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Portable Sound And Vision

Electronics – Portable Sound And Vision

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162)

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162)

At $179.99, Dell’s Inspiron 11 (3162) is a very affordable laptop1. If you’re not looking for many frills but want an ultraportable that’s capable of basic tasks and is easy to carry with you, there are few better alternatives. For less than $200, you get a 64-bit Windows 10 operating system, a simple but sturdy physical build, long battery life, and fast enough processing for Web browsing, word processing, and other day-to-day tasks. The Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-112 costs slightly less, but features only a limited 32-bit OS and didn’t perform quite as well on our tests. Aside from a single color choice that might turn away some potential buyers, this laptop has no unreasonable downsides considering its super-low price, so it’s our top pick for cheap ultraportable3 laptops.

Design and Features

A small, all-plastic laptop that measures 0.69 by 11.1 by 7.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.46 pounds, the Inspiron 11 (3162) is quite portable, stacking up well to the IdeaPad 100S-11 (0.68 by 11.4 by 7.9 inches; 2.29 pounds) and the Acer Chromebook R 114 (0.8 by 11.6 by 8 inches; 2.76 pounds). At this size, it’s good for taking to class where you have limited room to work, or for throwing in your bag to stay productive on the train or bus.

The entire chassis is unabashedly blue (Dell calls it Bali Blue), with a shiny reflective finish on the lid and a duller surface for the keyboard deck. Aesthetics are generally subjective, but I imagine the appearance won’t be to everyone’s liking since the blue is very bold; this might make it a better choice for students, who work in less serious environments. You can tell the plastic is inexpensive by its look and feel, but the build quality is good and the body is sturdy, something that can’t be said for every budget laptop. Although both feel a little flimsy, the keys are responsive (though they would be more comfortable with more travel) and the touchpad performs well.

With a 1,366-by-768 resolution, the display isn’t impressive, but is standard for the price range. It has poor viewing angles, but In-Plane Switching (IPS) and 1080p displays are found on far more expensive models. The IdeaPad 100S-11, the HP Stream 135 (a larger but also very blue budget laptop), the E-Fun Nextbook 10.16, and the Lenovo S21e-207 all feature the same 720p resolution, so you’ll have to move up a price tier if full HD is a must.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162)

You’ll probably want to invest in an SD card if you need more storage: Only 32GB of eMMC flash storage is available here. That’s the same amount found in the IdeaPad 100S-11, though, as you’re not going to get much more for this little money. Chromebooks almost always offer only a small amount of local storage to encourage cloud usage, and big hard drives are reserved for larger and/or more expensive laptops. Connectivity options are basic, but again, you can’t expect a full suite of features for less than $200, and Dell’s inclusions make sense. On the left side of the laptop are an HDMI port, a SM© USB 2.0 port, and a microSD card slot. On the right there’s another SM© USB 2.0 port, a headset jack, and a security lock slot. It does feature dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which are nice features at this price point. Dell supports the laptop with a limited one-year warranty.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162)

Performance

This system runs on a 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3050 processor, 2GB of memory, and Intel HD graphics. On the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, which measures productivity potential, it scored 1,566 points, more than the IdeaPad 100S-11 (1,399) and the Lenovo S21e-20 (1,533), but less than the HP Stream 13 (1,771). In real-world testing, the Inspiron 11 (3162) wasn’t what I would call fast to load desktop items and multitask, but it was serviceable.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162)See How We Test Laptops8

One big leg up it has on the IdeaPad is its full 64-bit operating system, as opposed to the Lenovo laptop’s more limited 32-bit version. As a result, and unlike the IdeaPad, it was able to complete the 64-bit multimedia tests, finishing the Handbrake test in 12 minutes, 22 seconds and the Photoshop test in 17:23, and scoring 61 points on CineBench. These marks are very low, and you wouldn’t want to rely on the laptop for media projects by any means, but it can technically run them, and we are talking about a $180 laptop. As expected with integrated graphics, 3D and gaming performance weren’t too promising. The Inspiron 11 (3162) scored 1,515 points on 3DMark CloudGate, a bit ahead of the competition, but was unable to run the more demanding Fire Strike Extreme test. Unsurprisingly, it was also unable to score more than just 6 frames per second on the Heaven and Valley gaming tests on medium quality settings. This isn’t unique to the Inspiron 11 in this category: Laptops at this price, and even those that cost a couple of hundred dollars more, are simply not powerful enough to play anything but the most basic games.

