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Test: Motorola Moto Z with clever modules

It couldn't get any easier: move the back of the phone close to a module - and the latter attaches itself magnetically, contact is made via 17 small metal dots on the back. Finished! One wonders why that didn't come earlier. The Motorola Moto Z now deserves the honor of going down in history as the first smartphone in the world with a practical module system. At the start there are four such modules, called mods: with an additional 2,200 milliampere-hour battery, with a mini projector, with stereo speakers from JBL and with a Hasselblad camera with ten times optical zoom. More are to follow. It all makes perfect sense. And above all, the mods are really reliable - a really well thought-out, well-engineered system.

More information about the Moto Z

All smartphone tests at a glance

Stable thanks to the metal frame

The Motorola Moto Z itself has a lot to offer. With a height of just 5.2 millimeters, it is one of the slimmest mobile phones ever, and the parent company Lenovo may even set a new world record with it. Only 7.1 millimeters are measured at the bulge of the camera: Most of the competitors are overall thicker. The weight of 138 grams is also amazingly low. Nevertheless, the Moto Z proves to be stable, thanks to the metal frame all around: nothing creaks in the torsion test, and even if a certain amount of freedom of movement can be felt, the cover glass does not push itself through anywhere on the imaging panel, which could damage pixels in the long term. The test person is stable enough to survive the harsh everyday life of a smartphone. Interested parties should know, however, that despite the flat and airy construction, it is a tabphone: With dimensions of 75 x 155 millimeters, the Moto Z is definitely no longer considered handy. Operation with one hand is therefore significantly restricted.

Nice and sharp

This is due to the lush touchscreen with a full 5.46 inches or 139 millimeters, which corresponds to the wishes of many buyers for large displays. The resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels is also quite impressive: This results in a sharpness of 448 pixels per square millimeter or 538 ppi. In other words: the Moto Z's screen is really nice and sharp. And also first-class quality: thanks to AMOLED with diamond matrix, the viewing angle stability is sensational, as are the contrasts, because black pixels are completely switched off. In addition, there is an excellent brightness of 526 candelas per square meter: 40 percent more than usual for OLEDs, even for an LCD that would be 11 percent above average. In short: the screen of the Moto Z is a stunner!

Flagship processor

The developers did not save on the processor either: under the hood of the hip flask is the Snapdragon 820, the current flagship from Qualcomm. The fact that only 4 cores are used instead of the 8 cores that are common nowadays should not irritate anyone. Because the so-called cryo-cores of the Snapdragon 820 are an in-house development by Qualcomm and are extremely strong.

The chip is supported by the equally powerful Adreno 530 graphics processor and a tight 4 gigabyte of RAM. The Moto Z thus lands in the overall ranking of more than 50 recorded individual values ​​from 15 of the best-known benchmarks, 64 percent above the average of all smartphones tested in the last 24 months. This is easily enough even for demanding users, as the practical test with the graphically complex game "Dead Trigger 2" proves, in which the test person achieves the maximum fluidity of 60 frames per second. Even demanding gamers cannot expect more from a mobile phone these days. Only those who really need maximum processor performance will not be satisfied with the Moto Z, but that should only apply to very few interested parties.

Clocking below maximum

Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the Moto Z's processor performance does not reach the level of colleagues such as the HTC 10 or LG G5, both of which also have the Snapdragon 820 and are currently 68 percent above average. Makes a difference of 33 percentage points, which in individual cases can bring clearly noticeable differences depending on the application. The reason for this considerable deviation is quickly found: The cores of the said competition are clocked with up to 2.2 gigahertz, the Motorola only with 1.8. And there is also a good reason for this underclocking: The Moto Z gets quite warm in the benchmarks, for example. Not problematic hot, around 40 degrees on the outside. But a higher clock rate would almost certainly exceed the temperatures, because with a height of 5.2 millimeters there is simply not enough space for thick heat pipes to dissipate the heat.

Adequate battery life

And there isn't too much space for the battery either. This is permanently installed and holds 2,600 mAh: Undersized for a device with a 5.5-inch screen. The Moto Z achieved 532 minutes in the runtime test during video playback with the display dimmed to 200 candela in flight mode. This is at least 9 percent above the average. Not a top result, but a surprisingly good one for such a flounder. The test person gets normal users through the day well, only intensive users will have to refuel during the day or get the battery mod.

Super fast loading

The standard included power supply delivers a sporty 3 amps, but it is very bulky and therefore partially covers the neighboring slot in a socket strip. Charging works quickly and gratifyingly: the previously fully discharged power storage unit already has a level of 27 percent again after 15 minutes. After 30 minutes it is 53 percent and after an hour 94 percent. The test subject only needed 70 minutes to fully charge: in view of the battery capacity, a full 64 percent faster than usual. Those who have to recharge during the day but have little time will appreciate this function immensely. On the other hand, based on the current state of knowledge, it looks as if such rapid charging would ruin the battery five times earlier than it would anyway; see the detailed explanations in the context of the test of the Sony Xperia X. If you are not in such a hurry, you should use a more gentle charger with around 1 ampere for charging.

