The most exciting thing about the Moto Z3 is that it is Verizon’s first 5G-ready handset. While the phone does not support 5G connectivity on its own, an upcoming 5G Moto Mod will allow it to tap into Verizon’s 5G network – set to goes live in parts of the US in early 2019. But under the hood of the Moto Z3 ticks the Snapdragon 835 chip from 2017. Given these odd circumstances, is a Moto Z3 worth getting? Sure it is, but probably not for the reasons you might expect.
In the box:
- Moto Z3
- USB-C to 3.5mm adapter
- SIM tool
- Warranty and Quick Start booklets
The Moto Z3, with its flat, glass front and back and rounded aluminum sides doesn’t just look distinct but has a particular feel as well. Instead of curving the glass to flow into the edges, the Z3’s flat slabs of glass lay within the aluminum border, creating a bit of an edge going around the phone. By no means is this an ergonomic hurdle – we rather like the unique in-hand feel – but it’s certainly unlike most any other phones out there. As such, you’ll know this is a Motorola – or at least a different kind of device – as soon as you look at or touch it. That’s not something you can say about many phones these days.
Sticking with Super AMOLED technology on this 6-inch, Full HD+ (2160 x 1080 px) display proves a good choice for the Moto Z3. Colors are deep and vibrant, although not exactly accurate, as our benchmark shows. Brightness is also good, reaching a maximum of 452 nits, so the Moto Z3 is easy to look at and read in direct sunlight. But with a minimum brightness of 19 nits, this isn’t the best screen to read on in the dark.
Interface and Functionality
We have the light and nimble Android 8.1 Oreo on the Moto Z3, with some proprietary Moto features thrown in. Accessible from the Moto App, these include an always-on display, tools for energy optimization, and the Moto Voice assistant.
With the fingerprint sensor now located on the side, gone are the gestures for navigating the phone via the biometric scanner that we had on previous Moto models. Instead, a new option exists which can also eliminate the software nav buttons, replacing them with a single horizontal line. This line can be swiped left to go back, right to multitask, or tapped to go home. Gestures also exist as shortcuts – chop twice to turn on the flashlight or twist to open the camera – and generally make popular functions quicker and easier to access.
While the growing list of gestures does nothing but add quicker and more intuitive functionalities, Moto Voice still feels a bit redundant. On a device that also houses Google Assistant, it’s hard to tell what the advantage to Moto Voice actually is as Google Assistant is far more capable, but if you prefer how it handles certain queries and commands then rest easy because it’s still there for you.
Processor, Memory, and Performance
Built with last year’s flagship SoC from Qualcomm, the Moto Z3 comes with a Snapdragon 835 paired with 4 gigs of RAM and 64 GB’s of storage (expandable up to 2 TB’s via microSD). It does skip around from task to task pretty well; multitasking shows no lag or stuttering, and apps launch quickly, as well. Consumers will be pleased with the Moto Z3 in day-to-day use as we were in ours – users shouldn’t want for much. Of course, running on slightly older flagship silicon means that it won’t be the best performer when it comes to gaming, for instance, but otherwise the experience won’t leave you wanting for much.
Then, of course, you have the rest of Motorola’s modular accessory lineup which includes projectors, camera add-ons, speakers, gaming pads, batteries, and even a Polaroid printer, among others. Moto Mods remain one of the cooler, more imaginative areas of the phone market today and we’re glad to still see them being produced and supported, as they can be quite useful and fun.
With the Moto Z3 being a more direct successor to the Z2 force than anything else, Motorola’s gone with the same dual-camera setup as last year, pairing up two 12 MP sensors – one regular, the other monochrome. No opitcal image stabilization is present, unfortunately.
Images captured on the Moto Z3, overall, are very good. In both high and low-light scenarios, details are sharp, colors are accurate, and exposure is well-balanced. But be aware that in low-light situations, blurry photos are more likely to occur because of the camera’s lack of optical stabilization. Overall, the Moto Z3 is a solid point-and-shooter for its category. It will satisfy most crowds and even holds its own well against higher-end phones.
Selfies are similarly well-detailed, and colors are quite accurate. The auto-beauty mode doesn’t make a huge difference, but manual settings for that are included if you want to strengthen the effect.
Capable of shooting 4K video at 30 fps, the Motorola Moto Z3 captures very pleasing videos. Details are sharp and colors are vibrant. Image stabilization makes its presence felt too, although it can be a little stuttery at times. Exposure is quite adept, but like its performance in photo capture, highlights can sometimes become overexposed on the Z3. Audio captured was also quite clear, complementing the vivid video.
Slow-motion video capture at 1080p 120fps is also an option with the Moto Z3, as well as black and white capture, and the built-in ability to stream directly to YouTube Live. All are cool, useful, and well-integrated features that are easy to use.
Calls on the Moto Z3 come through loud and clear – no issues to report on either end of the line. The speakerphone, which doubles as the earpiece, also has a decent set of pipes, making it pretty easy to hear callers clearly in most environments.
Listening to music, much like making speakerphone calls, is a very satisfying experience – surprisingly so. This double-duty earpiece/speaker pumps out some high decibels with full and clear acoustics to match. We were quite taken aback by it, in fact, and found ourselves listening to music on the speakerphone for a few songs – it was just that satisfying. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s still a single speaker on a phone. If you want a more typical musical experience, you may want to invest in the JBL speaker Moto Mod, and fortunately, with the Moto Z3, such expansion is possible.
Lasting just over 8.5 hours in our custom battery test, the Moto Z3 proves to be a respectable performer in the battery department. Regular to intense usage should still leave you with a full day’s use. Recharging with the Turbo Power adapter was also nice, juicing up from 0 to 100 in just about 90 minutes.
If you already own a Moto Z2 Force, we’d advise you to keep it. If, however, you’re a Verizon-subscribing Android fan looking within the $400-$500 price range, it’s really a no-brainer; the Moto Z3 will be a device you’ll be very happy to own. The similarly priced Moto Z3 Play isn’t a bad alternative as it comes with a Moto Mod that gives you extra battery, but the specs put it below the Moto Z3 on the charts.