Battery life, on the other hand, was quite good. The Inspiron 11 (3162) lasted 10 hours, 5 minutes, on our rundown test, slightly shorter than the IdeaPad’s 11:31 and the Acer Chromebook R11’s 10:30, but longer than the S21e-20’s 6:03 and the HP Stream 13’s 9:09. That’s good enough to qualify as all-day battery life, so there would be no problem taking it through a day of classes or on your commute.

Conclusion
The Dell Inspiron 11 (3162) is an inexpensive ultraportable laptop with 64-bit Windows and acceptable performance speeds. The feature set is very basic, as you’d expect, but there are no glaring exclusions for a system that costs just $179. The flashy paint job may well be a sticking point for some, and the IdeaPad looks a bit nicer, but if don’t mind the design, this is the better-performing system. For these reasons, the Dell Inspiron 11 (3162) is our new Editors’ Choice budget ultraportable.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162)

References

  1. ^ affordable laptop (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-11 (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ ultraportable (uk.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ Acer Chromebook R 11 (uk.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ HP Stream 13 (uk.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ E-Fun Nextbook 10.1 (uk.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Lenovo S21e-20 (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ See How We Test Laptops (uk.pcmag.com)

Sony Xperia XA Ultra likely to be launched on July 25

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Lava A32, A68 smartphones launched in India, price starts at Rs 2,999

Zopo Speed 8 with deca-core processor, Android Marshmallow launched at Rs 29,999

Lava launches X17, X50 4G Android M smartphones under Rs 10,000

Moto Z and Moto Z Force

The Moto Z and Z Force are the first phones to break from Moto’s attractive, but well-worn look and feel. Gone are the complexly curved sides, thick middle body and unibody construction. Instead we have a modern and somewhat angular design that’s actually very slim, unlike the old Moto design that got chubby toward the middle. Whether this is Lenovo’s influence or just the next step for the folks at Motorola who work largely independently from their parent company, we don’t know. What we do know is that the Moto Z and Moto Z Force (both Droid Editions in the US and exclusive to Verizon Wireless) are some of the best phones on the market today. They run on the top dog Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU with Adreno 530 graphics and 4 gigs of RAM. They have colorful and very bright QHD 2560 x 1440 AMOLED displays, capable cameras, and a unique modular accessory system that puts LG’s “Friends” for the LG G51 to shame. You can get stylish back covers, an extended battery back, a projector (Lenovo does love putting projectors on mobile devices) and a JBL speaker back. It’s easy–magnets hold the various back covers firmly on the back, and the phone automatically recognizes them (and informs you of that fact) without a need to disassemble, reboot or yank out the battery.

In fact, for better or worse, both Moto Z models’ batteries are sealed inside. This is how a modular phone should be: simple and attractive. The question is, do you want or need a modular phone? While I personally don’t feel that I must have one, the Moto modules are useful enough and easy enough to use that I find them tempting. The Moto Z and Moto Z Force are available for pre-order on July 21, 2016 and will be in Verizon Wireless stores on July 28th.

What’s the Difference Between the Moto Z and Moto Z Force? The two models are nearly identical, with the same CPU/RAM/storage, wireless features, screen size and front camera. The Moto Z has a 13MP rear camera while the Moto Z Force has a 21MP rear camera. The Moto Z has a 2600 mAh battery while the thicker and heavier Moto Z Force has a capacious 3500 mAh battery. To be fair, the Moto Z is one of the thinnest phones on the market at 5.2mm, so the 7mm Moto Z Force is by no means thick just because it’s not as slim at the Moto Z. Both models’ displays are covered by Gorilla Glass 3, but the Z Force has a shatter-proof covering for those who need serious screen robustness. Moto invited us to drop the phone from 5 feet onto a hard floor to test that shatterproof screen, so they’re confident (note that this isn’t a rugged phone and it might suffer damage elsewhere when harshly tested). $96 sets the two models apart in the US.

