question until we get our hands on it for an in-depth review, for now let’s jump in and take a closer look at what’s new.

The Moto Z2 Force looks a lot like last year’s device and while there are a few changes, a lot remains the same. The display is the same 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED panel found on the Moto Z Force and comes with Motorola’s patented shatter-proof display technology, which essentially means it should handle any drops you throw at it. If you know are prone to breaking your smartphone’s screen, the Moto Z2 Force could be a perfect fit for you.

Under the hood, the Moto Z2 Force is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, which can be expanded up to 2TB. This is pretty standard fare for a flagship Android smartphone in 2017, though the Z2 Force isn’t without a few tricks up its sleeves. For starters, the Moto Z2 Force comes with Gigabit LTE support on all the major U.S. carriers thanks to its 4x4MIMO chipset.

Moto Z2 Force

One thing worth noting is that each carrier has a slightly different standard when it comes to Gigabit support. This means that Motorola will offer different SKUs for each US carrier, and even if you buy the unlocked handset on, you’ll be asked to pick a carrier. Of course the unlocked model will still technically support all the major carriers, its just that it will only get Gigabit LTE speeds on the specific network your variant was designed for.

Moto Z2 Force

On the back we see the return of the magnetic pins that power Motorola’s Moto Mods. For those that aren’t in the know, the “Moto Mod” modular system was first introduced with last year’s Moto Z and Z Force, allowing users to quickly swap out special accessories like battery packs, vehicle mounts, a JBL speaker system that brought enhanced sound, and more. The good news is that the Z2 Force uses the exact same design as you’ll find on Motorola’s entire Moto Z range, meaning that all existing and future Moto Mods will work with the Moto Z2 Force (and its past, current, and future Moto Z brothers).

While others have tried and failed to introduce modular tech, the Moto Mod lineup continues to grow. In fact, yesterday the company showed off two new mods, in addition to those revealed earlier this year alongside the Moto Z2 Play. The first of the new mods is designed with gamers in mind, bringing users a controller setup that is similar to what you’d find with a portable game system like the Playstation Vita. This mod also comes with a large embedded battery and Motorola says that the controller makes a direct connection with the device – without relying on wireless protocols such as Bluetooth – so there is no lag or latency when gaming.

The second new mod is a new 360° camera, which allows you to capture 360° video or 150° stills and selfies. Once captured, these can all be edited directly on your phone before being shared. The camera is also capable of live streaming 360° video to various social networks, which should work quite flawlessly thanks to the phone’s Gigabit LTE support.

Moving past the mods, the back of the Moto Z2 Force introduces a pretty significant change in the form of a dual camera combo, similar to what we’ve seen on most of 2017’s flagships so far. Unlike OnePlus and LG, Motorola has adopted a similar approach to Huawei with a color sensor backed by a monochrome sensor. Both sensors are 12MP snappers with f/2.0 aperture but, unlike last year, neither sensor comes equipped with Optical Image Stabilisation.

On paper at least, this suggests that the low light performance will struggle, especially compared to the f/1.8 aperture on last year’s Moto Z Force. The Z2 Force does come with what Motorola is touting as next generation laser autofocus, which is able to focus on objects up to 5 metres away, even in lowlight conditions, but it remains to be seen whether this can make up for the hardware deficiencies in the Moto Z2 Force’s camera. There’s also a new True B&W photo mode, which essentially just uses the monochrome sensor for shooting and it works as well as you might expect.

The Moto Z2 Force is available to pre-order now from $30 per month and will be available in-store on August 10 at all major carriers, Best Buy and To buy it outright will cost between $720 and $850, depending on the carrier you choose, while pre-orders and purchases before September 10th will receive last year’s projector mod included for free. The 360° camera will also be available in-store on August 10 at a cost of $299, while the Motorola GamePad Moto Mod will be available this summer at a cost of $79.99.

So what do we think of Motorola’s latest? The Moto Z2 Force is definitely nice in the hand and at 6mm thin, it’s one of the thinnest and lightest flagships on the market. Unfortunately, that thin profile comes with a big sacrifice, as the Moto Z2 Force battery is 22% smaller at 2,730mAh compared to the 3,500mAh cell in the Moto Z Force. Overall, we really like the Moto Z2 Force, based on initial impressions at least, though we have to question some of the design decisions when it comes to battery life and the removal of OIS on the camera.

What do you think of the Moto Z2 Force and do you plan to buy one? What would you change about it? Vote in our poll and let us know your views in the comments below!

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