Lenovo Moto Z2 Force vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: Can a newcomer take out the reigning champion?

Lenovo Moto Z2 Force vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Moto Z2 Force in hand
There’s no question that the Moto Z2 Force is a powerhouse of a smartphone. It boasts a 5.5-inch display with 2,560 × 1,440-pixel resolution, shatter-resistant glass, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, and a 12MP dual-sensor camera that mimics the look and feel of high-end DSLRs. But the competition hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8 Plus, the followup to the Galaxy S7, and it’s every bit as capable. The S8 Plus has a 6.2-inch display, an iris scanner, and a host of other desirable features that are squeezed into a gorgeous, curved body. Below, we pit the Lenovo Moto Z2 Force against the Galaxy S8 Plus to see which comes out on top.

Specs and performance

Lenovo Moto Z2 Force

moto z2 force vs play lenovo isolated 2

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

google pixel vs samsung galaxy s8 thumb

Size 155.8 × 76.0 × 6.1mm (6.13 × 2.99 × 0.24 in) 159.5 × 73.4 × 8.1mm (6.28 × 2.73 × 0.32 in)
Weight 5.04 ounces (143 grams) 6.1 ounces (173 grams)
Screen 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED P-OLED touchscreen 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED touchscreen
Resolution 1,440 × 2,560 (538ppi) 1,440 × 2,960 (529ppi)
OS Android 7.1.1 Android 7.0 Nougat
Storage 64GB (U.S.) 128GB (International) 64GB (U.S.) 128GB (International)
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

Samsung Exynos 9 Series 8895 (International)

RAM 4GB (U.S.) 6GB (International) 4GB
Connectivity 4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi 4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera Dual 12MP rear, 5MP front 12MP rear with OIS, 8MP front
Video 4K 4K
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 5
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor
Water resistant Yes Yes, IP68 rated
Battery 2,730mAh 3,500mAh
Ports USB-C, Moto Mod connector USB Type-C
Marketplace Google Play Google Play Store
Color offerings Super black, fine gold, lunar gray Black, silver, orchid gray, coral blue (international), gold (international)
Availability Motorola, Best Buy Amazon, Best Buy, Samsung
Carriers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
Price Starting at $720 Starting at $840
DT review Hands-on 4 out of 5 stars

On paper, you’d be hard pressed to tell the Galaxy S8 Plus and Moto Z2 Force apart. In the United States, both boast 4GB of RAM and 64GB of base storage, although the Galaxy S8 Plus has a slight storage advantage (pricier models come with 128GB). Both also have MicroSD card slots that support memory sticks up to 2TB in size.

The Galaxy S8 Plus packs Bluetooth 5.0, which has four times the range and two times the speed of the Moto Z2 Force’s Bluetooth 4.2. The other, more tangible benefit is enhanced pairing; the Galaxy S8 Plus can stream music to two different Bluetooth devices at the same time, while the Moto Z2 Force is limited to one.

So which has the better internals? Between the Moto Z2 Force and the Galaxy S8 Plus, we’re handing the win to the Galaxy S8 Plus. The phone’s larger storage capacity and superior Bluetooth capabilities are enough to edge out the Force.

Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus

Design, display, and durability

moto z2 force versus galaxy s8 plus

There’s no mistaking the Galaxy S8 Plus for the Moto Z2 Force; the two phones couldn’t be more different when it comes to design.

The Moto Z2 Force is cut from the same cloth as last year’s model, with a brushed-metal design and Lenovo’s distinctive, 16-PIN Moto Mod docking port. The phone’s rear camera juts out slightly from the phone’s cover, and the oval-shaped fingerprint sensor sits underneath the screen, adjacent to the etched “Moto” logo. The edges are also curved on all four sides, concealing a USB Type-C charging port. And like its predecessor, the Moto Z2 Force lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Galaxy S8 Plus is made mostly of glass and metal. Its massive, 6.2-inch display dominates the front, concealing the home button (which is embedded beneath the display) and sloping to the left and right like a Salvador Dali painting. Another plus to the Galaxy S8 Plus is the presence of a 3.5mm jack and USB-C connector, both of which are welcome conveniences. But Samsung’s flagship commits a faux pas of a different kind: The fingerprint sensor sits next to the camera, allowing you to easily smudge the built-in shooter.

