Motorola Moto X Force Review

by Vishal Toshiwal 0

Motorola, renamed as Moto in India, is on its top of the game with its Moto G and Moto X series performing incredible among Android smartphone consumers. While it has seen its share of praise in the international market, the brand has been getting a lot of attention from its Indian audience. It’s all because of quality and stylish products it offers in all three ranges; budget, the mid and high end. The company had handsets like Moto E Second Generation, Moto X Play, Moto X Style and Droid Turbo. Now the company is making a play for high-end smartphone market with its latest in the offering, the Moto X Force. Originally named as Moto Droid Turbo 2 in the United States, the new entrant has been put in the Moto X category for its international market and India is one of them. Exactly a week ago, the company launched this handset in India at a price of Rs 49,999 for 32GB while Rs 53,999 for 64GB.

The X Force has a one-stand-out ability that clumsy people most of all would understand and need in their smartphone. It offers a display that shouldn’t crack, break or shatter even if you drop it from a considerably tall height. Yes, that is true, if you haven’t had a chance to see it in action, then you can head over to our YouTube Channel where we drop this handset on a concrete floor, not on a grass as many would’ve done it. I mean really, a drop test on a grass surface. These days’ smartphones are seemingly becoming more and more delicate by the day, now a handset that promises to handle considerable wear and tear should engage many people to try out such device. We have been playing around with this handset for around a week and now we are ready to share detailed thoughts about the device.

Design

The X Force has a different yet a familiar design language, most of its handsets comes with textured back, which can be witnessed on this handset as well. But honestly, it feels like the toughest of them all. Sporting a unibody design, the latest device from a Lenovo company boasts an aluminum frame, which as rough as its display. Some wouldn’t call this a beautiful phone, but I rather like its design; it’s straight forward, no fancy stuff, just the way I like my phone. It has what it is called as trapezoid cross section on the top and bottom edges. As well as you can notice the dual signal bands are integrated on those edges. Weighing at 169 grams, it is still lighter than most of the high-end flagships like Huawei Nexus 6P and iPhone 6S Plus. But it does have quite a chunky thickness at 9.2mm for today’s standards, although, make no mistake you can still hold the device in one hand and reach every corner of it with your fingers. I’m especially happy that there is a way to differentiate between power and volume rocker keys since they’re lined up on the same edge. The power key has a textured surface while the volume keys have a smooth surface, thus making easier to understand which is which button.

Talking about the ports placements, the top edge houses an audio jack and a hidden hybrid slot to accommodate SIM and microSD card, while the bottom edge has a microUSB 2.0 port. While talking about the front part, it has relatively large bezels, which makes it quite wide for a smartphone with a 5.4-inch display. On the top bezel, you can see an LED Flash, earpiece, set of sensors and a camera module, while the bottom bezel is the largest of them all, despite no capacitive buttons, all thanks to the dual loudspeakers. And I must admit that they’re quite loud. I have always liked the front facing speakers, which started with HTC handsets. Comparing this to the Taiwanese’s devices, they’re fairly loud, not the best, since the sound distorts when the volume is full, but are loud enough to annoy everyone on the train.

Moving on to the rear side, it has a non-removable back panel, which is textured in the roughest way, meaning it won’t slip from your hands even if your hands are all oiled up. Specifically, it’s made out of synthetic nylon and gives it a rugged look, if you’re into such things, then it’s a great start. The big camera module, dual-tone circled LED flash, and Moto Logo, all are winded up in a single lane, apart from that there is nothing on the back side. The company has tried to keep it simple, and we like how that idea looks. With curve on both the sides from the rear, the device fees compact despite its wider size and thick edges. After hearing all about and experiencing its rugged design, we are quite disappointed that it isn’t waterproof, but rather a splashproof, well what’s the point of such rugged phone, then. Overall, the device still scores well on the claim of a most robust smartphone, as it has a shatterproof display and an aluminum body that can take the hit. That’s the point of the handset, anyway.

Display

The device boasts a 5.4-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolutions, which adds up to a staggering 540 PPI (Pixel Per Inch). It is certainly a right device for any consumer craving a high-resolution display, I’m one of such enthusiasts and thus I’ intrigued as well. Sporting a 2K display means you can stream 2K content on your mobile phone; it’s a crispiness level of the highest, except if you want to compare with Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium sporting a 4K display. But that is practically useless since the 4K content is only visible while streaming a video, whereas it’s not available when you’re browsing in the system. On the other hand, everything you’re viewing on the Moto X Force is in 2K resolution.

