Motorola takes another turn in its Mod-compatible series with the Moto Z4. As the name clearly indicates, this is the fourth generation Z device and with that Motorola steps back and shifts a bit of gear. Instead of a real flagship phone, Motorola throws the Z4 as an affordable premium device. It costs hundreds of dollars less than flagships from Apple, LG, Samsung and even OnePlus. Here is our Moto Z4 Review.
Verizon is the only courier that offers the Moto Z4 in the United States and sells it with Motorola’s 5G Mod. Is the 5G upgrade sufficient to prove that Motorola is still moving in the right direction with its Moto Z line?
Moto Z4 Review – Design
- 158 x 75 x 7.35mm
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- MicroSD expandable storage
- Aluminum chassis
- 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3
- Single speaker
- Water repellent
To adapt to the Moto Mods, the Moto Z4 retains roughly the same dimensions and shape as its predecessors, with only subtle differences between the Moto Z and even the first generation Moto Z. In short: there’s nothing we have ever had seen. The Moto Z4 has an aluminum frame sandwiched between two Gorilla Glass 3 panels. The glass bends along the edges where it touches the frame. Motorola only slightly increased the thickness of the Z4 to accommodate a larger battery. I’m not going to complain about it. You can get the Z4 in Flash Gray or Frost White.
I appreciate all ports, buttons, and controls. The volume button and screen lock key are located high up on the right side of the phone. I found them easy to use and the action is perfect. A drawer that is inserted into the top edge has a double load and holds both the SIM card and the microSD memory card. The USB-C port and (huzzah!) 3.5 mm headphone jack fill the bottom. Moto’s Z-series devices all have perfectly flat rear panels and the Z4 is no different. The rear glass feels very smooth thanks to the fine shine. A large, round module on the top contains the single camera, flash and sensor array. Copper contacts are close to the bottom.
The arrangement of these two components has defined the Moto Z line since the beginning. Mods rely on the camera module for basic positioning and the copper contacts for communication between the Mod and the telephone itself. Motorola has made a change this year that I find puzzling. The aluminum frame faces inwards, which produces two effects: 1. It makes the Z4 the most comfortable Z-phone that you can still hold and use without Sans Mod; and 2. This means that Mods do not fit as seamlessly on the Z4 as older Z devices. Let’s talk about this.
The Moto Mods are the whole appeal of devices from the Z series. The phones themselves are thin, light and good looking. The Mods offer functions such as a projector, a 360-degree camera or a set of speakers. Motorola has done a fantastic job of designing and designing the Mods that stay in place thanks to magnets. Mods followed seamlessly on the rear panel – up to the Z4.
Finally, Motorola has again made water resistant, a fun-to-have, not a must-have function. The inside of the Moto Z4 is sprayed with a water-repellent material that must protect the silicon against small amounts of moisture (sweat or rain). It is not waterproof and cannot be submerged.
Moto Z4 Review – Display
- 6.39-inch Full HD+ AMOLED
- 2,340 x 1,080
- 19.5:9 aspect ratio
- 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
I don’t think it’s a challenge to call the Moto Z4 display the best I’ve seen on a Motorola device. It is large, pixel-rich and incredibly colorful. The huge contrast ratio of the AMOLED panel ensures that you get the blackest blacks and the brightest whites. It is a nice display and rivals phones that cost hundreds more.
The 19.5: 9 aspect ratio means that the screen fills almost the entire front. Although the footprint of the Z4 is basically the same as that of the first Moto Z phone a few years ago, Motorola virtually eliminated the edges to create a seamless experience. The camera facing the user is located at the top in a tear-shaped notch. The notch is so small that it is almost imperceptible and the fronts of the forehead and chin are kept under control.
Biometrics is hidden behind the screen. Motorola opted for an in-display fingerprint sensor, instead of cramming one in the chin. Training the in-display sensor is the same as training another, and it only takes a moment. I found the reader to be reliable, but it took half a second to verify my print. The animation that appears when reading your print comes directly from a science fiction movie. Motorola did well by adapting its Moto Z platform for today’s all-screen look.
Moto Z4 Review – Software
- Android 9 Pie
Motorola software has taken the lead for years. The company has a mainly stock build of Android, with the slightest improvements that improve the experience of daily use and use of the phone. It’s the simple things. Cut the phone in twice to turn on the flashlight. Turn your wrist twice to start the camera. Turn the phone over to switch on Do Not Disturb. Motorola was one of the first with the always-on display and it continues to lead with a flexible tool that gives you just the right amount of information at the right time.
The one-button navigation system from Motorola is much better than Google’s own Pie nav tool. Users can choose to use the traditional three-button control or a single bar. With the latter, people need to learn a few simple, thumb-based gestures that allow you to seamlessly go from app to app. Every other telephone manufacturer only needs to copy this. Although the Z4 is not an Android One device, Motorola attaches great importance to system updates. Users can expect to see system updates for two years and security updates for three years. That is all you can ask for.
Moto Z4 Review – Audio
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD
The jacket is back! Motorola left out the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack of the Moto Z3 last year and fans were not happy. The company took the criticism to heart and brought the jacket back to its 2019 Z4. I plugged in my best earplugs and came away satisfied with the clarity and quality of the sound. Too bad that the phone is not delivered with a few simple buttons. The Z4 also supports the advanced aptX HD Bluetooth audio codec, which delivers clean tones to your headphones.
