Moto Z review

The world's thinnest smartphone is also the best modular phone

Moto Z review
Moto Z review

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Moto Z is thin and focuses on modular capabilities, so at first we weren't sure if it would fall behind when it came to its screen and internal specs. The good news is that is keeps up with today's powerful displays and chipsets.

Moto Z review

The AMOLED display is beautiful and offers some neat tricks

It has a Quad HD screen that's every bit as brilliant AMOLED as Samsung's world-class displays, with deep blacks and vibrant colors to match.

What's even better than the richness of the screen is its functionality. Returning with the Moto Z debut is the Moto Active Display, which embeds two IR sensors and one transmitter in the face. These pick up hand gestures and other passing movements and light up a portion of the display.

Moto Z review

It's not always-on like the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge and LG G5, but it doesn't need to be. It intelligently turns on when these proximity sensors detect your presence and won't waste as much battery life.

In turn, the Moto Active displays shows discrete notification icons and you can tap on any of them to reveal more information. Press on that icon and flick it up to open that app, or down to dismiss the alert. It's a handy way to deal with notification and also see the time when the screen is otherwise off.

Moto Z review

It's powered by a Qualcomm-made Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU, and connectivity options include USB Type-C port and NFC, meaning Android Pay is fully supported.

Moto Z starts at 32GB of internal storage, but you can always spring for the 64GB configuration. Just know there's a microSD slot that can take the storage level up to another theoretical 2TB (really 256GB right now since current microSD card technology is only up to that size).

Moto Z review

All of this means it has the same basic guts as the LG G5, HTC 10, ZTE Axon 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7and S7 Edge (US versions). That's a lot of sameness. So far, only the Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe has slightly newer Snapdragon 821 processor.

As you can see, more and more, there's little that differentiates these phones, so there's actually more reason to like the idea of modular accessories that change things up.


The Moto Z is one of the faster Android phones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM we have tested, and its real-life speedy performance proves just that.

Moto Z review

There's never any lag when we flipped between menus and the camera app boots up quickly, whether you're pressing the normal camera button or shaking the phone twice to access the shortcut gesture to launch it.

Backing that up are our lab-tested benchmarks we ran using Geekbench 3 software. Moto Z managed an impressive multi-score of 5,167, which beats the HTC 10 (4,962) and just trails the US versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7 (5,337) and S7 Edge (5,398).

It finished not too far behind the Moto Z Force (5,472) and the OnePlus 3 (5,425), and latter has 6GB of RAM. Of course, none of these phones touch the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge numbers that top 6,500 in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Those two handsets use Samsung's Exynos processor.

Moto Z's performance is an impressive showing, and it may be due to its less weighty software. Motorola, while not under the Google umbrella anymore, runs a nearly-stock version of Android Nougat with Android Oreo coming very soon. Samsung Experience haters love this; Samsung loves making (sometimes bloat-causing) tweaks to Google software.

Moto Z

A familiar stock Android pulldown quick settings menu

Besides likable Moto-branded apps, there are a bunch of Verizon apps that fill the home screen and app draw in a sea of red. Most of them aren't useful and cannot be uninstalled. Verizon has a solid messaging app, but it's mainly beneficial for people within the same network. Once Google flips the switch on its new Allo and Duo messaging apps, there'll be a better alternative for the masses that isn't Google Hangouts.

Matt Swider