Moto X Force - Display

The display is one of the brightest in its category, as well as vibrant; meanwhile, the color output on this thing is exceptional. We viewed 2K resolution images on the handset, and it was able to show off every color, and that is why I prefer a Super AMOLED display over any best LCD panels out there. The black and white are so real that they seem to be popping out of the screen. I have used Samsung Galaxy Note 5 for a couple of months after it launched in India last year, and that has the best display regarding everything. Comparing this to the Note 5, I’m pretty much happy with what Moto’s display showed to us. Moreover, the Active Display feature is an advantage, meaning you get notification pop-ups in the black and white screen, thus making it quite an efficient display if that’s something you were worried because of its high resolution.

We establish that display on this handset is quite impressive, but why you should be buying this device is because it has the “shatterproof screen”. Meaning, it’s one tough screen, which can’t be cracked or shattered, and trusts us we did try to do all of that. Dropping it from desk heights, a floor’s height, hammering it, we even thought of rolling it over the car, but that would have been too much I guess. What’s important is that it has six layers, unlike any other average device that has only three layers for the display. Those six layers include user-replaceable, scratch-resistant top layer, second transparent layer, two touch screen layers, so that even if one break the functionality won’t stop. And then there’s the top layer, the actual AMOLED display. Well that’s quite the count, isn’t it? I don’t often get impressed by a new piece of technology quickly, but this ShatterShield display is just mind blowing.

Interface, Apps

What is the most common element on all Motorola smartphones? They all run on almost stock Android Lollipop, i.e. 5.1 version. The brand had been practicing this move since when they introduced the first Moto X smartphone couple of years back. And we are quite happy with that. Offering little modifications that prove more resourceful than most of the Android skins can provide, as an advantage, you get the experience of stock UI with features of a custom ROM. So, for obvious reasons the stock experience was quite buttery smooth. In my opinion, it’s best to stick with Android Stock UI and add little extra features that would make sense too.

Now talking about the apps pre-loaded on the system, the company has kept it clean just like a stock Android. There are only couple of apps that are pre-installed by the company, and that too are very resourceful, including the Moto and Connect App. Other than that you’ll find all the Google stock apps installed on the operating system. We have the 64GB variant of the Moto X Force, and system apps hardly take much space, thus the user available storage space was around 46GB, which should be enough even if you’re a media buff and likes to watch movies on your smartphones, or maybe go out for the morning/evening photo walks. You would have plenty of space to capture and shoot, images and videos at your pleasure. And even if that is the issue, you should know that the handset supports up to 2TB of expansion via microSD card slot. Meanwhile, it also supports OTG drive, i.e., On-the-go drive for when you are in need of extra storage.

While talking about the free RAM on the device, it shouldn’t have you worried, as it comes with 3GB of RAM and out of that around 1.2GB of RAM was available for us while there were couples of heavy apps that were running in the background. They were not using more than a 1GB of RAM while the remaining out of the 3GB of RAM was assigned to a system for obvious purposes, to run the system. But you shouldn’t worry about system getting slow or stuck at any point because that’s not what we experienced in more than a week’s time of using it as our daily driver. What I like about the multitasking on this handset is that it is similar to what you see on the Nexus devices, the cards interface, which is the quite easy interface to switch between apps.

The most important feature of the software on this system is the Moto App. Other than offering features like Assisting through various operations via voice control, the app has some interesting tricks up its sleeves. Like gesture support such as karate chop to switch on the torch and a quick twist to launch the camera app. While the Moto’s Active Display functionality lights up the screen with notification icons, as well when we approach the phone, it proves pretty convenient to learn about the new notifications when they arrive. The one thing that we expected was that it would be shipping with the Android Marshmallow 6.0 out of the box while Moto X Style has already received the update, but the X Force is yet to receive it. We just hope company release the update and let users have fun with the latest Android version. The device deserves it since it is the flagship model of the enterprise.

Hardware & Performance

The performance matters a lot if you’re in the big league, i.e. the highly priced smartphones and thus, it was an apparent demand that Moto X Force must come with a powerful processor. What better chipset than the Snapdragon 810? True. But with controversies it has attached to it made a risky choice for the company, although, the brand isn’t known to use any other maker’s chipset, so not much of a choice. A device with 3GB of RAM and Qualcomm’s most debatable SoC was the standard combination for pretty much most of the flagship devices launched last year. And it looks like the company has to stick to it. But do make a note that Qualcomm promises improvement in their latest version of SD 810.

