My Moto Z Community Review


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Sep 4, 2013
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Yeah, this took longer than it should’ve been, but after over a month of having it as my daily driver, I’m ready to give my full thoughts on this.


  • It’s definitely a polarizing thing. The Moto Z is really thin and has a design language that’s drastically different from the Moto X.
  • Personally, I think the back looks pretty nice and rather “techy” looking, with a glass + metal back along with the pins for the MotoMod system and a rather large camera hump that resembles the face of a Moto 360.

  • But the front on my White/Gold model looks pretty goofy. My thoughts haven’t really changed since the launch of the device at Lenovo TechWorld ’16. The front of the device definitely looks kinda goofy, especially on the chin with the square fingerprint sensor and the rather-large circles for the IR sensors used to activate Moto Display. The Black/Lunar Gray model looks much more understated and sleek IMHO, but a DBrand Hyperblack Titanium skin is going on the front.
  • It’s also thin. REALLY THIN. At 5.2mm, it’s the thinnest flagship smartphone around. But none of that matters to me. Without the case and included style shell, the phone just feels too darn thin, as if it’s a really fragile piece of equipment. The included bumper and style shell helps “beef” up the device a bit, making it easier for me to handle, but the Incipio OffGRID will be an almost-permanent addition to mind not just for the significant increase in thickness but also for its extended battery.
  • But it does really feel solid. The phone feels quite well-put together and does feel like it’s stronger than what its thin profile would suggest. Buttons are also very clicky, offering excellent tactile feedback, but they’re very small and evenly spaced. Despite having an aggressive texture on the power button, I found myself mispressing either the lock or volume-down button at times. I preferred the layout on my old Note 7, but this isn’t a particularly major concern to me.


  • The Moto Z utilizes a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED panel that’s presumably sourced from Samsung (like a lot of other mobile OLED panels).
  • As it is OLED, all of the usual OLED traits are there. Very vivid colors, infinite contrast thanks to deep black levels and great power efficiency.
  • I also found the display pretty good outdoors. It’s not as bright as my old N7, but it does get very bright indeed, making it pretty easy to read in direct sun without having to squint too much.
  • Another bonus is that there’s a color option right in display settings where you can adjust the color gamut. By default, it’s set to “Vivid”, which sacrifices accuracy for more saturation. However, you can go for a “Standard” mode with reduces saturation in order to be more accurate as-per sRGB. It’s not the most accurate display I’ve seen, but it is quite accurate and I’m happy Motorola added an option for it right in the display settings.


  • The Moto Z is a bit of an interesting thing on this front. All Moto Zs (minus the Z Play) use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, which utilizes a quad-core Qualcomm Kyro CPU and an Adreno 530 GPU built on a 14nm process by Samsung. Interestingly, the Droid Edition has its big cores clocked at 2.15GHz while the unlocked versions have it pegged back at 1.82GHz. The small cores stay at 1.6GHz, however.
  • Despite the drop in clockspeed, the Moto Z performs very well. Stutters and actual lag were very rare in occurrence during my time of using it and while the UI may not be as smooth and snappy as that on a Google Pixel, it is definitely one of the faster phones I have used.
  • The Z also utilizes UFS storage, which also results in some of the fastest app-launch speeds I have seen. Apps rarely take more than a second to load up from storage. And RAM management is also very good, with reloaded apps being a rarity.
  • I haven’t had much to complain about in terms of performance, despite the drop in clockspeed on the processor. However, note that the GPU is also underclocked. While this doesn’t result in a noticeable degradation in performance to my eyes, if you’re after every single frame-per-second, unless you’re willing to unlock the bootloader and flash a different kernel, this might not be it for you.
  • But overall, this is a pretty snappy phone. There’s very little performance issues and the drop in clockspeed has almost no effect from my experience.


  • Motorola has never been known for having great cameras, or rather, a good camera. That started to go around with the Moto XPE, but even that had its share of flaws. The Moto Z aims to address some of those……but it’s rather odd.
  • The main sensor is a Sony Exmor IMX214, a 1/3” sensor with a resolution of 4160x3120. If that sounds familiar, it’s the same sensor fitted on many devices dating back to 2014, such as the Nexus 6, HTC One A9 and Moto G 2015. The Z Force, on the other hand, uses a Sony Exmor IMX338, a 1/2.4” sensor with a 21MP resolution, and it’s an upgraded version of the IMX230 found in the Moto XPE. Both phones have OIS and f/1.8 apertures plus laser autofocus (though the Force also has phase-detection autofocus).

