Moto Z3 Review: Proven Hardware Chasing A 5G Future

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Moto Z3 Review: Design And Build Quality

motorola moto z3 back
Compared to last year's Moto Z2 Force, Motorola has changed things up a bit with the Z3's design. For starters, the display is just over a half inch larger diagonally, which means that the bezels have been trimmed to the bare minimum. The 90-degree angles at the corners of the display have also given way to round edges. Above the display you'll find the ambient light sensor, speaker and front-facing 8MP camera. Below the display is the Motorola logo which is flanked by two microphones.

So, what happened to the previous front-facing fingerprint reader? Well, it's been moved to the right side of the device below the volume buttons. This was really the only feasible alternative that Motorola had at its disposal given the infancy of in-display fingerprint technology and that the Moto Mod system precludes the use of a rear fingerprint sensor.

motorola moto z3 fingerprint

In short, the reader works -- for the most part. Given its narrow surface area, however, I often had trouble getting it to accept my fingerprint on the first try. It was often a two (or three) time affair to find success when unlocking the device. I registered my left index finger for left-handed operation, and my right thumb for right-handed use. I had better luck right-handed, but it was still often hit or miss.

The power button has been repositioned to the left side of the Moto Z3 to make room for the fingerprint reader, while the SIM card/microSD tray remains at the top of the phone. At the very bottom is the single USB-C port for charging. Motorola wisely includes a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for plugging in your wired headphones.

On the back you'll find the dual cameras (both 12MP) and an LED flash just below in a raised, circular pod. This allows the camera to sit flush when Moto Mods are attached. Below the camera pod is the familiar Motorola logo, and at the very bottom are the pogo pins for attaching Moto Mods. The Moto Z3 is still compatible with every Moto Mod that has been released over the past two years.

motorola moto z3 rear pogo

The 6.01-inch Super AMOLED display used on the Z3 is as vibrant as ever, and perhaps a tad oversaturated for our tastes. Its readability outdoors is outstanding and viewing angles are comparable with the best flagships on the market. As we've mentioned, there are two downsides compared to last year's Moto Z2 Force. For starters, the "indestructible" ShatterShield display option is now gone, and the resolution has been reduced from 2560x1440 to 2160x1080. You'll have to decide if the decrease is resolution is a deal killer for you, but it's curious that Motorola is taking a step back here.

moto z3 7

Given its support of the Moto Mods system, the physical dimensions of the Moto Z3 have not changed very much year-over-year. The Moto Z3 is about a half a millimeter thicker than its predecessor, which is in part due to its larger battery. This year's entry weighs in with a 3,000 mAh battery compared to 2,730 mAh for the Moto Z2 Force. This is an appreciable gain in capacity, and Motorola still claims all-day battery life with the Moto Z3. Wireless charging is not supported out of the box, and requires the purchase of an optional Moto Style Shell.

One other item of note, like its predecessor, the Moto Z3 features a water-repellant nanocoating that is splash resistant, but it does not feature full waterproofing like many of its flagship competitors. This could be passed off as an oversight with the Moto Z2 Force, but this feature is almost expected these days and we feel that the Moto Z3 should have at least an IP68 rating.

As for overall build quality, there’s nothing to complain about here. The Moto Z3 still has tight tolerances all around and its unibody is constructed of 6000 series polished aluminum. There’s 2.5D glass on the front and a glass back, and the device has a nice heft to it. I wouldn't consider myself to have small hands, but the the Moto Z3 does feel a bit "wide" when placed in my hand, and it took some time to get used to.


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