For starters, to learn the performance we installed a lot of games, thus utilizing the large internal storage space it houses. We played heavy graphics games like Modern Kombat 5, Asphalt 8 and GTA while we also played little less graphic intense games like Dead Trigger 2 and Riptide GP2. More than couple minutes of gaming in a day was our forte, but we did try going overboard to test on the heating part. First let’s talk gaming experience, with powerful processor and RAM combination it was bound to give good gaming experience. But did it offer an experience that one can appreciate? Well, it did more than that thanks to the front-facing loudspeakers. There wasn’t any lag or crash we had to witness. So, yes, it was quite an excellent experience, which I would remember for a long time. Well, at least, longer than most flagship phones that went through our desks.

Moto X Force - Dual Speakers

The heating wasn’t as much of an issue, while the system was idle, as promised by the chipset maker. Maybe we should thank the company for keeping UI minimal, which doesn’t unnecessarily load the system with bloatware and services that are not needed. Although, I do admit that while gaming continuously for more than half an hour, it started to heat up a lot. And that’s when were realized that Qualcomm should have done a better job. Apart from that we have no complaints about the hardware, the performance seems to be quite powerful, and the lag is almost non-existing. The applications open up as soon as you tap on them and even the heavy graphics games run without a frame drop. What can you ask more from a device!

Moving on with the talk of the benchmarking scores, we carried out tests on various popular benchmarking tools to understand the potential of the device. The first app was the Antutu, a notoriously famous app to run the benchmarks, the device score staggering 82,652 on this app. It can be divided into four aspects; 3D, UX, CPU, and RAM, with a respective score of 24352, 28960, 23448 and 5794. These are the highest numbers any Snapdragon 810 powered device has showed, we might be wrong, but well at least according to the ranking in the app it is quite true. The only handsets that beat Moto X Force in potential performance are non-Qualcomm powered devices. The list is topped by Huawei Mate 8, followed by the Meizu PRO 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and then comes the Moto handset we are using right now. Pretty amazing, right! The second app we tested the device on was Vellamo, it is Qualcomm’s app to determine the numbers in three aspects; Multicore, Metal, and Chrome Browser, the scores we got were 2487, 2544 and 4664, respectively. Those are huge numbers crunched by the Moto device. Talking about the actual browsing experience, it was a pleasing one as the Zoom-in and Zoom-out operations worked pretty neatly. Moreover, the high-resolution display and considerable good real estate make it possible to browse even desktop apps quite painlessly. Overall, we would rate the performance of this device bang for the bucks, despite there are some devices that offer 4GB RAM and Snapdragon 810 combination for far less pricing. We are talking about the LeEco Le Max; you can learn all about it in the detailed review of the handset.

Camera

This handset packs quite the powerful camera module on the rear; it’s a 21-megapixel Sony Exmor IMX230, the same that is present in Moto X Play and Style. You may think why the same module that is used in the 20K something priced handset? Well, here’s the thing, it is by far the most popular and powerful camera module and most certainly used in lots of handsets launched last year. One of our favorites are the Honor 7 and recently launched LeEco Le Max smartphones. We played with both of the handsets and almost had a similar experience, although I would say Honor did a better job as it offers a lot of features in the camera app, my most favorite is the Super Night mode. It does wonders after post processing the captured moments.

While same can’t be said for the Moto X Force, the camera app on this thing may be clean and not complex, but it sure is slow in focusing, which makes it quite annoying to use. Despite the claimed PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) technology being used here, it can’t do its one job, to automatically focus on the object. The camera lens has an aperture of f/2.0 and is supported by the CCT (Colour Correlated Temperature) Flash with dual LEDs. What’s more shameful is that tap to focus feature is also poor. To do justice to the camera module, we had to use the Google’s free camera app, and for a fact, it is one of the best camera apps out there on the Google Play Store. Truly a jewel and full of wonderful features, but let’s talk about the camera outputs now. Talking about the modes on the Moto’s camera app, it has Burst Mode, Night Mode, Auto HDR and Drag to Focus and Exposure, which is hardly of any help concerning focus.

Though, we still managed to put together a little entourage of shots that should be the judge of the camera, whether or not the default app is good or bad. We tried our hands in all three scenarios, natural, artificial and low light conditions, while it emerged as a good performer, when stretched to its limit, in first two conditions, we can’t say much in the low light conditions. Final word, it’s not as good as we expected it to be in the dark light conditions, despite being a very powerful camera module. I would like to blame the Moto’s camera app for that. It wouldn’t have hurt if they could have just done a good job in optimizing the application.