The Moto Z is $624 ($26/month) on Verizon Wireless, and the Droid Z Force is $720 ($30/month).

Moto Z And Moto Z Force

Design and Ergonomics

Both phones have slim designs with an aluminum chassis, metal surround and a striped glass back with antenna windows in black at the top and bottom. The phones will likely also be available in white with a gold back and black with gold trim, but our two review units are black with gunmetal trim. The smartphones are intended to be used with Moto Style Shell back covers that cover and protect the many gold pogo pin connectors that interface with optional Moto Mods. With a Style Shell mounted, there’s no camera hump, but if you use the phone naked there is a large round camera hump on the back. The shells are slim and light though sturdy, and one is included in the box. The Moto 5.2mm Z is exquisitely thin (Moto claims it’s the thinnest phone currently on the market), and the Moto Z Force is thicker, but still relatively slim for a phone with a 5.5″ display. The phones have a fairly large and identical footprint, but they’re smaller than the Nexus 6P2 and 5.5″ iPhone 6s Plus3.

They’re easy enough to handle, and the sides are easy to grip, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge4 with a curved 5.5″ display. That Samsung is however the smallest among the 5.5″ competition. Build quality is excellent and the phones feel like quality products, though the front faces are a bit generic and look much like the Moto G4 Plus5. The Moto Z models have a front mounted fingerprint scanner that works impeccably. You might be tempted to use that scanner button as the home button, but the home, back and multi-tasking buttons are on-screen. The fingerprint scanner simply locks and unlocks the phone.
The volume buttons and power button are small (perhaps too small) and are clustered tightly together near the top right side of the phone. I’d like more separation or a different size/tactile feel for the power button.

Moto Mods

– Style Covers ($20-$25): these are cosmetic backs and they’ll be available in six designs at launch; Washed Oak, Charcoal Ash, Silver Oak, Black Leather, Black Herringbone and Red Nylon. More will be added in the future. They’re sturdy, yet slim. Though they slightly thicken the phones, they do remove the camera hump and protect the many data pins on the back. I do like the look of the naked phones, but our black models show so many fingerprints so quickly, that I’d rather cover it.

– The InstaShare Projector ($299.99) has a built-in stand and a secondary 1100 mAh battery. This is a 50 lumen DLP projector (400:1 contrast ratio) that can project up to 70″ images and it has keystone and brightness adjustments. For those unfamiliar with projector specs, this isn’t a very bright or high contrast projector, so you’ll use it in dark rooms to maximize viewability and contrast.

– The JBL SoundBoost ($79.99) makes the phone as loud and full sounding as a laptop…a laptop with better than average audio. The Mod has stereo 3 watt speakers (6 watts total) with a claimed 80db loudness. It also has a 1000 mAh secondary battery and a built-in kickstand.

Moto Z And Moto Z Force

– Incipio OffGrid power back.

A not too thick 2200 mAh battery that augments battery life. It’s likely most appealing to those who go with the Moto Z rather than Z Force, since the basic Z has the smaller battery. There are other battery backs coming with some serious style from Kate Spade and Tumi priced from $60 to $90. There are more Moto Mods under development, and third parties can develop Mods with the help of Moto’s dev kit. Mods must be certified by Motorola, which is likely a good thing so you won’t have to worry about poorly designed Mods that might disrupt the phone’s functions.

Motorola says that the Moto Mods platform will be supported by future Moto Z phones, so they’ll likely find new life if you upgrade to next year’s Z phone.

