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printed November 19, 2017
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Review: Motorola Z Droid, Z Force Droid for Verizon Wireless

Hardware Software Moto Mods Wrap-Up Comments  6  

The chief selling point of the Moto Z and Z Force is their compatibility with the Moto Mods ecosystem of swappable modules. They snap onto the back of the Z and Z Force with magnets. The Moto Mods are easy to attach and detach thanks to a notch built into the bottom of each. Don't worry about the mods falling off. They might pop off if you drop the phone, but they won't become dislodged during normal use.

Motorola said the mods and magnetic connector were designed to be robust. This includes hot-swapping, which means the Z isn't going to crash if you yank a mod off without warning.

At launch, there are a handful of Mods to check out, including a battery pack from Tumi, a set of speakers from JBL, a projector from Lenovo, and several dozen alternate rear plates.

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Tumi Power Pack

The Tumi Power Pack is a 2,220 mAh battery disguised as an alternate rear shell for the phone. As far as battery packs go, the Tumi Power Pack is one of the most usable thanks to a foolproof design.

The mod itself is made of plastic and has a grainy texture to it. It is black, sleek, and flows seamlessly with the design of the Moto Z. The curved shape helps the Z fit deep in your palm. Like all battery packs that attach to phones, the Tumi adds bulk and weight to the Z, but the phone is already so slim that the size increase is well within reason.

Personally, I would change a few things.

First, the Tumi can't be charged separately. It has no USB port or other input other than the magnetic connector on the back. That means you have to attach it to the Moto Z to charge it. I wish the battery pack had its own plug. Also, the Moto Z's quick-charging powers don't seem to apply to the Tumi. If you plug the pair into a charger, the Tumi charges first (slowly), and then the phone charges. You might be better off to take advantage of the phone's rapid charging to get it to 100% before slapping the Tumi on to charge it.

The second is the capacity. Granted, many external batteries seem to hover around the 2,200 mAh size, but I guess I'm surprised Tumi didn't go for broke and push the capacity to 3,000 mAh or more, which would have delivered a full charge to the stock battery of both the Z and Z Force.

Last, there's no way to tell how much charge the Tumi has unless it is connected to the Moto Z. Some indicator lights would be helpful. The Tumi shows up in the settings tools so you can manage it.

Tumi claims the power pack adds 22 hours of life to the already-excellent battery in both phones. I envision it being most useful when you're trapped on a long international flight and have only your phone to keep you from losing your mind while aloft.

Tumi's Power Pack costs $60. A similar, but more fashionable one, from Kate Spade New York costs $90.

Tumi  

JBL SoundBoost Speaker

The SoundBoost speaker from JBL adds a pair of 3-watt drivers to the rear of the Moto Z, turning it into a miniature boombox. Let me tell you, this thing rocks.

The SoundBoost is rather chunky and adds considerable bulk and weight to the Moto Z. In fact, I would not walk around with the JBL attached. I might keep it in a briefcase or backpack for those moments when I want more sound than a standard phone speaker can deliver.

The mod contains two speakers and its own battery (good for 10 hours of playback). You can charge the JBL through a USB-C port. Oddly, the port is hidden on the underside and not tucked into one of the side edges. The JBL's best feature is perhaps the red, metal kickstand that flips out and lets the Moto Z stand up on a desk or table.

How does the music sound? Not bad at all. There are some obvious limitations given the size constraints here, but the JBL puts out enough sound to fill two rooms with music. I enjoyed using the JBL to listen to some Spotify music while preparing dinner one evening. It's not quite as effective outside, but you can still fill a deck or picnic area with music if you crank it up. You're not going to piss off the neighbors with thundering bass beats. Speaking of which, the sound is a bit on the thin side; I wish it delivered a bit more low-end punch.

It's a shame the clock and notifications won't/don't auto-rotate to match the Moto Z's landscape orientation when it's attached to the JBL, otherwise the Moto Z would make a great desk or alarm clock.

The JBL is a neat little accessory to have handy, because you never know when a spontaneous dance party is going to go down.

The JBL SoundBoost Speaker costs $80 — which is a bit more than a separate Bluetooth speaker of the same size would cost.

JBL  

Lenovo Insta-Share Projector

This thing is crazy-ville. The Lenovo Insta-Share Projector turns the Moto Z into a miniature movie theater. It can project images up to 70 inches at 50 lumens. The projector includes a kickstand and automatic keystone correction to account for projecting at nearly any angle.

Of the mods announced by Motorola, the projector is easily the largest. Not only does it contain the bulb and kickstand, but it also crams a small fan, speaker, and battery into the curved form. Like the JBL, you're not going to walk around with the Insta-Share attached to your phone. No, this is a mod that business people or media addicts may toss in their bag for presentations or impromptu YouTube sessions.

The projector's battery can power up to 1 hour of viewing time, but relies on the Moto Z's internal battery beyond that. Thankfully the projector has a USB port on the side so it can be charged in its own.

Is it really bright and really loud? No, but it's bright enough and loud enough. You can use it indoors during the daytime, for example, as long as you find a spot not illuminated by direct sunlight. It works really well in darkened spaces after sunset. It pumps out enough sound that everyone in the room can easily hear the action.

The resolution isn't the best, and — while 70 inches is bigger than most TVs — the picture is hard to see from more than about 15 feet away. The resolution and brightness improve if you move the Moto Z closer to the surface onto which you're projecting.

You have to focus the projector manually. It has an infinity setting that allows it to be reasonably sharp at modest distances, but you have to adjust the focus dial on the right edge as you move the phone closer to the screen.

As noted earlier, you can pull the projector off the Moto Z in mid-viewing and it won't crash the projector or the phone. Whatever video app you're using will simply resume on the phone's screen. Speaking of which, the screen goes dark when you're watching via the projector, but you can tap to wake it back up to choose another video without interrupting the projector.

As far as portable projectors go, the Insta-Share definitely delivers. Few are so small, usable, and effective.

The Lenovo Insta-Share Projector costs hefty $299.

Projector  

Rear Covers

If you want to protect the Moto Z a bit, or simply want to change up the phone's appearance, you're in luck. Motorola itself has made a wide variety of rear covers made of wood, leather, felt, and other materials that attach to the back like any other mod. I thought the wood mods felt a little cheap, but the leather ones were rather hot. The Moto Z will ship with one spare cover in the box. Beyond that, you can buy them where the phone is sold.

Incipio is making some back plates, too, including soft touch, iridescent, and metallic. Incipio's covers run $15.

Plate  

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