Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software and apps
Camera
Audio and video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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Motorola Moto X Force Review

The new benchmark for a sturdy smartphone
By Ershad Kaleebullah on 2016-03-21
Key Features
  • Shatterproof display
  • 21-megapixel rear camera
  • Turbo charging
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC
What we like
  • Shatterproof display
  • Extremely sturdy body
  • Good battery life
  • Blazing fast performance
What we don't like
  • Display is a little too warm
  • No fingerprint scanner
  • Lacks optical image stabilisation
8.5
Our Score
Introduction

A major concern we’ve had with metal-body toting flagship smartphones is the fact that they generally tend to be slippery. This essentially means that you will end up dropping it at some point. And god forbid you drop it on its face; the display is bound to crack, if not shatter into smithereens. 

Motorola has the perfect solution for folks who drop their phones often (including us) in the form of its latest flagship - the Motorola Moto X Force. 

Moto X Force Intro

The Moto X Force has, what Motorola claims to be, the world’s first shatterproof display on a smartphone. The company is so confident about its proprietary ShatterShield technology that it is providing a warranty of four years for the screen. 

Considering that the Moto X Force is technically the company’s latest flagship, it also includes flagship level specifications, no doubt. However, such technology does come at a price. We used the device extensively, and dropped it a couple of times too, to find out if the phone is indeed worth its asking price.

Design
9

We have to hand it to Motorola when it comes to designing smartphones. Ever since its resurgence, the American brand has been making some handsome-looking phones and the Moto X Force is no different. The phone cuts a classy figure with its rounded edges and ballistic nylon back. Furthermore, it has a water repellent coating which ensures that in case you drop some water on the phone it won’t damage the internal components. But, this doesn’t mean that you should dump it in water entirely. 

Hardware

The ballistic nylon material on the rear has a textured pattern, which aids in gripping the phone. Additionally, the rear curves gently inward and meets the metal railing running along the edges of the phone. This curvature adds to the stable grip. Now, all these design elements are vital to the Moto X Force because it is a very wide phone at 78mm. At its thickest point, the Moto X Force measures 9.2mm and it weighs 162g. After using it for a substantial period, we noticed that the phone feels ergonomically well-balanced. 

The rear of the phone has a vertical strip of metal that includes the rear camera and flash, and the traditional Motorola dimple with its logo. We felt that the dimple was not as recessed as we would have ideally liked it to be. The right edge of the phone includes the volume rocker and the power button. The tactile feedback of these hardware components left us wanting for more actually; they sit almost flush with the edge. The SIM card/microSD card tray, and the 3.5mm audio port sit on the top edge, whereas the Micro-USB port is placed at the bottom. There are two plastic antenna lines on each edge. The left edge has been left bare. 

Moto X Force design

The front of the display is mostly dominated by the fairly large 5.4-inch display. There are thick bezels around this display. Two tiny slits for the speakers sit at the bottom of the screen. Above the display, you can find the earpiece, front camera flanking it to the right, and a flash module on its left. 

Moto X Force design

The Moto X Force inspires confidence with its ballistic nylon and metal construction. But do note that the phone is susceptible to damage, especially around the metal edges. Our review unit came with a ton of ungainly dents and scratches because some over enthusiastic reviewer decided to drop it a little more than a few times to test the sturdiness of the shatterproof display.

Display
9

The Moto X Force’s display is its most important component by far. Apparently, Motorola spent three years on research and design for the ShatterShield technology which has been used to protect the display. Let’s understand what Motorola has done to actually make the display shatterproof. 

There are five layers to this display. The first (bottommost) layer is the aluminium chassis which provides the structural rigidity and durability. Then comes the flexible AMOLED display that can actually absorb shocks. A layer of Dual Touch panels sits above the AMOLED display. Therefore, even if one of the touch panel gets damaged, the other one is ready for use. The fourth layer is an interior polycarbonate lens, which acts as the protective shield. The final layer (topmost) is the exterior protective lens which uses Motorola’s proprietary ‘hardcoat' technology. Do take a few moments to absorb all that information, because the display can definitely absorb a few shocks if not more.

Moto X Force Display

That said, do note that the top layer is not really scratch-proof. Our review unit came with a ton of scratches. Therefore, you might want to add a screen guard just in case. 

The 5.4-inch AMOLED display has a QHD (1440x2560p) screen resolution. This ensures that the screen has rich colours and is crisp to boot. However, you will have to crank the brightness levels all the way to the maximum to view the screen in its full glory. The sunlight legibility takes a hit because of this. The viewing angles, on the other hand, are decent. 

While the blacks levels of the screen run deep, the screen is a little too warm for our liking; there is a pale yellow cast on whites which is clearly visible. That said, this is a minor niggle which can be easily overlooked considering the display offers you so much more.

Hardware
9

Since this is technically last year’s flagship, the Moto X Force has been fitted with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 SoC (MSM8994). The Snapdragon 810 SoC includes a quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 and a quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57, along with Snapdragon 430 GPU for graphics. The phone has 3GB of RAM and comes in 32GB and 64GB internal storage variants. Motorola has also provided an extra microSD card slot with the phone in case you want more storage. 