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References

  1. ^ LG G5 (www.mobiletechreview.com)
  2. ^ Nexus 6P (www.mobiletechreview.com)
  3. ^ iPhone 6s Plus (www.mobiletechreview.com)
  4. ^ Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (www.mobiletechreview.com)
  5. ^ Moto G4 Plus (www.mobiletechreview.com)

Motorola Moto Z Droid

Motorola has a long history of slim phones1. First there was the RAZR2 in 2004, the device that showed phones could look cool. In 2011-2012, there were Droid RAZRs3, Android smartphones with slim steel frames. The RAZRs’ spiritual successor, the Moto Z Droid ($620 for 32GB; $674 for 64GB on Verizon), is one of the slimmest smartphones available; only the low-end Blu Vivo Air LTE4 is thinner. The Z Droid is a powerful, good-looking device, and its MotoMods set of replaceable backs are a genuinely useful innovation. But its performance doesn’t measure up to its larger sibling, and our Editors’ Choice, the Moto Z Force Droid5.

Physical Features
The Moto Z Droid
measures 6.10 by 2.96 by 0.20 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.8 ounces. That’s lighter, but wider and taller, than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge6 (5.95 by 2.83 by 0.30 inches, 5.54 ounces), and I find it just a bit too wide to use with one hand. Some of the phone’s height goes into the perplexing placement of a fingerprint sensor under the screen, which works as a screen on/off button, but not as a home button. The phone is a big slab of glass and metal, with a Gorilla Glass screen and a black stainless steel back.

Power and volume buttons are on the right side, and the combination SIM/microSD card slot sits on top. The 13-megapixel main camera forms a large bump on the back, but you likely notice it because you’ll have a magnetic back attached to the phone. The Moto Z platform allows for MotoMods, which are functional backs that clip onto the phone, adding features or just changing the look; a basic wooden back costs $14.99 and neutralizes the camera bump. I’ll discuss these in greater detail below. The phone’s 5.5-inch, 2,560-by-1,440 AMOLED screen is gorgeous: it has the deep, saturated colors and perfect blacks you expect from AMOLED, and in brightness, it appears to fall just a touch short of the spectacular Samsung Galaxy S77.

One thing you won’t find is a headphone jack. I’ll get to that.

Call Quality, Networking, and Power

The Moto Z phones have a loud, harsh earpiece tone when making phone calls. It definitely punches through background noise, but I found that it rendered my voice rather nasal (and my voice certainly doesn’t need help in that regard). But the volume is powerful, both on the earpiece and the speakerphone. I was more impressed with call transmission quality, because noise cancellation in the microphone is just terrific. Motorola Moto Z Droid

The Z phones use LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/13. Technically, they’re unlocked, but don’t rush out to buy one for another carrier: Unlocked global models with no Verizon bloatware will arrive around the end of the summer, so if you aren’t on Verizon, wait. The global models have better LTE roaming, and also have HSPA+ 1700 and LTE bands 12 and 17, which are needed for the best coverage on AT&T and T-Mobile.

The Moto Z had solid LTE signal performance in testing, but it perplexingly fell behind on Wi-Fi. I’m wondering if there’s a firmware issue here, as I saw on early units of the HTC 108. As usual with high-end devices, the Moto Z kept up with the Galaxy S7 and Moto Z Force when close to a Wi-Fi router, but it dropped off much more sharply at the edge of the Wi-Fi cell, giving me 1-2Mbps down when the other phones were able to find 7-12Mbps.

Battery life is fine, if not spectacular, at just under six hours of screen-on video streaming time over LTE. I got the same result on the Z Force, though the Z Force has a larger 3,500mAh battery that I suspect will outperform the Z after some tuning with a future software update. Because of their magnetic backs, there’s no wireless charging for the Z series (there may be a wireless charging mod, though). The Z comes with a 3.6A fast charger. It charged the phone to 25 percent within 15 minutes, and 24 percent more in the next 15 minutes, taking a little over an hour to fully charge the phone’s 2,600mAh battery.

Android and Software
The Moto Z Force runs Android 6.0.1
Marshmallow9 with Motorola’s typically low-key extensions. Motorola insists that it will get an Android 7.0 Nougat10 upgrade, but I think Verizon will hold that up for months.

