1. benjamminh's Avatar
    Moto Z3 Review:

    I have had the Z3 for two weeks. My direct comparisons are to a Moto Z Force 2016. Previous Motorola phones I have had include the 2015 Moto X Pure and 2013 Droid Maxx. I paid $360 for the Z3 direct from Motorola using my wife’s student discount.


    Form Factor:

    The 2016 Z Force form factor is on the clunky side with large bezels around the device. In contrast, the Z3 has smaller bezels (although not Samsung small) with a larger screen. While I prefer the fingerprint scanner on the front bottom, I understand why it needed to be moved for additional screen real estate. Hopefully next year’s smartphones will feature the fingerprint scanner embedded in the screen. One gripe is that the fingerprint scanner on the Z3 will open the phone, but not lock it. The Z3 is slightly lighter than the Z Force. Some have complained that the power button is on the left side of the device, but being left-handed that has not been an issue for me.

    Display:

    The Z3 does not have the shattershield technology found in the Z Force. I understand this change as the 2017 Moto Z2 Force too often had screen peeling issues. Moreover, the Z3 has a much higher maximum brightness than the Z Force. If I do some serious pixel peeping perhaps I can see a slight difference in the higher resolution Z Force screen, but the Z3 screen is still excellent.

    Performance:

    The Z3 has last year’s top of the line Snapdragon 835 processor, while the Z Force has the SD 821 processor from 2016. Overall, there is a performance difference. The Z3 runs cooler, is faster, and is more battery efficient than the Z Force, despite the Z Force having a 500 milliamp larger battery. I am currently averaging approximately 35 hours on, with 6.5 hours screen time with the Z3 and my best with the Z Force was 25 hours on and 5 hours screen time. Standby time is excellent. Please note I do some aggressive battery management, using Greenify, Hibernation Manager, Pixoff at times, lower brightness, and force radios into 3G if 4G signal is weak. So your mileage may vary. Overall the Z3’s screen is much more efficient because of the processor and the lower resolution. RAM management seems to be similar to the Z Force.

    Obviously, it would be great to have a Z3 with an SD 845 processor and 6 GB RAM, but Moto apparently decided to hit a particular price point. It was very disappointing because there is a good chance this will be the last Z phone in its line.

    Camera:

    I feel that the 2016 Z Force camera was underrated, having both OIS and a high degree of detail in photos because of the 21.4 megapixel sensor. It can struggle in mixed lighting high contrast situations (dark and bright areas in the same photo), although that can be improved by using a Google Camera port and using the HDR+ setting.

    I have not tried the various Z3 options on its camera (cinemagraph, spot color), but I find the camera to be solid. I do wish it had OIS (optical image stabilization) for low light shots. However, one can use a Google camera port to improve low light or high contrast photos. This camera port is also much faster on the Z3 because of the SD 835 processor rahter than the Z Force’s older processor. With very limited testing, it is possible that the Z3 takes slightly better photos with the Hasselblad Moto mod than the Z Force, although more testing is needed. It seems it may be a slight upgrade from the Z Force camera, although if you crop or zoom in on a photo the Z Force has the advantage.

    I have not done any direct testing with video, although I have read that the Z3 can have stabilization issues on some settings.

    Overall:

    If you are a Moto fan and are on Verizon, this is a solid upgrade from the 2016 Z Force. If you have the 2017 Z2 Force the camera is the same (other than the various tricks) as is the processor. You trade a higher resolution shattershield screen for a larger screen. Battery life seems to be better. You would also get an additional year of OS updates. So it is a much tougher sell. I have not compared the Z3 to the Z3 Play. Form factor is the same as is the screen technology. The Z3 Play probably has slightly better battery life while the Z3 has a performance speed advantage and perhaps a slightly better camera.

    I like Moto phones for their build quality (although my 2016 Z Force died after 17 months and I had to get an out of warranty refurb replacement), clean OS with smart additions (Moto display, chop to turn on the flashlight, and twist to open the camera). The Moto Mods were an excellent concept, but failed to deliver a truly compelling accessory like a true high quality camera mod. It seems that Moto is focusing more on its mid-level phones such as the G lineup and not trying to compete at the flagship level. Hopefully 2019 will bring Moto back into competing at the highest levels, improving its camera quality and form factor.
    morriea and Ry like this.
    09-06-2018 08:55 PM
  2. Ry's Avatar
    nice review!
    09-09-2018 02:47 PM
  3. Wired29's Avatar
    Great write up. I'm coming from a Pixel 2XL and have to say the only thing I miss so far is the performance of the camera and always on display. I loved my original Moto Z Force and after the Pie updated made my Pixel bluetooth work eraticly I decided to come back to Moto. No regrets so far!
    benjamminh likes this.
    09-09-2018 08:24 PM
  4. methodtoll's Avatar
    Is the camera that bad??? I hear mix reviews on it.
    09-23-2018 03:41 PM
  5. benjamminh's Avatar
    Is the camera that bad??? I hear mix reviews on it.
    It's not bad, but it's not Samsung/Pixel/other flagship quality. It is helped by the Google camera port in certain situations.
    09-24-2018 07:03 PM
  6. JohnS305's Avatar
    I currently have the original Z Force and it's still going strong. But, it'll be paid off in three months, so I'm just starting to look around at what's out there. Comparing specs between the Z3 and Pixel 2 the Z3 is pretty much identical but with a larger display and larger battery for a lot less money.
    10-15-2018 11:39 AM
  7. benjamminh's Avatar
    I currently have the original Z Force and it's still going strong. But, it'll be paid off in three months, so I'm just starting to look around at what's out there. Comparing specs between the Z3 and Pixel 2 the Z3 is pretty much identical but with a larger display and larger battery for a lot less money.
    The camera on the Pixel 2 would be better and of course updates will be better also. Otherwise I think you're right.
    10-16-2018 12:45 AM
  8. lparsons21's Avatar
    Thanks for the review. I’m primarily an iOS user having a slew of various things Apple. And my las Android phone was a Samsung S5 which worked fine but was not all that great.

