Moto X4 vs. Moto Z2 Force: Which Moto reigns supreme?

moto x4 vs. moto z2 force
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
It’s been almost three years since Lenovo launched the last smartphone in its X series, but the range is back with the Moto X4. It looks as though the wait was well worth it, as the Moto X4 is an exciting mid-range refresh with dual cameras, a snappy processor, and the ability to stream music to four devices at once.

Positioned against the formidable Lenovo Moto Z2 Force, which features a similarly speedy processor, a shatter-resistant screen, and support for Moto Mods, Lenovo’s snap-on collection of accessories, the X4 has its work cut out.

So how do the two compare? We pit Moto X4 vs. Moto Z2 Force head-to-head to find out.

Specs

Moto X4

Moto X4 thumb

Moto Z2 Force

moto x4 vs z2 force lenovo isolated 2 98x200

Size 148.4 x 73.4 x 8 mm (5.84 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches) 155.8 x 76 x 6.1mm (6.13 x 2.99 x 0.24 inches)
Weight 5.75 ounces (163 grams) 5.04 ounces (143 grams)
Screen 5.2-inch IPS LCD 5.5-inch AMOLED
Resolution 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (424ppi) 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (534ppi)
OS Android 7.1 Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Storage 32GB (64GB in some markets) 64GB
SD Card Slot Yes, up to 2TB Yes, up to 2TB
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM 3GB (4GB in some markets)  4GB
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE GSM / HSPA / LTE
Camera Front 16MP, rear 12MP and 8MP Front 8MP, rear 12MP and 12 MP
Video 4K 4K
Bluetooth Yes, version 5 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light, proximity sensor Gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light, proximity sensor
Water Resistant Yes, IP68 No
Battery 3,000mAh 2,730mAh
Charger USB Type-C USB Type-C
Quick Charging Yes Yes
Wireless Charging No No
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, blue Black, gold, grey
Availability TBA Unlocked, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint
Pricing $475 (estimated) $720
DT Review Hands-on review 3 stars out of 5

The Moto X4 may not be a match for the Moto Z2 Force’s raw processing power, but it comes pretty close.

The Moto X4 has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630 processor on-board, one of the newest in the chipmaker’s mid-range series. Qualcomm says it’s 10 percent more efficient than the last-gen processor it replaces, the Snapdragon 625, and that the Adreno 508 graphics onboard performs up to 30 percent better in apps and games.

But the Moto Z2 Force is no slouch. Its Snapdragon 835 processor, the crown jewel of Qualcomm’s 800 series, is the same chip you’ll find inside the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30. It’s 30 percent speedier than the outgoing Snapdragon 821, and the Adreno 540 graphics offer a 25 percent performance advantage in graphics-heavy apps and games.

Both phones have MicroSD card slots that fit removable memory up to 2TB, but the Moto Z2 Force has a slight advantage on the RAM and storage side of the equation. It has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of memory as opposed to the Moto X4’s 3GB and 32GB of memory. (While there are variants of the Moto X4 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB, they’re exclusive to Asia-Pacific markets like China and India.) That’s enough for the Z2 Force to win the round.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force 

Display, design, and durability

moto x4 vs. moto z2 force
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Moto X4 and Moto Z2 Force are less alike than the designs would lead you to believe.

The Moto X4’s slim aluminum unibody is sandwiched between two panes of Gorilla Glass. On the phone’s front is a selfie camera and a flash, an oval-shape fingerprint sensor, and small cut-outs near the top and bottom for the earpiece and microphones.

On the bottom, a 3.5mm headphone jack sits next to the USB Type-C charging port, and on the top is the SIM card slot. The right-hand side is where you’ll find the power button and volume rocker, and on the rear is the big, protruding, round camera module.

The Moto Z2 Force is just as understated as the Moto X4. On the front is a rounded fingerprint sensor and camera flash, a glass-shielded screen, and front bezels that raise slightly above the rest of the phone’s body. On the right-hand side is a volume rocker and textured power button, and on the bottom is the USB-C port.