Motorola Moto Z Droid

Benchmark results are quite similar to other phones with a 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, like the Galaxy S7. That’s a good thing, as these are the most powerful phones available today. All of the Snapdragon 820 phones tend to score around 5400-5500 on Geekbench. I got 150,000 on the Antutu benchmark, which bests both the OnePlus 311 (at 141,000) and the Galaxy S7 (at 123,000.) The difference is largely in the UX tests; Samsung’s skin slows its phones down, while Motorola’s lighter touch pays off in speed. Motorola’s few software extensions have been around since the 2013 Moto X12. Moto Display lights up the time and notifications when you put your hand near the screen, which I find very convenient; it’s a good balance between battery life and always-on display functionality.

The phone also has some gesture controls, such as flipping it over to mute the ringer. Otherwise, Motorola still, fortunately, doesn’t mess with Google’s launcher, and doesn’t give you competing photo and music apps it’s Google Photos and Google Play Music all the way. The OS build takes up 8.37GB of the phone’s 32GB, largely thanks to Verizon’s bloatware. There are a dozen preloaded Verizon apps on these Droids. A few egregious games are deletable, but you’re stuck with NFL Mobile, Slacker, and VZ Navigator for life.

Fortunately, there’s a microSD card slot as part of the SIM slot in the top. It supports all the card sizes currently available, and is compatible with Google’s Adoptable Storage, which makes SD cards work like internal storage.

Camera and Multimedia
The Moto Z has a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. Camera quality falls noticeably behind the 12-megapixel Galaxy S7, though. Outside, everything looks a little smoothed by default, and exposures don’t bring out quite the level of highlights that the Galaxy S7 or the Moto Z Force do. In low light, images are a little dimmer and blurrier than the Galaxy S7. Pictures from the Moto Z Force are brighter than the plain Z, but noisier; I happen to be biased toward noisy rather than dim. The two Moto Zs share the same 5-megapixel front camera.

In good light, they take sharper selfies than the Galaxy S7 does. In low light, the S7 manages to pull somewhat better highlights out of images with the front-facing camera. Video-wise, the phone has no trouble recording 4K video at 30 frames per second with its main camera, or 1080p video with the front camera. It also records 720p video at up to 120fps for slow-motion playback.

Motorola Moto Z Droid

The Moto Zs are the first major smartphones to come without a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, you get a headphone-to-USB-C dongle (pictured above) in the box. (The phone can output analog audio over the USB-C port.) This is annoying, especially because you can’t charge your phone while listening to wired headphones, but it’s also something we’re likely to start seeing a lot more of in the future. You’re not getting any special audio quality for your sacrifice the Z Force doesn’t have the richness you get on the HTC 10. It looks like this was done mostly to keep the phone thin.

There are no USB-C headphones on the market yet. In three days, I’ve already misplaced the small headphone dongle several times. The best idea is just to keep it attached to your favorite headphones. Honestly, I’d just go with Bluetooth headphones for the phone, which will help you get around any charging issues.

Moto Mods

The Z series’ most exciting feature is Moto Mods. As mentioned earlier, these are magnetic accessories that add features to the phones. All Moto Mods are compatible with both the Z and the Z Force.

Initially, Motorola is launching with a half dozen. Basic back plates in soft-touch plastic, wood, and metallic materials will cost $14.99.

TUMI and Kate Spade power backs cost $59.99 to 89.99. The $79.99 JBL SoundBoost is a large add-on speaker with a kickstand that lets the phone play room-filling sound, with far better bass than the internal speakers provide. And the Moto Insta-Share projector is a 50-lumen projector with an hour of battery life for $299.99. We’ll review these in the upcoming weeks.

Motorola Moto Z Droid

For geeks, the most exciting mod is the one that can be anything: the $129.99 Developers Kit. There are a few sample “personality cards” that go on top of the basic dev breadboard, but the one to pay the most attention to lets you attach any Raspberry Pi HAT module. Motorola tells me that Mod will come with all the software necessary to develop for the phone; it didn’t specify whether that includes rooting or unlocking the bootloader. Snap on a Moto Mod and a settings screen pops up.

