Moto Z2 Force Review: Shatterproof, Modular Android
Moto Z2 Force Review: Design and Build Quality
Motorola's flagship phones have typically had excellent build quality and the Z2 Force is no different. The slim unibody aluminum chassis feels sturdy and easy to hold with one hand. The Motorola logo dimple that debuted with the Moto X-series is now a slightly recessed circle that marks a spot to rest your index finger. There’s a very pronounced camera hump to eliminate vignette when used with mods. A row of pins on the lower part of the Z2 Force lets it connect to the existing collection of Moto Mods.
Physically, the Moto Z2 Force maintains similar dimensions as its predecessor, but shaves off nearly a millimeter of thickness. The battery loses 22% of its capacity in the thinning process, which doesn’t seem like a great trade-off. Regardless, Motorola claims the Z2 Force’s 2730 mAh capacity delivers all-day battery life.
The sides of the Z2 Force are fairly spartan. There’s three buttons for volume and power while a USB-C port is its only connector. A headphone jack isn’t available, but Motorola includes a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for those with existing headphones. Some folks personally don’t mind the removal of the headphone jack as they rely on external USB DAC’s for higher-quality audio when listening to music and Bluetooth earbuds for hands-free, but it can be annoying for those that don’t want to have to charge another device, replace wired headphones or work with an adapter.
Motorola resists the thin-bezel approach of Samsung and LG, but that’s not the only area where the Z2 Force's design differs from its competitors. The ShatterShield display may be tough, but it makes the Z2 Force mildly annoying to use. Motorola claims the ShatterShield screen won’t shatter or crack and backs it up with a four-year warranty from date of purchase, but adds a minor detail claiming the rest of the phone is not shockproof.
The warranty also doesn’t cover scratches, which is a problem with the ShatterShield screen. Despite being shatter and crack resistant, the phone scratches very easily. We’ve noticed quite a few scratches on the screen after a week of use without a case. Sure, the scratches are only visible under direct light with the screen off, but we’ve put more scratches on the Z2 Force in a week of use than we have on other devices over much longer periods.
Beneath the shatter-proof screen is a gorgeous 5.5-inch Quad HD (1440x2560) AMOLED display. There are reports of the “jelly scrolling” effect that’s a result of the display being mounted upside down, but it didn’t bother us during our time with the Moto Z2 Force. The display offers wide viewing angles with plenty of brightness to use during a sunny day.
Motorola places the fingerprint reader below the screen for easy unlocking using your thumb. The default software configuration shows onscreen buttons above the fingerprint reader, which is a little confusing to use. However, Motorola lets you disable the onscreen buttons for one-button navigation using only the fingerprint reader if you so choose. Once one-button navigation is turned on, you press the fingerprint reader for home, swipe right for recent apps and swipe left to go back. The feature is excellent as it provides a physical button and makes it harder to accidentally press the recent apps or back button when handing the phone off to a friend or cashier.
Lastly, Motorola claims the Moto Z2 Force has a water-repellent nanocoating that lets the phone withstand spills and splashes, but it’s not completely water proof and doesn’t receive an IPX rating like the Samsung S8 or LG G6. The lack of significant waterproofing in a flagship phone is also disappointing as it's starting to become commonplace these days.
Finally, overall the Moto Z2 Force feels a little too wide to grip in your hand comfortably. It’s not as awkward as the Nexus 6 was, but not as form-fitting as the Samsung Galaxy S8 with its 21:9 aspect ratio display and super thin bezels. The width makes it harder to grip the phone unless you have larger hands.