  • The camera app is a welcome improvement over past Motorolas. While past Moto camera apps were simple, they were also unfamiliar and sometimes unintuitive as tapping anywhere on the screen takes a photo and one needs to slide to change focus. The Moto Z’s camera is more conventional, utilizing a shutter button to take photos, a button to change modes, sliding gestures to open the gallery or settings menu but the slide-to-focus mechanic remains, although one can now tap to change the focus.
  • I have not used the Z Force, so I am unable to comment on that, but from my time with the camera on the Moto Z, it is a capable camera, but falls a little short from similarly-priced rivals.
  • Daylight performance is typically pretty good, with pleasant amounts of saturation, a large amount of detail and decent dynamic range. White-balance does land a touch warm at times, and it was common for me to dial back the exposure by at least 0.4EV as it does get a little too bright by default, however.
  • When the light goes down, it reveals one key weakness of the Z; low-light performance. It’s not that it’s a bad performer. The wider aperture and OIS does help with aiding for low-light shots that are steady, but the smaller 1/3” sensor does prove to be a bit of a sore point when it comes to noise. Low-light shots also come out pretty bright by default, sometimes resulting in more ISO noise than needed.
  • Handily, the phone does come with a night mode that’s automatically enabled when the surroundings are dark enough or when you adjust the exposure to a certain point. The OIS does help with steadying the shot for a clear night-capture and it does turn out pretty decent, although it still falls short of low-light champs like the Galaxy S7 and Nexus 6P.
  • The camcorder performance is also pretty decent, but also has some flaws. The phone shoots at a 50Mbps bitrate when shooting 4K UHD video, which results in a pretty good looking video, with the option to shoot it in HDR and also enable software stabilization while in UHD. However, at least on mine, the phone has a tendency to drastically shift and hunt for focus, especially while panning. It makes it a little unpleasant to look at, something that I hope is sorted in a future software update.
  • I have not used the selfie camera as I am not the type of guy who takes selfies, but I’ll report back if I do use it a bit.
  • Overall, the camera on the Moto Z is pretty good, which is a revelation compared to past Motos, which had truly horrendous and awful cameras. However, there are still some flaws which puts it just shy of top-tier performers. The Z Force does better in nearly all aspects, though.
  • Samples found here:


  • The Z runs on a very-close-to-stock build of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. And it really is close-to-stock. There is almost no form of UI customization and add-ons, being largely like Google’s vision of Android.
  • Since there’s very little change, I won’t go too much into software, although Moto’s additions are still there, alive and well.

  • The main addition is the Moto suite, which provides different gestures and voice commands. I personally have always been fond of the flashlight and camera gestures, and I find that they both work really well, firing up almost consistently in a perfect manner. The voice command now works more like a customized “Okay Google” prompt, but it does work.
  • Other than that, the Moto Z’s software build is pretty much like stock Android. If you’re coming from a Nexus, it should feel very familiar. Though I’ll say that the stock screen density is just too large, especially considering the resolution and size of the display.
  • Android 7.0 Nougat is currently rolling out. Mine hasn’t got it yet, but I’ll post updates below in the thread when it does. Also note that it does not receive security patches in a monthly manner, but does so as part of a package released every few months.


  • One major con of having such a thin phone is having a smaller battery. The Z has a 2600mAh battery, which is actually pretty darn small for a 5.5-inch device. As such, I expected it to have Galaxy S6-levels of battery life, which is to say “Pretty darn bad”. Turns out, I was sorta wrong….but also sorta right.
  • On my regular usage pattern, I can get 3.5-4 hours of SOT over a 16-18 hour day. On more frugal days, where the phone is in standby most of the time, around 30 hours of total uptime is possible, though SOT goes back at around 2.5-3 hours.
  • Now, that is actually better than I was expecting, but I can’t help but think it could’ve been better had they not made the phone so thin.
  • The included TurboPower charger does charge quickly, though. In 30 minutes, I can top-up half of the phone’s battery, although even plugging it into my non-QC battery bank resulted in decent charging speeds as well.
  • As mentioned before, I am getting an Incipio MotoMod to make it last longer off a wallwart, so I’ll report back when I get it and use it.

  • It’s great. No, really. It is.
  • I currently only have the JBL speaker, but it is a pretty good speaker, as it’s very loud and punchy. I had to turn it down a few notches due to how loud it is.
  • Actual operation is also very simple. Just snap and it’s done. Removal is almost as easy as putting it on, though the magnets on this are really strong.
  • Motorola has committed to keeping the MotoMods system going with more support, but considering their past history, I hope they stay true to this one.


  • Fingerprint sensor is lightning fast and usually very accurate, but it is prone to misreads, misfires and sometimes fails to detect my finger at all on the first go. Such moments are rare, however, and the sensor works well in most cases.
  • The single mono-speaker has decent sound quality and is firing in the right direction, but high volumes do sometimes cause it to sound a bit tinny.
  • Despite being in a Style Shell for almost all of its life, the camera glass has one or two faint scratches.
  • It’s nice that it comes with a bumper case, as it can be a bit hard to find suitable cases that don’t hinder the MotoMods.
  • I still miss the dimple, though.
  • Radio performance is good, being able to hold onto a signal well based on carrier coverage and Wi-Fi performance is also quite good. Call quality was also very clear with few issues.

I personally think the Moto Z is a solid device, and actually does modularity very well. However, there are some flaws in this phone which I think can be deal-breakers for some, especially considering the price of the device, especially in its unlocked form. That said, I don’t think people who opt for a Moto Z are going to be seriously let-down by their purchase, though I do recommend that you go for a Z Force if possible, as you’ll get a bigger battery, more durable display and a better camera.
Is it my absolute favorite of the year? Probably not, but do I like it? Surprisingly, yes.


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