Lenovo Moto Z in-depth review - Snap this up!

Modular, stunning and super-thin, Moto Z has everything going for it, whether it is power, looks or brains. So, is this the breakout product of the year?

 Lenovo Moto Z Review - Snap this up!
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/27/2016 12:55:33 PM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

9

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

9

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Good battery | Fantastic modular design | Pure Android | Camera works brilliantly

Cons:

No headphone jack | phablet size not for everyone

 

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

 

 The word innovation has come to be used very freely by mobile phone manufacturers these days. Everything is termed an innovation whether it is a slimmer form factor or the absence of a headphone jack or even the use of an unusual material. And while most of the claims are indeed innovations, there are few that can be classed as a truly new way of making a mobile phone more powerful and ergonomic than the Moto Z.

it is not everyday that a smartphone wins the Most Innovative Device gong at the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards with as much ease as the Moto Z did.  Not just the concept, but it was also the quality of finish on the mods that was being judged and Lenovo's flagship phone delivered all that and more.

Lenovo Moto Z in-depth review: Look and feel

Modular- the word that evokes memories of Google's much-awaited Project Ara and LG's much anticipated G5. A classic case of good intentions and bad execution, the G5 didn't live upto expectations, neither of the public nor the Taiwanese giant and we all know Google shelved Project Ara. And so when it came to the Moto Z, I was obviously way too excited.

During the demo, I was told this is the 'thinnest premium smartphone' and Lenovo have done everything in their power to shave off excess meat including getting rid of the headphone jack.

And the phone is a super-svelte 5.19mm thick, not including the coin-like large camera lens at the back. The power and the volume buttons are on the right and the SIM-card and the memory card are inserted at the top of the phone. For a phone of its size- this is a phablet, it is quite light at 136g and because of its slim profile, easy to use one handed during commutes.

The fingerprint sensor is on the Home button and the tiny square is one of the smallest ones you will find on a phone barring the Sony smartphones where it is sited on the side of the phone.

The Gorilla Glass covered back of the phone picks up prints by the dozens but you don't really need to worry about that because, also in the box is a super-slim textured backcover, that you can attach to the phone using strong magnets at the bottom. With the cover on, there are no bumps at the back- it is all one smooth surface.

 

On their website, Lenovo are selling not just the 'Style Shells' in plastic, but also those covered in fabric, leather and wood in different colours and textures starting at £16. So if ever you are bored of the Moto Z's looks, you can change it all very cheaply.

Lenovo Moto Z in-depth review: Modular design

Unlike LG, Lenovo have decided to go with magnets to make sure their mods don't move once attached to the phone and at the bottom of the back of the Moto Z, you will find a series of dot connectors that attach very securely to the mod whether it is the thin back protector or the heavy-duty Hasselblad Camera Module.

The connection is so strong that once on, you will actually worry how you are going to take the mod off, but there is a small gap at the bottom so you can pry mods off without chipping your nails.

For now, there is the JBL Sound Boost (£69.98), Insta-share projector (£249.99), Hasselblad Camera Module (£199.99), Incipio offgrid power pack (£59.99) and scores of 'style shells', to instantly change the colour and texture of the phone back. Lenovo say they are invested in the idea of a modular phone and have started up a Moto Mods Developer platform with an earmarked $1 million that they hope to use towards bringing the best mod ideas to market and amp up all areas of the Moto Z or Moto Z Play. To start off, budding designers need to buy a phone and the Moto Mod Development kit and let their imagination run riot. 

I was given the Hasselblad True Zoom camera module to review and my initial reaction is very favourable.

 

My in-depth review of the camera module will be here soon, but it feels like a proper hybrid camera would in hand. There is a rubberised grip on one side so you don't have to worry about the phone slipping out of your hands and the optical zoom is both effective and incredibly efficient at taking both low-light and regular photos.

As soon as you snap it on, the phone screen acts like the view finder and you can see the full Hasselblad menu on there.

 

There are three modes for shooting: colour JPEG, b/w JPEG and RAW. The Hasselblad mod further comes with the kind of features you would have been used to, on a pocket camera like action shot, landscape, portrait modes and auto mode.

There is a separate power button on the Hasselblad mod as well as the zoom rocker. You take pictures like you would on cameras of yore by pressing slightly to focus and then hard press to take the photo.

But more on the camera mod later.

The native camera onboard has a 13-MP sensor and includes what's the most important feature on cameraphones: optical image stabilisation. Photos taken on the camera are non-fuzzy and the laser autofocus further sweetens the deal. Furthermore, there is free storage for two years for all photos in their original size and format on Google Photos so you dont have to rush to re-site them. 

There is 8X digital zoom as well as burst and night modes. Apart from the smarts that you can use for still photos, there is automatic video stabilization and you are able to shoot videos in 1080p HD video (60fps), 4K video (30fps) and Slow Motion video Video HDR (1080p and 4K).