    I have been wanting to add an Android phone to my mix just because, but was unwilling to spend what a flagship would cost. This Z3 may not be quite up to today’s flagship models, but it is darned close imo.

    It is snappy in operation and neither Verizon nor Motorola went overboard with bloatware. The screen is better than I thought would be from some reviews I had read, not quite as sweet as my Xs Max, but close enough. For the photos I take the cameras are more than good enough though I would like a good way to keep photos from iOS and Android in sync. I need to do some looking for a good solution for that.

    At the $240 price I paid for mine I could have rationalized moving away from iOS. This is lots of phone for not a lot of money!
    benjamminh likes this.
    10-16-2018 01:16 PM
  9. Ry's Avatar
    For the photos I take the cameras are more than good enough though I would like a good way to keep photos from iOS and Android in sync. I need to do some looking for a good solution for that.
    Just use Google Photos on both devices.
    10-19-2018 02:12 AM
  10. lparsons21's Avatar
    Thanks, I'm looking at how it works with the iPhone now and see what I lose/gain by doing so. I'm a casual photo taker so it isn't a big amount of photos to deal with.
    10-19-2018 10:46 AM
  11. lparsons21's Avatar
    A couple of things I've tested and noted:
    1. Battery life is excellent on this phone, almost as good as on my Xs Max. Yesterday I took the phone to the golf course for a 9 hole outing and used one of the golf GPS apps. This usually is a real battery sucker. After 9 holes battery was down about 10% which is less than compared to what I saw on the Nexus 5X and Galaxy S9 and in line with about what the golf GPS apps use on the iPhone. That as a pleasant surprise.

    2. The screen in bright sunlight is not so good though still readable, worse than on my Xs Max though.

    3. Connectivity - just like my iPhones along the way and other Android phones, cell connectivity at my home is not so good. Not unexpected since I'm at the outer boundary of my home town. Poor data speeds are the only real downside as both text/voice work fine, but at home I generally use wifi so it isn't a big issue. This is exactly the same as I get on the Xs Max though the Xs's are getting somewhat hammered for poor edge performance.

    An aside to Android. Messaging is an issue if I want to go beyond what SMS/MMS offer. Apple's iMessage is hard to beat for how well it works, and with continuity I can message/call from any of my Apple devices, that's really sweet. Doesn't seem to be a way to do that as well on Android. I've fiddled with Verizon's Message+ and it seems to be very good. And looking at Google's Message seems to show that at least some of RCS is implemented though I'm not sure just how to tell.
    10-19-2018 12:19 PM
  12. JonathanHalper's Avatar
    I moved to Z3 a week ago from OG Z Force and battery life is a big upgrade for how I use the phone (light web, voice, and maps navigation + lots of PocketCasts w/ JBL mod). Even when brand new, the Z Force would be 60 - 65% at end of day. The Z3 is down only to 98% overnight, and has finished at 74% or higher every day, even after a security patch.

    My Verizon sales rep looked at me like I was crazy for not buying insurance after telling her that I had dropped my old phone several times (thanks, Shattershield). Verizon had no cases in-store for Z3 but the bumper did replenish online; it fits well and allows use of the speaker mod.

    I know a lot of people were disappointed that Z3 was not a "true flagship" but there's a need for phones in this price range (especially Verizon). Pre-owned certified S8 goes for over a hundred more than the Z3 - are you kidding me? I looked at all the latest phones in-store and it's apparent to me that they are all high-quality but also that the chase is on for the high-end with no respect for a balance of price / performance.
    10-29-2018 02:13 PM
  13. lparsons21's Avatar
    The only true downside to this phone is the relatively poor speaker. Just doesn’t get loud enough to use it as a speaker phone IMO.

    That’s not a huge deal for me as I tend to use either my Apple Airpods or Beats X EarPods. Those both work fine with it.
    10-31-2018 02:39 PM

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