With the mods I’ve tested, the most important aspect of that screen is that it lets you monitor the battery in the Mod, as well as make minor settings changes, like telling the battery back when it can charge the phone, and setting auto-keystoning on the projector. It’s a very smooth, streamlined experience. I think lots of people are going to buy battery backs.

Comparisons and Conclusions
The Motorola Moto Z Droid packs a lot into a very slim package. Were there no Force version, it would be a close second to the Galaxy S7 series. Motorola’s Android software is better than Samsung’s, and the Moto Mods are genuinely compelling add-ons. But camera and Wi-Fi performance are important, and in those regards, the Galaxy S7 pulls ahead slightly. But you don’t need to compromise.

The Moto Z Force Droid gives you the Moto Mods, a bigger battery, a nearly unbreakable screen with a four-year warranty, a sharper camera, and better Wi-Fi performance. If you’re going to spend $600 on a phone, you might as well spend $700. Go out and get a Moto Z Force.

Motorola Moto Z Droid

References

  1. ^ phones (in.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ RAZR (in.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Droid RAZRs (in.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ Blu Vivo Air LTE (in.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ Moto Z Force Droid (in.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (in.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Samsung Galaxy S7 (in.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ HTC 10 (in.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ Marshmallow (in.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ Nougat (in.pcmag.com)
  11. ^ OnePlus 3 (in.pcmag.com)
  12. ^ Moto X (in.pcmag.com)

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid

The Motorola Moto Z Force Droid ($720 for 32GB; $770 for 64GB) has everything. With a big battery, a nearly unbreakable screen, and a selection of useful removable backs, it’s the phone1 to buy on Verizon Wireless right now. Its sibling, the Moto Z Droid2, is slimmer and costs $100 less, but has a smaller battery and lacks the super-tough screen. They’re both excellent, but as with the Samsung Galaxy S73 and the Galaxy S7 Edge4, we recommend the slightly larger model with the bigger battery. That makes the Moto Z Force Droid our Editors’ Choice for smartphones on Verizon.

Physical Features
The Moto Z Force Droid is a big slab of glass and metal, with a multilayer shatterproof plastic-and-glass front and a black stainless steel back. It measures 6.14 by 2.98 by 0.27 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.74 ounces. That makes it larger than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (5.95 by 2.83 by 0.30 inches, 5.54 ounces), and I find it just a bit too wide to use with one hand. Some of the phone’s height goes into the perplexing placement of a fingerprint sensor under the screen, which works as a screen on/off button, but not as a home button.

The 21-megapixel main camera forms a large bump on the back, but you’re unlikely to notice it because you’ll have a magnetic back attached to the phone. The Moto Z platform allows for MotoMods, which are functional backs that clip onto the phone, adding features or just changing the look; a basic wooden back costs $14.99 and neutralizes the camera bump. I’ll discuss these in greater detail below.

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid
Left to Right: Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid

The phone’s 5.5-inch, 2,560-by-1,440 screen is covered with a shatterproof plastic layer, and unless you scratch it, you can’t tell. I kept looking at the Z Force’s screen next to the Z’s, even under a magnifying glass, and I couldn’t spot the difference. Oh, yeah, and there’s no headphone jack. I’ll get to that.

ShatterShield
The Z Force Droid isn’t a ruggedized phone, but it’ll do.

It has a multilayer ShatterShield display with a four-year warranty against cracks and breaks. It can scratch, though, and you’ll have to live with scratches. The Z Force is also water-resistant, but not fully waterproof; you can spill things on it, but you can’t dunk it. To test ShatterShield, I dropped the phone twice from three feet onto rough concrete, and once onto tile. The magnetic back flew off, and the phone’s metal bezel got a noticeable silvery gouge in it, but the screen remained intact. To test water resistance, I poured an eight-ounce glass of water onto the phone. You could see the phone’s coating repelling the water, and no liquid got under the magnetic back.