Unlike the Moto X4, the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t have a headphone jack. A USB-C to 3.5mm adapter is included in the box, but if you can’t find it the next time you want to plug in a wired pair of headphones, you’re out of luck. Most of the Moto Z2 Force’s rear, save for a thin grey strip, is dominated by the dual camera module and metal contacts for Moto Mods accessories.

The Moto X4’s 5.2-inch screen doesn’t have exceptionally thin bezels or a super-high resolution, but it’s par for the mid-range course. It’s Full HD LCD (1,920 x 1,080), and has a pixel density of 424 ppi (pixels-per-inch).

The Moto Z2 Force trades up for a 5.5-inch, Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) screen. In addition to being sharper than the Moto X4’s screen — it has a pixel density of 535 ppi — it’s AMOLED, which means it can toggle on and off the backlighting of individual pixels. The result is deeper blacks, higher contrast, and more vibrant colors than LCD screens like the Moto X4’s are capable of producing.

It’s a toss-up between the Moto Z2 Force and Moto X4 in terms of durability. The former features Motorola’s proprietary “Shattershield” technology, which offers a “five-layer protection system” that’s guaranteed not to crack or shatter for four years. But the latter is IP68 certified, which means it can survive water up to five feet for thirty minutes.

It really comes down to what you’re worried about. If you want a phone that has a better chance of surviving an accidental dip in a pool, the Moto X4 is the obvious choice. If on the other hand you’re more concerned about scratches, dents, and cracks, the Moto Z2 Force will serve you better.

We’re giving it to the Moto Z2 Force. It may not be as dust- and water-resistant as the Moto X4, but its Shattershield and vibrant display outweigh its shortcomings.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force

Battery life and charging

moto x4 vs. moto z2 force
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Moto Z2 Force and Moto X4 are pretty evenly matched when it comes to battery life, surprisingly.

The Moto X4 has a 3,000mAh battery that Motorola says lasts “through the day,” compared to the Moto Z2 Force’s smaller 2,730mAh battery. In theory, both should handle a morning and afternoon’s worth of light tasks like picture-taking, social media browsing, and video watching pretty easily.

Both phones also support Motorola’s TurboPower charger, which delivers up to six hours of power in 15 minutes. And neither support wireless charging, which means you can’t charge the Moto X4 and Moto Z2 Force by plopping them down on a Qi-compatible pad.

The Moto X4 might last a little bit longer on average, given its battery capacity, but the Z2 Force has the benefit of compatibility with power-boosting Moto Mods like the Incipio Offgrid Power Pack and Moto Turbopower Pack, which can add hours of battery life. That’s why we’re calling this round a draw.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Moto Z2 Force hands-on review black back
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Moto Z2 Force and Moto X4 both have dual-sensor modules, but that’s where the similarities end.

The Moto X4’s rear camera, which consists of  a 12-megapixel main sensor (f/2.0 aperture and 1.4 µm pixel size) and 8-megapixel wide-angle secondary sensor (f/2.2 aperture and 1.4 µm pixel size), has dual autofocus technology that hones in quickly on subjects in low lighting. Depth Effect, Motorola’s take on selective focus, takes Portrait Mode-like bokeh effects, and Landmark Detection, a feature coming to the Moto X4 in late September, will serve up information about objects of interest in the camera’s frame of view.

The Moto Z2 Force’s dual cameras are no less capable. Its two 12-megapixel sensors (both with an f/2.0 aperture and 1.25 µm pixel size) have laser and phase detection autofocus and a dual-LED flash, and can capture “true” monochrome black-and-white. Like the Moto x4, they’re able to capture Depth Effect shots, and can shoot in a high-contrast, vibrant high-dynamic range (HDR) mode.

The two phones’ selfie cameras are on a much less even playing field. The Moto X4 has whopping 16-megapixel camera with an LED flash and adaptive mode that’s optimized for low light photography. A Panoramic Selfie function stitches multiple photos together to produce a single wide-angle shot, and Face Filter adds a Snapchat-like layer of animations to photos and videos.

The Moto Z2 Force, on the other hand, has a 5-megapixel wide-angle selfie camera with an LED flash.

