Motorola’s sturdy new smartphone likes it rough.
A lot of Motorola’s recent Android offerings have catered to a market of klutzes and ruffians. While it’s generally gone for a clean and tidy Android UI, its range of smartphones has never been to afraid to get down and dirty.
The Moto X Force continues that legacy by offering a premium smartphone in a seemingly indestructible shell. In addition to a 21MP camera, 4K video capture a Snapdragon 810 chipset, the X Force also boasts a shatter-proof display and water-repellant coated internals. Oh, and it’s clearly named after one of the most indestructible superhero teams in history.
We’ve spent some time with the world’s toughest smartphone. Here’s what we think.
Motorola Moto G4 specs
Moto X Force
Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
2560 x 1440px
microSD up to 200GB
Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
Upsides: Why you’d want the Motorola Moto X Force
Can take a hit from every angle: The Moto X Force’s claims of a shatter-proof screen aren’t anything to balk at. It’s five layers of glass can take a serious pounding. We weren’t game enough to take a hammer to the screen of our X Force, but you can find loads of videos on YouTube of people putting it through the wringer. One gentleman dropped it from 1000 feet to have it survive without so much as a scratch. Whereas another repeatedly bashed it with a heavy mallet. While the display indeed made it through the ordeal without shattering, the shock was strong enough to scramble the phone’s insides and it became inoperable. This is something to consider before you go testing the X Force’s mettle, because there’s a line between “shatterproof screen” and “indestructible smartphone”, and on one side of it you end up with an inoperable phone.There’s also the fabric rear-plate which is made of “ballistic nylon”. The tightly-weaved fabrics not only provide cushion should the phone hit the deck, but it's also scratch-resistant. We scratched the phone’s back up pretty aggressively with a screwdriver, but the marks wiped away in a matter of seconds. I also think the fabric rear looks quite classy up close, which is not something you usually hear about “tradie” phones. Its porous surface is also offers significant grip, which I can certainly appreciate after letting more than one iPhone slip from my hand onto hard concrete.
The price is right: $599 isn’t exactly pocket change for most, but it’s still a reasonable launch price for a smartphone that is positioning itself as a “premium” handset. Admittedly, you can pick up a Galaxy S7 for a fraction more if you’re particularly thrifty, but the Galaxy S7 still retails through Samsung’s online store for $1148.99. If you’re one of many people who require something a little sturdier than usual and don’t want to sacrifice power and battery life, you could do worse than $599. The shatter-proof display also comes with an impressive 4 year warranty if you somehow manage to break it (accidentally, of course). At that price point, the battery is also pretty outstanding. When we compared it against mid-range handsets using Geekbench 3's battery test, the Huawei Mate 8 was the only handset to beat it in duration. The Huawei Mate 8 is also a larger phone, so naturally it has a larger battery than the Moto X Force.
Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration
Geekbench 3 Battery Score
Huawei Mate 8
Motorola Moto X Force
LG Stylus DAB+
Google Nexus 6P
Telstra Signature Premium
Impressive 21MP camera with 4K recording: While megapixel count isn’t everything, it’s still a good indicator of the kind of quality you can expect from a smartphone camera. As always, Motorola’s camera UI is incredibly simple. When launched there are only two buttons on screen, video recording and rear/front camera switch. The X Force’s impressive auto-focus means you can tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo, which makes snapping pics on the go a cinch. If you’re a little more serious about your photography, there are all the usual extras you would expect like flash, panorama, low light mode and timer hidden in a menu that’s accessed by swiping right while the gallery can be accessed by swiping left. The auto-focus, while mostly reliable, can get a little finicky at times. For those moments there’s also a manual focus ring that can be dragged around the screen and swiped to increase and decrease exposure. Images captured from the Moto X Force and our Galaxy S7 were near indistinguishable in all environments except under fluorescent lighting. Images captured under unnatural light the X Force show a slight yellow tint. Something I’ve experienced with previous smartphones, but not with the Galaxy S7’s effort. Below is a comparison of the two shots under fluorescent lighting.The X Force’s 4K capture is also relatively painless thanks to the digital image stabilisation and the camera’s rapid focus adjustment.
Moto X Force
Photo taken with the Moto X Force's 21MP camera in HDR
Samsung Galaxy S7
Photo taken with the Galaxy S7's 12MP camera in HDR.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Motorola Moto X Force
One colour option: For those who are picky over their handset colours, the Moto X Force only comes in black. This could have something to do with the costs involved with manufacturing the X Force’s jet black ballistic nylon rear casing. Maybe it’s more vulnerable to stains and discolouration than most handsets. Whatever the issue, your only option here is black. Incipio, Otterbox and a few others have started manufacturing some colourful cases for the X Force, but in reality it’s just adding extra bulk to a large handset that’s already well protected.
Processor lacks punch: We we ran the Moto X Force through Geekbench 4’s single core and multi core benchmark tests and the results were average. As you can see from the results below, the Moto X Force doesn’t really hold up against the Samsung and Apple’s flagship handsets, or even Apple’s budget SE handset. It’s roughly the same calibre as the Google Nexus 6P, but that handset is over a year old now and as a result, much cheaper. Past some expected lag after booting up, transitions are as smooth as you would expect from any premium device, just don’t expect it to hold up down the line when you’re running more intensive tasks down the line.
Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better)
Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
Motorola Moto G Play
Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia X
Motorola Moto X Force
Google Nexus 6P
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone SE
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Water-repellant coating is good, but not good enough: Motorola’s X Force isn’t waterproof or even water-resistant, but it does feature “water-repellent nano-coating” that will safeguard it from a light spray or spill. Motorola makes it a point to indicate that the X Force is not waterproof and will not be covered by warranty for any water-related damages. While something is better than nothing, it’s odd to me that a smartphone (with a sealed battery) that’s all about longevity wouldn’t go the whole hog and offer some waterproofing or water resistant assurance. The Moto X Force also isn’t scratch resistant, despite its incredibly tough screen. The review handset we received has a few noticeable scratches on the front display, and a few scuffed edges. It’s possible that whoever got their hands on the X Force before us really put the screen to the test (which you won’t be doing), but it’s still a point worth considering. Especially when Samsung and Apple’s flagship handsets come with some degree of water and dust resistance.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
As we’ve pointed out multiple times above, the Moto X Force is tough. Very tough indeed. It is also a more than capable smartphone that offers quality features on-par or close to some of the best smartphones on the market. The Moto X Force is the kind of handset you would recommend to a construction worker, an outdoorsy sort or even someone who just has a really bad track record of broken screens.
The Moto X Force is a very decent proposition at just $599, but it’s also worth remembering that, realistically, you can find a bargain on the superior Galaxy S7 for an extra $100 or so.
Where can I get it?
Motorola sells the X Force directly through its online store for $599. Alternatively, you can pick it from Harvey Norman for a dollar cheaper at $598.