Moto X Force Hardware

However, the omission of a fingerprint scanner on the Moto X Force is inexcusable considering even budget smartphones these days include one. The phone accepts a single Nano-SIM card and  it is compatible with all the 4G LTE bands. It has a 21-megapixel primary camera with F2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus, and dual-LED (dual tone) flash. It also has a 5-megapixel front camera, which is also assisted by an LED flash for more detailed selfies in low light. 

For connectivity, the Moto X Force includes Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.1 (low energy), GPS and A-GPS, and NFC. A non-removable 3,760mAh battery provides the juice for the phone.

Software and apps
8.5

As is the case with all Motorola phones, the Moto X Force also comes with almost stock Android  and that is great. It runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box, which is a bit disappointing. However, Motorola has promised an update to Marshmallow soon. 

It comes with Motorola’s homegrown software tweaks like ‘do a karate chop’ to trigger flashlight or ‘twist your hands twice’ to open the camera app. These actions work like a charm each time and it becomes almost second nature over prolonged usage. Apart from this, there is also the ever responsive Moto Voice. However, the use case for Moto Voice is quickly diminishing considering Google Now is pretty responsive too. 

All in all, the software might feel a bit too bareboned for folks who like heavily customised interfaces like Samsung’s Touchwiz or Xiaomi’s MiUI. We, on the other hand, are fans of vanilla Android.

Camera
7

Before we delve into the performance of the actual camera, let us take a look at the incredibly annoying camera app. We think it is high time Motorola fixed its camera app because it is really unintuitive despite being minimalistic and swanky. This is clearly a case of design over functionality. 

Moto X Force Camera

Firstly, the lack of a shutter button makes things confusing. Tapping anywhere on the screen to capture a photo might seem like a great idea on paper, but in reality it is a rather wonky concept. We unintentionally ended up capturing photos without focus because of this mechanism alone. Additionally, to access the settings menu (which is rather threadbare by the way), one has to pull a semi-circular scroll wheel from the left edge of the screen. Once again, this takes some time to get used to. 

Camera smaple

Thankfully, the actual camera performance makes up for the disappointment that is the camera app. The 21-megapixel unit on the Moto X Force is the same one that is present on the Moto X Style. In our testing, we noticed that the camera is quick to focus and can capture some incredibly detailed photos. We noticed bare minimum noise even in low-light photographs, which is great. The exposure was just about right most of the times. That said, the camera does miss focus a little too often and you will need to be a bit patient. The colours in our test shots were close to accurate but the camera module had some trouble capturing the reds as we noticed some colour bleeding. The HDR mode doesn’t do much to enhance the dynamic range really, and you are much better off not using it. 

Camera smaple 2

The 5-megapixel front camera captures some great selfies too. We had absolutely no complaints. The rear camera can also capture 4K video at 30fps. Unfortunately, the video was choppy. Moreover, the camera app crashed on us twice while shooting in 4K, for some odd reason. The video had a great amount of details, though.

Camera Sample

Audio and video
9

The phone uses Play Music to play your music files and it works flawlessly with all audio formats. For playing videos, the phone resorts to the in-built player inside the Gallery app. This app cannot play all video formats but it manage to play most of our files without any hiccup. With a third party app like MX Player, the Moto X Force managed to play all our video files, including the highly encoded 4K ones, without any hiccups. 

Moto X Force Speakers

The sound quality using the bundled earphones wasn't too great but our reference headphones sounded really good with the phone. The loudspeaker is not very loud but it is pretty clear and should suffice for most use cases. The lack of an FM radio might be a deterrent for some.

Performance
9

The Moto X Force is a really speedy performer, and in the duration of our review not once did we face a single lag or stutter. We even opened up close to 30 apps simultaneously and the Moto X Force didn’t choke even once. We played Asphalt 8 in its full graphical glory at a constant 30fps as well. Therefore, gaming on this phone shouldn't be a challenge either. 

Moto X Force port

In our benchmark tests the Moto X Force scored really well. The phone scored a commendable 26,690 points in 3DMark Ice Storm’s unlimited test. It also scored an insanely hight 89,183 points in the AnTuTu benchmark test. The phone doesn’t heat up despite using the notorious Snapdragon 810 SoC. The only time it became warm was when we were charging it.

True to Motorola’s legacy, the phone has a stellar earpiece and the sound quality in phone calls is really good. In addition to that, we didn't face any call drops either, even in areas with high network congestion.

Battery life
8

Thanks to the large 3,760mAh battery inside the Moto X Force, you can easily expect it to last at least a day before putting it to charge. We used it heavily with multiple messaging apps, two hours of calls, a one hour gaming session, and listening to some music, and the phone lasted us a little more than a day with a screen-on time of almost five hours. 

Furthermore, the phone also supports fast charging which means that you can charge the battery from zero to 100 percent in just 90 minutes flat.

Conclusion

The Moto X Force has a lot going on for it, but its best feature, by far, is the shatterproof display. But does it warrant a high price of Rs. 49,990? We think, yes. The lack of a fingerprint scanner is our only concern but that apart the Moto X Force is a great buy. Do note that the Samsung Galaxy S7 launched recently for the same price is definitely going to be a great contender. 

Buy the Moto X Force if you are clumsy and drop your phone often. If not, there are other decidedly better options like the Apple iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S7.

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