Moto Z2 Force review

Motorola’s refined Android phone, now slimmer in all ways

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The Moto Z2 Force has a new dual-lens camera on back that takes excellent photos with its own twist to things – a theme for this modular smartphone.

It pairs two 12MP cameras, both identical with an f/2.0 aperture and larger 1.25 micron pixels, and uses laser and phase detection autofocus to capture photos faster than last year’s phone, though the focus is not always accurate. 

One camera is dedicated to monochrome photos, following the Huawei P10 concept of capturing true black-and-white photos without the need for a filter. Most users probably won’t notice the differences between it and simulated software black-and-white filters, however.

What is unmissable is the depth of field capabilities of the Moto Z2 Force camera. Depth photos can apply bokeh (blurring) to the background, like iPhone 7 Plus portrait photos. Motorola goes one step further and lets you use selective black-and-white here, too, for a really unique effect.

But, one step forward and two steps back: Neither camera has optical zoom capabilities like the iPhone and there’s no optical image stabilization. That affects both photo and video shakiness. Moto Z2 Force can record 4K video, yet OIS is sorely missing.

The front 5MP camera has a standout feature of its own: a front-facing flash that’s better than a simulated display flash. You can also get a wide-angle 85-degree selfie on this camera with a f/2.2 aperture, which is helpful for group shots.

The Moto Z2 Force cameras aren’t the best we’ve seen from Android phones in 2017, but they’re just close enough for most people to be completely satisfied. Plus they include standout features like selective black-and-white, true monochrome and a front-facing flash to make a difference.

Battery life

Here’s where the Moto Z2 Force ultra-slim form factor really hurts itself: it has a 2,730mAh battery that gives it nearly all-day battery life, but significantly shortens what we experienced from the Z Force a year ago.

Nearly all-day battery life isn’t good enough. If you’re using Google Maps or the Hotspot feature in a city, the phone will drain before the day is through. If you’re a heavy phone user, you’re going to want to buy a MotoMod battery pack right away.

Battery packs aren’t a deal breaker. This is an already thin smartphone and adding one gives the design a nice curved grip on the back. There are also a bunch of personalizable styles, though the new generic-looking Turbo Power battery pack is the best for efficiency.

Consistent with everything we found in real-life tests, when we ran an HD video for 90 minutes – our standard lab test for all phones – we saw the battery by 15%. The best news is that the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t take long to charge and the charger is detachable from the wall brick. Last year’s charger was all one piece. Motorola is at least listening to some of our feedback.

Matt Swider