After drying it off, it was no worse for wear. But the USB-C port doesn’t look protected, so I wouldn’t use it while the phone is wet.

Call Quality, Networking, and Power
The Moto Z phones have a loud, harsh earpiece tone when making phone calls. It definitely punches through background noise, but I found that it rendered my voice rather nasal (and my voice certainly doesn’t need help in that regard). But the volume is powerful, both on the earpiece and the speakerphone. I was more impressed with call transmission quality, because noise cancellation in the microphone is just terrific. The Z phones use LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/13. Technically, they’re unlocked, but don’t rush out to buy one for another carrier: Unlocked global models with no Verizon bloatware will arrive around the end of the summer, so if you aren’t on Verizon, wait.

The global models have better LTE roaming, and also have HSPA+ 1700 and LTE bands 12 and 17, which are needed for the best coverage on AT&T and T-Mobile. I was quite happy with the dual-band Wi-Fi performance on the Z Force, moreso than on the plain Z. In various Wi-Fi tests, I got quite different results from the two phones. As usual with high-end devices, they performed similarly when close to a Wi-Fi router, but the Z dropped off much more sharply at the edge of the Wi-Fi cell, giving me 1-2Mbps down when the Z Force and a Galaxy S7 were able to find 7-12Mbps.

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid

Battery life is fine, if not spectacular, at just about six hours of screen-on time while streaming video over LTE. The 3,500mAh battery is significantly larger than either the Moto Z’s or the Galaxy S7’s, though, so I’m thinking a software update may improve battery life in the future.

Because of their magnetic backs, there’s no wireless charging for the Z series. (There may be a wireless charging mod, though.) The Force comes with a gigantic 5.7A USB-C power adapter. I tried to charge the phone with both its own adapter and with the plain Z’s 3.6A charger. The super-fast 5.7A charger boosted the Force to 39 percent in the first 15 minutes, adding 25 percent each additional 15 minutes, charging the whole phone in under an hour. The smaller charger added just 19 percent in 15 minutes.

Android and Software
The Moto Z Force runs Android 6.0.1
Marshmallow5 with Motorola’s typically low-key extensions. Motorola insists that it will get an Android 7.0 Nougat6 upgrade, but I think Verizon will hold that up for months. Benchmark results are quite similar to other phones with a 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, like the Galaxy S7. That’s a good thing, as these are the most powerful phones available today.

All of the Snapdragon 820 phones tend to score around 5400-5500 on Geekbench. I got 150,000 on the Antutu benchmark, which bests both the OnePlus 37 (at 141,000) and the Galaxy S7 (at 123,000.) The difference is largely in the UX tests; Samsung’s skin slows its phones down, while Motorola’s lighter touch pays off in speed. Motorola’s few software extensions have been around since the 2013 Moto X8. Moto Display lights up the time and notifications when you put your hand near the screen, which I find very convenient; it’s a good balance between battery life and always-on display functionality. The phone also has some gesture controls, such as flipping it over to mute the ringer. Otherwise, Motorola still, fortunately, doesn’t mess with Google’s launcher, and doesn’t give you competing photo and music apps it’s Google Photos and Google Play Music all the way.

The OS build takes up 8.37GB of the phone’s 32GB, largely thanks to Verizon’s bloatware. There are a dozen preloaded Verizon apps on these Droids. A few egregious games are deletable, but you’re stuck with NFL Mobile, Slacker, and VZ Navigator for life. Fortunately, there’s a microSD card slot as part of the SIM slot in the top. It supports all the card sizes currently available, and is compatible with Google’s Adoptable Storage, which makes SD cards work like internal storage.

Multimedia
The Moto Z series are the first major smartphones to come without a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, you get a headphone-to-USB-C dongle in the box. (The phone can output analog audio over the USB-C port.) This is annoying, especially because you can’t charge your phone while listening to wired headphones, but it’s also something we’re likely to start seeing a lot more of in the future.