Another disappointment in the camera package is that despite it being the highly priced flagship from the brand, it couldn’t keep an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) feature for better video shoots; instead, we are stuck with software video stabilization, i.e. EIS. But thank god, they didn’t rip apart the 4K video recording feature, then again, it doesn’t matter, the video recording is pretty average for a flagship device if you want to compare with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and LG G4. You can record a 4K resolution video at a 30fps pace while for 1080p it is the same, I mean, really Motorola. You couldn’t bump it up to 60fps, even though; the camera module is capable of that. Some other features for videography include Slow motion video and Video HDR in both 1080p and 4K. The front camera module is of 5-megapixel, and it has an aperture number of f/2.0, the company claims that it is the wide angle, but I would agree to disagree on that too. Meanwhile, the flashlight present on the front would be the only help you get while capturing in low light, despite the claims that it has larger 1.4 um pixels. I have a hard time to accept that camera package on the Motorola’s flagship device isn’t up to the mark. It has so much potential, but the company failed to optimize it for their device.

Battery

One of the most important aspects of a smartphone, and if you’re investing a good amount of money, you expect more from it. The battery capacity on the Moto X Force is quite large at 3760 mAh, and every amount of it is utilized by the device very efficiently. All thanks to the minimalistic Android skin approach and less bloatware as well. During the idle time of around seven to eight hours of the night, the battery percentage drops around 2 percent only, which is a good thing. While talking about the screen-on-time (SOT), we were able to achieve more than six hours of SOT on a heavy usage, which lasted for a day and a couple more hours.

Our usage comprised of apps like YouTube, Music Player (WYNK), and games like Modern Kombat 5 and Asphalt, to name a few. Getting more than six hours of screen time with full brightness levels is amazing. This is nothing less than an exceptional behavior that should be praised. If you were to use it on average usage, then it can easily last around two days without sweating a little. Meanwhile, you also don’t have to worry about charging, since it supports TurboPower feature, which allows this handset to get fully charged in just a few minutes, as well as offer up to 8 hours of battery life within 15 minutes of charging. Of course, you would have to use the default charger that comes in retail packaging of the device. Moreover, it also supports PMA and Qi Wireless Charging standard, although, you would have to get that wireless charger separately. I love the battery life on this handset!

Connectivity

The brand didn’t leave any stone unturned, as it offers top of the line connectivity options, such as 4G LTE Category 6 bands supports and UMTS/ HSPA+. We have been using a 4G nano SIM on this handset and in our usage of more than a week, we haven’t experienced call drops, despite the good signal strength many handsets fails to offer good voice quality. For instance, Asus Zenfone Deluxe has one of the worst voice call quality, which we experienced quite a while back ago. One of my colleagues uses the handset, and he is frustrated with that. I have been a victim of poor call quality for a while, so I understand a pain when you couldn’t hear what the other person is saying despite the good signal strength. Now talking about the mobile data speeds, the 4G LTE data speed were incredible on this handset, nothing short of lightning fast downloads. The device also supports NFC, which doesn’t have a practical usage right now in the country, since wireless mobile payment market is yet to be penetrated, unlike the United States. Think of it as a future proof feature, whenever wireless mobile payments system would be implemented in the country, you would be one of the first to have access to it. Another set of connectivity options includes A-GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE (Low Energy) and microUSB port.

Verdict

Are you wondering is Moto X Force worth buying for at such hefty pricing? Well, if pricing is not the issue for you and you’re looking to get a high-end smartphone, and then this handset could be a wise choice. It has got looks, build, and performance that beat even the best of the high-end smartphones. We are blown away by the display quality and toughness it offers, which is the USP of the device, a “shatterproof screen”. The processor is one of the most powerful in the market and delivers performance as promised. Moreover, you get minimalistic user interface in the form of stock Android, and apps like Moto Assist and Moto Display that are quite resourceful in offering services. The battery life on the smartphone is pretty marvelous as well.

The only hiccup is the camera package, despite a powerful image sensor, Motorola failed to optimize the camera package on its most rugged handset. As well as the fact that it doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor is too much to gulp even with such pricing. If you can get down with that, then you should go with this handset. Otherwise, there are quite the number of options you could choose from if you’re not looking for a rugged build. Such as LeEco Le Max could be a good choice for more affordable pricing. And if you’re not convinced with that either, then the best handset you could get down at a similar price of Moto X Force is the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The South Korean giant’s handset as a better camera and offers fingerprint sensor as well, which is missing on the Moto handset. It’s your decision, choose wisely.

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Vishal Toshiwal

Born in West India, raised in the North and currently chasing dreams in the southern part of India- Vishal is an entrepreneurial spirit, a tech enthusiast and a writer by profession, who is busy taking pictures when he is not writing. He would love to talk to you about the latest movies, TV shows and DC/Marvel comics. As a personal rule, he doesn't let a day get by without at least one dessert. Because, why not?