We’ll have to put the Moto X4 and Moto Z2 Force’s cameras through their paces before making a final call, but for now, we’re crowning the Moto X4 (and its abundance of features) the winner of the photography round.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force

Software

moto x4 vs. moto z2 force
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both the Moto X4 and Moto Z2 Force run a customized version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat that’s fairly close to the stock. And for the most part, the two offer comparable experiences.

Both have Moto Display, which lets you wave your hand over the proximity sensor to see the time and notifications at a glance. Gesture-based shortcuts let you launch the camera with a chopping motion and turn on the flashlight by twisting your wrist. Moto Voice lets you launch apps or see a weather forecast by using the wake phrase, “Show Me” (saying “Show Me Facebook,” for example, launches the Facebook app).

But Moto X4 has a few tricks up its sleeve. Perhaps the most unique is the ability to pair up to four speakers via Bluetooth and pipe a music stream to them simultaneously. Moto Key lets you log into websites with a single tap, enter your user ID and password for Amazon, and unlock your PC using Bluetooth. Amazon Alexa, Amazon’s AI-powered voice assistant, triggers from the Moto X4’s lock screen with the wake phrase, “Alexa,” and can perform thousands of commands from turning on connected appliances and checking the status of an Amazon package to ordering pizza.

Motorola says that some of the Moto X4’s innovations, like Moto Key, will eventually come to other Moto-branded devices. But if you’ll settle for nothing less than Lenovo’s latest and greatest software, nothing but the Moto X4 will do.

Winner: Moto X4

Bonus round: Moto Mods

If you’re the kind of person who likes to accessorize, it’s tough to deny the appeal of the Moto Z2 Force’s Moto Mods.

The Moto Z2 Force supports snap-on accessories that add all sorts of functionality. There’s a Moto Mod that extends your phone’s battery life, cases that add wireless charging, external speakers, pico projectors, a gamepad, and vehicle docks. And the list keeps growing.

That’s not to suggest there aren’t plenty of Moto X4 cases and accessories to choose from — there most certainly are. But they’re dwarfed by the sheer scope of the Moto Mods ecosystem.

Price and availability

moto x4 vs. moto z2 force
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s a clear winner between the Moto X4 and Moto Z2 Force when it comes to pricing, and it’s not even close.

In Europe, the Moto X4 starts at 399 euros unlocked, or about $475. Availability hasn’t been announced for the rest of the world just yet, which is a bit of a logistical problem if you reside outside the E.U. But there’s no question that the Moto X4 is the cheaper of the two phones.

The Moto Z2 Force retails for $720 from Motorola’s website, a slight discount from the $750 MSRP. It’s also available from every major carrier in the U.S.:

  • Verizon: $756 full retail, $15 per month with a two-year unlimited data plan.
  • AT&T: $810 full retail, $27 per month on a 30-month installment plan.
  • T-Mobile: $750 full retail, $30 down and $30 per month on a 24-month installment plan or $0 down and $34 per month for 18 months on Jump.
  • Sprint: $792 full retail, $33 per month on an 18-month installment plan.

The Moto X4 is the automatic winner on price — it’s likely to be cheaper than the Moto Z2 Force in every market. But the Moto Z2 Force is much more widely available, and there’s no telling when the Moto X4 will make it to other parts of the world.

Winner: Moto X4

Overall winner: Moto X4

The Moto X4 and Moto Z2 Force are more evenly matched than you might expect, given the pricing disparity. The Moto X4 offers great cameras and multi-speaker Bluetooth pairing; and the Moto Z2 Force has a speedy processor, a shatter-resistant aluminum body, and a robust Moto Mods accessory ecosystem.

Which you choose will depend on which features you value more. If you’re concerned about durability, the Moto Z2 Force and its Shattershield technology is the obvious pick. But if you want a cheaper phone with bleeding-edge software features, the Moto X4 makes more sense. Although the Moto Z2 Force wins more categories, we don’t think it does enough to justify the extra expense, so the Moto X4 is the winner here.

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