Motorola Moto Z
£529 • motorola.co.uk
Announced back in June in the US, the Moto Z was launched alongside the Moto Z Force, a phone with a screen that – just like the Moto X Force – is ‘unbreakable’. Motorola has no plans to launch this in the UK, but the Moto Z will be arriving this side of the pond in mere weeks.
At £529, the Moto Z is undeniably expensive, especially when many people consider most Motorola phones to be budget or mid-range offerings. Not so with the Moto Z: this is every inch a flagship phone. It may be cheaper than
the iPhone 6s Plus and Galaxy S7, but it’s £80 more than the Huawei P9 and £100 more than its modular rival, the LG G5.
Modular is the name of the game with the Moto Z. It’s a new family of 5.5in phones which has a special 16-pin connector on the rear for accessories that attach with super-strong magnets. We’ll get to those later.
Pinch and hold the Moto Z between two fingers and it feels both amazingly thin and light. It weighs only 136g, so it is exceptionally light for a 5.5in phone, yet feels strong thanks to the aircraft-grade aluminium frame.
Adding to its flagship credentials is a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM and well specified front- and rear cameras.
So what gives? Two things in the main: there isn’t room for a headphone jack, so there isn’t one. Motorola beat Apple in this particular race-to-thefuture. In the box is a short USB-C cable which ends in the 3.5mm minijack you’ll need to use any standard headphones. Or, you could just hook up some decent Bluetooth headphones if you have money burning a hole in your pocket.
The other trade-off is a small battery. At 2600mAh, it will get you through a day, but certainly not the two days that’s promised with the Moto Z Play.
No corners are cut on the screen, which is a 5.5in super AMOLED with a resolution of 2560x1440. It’s just as good as the Galaxy S7’s, although there are no curved screen edges here.
There’s no always-on option, either. But Motorola has installed IR sensors which bring up the date and time (plus notifications and the ability to interact with them) when you wave your hand over the screen.
Like the Moto Z Play (right in the photo above), there’s a square fingerprint reader at the bottom of the screen. It’s instinctive to press it like a home button, but a button this is not. It does work as a way to wake the phone, though, which is handy as the three equally-spaced power and volume buttons are easy to confuse with one another.
On the rear the camera protrudes quite a bit, but a black Moto Shell is supplied in the box which – like all other Moto Mods – uses magnets to attach. This brings everything flush and hides the connector from view. But even without a Shell, the Moto Z has a pretty attractive rear thanks to
subtle horizontal lines in the metal (these are more visible on the white model than the black model shown here). However, both phones are prone to showing marks and fingerprints due to their smooth surfaces. Again, the Moto Z Play is on the right here for comparison.
It’s all very well having the thinnest phone in the world (or, at least, one of them) but this is rather negated once you snap on a PowerPack. And you will from time to time as the Moto Z could always do with extra battery life.
There are various PowerPacks available, including from Incipio and others. They cost around £60, and can double the phone’s battery life.
Much more interesting is the newly announced Hasselblad True Zoom. This costs £199.99 and was developed by Motorola and Hasselblad to counter the three ‘pain points’ of phone photography. The first is, of course, a zoom. It manages to pack in a 10x zoom (25- to 250mm 35mm equivalent) in a package just 15.1mm thick, and weighing 145g (note that this is more than the Moto Z).
Second is the ability to shoot in RAW, or RAW+Jpeg if you prefer. You can then process images in Adobe Lightroom or any other application which supports the RAW files.
Third is low-light performance. While it was hard to assess during our short hands-on time with the True Zoom, it significantly outperformed the Moto Z’s built-in camera in low light, producing sharp, almost grain-free images. We did notice that some images were a little soft towards the edges, and
when we reviewed images actual detail levels were on a par with the best smartphone cameras, rather than rivalling a DSLR.
The Samsung Galaxy camera was the first phone to have a built-in zoom lens, but here you can remove the camera when you don’t need it and use a different accessory.
When attached, though, the camera and phone work seamlessly together as one. We like the dualstage shutter button with a zoom rocker in front of it, and the fact that it has a proper Xenon flash.
The bad news is that, although there’s optical stabilisation, only electronic is used when shooting video. And that video is limited to just 1080p at 30fps – disappointing when the 12Mp sensor is plenty for 4K, and the Moto Z (and Z Play) can both shoot 4K using their built-in cameras.
Another fun Moto Mod is the Insta-Share projector. Again, it lives up to its name by attaching and projecting whatever is on your phone’s screen. It has a built-in battery and stand, plus auto keystone correction to give you a square (well, rectangular) image no matter what angle you hold or place the phone. All you need to adjust is focus.
We tried the projector in a fairly well-lit room and found that if you limit the size to around 30in, it’s possible to see bright content without too many problems. Trying to watch a night scene in a video or a dark photo proved near impossible so, as with most pico projectors, it’s best used in the dark.
The JBL Sound Boost certainly adds volume compared to the Moto Z’s built-in speaker but it’s not as good as the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy. Still, you won’t have any problems with stuttering or going out of range as this isn’t a wireless connection, of course.
We haven’t had time to run our usual benchmarks on the Moto Z, but we already know how the Snapdragon 820 performs in other current flagship phones. And it’s no slouch. Everything feels silky smooth – helped no doubt by the excellent screen.
The Moto Z has a Cat 6 LTE modem – the Qualcomm X12 built into the Snapdragon 820. This supports up to 450Mb/s or 600Mb/s on compatible networks. It has all the other ingredients a flagship should have: 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and Assisted GPS.
The only disappointment is that it’s a single-SIM model for the UK; you can only get a dual-SIM Moto Z in other countries.
If you’ve already owned a Motorola phone, you’ll know that the company sticks closely to Google’s version of Android. It comes with Marshmallow, and is sure to get Nougat at some point soon.
Android may look stock, but there are a number of tricks such as being able to double-chop the phone to turn on and off the LED flash, double-twist to launch the camera app and hover your hand over the screen to quickly see the time and updates. There’s also Attentive Display (a feature absent from the Moto Z Play), which keeps the screen from dimming or turning off while you’re looking at it. This uses the IR sensors in conjunction with the camera, which could explain why the Play doesn’t have it – it doesn’t have IR sensors.
So far, there’s no mention of whether the Moto Z (or Moto Z Play) are Daydream compatible. Daydream is Google’s new VR headset and it requires phones to meet a certain minimum specification.
Our early impressions of this phone are positive. As long as you can deal with the jettisoning of the headphone
jack and the one-day battery, the modular nature of the Moto Z makes it a compelling alternative to other flagships. It’s also arguably a better choice than the LG G5 if you want a modular phone. However, if your budget is more limited, the Moto Z Play is also compatible with Moto Mods and is better value at well under £369.99. Jim Martin
• Android 6.0 Marshmallow • 5.5in, 2560x140 super AMOLED display, 535ppi
• Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip
• 4GB RAM • 32GB storage • MicroSD card slot • Fingerprint sensor • 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi with MIMO • Bluetooth 4.1 • A-GPS • NFC • USB-C • 13Mp rear camera • 5Mp front camera • 4G LTE (Cat 6) • 2600mAh non-removable battery • 153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19mm • 136g