Moto Z2 Force review: Sleek and powerful, but the battery’s not great

The Moto Z2 Force is Lenovo’s 2017 flagship, cannibalizing the duo of flagships that the company released last year. That means you’ll only be able to get the shatterproof version of the phone, whether or not you want to pay extra for it.

Aside from only going with one model, Lenovo continued the decision to shrink the battery in favor of a slimmer phone, just like they did with the Moto Z2 Play. Battery life was a big selling point for the first generation of these phones, so is that worth sacrificing for the overall better hardware?

 

Let’s dig in and find out.

Design

If you used the Moto Z or the Moto Z Force, you’re familiar with the Moto Z2 Force. The design is practically identical to keep compatibility with Lenovo’s robust Moto Mods, but it is slightly thinner to make using those Mods a little more comfortable.

As much as the internet likes to complain about manufacturers making phones too thin and forgoing other features, yes, it really does make a difference here. Some of the bigger Moto Mods were downright bulky on the OG Moto Z, and trimming that down a bit makes them much more comfortable to use while still holding your phone.

Lenovo has adopted a very attractive unibody metal design with the Moto Z2 Force, and it looks slick. It’s minimalist and utilitarian, but the brushed metal is clean and smooth to the touch. Personally? I’d say this is one of the most attractive smartphone designs on the market, if not the most attractive.

It’s slim, though. Really slim.

It’s well balanced and not tough to hold, but if you’re not used to phones that rival the thickness of your credit card, the Moto Z2 Force will take some getting used to. It’s not slippery, but there’s really not much to grip. Unless, of course, you’re using a Moto Mod. Wink wink. 

The top of the phone houses the SIM tray and microSD card slot. The left side is clean, while the right side is where you’ll find the power button and volume buttons. The bottom has the USB type C charging port, but no headphone jack.

Like the other Moto Z phones, the phone features a rounded fingerprint scanner at the bottom, with a speaker, camera, and LED light at the top. Also like the Moto Z and Moto Z force, the fingerprint scanner on the Moto Z2 Force is incredibly fast.

Hardware

 Moto Z2 Force
AnnouncedJuly 25, 2017
ReleaseAugust 10, 2017
Display5.5-inch (2560x1440) Super AMOLED w/ ShatterShield
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM4GB
Storage64GB w/ microSD cards lot
Rear Camera12MP + 12MP w/ depth detection, phase detection autofocus, laser autofocus, dual-LED flash
Front Camera5MP w/ flash
Battery2730mAh (non-removable)
ChargingUSB Type-C w/ TurboPower
SoundFront-facing speaker
SoftwareAndroid 7.1.1 Nougat
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, GPS
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, fingerprint
Measurements155.8 x 76 x 6.1mm
Weight143g
ColorsSuper Black, Fine Gold, Lunar Grey

Performance

The Moto Z2 Force is competitive with everything else in 2017 thanks to its Snapdragon 835 CPU and 4GB of RAM. Like every other flagship on the market this year, good luck slowing it down. The Snapdragon 835 is no slouch, and I’ve yet to use a phone that hasn’t performed extremely well with it.

Lenovo’s decision to stick to mostly stock software on the Moto Z2 Force probably helps, but don’t worry about the performance here. Browsing the web, flipping through apps, playing games, you name it. Whatever you can throw at it, it can handle.

The display is great, and Lenovo has been making a steady point that you don’t have to go with Samsung to get something with crystal clarity and popping colors. Sure, the Moto Z2 Force isn’t going to beat out the Galaxy S8, but if you’re not comparing them side by side, I can promise you’ll be impressed with what Lenovo is offering.

Speakers are decent, and like the Moto Z2 Play, you’re only going to get one front-facing speaker above the screen. The sound won’t blow you away, and you have to be careful not to cover it up when you’re watching YouTube in landscape, but you can always solve it with a JBL SoundBoost Moto ModRight?