You’re not getting any special audio quality for your sacrifice the Z Force doesn’t have the richness you get on the HTC 109. It looks like this was done mostly to keep the phone thin. There are no USB-C headphones on the market yet. In three days, I’ve already misplaced the small headphone dongle several times. The best idea is just to keep it attached to your favorite headphones. Honestly, I’d just go with Bluetooth headphones for the phone, which will help you get around any charging issues.

The Z Force packs a 21-megapixel main camera with 4K video recording, as well as 720p slow-motion video at up to 120 frames per second. It isn’t better than the Samsung Galaxy S7’s camera, but it’s quite good. Motorola’s software helps. You activate the camera by flicking your wrist, and you can take a picture by tapping anywhere on the screen. These have been Moto features since the original X, and they make it easier to take pictures one-handed than on other phones. Along with the usual modes, there’s a manual mode and a very good macro mode.

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid

Set aside the Force’s megapixel count, as exposure and image processing typically matter more. Testing the 12-megapixel Galaxy S7 against both the 13-megapixel Moto Z and the 21-megapixel Z Force, the Galaxy S7 has the best exposure in both regular and low light. While the Z has a very good camera, photos tend to look a bit softened. The Z Force comes close to the S7’s well-balanced images in daylight. In low light, the S7 also turns out the best images. The Z was softer, while the Z Force was noisier. It becomes a question of which compromise you want to make.

I prefer more detail, with noise if necessary. The two Moto Z’s 5-megapixel front cameras are exactly the same. In good light, they take sharper selfies than the Galaxy S7 does. In low light, the S7 manages to pull somewhat better highlights out of images. I had no problem recording 30fps 4K video or 30fps 1080p front-facing video in any light.

Moto Mods
The Z series’ most exciting feature is Moto Mods.

As mentioned earlier, these are magnetic accessories that add features to the phones. All Moto Mods are compatible with both the Z and the Z Force. Initially, Motorola is launching with a half dozen. Basic back plates in soft-touch plastic, wood, and metallic materials will cost $14.99. TUMI and Kate Spade power backs cost $59.99 to 89.99. The $79.99 JBL SoundBoost is a large add-on speaker with a kickstand that lets the phone play room-filling sound, with far better bass than the internal speakers provide. And the Moto Insta-Share projector is a 50-lumen projector with an hour of battery life for $299.99.

We’ll review these in the upcoming weeks.

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid

For geeks, the most exciting mod is the one that can be anything: the $129.99 Developers Kit. There are a few sample “personality cards” that go on top of the basic dev breadboard, but the one to pay the most attention to lets you attach any Raspberry Pi HAT module. Motorola tells me that Mod will come with all the software necessary to develop for the phone; it didn’t specify whether that includes rooting or unlocking the bootloader. Snap on a Moto Mod and a settings screen pops up. With the mods I’ve tested, the most important aspect of that screen is that it lets you monitor the battery in the Mod, as well as make minor settings changes, like telling the battery back when it can charge the phone, and setting auto-keystoning on the projector. It’s a very smooth, streamlined experience. I think lots of people are going to buy battery backs.

Comparisons and Conclusions
I’m surprised to say this, but the Motorola Moto Z Force Droid is the most exciting phone I’ve seen this year.

The tough screen, water resistance, expandable memory, and attachable backs combine the strengths of several of 2016’s top phones, and top the LG G510‘s unfulfilled promises by actually delivering attachable backs that work. There are only two downsides to the Z Force Droid: it’s big and it lacks a headphone jack. But I think it’s worth putting up with these issues. While I’d still pick the Galaxy S7 as my own device because I’m into smaller phones, the Z Force Droid combines lots of power, some great accessories, and much sleeker software than Samsung provides. It’s the most promising new phone of the year, and our Editors’ Choice for Verizon buyers.

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid

References

  1. ^ phone (in.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ Moto Z Droid (in.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Samsung Galaxy S7 (in.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ Galaxy S7 Edge (in.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ Marshmallow (in.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ Nougat (in.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ OnePlus 3 (in.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ Moto X (in.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ HTC 10 (in.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ LG G5 (in.pcmag.com)
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