Expandable storage

The internal memory has a capacity of 32 gigabytes, of which 21.1 gigabytes are left over. It can be expanded nominally by up to 2 terabytes using micro SD cards; chips with “only” 256 gigabytes are actually available at the moment. Alternatively, a second nano SIM can be inserted into this slot ("dual SIM"). In addition, the candidate supports USB On-the-Go, with the help of an optional adapter cable, for example, USB sticks can be docked to the USB port. Buyers should note, however, that this is the new "Type C" connection, where the USB cable can be plugged in on both sides. However, the slot is not compatible with the previously widespread "Micro Type B", so users need new cables or adapters. This is why it is all the more annoying that Motorola has hard-wired the power supply cable and not, as is common nowadays, disconnecting it via USB. And the Moto Z does not come with a separate USB cable as standard. Means that users who want to connect their phone to a computer have to buy a USB cable "Type A - Type C" if necessary.

Fingerprint sensor

The rest of the equipment leaves little to be desired: LTE with 300 megabits per second, WLAN ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and even an infrared transmitter for using the phone as a remote control for TV & Co. are on board. Unfortunately, there is no FM radio on the local version of the Moto Z, and some people would probably like to have protection against dust and water. But that's all. The fingerprint sensor on the front is capacitive, so it is not a mechanical button, especially since it is only used to unlock the phone and not also as a home button.


The front camera takes selfies with 5.04 megapixels, videos in Full HD. There is also an LED flash at the front, which is still rarely seen on cell phones. But even if the LED seems quite large, it only delivers a mere 10 lux for photos and 14 lux for videos - roughly the same as the brightness of a street lamp. This means that the illumination is not particularly effective. But still better than nothing or just lighting through the display, with mostly only 2 to 3 lux jumping out. The two-tone main flash on the back creates at least 70 lux, which is average. The close range is therefore illuminated in an acceptable manner.

picture quality

The rear main camera shoots photos with up to 12.98 megapixels. The sharpness is decent in daylight, but decreases significantly towards the corners. However, this only affects small areas, which is why hardly anyone who does not consciously look for it should notice it. The details, on the other hand, leave a lot to be desired: Some areas of the motif are sufficiently detailed, others are only blurred.

The Moto Z catches up in medium light conditions, such as in closed rooms: Thanks to the optical image stabilizer and the bright lens with an aperture of f 1.8, the image noise is comparatively low and you can still take acceptable photos where smartphones without an optical stabilizer already completely shake. For comparison: Lenses with a bright f 1.8 have only a handful of flagships such as the HTC 10 or LG G5. The Samsung Galaxy S7 alone is better with f 1.7, whereby lower values ​​represent less shadowing by the aperture and are therefore better.

In poor lighting conditions, such as in the evening, the candidate also shows a comparatively low level of image noise, even if the quality of the images cannot compete with those of the Galaxy S7 by far. The bottom line is that despite the moderate level of detail, this results in a wafer-thin “good” in the photo evaluation.


The Moto Z records moving images at the front in Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) and at the rear either in Full HD with 30 or 60 frames per second or in Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) with 30 frames per second. Even in Full HD, the recordings show more sharpness and details than the photos, but they are also slightly grizzled. In UHD, of course, sharpness and details are once again significantly increased: At this level you can really enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, regardless of the resolution, there is a problem with the up-focus. It doesn't always find the right setting, which is why some clips in the test were not really sharp. On the other hand, the Aufotokus does not pump, which is unfortunately far too seldom seen with smartphones. The videos remain pleasantly quiet, not least thanks to the optical stabilizer, which does a good job. Therefore, the Moto Z still gets a "satisfactory" rating in the video evaluation, despite the criticism of the autofocus.


Due to the extremely thin height, the usual jack connection for the headphones does not fit into the housing. The audio output is therefore via the USB connection. Motorola has included a suitable adapter cable so that customers can continue to use their headphones. This development should mean a new trend, because Apple is also doing without the 3.5 millimeter jack socket in its new iPhones. As a result, you can't listen to wired music and charge your phone at the same time. There will certainly be a corresponding course in the future, but that doesn't necessarily make the matter more practical.

The Moto Z generates an extremely powerful sound on the reference headset, the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors. Therefore, be careful when plugging in the headphones! The sound is wonderfully harmonious and natural, with clear, present highs and powerful, precise bass. In a direct comparison with the reference, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, it is noticeable that the treble lacks a bit of liveliness, as the frequency response seems to collapse a bit earlier at the upper end. However, this is only a marginal difference at a high level, which can only be detected with good equipment, which most interested parties should not even notice. Which is why the audio rating was “very good” in the end.


Motorola leaves the Android 6.0.1 operating system untouched and only installs one app for the mods and a second one called "Moto" for some additional functions. The latter opens up extensive options for voice control, as known from the “Moto X” models, or starting the camera by turning the wrist twice. The flashlight, in turn, can be switched on and off with two hacking movements. In addition, information such as the date, time, missed calls or upcoming appointments is displayed on the lock screen as soon as the hand approaches the phone. This not only replaces the info LED on the front, but also "Tap 2 Wake" to wake up from standby mode by double-tapping the touchscreen, because it can be unlocked from the info display. However, native Android does not necessarily offer the greatest convenience. For example, the quick accesses behind the notification center cannot be edited and the three icons for navigation cannot be adjusted or even completely hidden manually. The proprietary user interfaces from other manufacturers offer significantly more convenience, but not everyone necessarily likes that. Last but not least, many functions can be retrofitted via app if necessary.


There isn't much to complain about about the Motorola Moto Z: Except for an FM radio and water protection, the equipment offers pretty much everything. The quality of the UHD videos could be better and the 13-megapixel photos were also expected to be a little more than “just” a narrow “good” due to the optical stabilizer. But most of them will be able to live with that. You can also get over the need to use an adapter cable to connect the headphones.