Moto Z2 Force Review
Interface and Functionality
Motorola continues to give us some of the most useful software extras on Android phones
As we're used to from Motorola handsets, the interface on the Moto Z2 Force doesn't stray far from the familiar Android experience; all the major settings are right where you'd expect them, and the phone doesn't go out of its way to try and create a look that's all its own with gussied-up menus and icons.
But also like other Motorola phones, the interface on the Z2 Force succeeds with the help of its extended support for gesture controls. You'll waste a lot of time looking for these options in the phone's regular settings, but once you get clued-in to the fact that they're all living within the useful Moto app on the phone's home screen, you're all set to tap into the Z2 Force's power.
You've got your choice of gestures to take advantage of, from the simple like our beloved chop-for-flashlight, to the neat interface that eliminates standard on-screen virtual Android buttons and instead moves their functionality to the below-screen fingerprint scanner. Remembering which direction to swipe for back and which for multi-tasking can take a day or two to sink in, but once you've got a handle on it, it's an elegant system.
We also really enjoy the Moto Display, letting you check out notifications without needing to wake up your phone; it can even detect when your hand's getting near the screen and will preemptively illuminate, saving you from having to touch the Moto Z2 Force at all. The phone pulls that off with the help of new ultrasonic sensors, which results in a cleaner look than the old-fashioned infrared sensors.
Moto Voice has been around for a while now, but it's still learning new tricks, in the form of some new casual-language “show me” interactions. You can simply ask the phone to “show me the weather” or “show me my calendar” and it will pull up the relevant information. The idea's a sound one, but the implementation is a little rough: training is a lengthy process, where you're prompted to speak half-a-dozen phrases for the phone to sample. And when using Moto Voice, there can be a pronounced pause between you finishing speaking your command and the phone responding. A delay we can live with, but we really wish there were some sort of indication that the phone had successfully heard our voice and was processing the request; instead, users are kept in the dark while the phone is thinking.
Processor and Memory
The Moto Z2 Force has little to worry about when it comes to unparalleled performance
When you think about why people are going to buy the Moto Z2 Force, where do your thoughts go? The support for Moto Mods? The “unbreakable” (if something less than scratch-resistant) ShatterShield display? Both solid guesses, but they'd also be missing one somewhat unexpected aspect of this hardware's appeal? In our tests, the Moto Z2 Force came out as the best-performing phone Android we've ever evaluated.
Now, synthetic benchmarks are far from the end-all, be-all word on a smartphone's capabilities, but the numbers here are not only quite consistent across a battery of varying tests, but also show the Moto Z2 Force eking past the rest of its recent Snapdragon 835-powered comrades like the Galaxy S8 and HTC U11.
In addition to having that top-of-the-line Snapdragon chip under its hoods, the Moto Z2 Force is also armed with 4GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage (to say nothing of support for microSD expansion). That 4GB of memory is nice and spacious, but it's hardly anything above and beyond what other 835-based phones are packing, making this model's exemplary performance all the more interesting. We're not sure exactly what's giving the Z2 Force its edge, but we also can't deny that it's there.
That speedy performance also holds up to qualitative analysis, and the Moto Z2 Force feels as powerful to use as the benchmarks suggest. When you look at that in the light of the phone's slim build and light weight, that feat is all the more satisfying. Like we said, this probably isn't the first reason anyone's going to be picking up a Moto Z2 Force, but this speedy performance instead emerges as the icing on an otherwise very feature-laden cake.
At least, that's the case most of the time, but there are also a few rough patches here and there. We'll talk about it more in a moment, but some of the camera modes generate video that stutters far more than is acceptable considering the Moto Z2 Force's hardware. Perhaps some further software optimization is in order.
Good riddance to special carrier partnerships
The first generation of Moto Z phones launched in the US under the Droid brand, and as such got their start as Verizon exclusives. This year, the Droid name has been conspicuously absent from the new Z phones, and that's not without reason, as the Z2 Force is landing with broad carrier support; bye-bye, exclusivity.
Pre-orders for the phone opened with Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular in addition to Verizon – with only AT&T absent among the major players. But fret not, because soon you'll also be able to pick up the Moto Z2 Force unlocked and ready to be used with the carrier of your choice. That sort of flexibility is refreshing for the Moto Z series, as while other Motorola phones have already been eager to jump between carriers, the specter of that Verizon partnership had been hanging over what was arguably the most interesting Moto option. We can't say if this laissez-faire arrangement will stick around into the future, but we're sure happy to see the Moto Z2 Force able to take full advantage of it.