Both the Galaxy S8 Plus and Moto Z2 Force are water-resistant, but the Galaxy S8 has a slight advantage. It’s certified IP68, which means it can withstand a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Lenovo says the Moto Z2 Force’s nano-coating can “repel water,” but it’s not designed to hold up against more than an accidental splash.

Let’s get things straight when it comes to displays: The Galaxy S8 Plus and Moto Z2 Force both have gorgeous, colorful screens that display more pixels than the human eye can make out. They share the same QHD (2,960 × 1,440 pixels) and the same high-contrast, ultra-saturated Super AMOLED technology. But as good as the Moto Z2 Force’s screen is, it’s no match for the display on the Samsung S8 Plus, which leads the pack in terms of accuracy and brightness.

The Galaxy S8 Plus also carries the unique distinction of being the first phone with a Mobile HDR Premium label, which means it’s certified by the Ultra HD Alliance to show high-dynamic range (HDR) content. In laymen’s terms, apps that serve up HDR content (like Netflix) will look even brighter and more colorful on the Galaxy S8 Plus than they would normally.

The Moto Z2 Force has the upper hand when it comes to durability, too. The fine print guarantees that the Shattershield screen protector won’t crack for up to four years from the purchase date. Although we prefer the fingerprint sensor on the Moto Z2 Force, the Galaxy S8 Plus’ curved, futuristic body takes the design cake — and the 3.5mm jack is the icing on the top. We’re handing the display win to the Galaxy S8 Plus, too. Its screen may not be the most durable, but it still ranks among the best we’ve tested, and support for Mobile HDR is an added bonus.

Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus

Battery life and charging

moto z2 force versus galaxy s8 plus

It’s tough to predict battery life from specs alone. Samsung’s flagship may have a larger battery capacity (3,500mAh) than the Moto Z2 Force (2,730mAh), but it also has to contend with a larger screen. In our testing, the Galaxy S8 Plus lasted a little more than a day on a full charge. The Moto Z2 Force, which has a significantly smaller battery, likely won’t last as long.

The comparison isn’t as clear cut when it comes to charging, however. The Galaxy S8 Plus’ Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which can fully charge your phone in about an hour, is slower than the Moto Z2 Force’s TurboPower, which delivers up to six hours of battery life in a mere 15 minutes. That said, the Galaxy S8 Plus has the advantage of wire-free charging via Qi and PMA accessories, which the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t support without an optional Moto Mod.

It’s a close call in the battery and charging category, but the larger battery capacity and the wireless capabilities on the Galaxy S8 Plus are just enough to win it the round.

Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus

Camera

moto z2 force versus galaxy s8 plus

The Moto Z2 Force swaps last year’s single-lens camera for twin shooters, but at the cost of megapixels; the smartphone’s rear cameras are 12MP as opposed to the Moto Z Force’s 21MP. The Galaxy S8 Plus, on the other hand, sports the same 12MP camera found on last year’s Galaxy S7.

It’s tough to predict how the two will compare, but we can confidently say that the Moto Z2 Force has a high bar to clear. The S8 Plus’ 12MP camera ranks among the best smartphone cameras we’ve tested, thanks to optical image stabilization, support for high-dynamic range (HDR), and incredibly good performance in tricky lighting conditions.

But dual cameras have their advantages.

The Moto Z2 Force’s cameras promise to be just as good, if not better. It sports 12MP cameras on the back, as opposed to the Moto Z Force’s single 21MP shooter. The phone’s software is akin to the iPhone 7’s camera setup, and uses a second sensor to zoom in on objects. There’s also a special, black-and-white mode that captures “true monochrome” images.