Battery

If the Moto Z2 Force has an Achilles Heel, this is it. Battery life is pretty mediocre, as Lenovo chopped more than 20% off the capacity from its predecessor. No more all day battery life here, unless you’re a light user or you have Lenovo’s battery pack Moto Mod. Nudge nudge.

And that’s probably the most disappointing thing about the phone, considering the previous models and even the Moto Z2 Play beat the average when it comes to time away from the charger. You’ve still got Qualcomm’s Quick Charge to juice up incredibly quickly, and Lenovo does make some very useful accessories for fixing this problem, but it’s hard not to imagine a better phone that was just a little bit thicker, especially since the flagship caliber phone doesn’t get the benefit of a lower resolution screen.

Software

The software is pretty much unchanged from last year, save for a few small tweaks. Our Moto Z2 Play review covered many of these changes, and they’re nearly identical here. It’s Android 7.1.1, and it looks almost exactly like Google intended.

The home button still has that really cool Google Assistant animation, and you’ll still get the useful Moto Actions, Moto Display, and Moto Voice. Okay, Moto Voice isn’t really all that useful, but the gestures and always-on display are great additions.

The chop for flashlight and twist for camera are still as useful as ever, and Moto Display will keep you updated on your notifications without all the extra bloat like some other phones.

Otherwise, the phone is pretty bloat free. Your carrier is probably going to stuff a few things in here (T-Mobile has plenty of their own carrier apps pre-installed) but if you like relatively untouched Android skins, Lenovo should still be one of your top options.

Camera

Lenovo brought a dual-camera system to the Moto Z2 Force, which gave pretty much everyone very high hopes for what the phone will be capable of. It’s honestly not a bad camera, it’s just not really a great camera, either.

Outdoor shots turn out pretty well, capturing a ton of detail and focusing very quickly.

Unfortunately, where the Moto Z2 Force really struggles is when it tries to take shots indoors or in poor lighting.

Even for a flagship, the pictures taken inside are incredibly mediocre. Typically we see improvements in low light shots when a dual-camera system pops up, but that’s not the case here.

There’s way more noise than there should be, and images just seem so dull if there’s not ample lighting. Lenovo is more than capable of putting out phones with good cameras, so this one’s pretty shocking.

Closing

I was a huge, huge fan of Lenovo’s Moto Z line last year. It had a few problems, like the Verizon exclusivity, but it did a lot of things right and introduced the game changing Moto Mods. This year, it feels like we didn’t really get anything different.

That still means the Moto Z2 Force is a really, really good phone. It’s just not a great phone anymore. The competition has gotten even more fierce, battery life has taken a dip, and lots of design decisions feel like they’re trying to coerce you into buying Moto Mods to correct what Lenovo should have done better.

Phone too thin? Moto Mod case! Battery’s not good enough? Moto Mod battery! Wish the speaker was actually better than last year’s model? Moto Mod speaker!

I get it, flagship sales in the Android world are tough, but I don’t like feeling nickel and dimed after shelling out $700 for a top of the line phone. It doesn’t help that the camera struggles against other flagship devices, and in 2017, you’ve got tons of people buying phones specifically for its great camera.

If you’re in the market for a new phone, or you’re on a carrier that’s new to the Moto Z line, I’d still recommend the Moto Z2 Force. The fantastic design, clean software, and stellar performance paired with some really cool Moto Mods make this a platform worth investing in. But if you’re still rocking an original Moto Z or Moto Z Force? Hang on to it. Those are still some great phones, and it feels like Lenovo would rather you buy Moto Mods instead of a new phone, anyway.

Buy it now: Motorola


About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid and an unhealthy obsession with fixing things that aren't broken. This accidentally led to being the go-to guy for anything more complicated than a toaster, which he considers more of a curse than a blessing. Jared is enrolled in online classes at the University of Phoenix, and spends his spare time on video games and listening to music.