Lenovo Moto Z in-depth review: Display 

The 5.5-inch AMOLED display has a 1440p Quad HD (2560 x 1440) resolution and a pixel per inch density of 535. Tucked away under Corning® Gorilla® Glass which also covers the back, this is one of the best displays on a smartphone right now, at par with that of the OnePlus 3 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Accurate colours without added warmth and a fantastic media streaming experience is what you get from the Moto Z.

Lenovo Moto Z in-depth review: Processor, battery and operating system

As you would expect from a flagship phone of this calibre, the Moto Z is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor backed up by 4GB RAM. This is the same configuration you will find on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge as well as the Galaxy S7.   

I ran several benchmark tests on the Moto Z and got a result of 1477 on Geekbench for single-core and 3903 for multi-core and though the Galaxy S7 edge has had a 1744 score from it, the Moto Z should not have any issues even when you put it through its paces by running graphics heavy apps and stream media continuously.

While the Moto Z has the brains to rival that of the Samsung S7 edge, in terms of battery on-board it isnt as much as you would expect from a 5.5-inch device. The battery clocks in at 2600mAH and even though I was netrvous that it would keel over in under a day's use, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn't. I got almost 2 days' worth of use out of it on a single charge and when I played an HD video off Youtube over 4G with 100 percent brightness, the Moto Z lost just 10 percent of power in 30 minutes. Given the size, resolution and type of display, this is quite an impressive result.

 

The Moto Z is charged via a USB-C type charger (in box) and the presenced of TurboPower means that 15 minutes of charging gives you up to 7 hours of power.

Moto phones have an ace up their sleeve which makes them more desirable than other phones and that is they run pure Android without any complicated overlays. This not only means that the user gets the security updates quickly but also that when newer versions of the operating system are released, Moto phones are usually the first ones off the block in getting them.

Apart from a Moto Mod app so you can buy more mods for your Moto Z and Moto Z Play, there isnt anything that jarrs or takes up precious memory.

Talking of which, there is 32GB worth of memory onboard and you can use a microSD card to further increase it by 2TB. However, as long as you have apps like Google Drive that can work across all your devices, there is hardly any need to be worried about deminishing memory space on your phone.

Should I buy the Lenovo Moto Z?

Lenovo have priced the Moto Z at £499.99, considerably lower than that of other flagships. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (32GB) is £629 and the Apple iPhone 7 (32GB) and Google Pixel both cost £599. The difference in price makes for a very logical argument in favour of buying one or a couple of mods to go with it.

The Moto Mods that go with the Moto Z cost between £49 (Incipio battery pack), £199 (Hasselblad Camera Mod) and £249 (Insta-share projector). 

The difference in price allows you to work within your budget and pimp out your phone with mods of your choice based on needs and necessities. And this is the best thing about the Z... the feature packed phone can be further accentuated easily and Lenovo have confirmed they will keep the form factor of the Moto Z and the Moto Z Play the same to support the Mod Developer program they have launched.

So, if you tend to use your phone longer between charges, you can get away with buying just the battery mod, the camera mod if you are a keen photographer and if you like streaming media off your phone, maybe the projector mod?

Apart from the heavies, there are dozens of options available in terms of back covers- from regular plastic to fabric-feel to leather, all available in a plethora of colours.

The Lenovo Moto Z is a phone that finally lets you decide what you want from/on your phone- like a build your own pizza.

Modular phones have been talked about for a long time and LG did manage to bring it to market with the LG G5 but bad build quality, unavailability of modules and LG's reluctance to build on it meant it was a commercial flop.

Lenovo have made all the right noises with the Moto Z and I for one am floored by it. The display is top notch, this is the thinnest premium phone in the market and the battery great. However, it might be a bit too big for some and you need an adapter (in the box) to use wired headphones.

To be fair, there aren't really many negatives I can point out about this phone and its winning the Mobile Choice Consumer Award 2016 for Most Innovative Device proves it is far ahead in the pack than its peers. Pure Android is another plus as are the fast charge capabilities.

This phone is fantastic. Snap it up!

Lenovo Moto Z specifications

John Lewis

Price: £499.99

Operating System: Android™ 6.0.1 (Marshmallow)

Dimensions: 155.3 x 75.3 x 5.19mm

Weight: 136g

Resolution: 2560 x 1440 pixels; 535ppi

Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD Corning® Gorilla® Glass

Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 processor with up to 1.8 GHz Quad-core CPU and Adreno 530

Camera: 13-MP with OIS and laser auto-focus; 5-MP selfie camera with wide-angle lens and LED flash

Memory: 32GB(ROM) + 4GB(RAM); 
Expandable storage upto 2TB via MicroSD slot

Battery: 2600mAh lithium-ion battery

Fingerprint sensor:Yes (home button)

Misc: Qualcomm® Quick Charge; USB Type-C; NFC; sold with a range of magnetic mods; water resistant