It’s a different story when it comes to front-facing cameras, though. The Moto Z2 Force sports the same 5MP selfie sensor as last year, compared to the Galaxy S8 Plus’ 8MP camera. That might not sound like much of a difference, but at a technical level, the front-facing camera on the Galaxy can resolve a bit more detail than the Moto Z2 Force’s.

We haven’t had a chance to put the Moto Z2 Force’s camera through its paces, so we’re calling this round a tie for now. But we’ll revisit it once we’ve had a chance to conduct a more thorough comparison.

Winner: Tie

Software

moto z2 force versus galaxy s8 plus

The Moto Z2 Force ships with Android 7.1.1 layered with Motorola’s skin, which isn’t too far off from stock Android. The Galaxy S8 Plus, on the other hand, ships with Samsung’s TouchWiz.

The Moto Z2 Force features Moto Display and Moto Actions, which save time by condensing multiple steps into single taps and swipes. Take Moto Actions, for example, which allows you to silence notifications and calls when you place your phone face down. With a single-finger swipe downward, you can also shrink the Moto Z2 Force’s interface for one-handed use. And you can use the phone’s fingerprint sensor to navigate menus, home screens, and apps.

The Galaxy S8 Plus features the Edge Panel, which lets you pin shortcuts to the curved edges of the Galaxy S8’s screen, and Smart Stay, which keeps the screen on as long as your eyes are staring at it.

The Galaxy S8 Plus’ headlining feature is Bixby, a Siri-like assistant that shows contextual information. This allows you to see your daily step count, your next calendar event, the weather forecast, and what’s trending on Twitter, among other things. It can also recognize objects such as wine bottles and snack labels, and suggest relevant Amazon links. It’s even smart enough to perform actions with voice commands.

The Moto Z2 Force may run the simpler, easier-to-use version of the two operating systems, but the Galaxy S8 Plus can do more. That’s why we’re crowning it the winner of the software round.

Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus

Price and availability

moto z2 force versus galaxy s8 plus

The Moto Z2 Force will cost you $720 direct from Motorola, and a little more from all the major carriers. Verizon has it listed at $756, it’s $792 at Sprint, and $750 at T-Mobile, though you can spread the cost or pay less upfront by signing a contract. Either way, it’s slightly less pricey than the Galaxy S8 Plus, which starts at $840.

The Galaxy S8 Plus has the advantage when it comes to availability, though. The Moto Z2 Force is currently available for pre-order, but won’t ship until later this year, while the Galaxy S8 Plus is available online and in brick-and-mortar stores now.

Still, we’re giving this round to the Moto Z2 Force. Despite the fact the Moto Z2 Force packs the same processor as the Galaxy S8 Plus and features dual cameras, Lenovo managed to undercut the competition.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force

Accessories

lenovo moto z2 force vs samsung galaxy s8 plus dex hands on wm 2 800x533 c

Rarely do smartphone makers place an emphasis on accessories, but for Samsung and Lenovo, they’re selling points.

The Moto Z2 Force supports the full range of Moto Mods, the snap-on accessories that add all sorts of functionality. There’s one that extends your phone’s battery life, a wireless charger, an external speaker, a projector, a gamepad, and a vehicle dock. And the list keeps growing.

The Galaxy S8 Plus, on the other hand, works with Samsung’s Dex Dock, which effectively transforms it into a computer. Plugging the Dex Dock into a computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard pulls up a fully-featured operating system that looks a little like a mishmash of Windows and ChromeOS.

As handy as the Dex Dock is, it’s no match for the Moto Mods ecosystem. Because of this, the Moto Z2 Force wins the accessory round.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force

Overall winner

The Galaxy S8 Plus is one of the best smartphones of the year — and our overall winner — but the Moto Z2 Force trades blows. It boasts the same processor, a great display, long-lasting battery life, and a growing number of accessories that rival Samsung’s very best. It might not measure up to the Galaxy S8 Plus in terms of design, and we’ve yet to put its camera to the test, but so far, we’re impressed with what Motorola’s managed to stuff into a compact, high-end package without compromising on price.

Update: Added reduced price for the Moto Z2 Force when purchasing directly from Motorola

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