Whether you have passed your commuter traffic peacefully or are stuck in the gym, the Bluetooth radio has covered you 30 feet. I am not happy with the speaker situation. Motorola has long opted to rely on one loudspeaker for its devices. The earpiece speaker, crammed between the glass and the metal frame, handles calls and music and does not perform particularly well. It is clear to me that Motorola has not put much effort into the internal speaker thanks to the availability of detachable speaker mods.
Moto Z4 Review – Performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 675
- Octa-core 2.0GHz
- Adreno 612 GPU
- 4GB RAM
The implementation is a bit uneven, sorry. Where the first Moto Z phone was a real flagship, the current Moto Z4 is more of a high-end mid-range. The Z4 has a Snapdragon 600 series processor instead of a Snapdragon 800 series processor, and I can distinguish the difference not only in benchmarks but also in daily use.
I have taken the Moto Z4 as my daily driver during a recent business trip. Things were not 100 percent from the beginning. Sometimes apps crashed or did not load at all. I suffer from app hangouts and RAM-intensive apps such as the camera were sensitive to slow behavior. Graphic games such as Asphalt brought the phone to its knees. The benchmarks set only a few criteria for these experiences.
Geekbench 4 scores showed 1,953 for single-core performance and 5,932 for multi-core performance. This put the Z4 firmly behind flagships from the 2017 era, such as the Galaxy S8, Note 8 and Pixel 2. 3DMark scores were clearly worse. The phone scored 1,044 on the OpenGL ES 3.1 test and 1,063 on the Vulkan test. That 1,044 placed the Z4 behind 63 percent of the phones in the 3DMark database. The valuation of the Vulkan was even worse, so the Z4 was placed on no less than 75 percent of the phones. AnTuTu resulted in a score of 170,807, leaving the Z4 behind 58 percent of the field.
Moto Z4 Review – Camera
- Rear camera:
- 48MP sensor with 12MP output
- f/1.7 aperture, 1.6um pixel size
- OIS, PDAF, laser autofocus
- CCT dual-LED flash
- Front camera:
- 25MP sensor with 6.25MP output
- Quad Pixel technology
- f/2.0 aperture
- 0.9um pixel size
Motorola is firmly committed to the idea that one camera is good enough. Whereas most of the competition has been switched to systems with two cameras, the Moto Z4 has only one sensor at the rear. It is a whopper with a speed of 48 MP, but it is omitted up to 12 MP for better performance in low light.
The results are unfortunately everywhere on the map. As you can see in some of the images below, bright sunlight provided a lot of contrast despite the fact that the automatic HDR tool was on. For example, the shadows in the first bridge image are completely lost. Details and focus are fairly everywhere, but exposure and white balance are inconsistent. I had a hard time avoiding the halo effect when there was a strong light source nearby (like, you know, the sun).
I took a few pictures of myself with the front camera and you can see the dramatically different results. The first batch is in normal mode. The beauty filter of the phone made a mess of my face (I look like a mannequin!), But the exposure is good and the details in the background are great. When I tried selfie portrait mode instead, it did a ridiculous job and cut an outline around my head and marred the background. These are embarrassingly bad.
The different shooting modes are fun. The Spot Color tool did not do a terrible job and functions such as cinematography and live filter can lead to nice results. The video camera gives you access to slow-motion and time-lapse, and that’s all I need. You can capture video up to 4K, but the Full HD results are the best option.
I was hoping for something more from Motorola and the camera from the Z4. It is not a terrible camera, but it does not compete well enough with today’s middle-class drivers.
Moto Z4 Review – Battery Life
- 3,600mAh Lithium-ion
- Motorola 15W TurboPower
- No wireless charging
If one thing about the Moto Z4 impressed me, it was the battery life. I used the phone extensively during my recent business trip and it went very far. Literally. The first day of my trip was long. I disconnected the Z4 at a quarter to three when I left for the airport. I used the phone all day in Newark, Chicago, and Atlanta before finally putting it back in my hotel room in Dallas at 2:45 PM to charge it. During that 24-hour period, the phone gave me more than seven hours of Screen-On time and he still had 37 percent in the tank. You can’t ask for much more than that.
On what most people would call an “ordinary” day, the Z4 pushed from breakfast to bedtime without getting into a sweat. In that time I used the Z4 to check email, get angry with Twitter, rate Instagram and manage my slack. The Z4 flowed on easily without diving below 50 percent. Motorola says the phone can last up to two days, and I think that’s a good claim. The charging speeds were excellent via the included charger. Connect the Moto Z4 for 15 minutes and you will get a battery life of seven to eight hours.
That is perfect if you come from work on Friday afternoon and have a quick turnaround before your evening plans start. Motorola has made the battery life a priority and it shows. Finally, wireless charging is not available for the Z4 alone. If you want to spend an extra $ 50 extra on Motorola’s Wireless Charging Mod, then you are ready to go. I hate having to throw extra dough to get a feature that so many other devices have already built in.
Moto Z4 Review – Conclusion
After spending more than a week with the Motorola Moto Z4, I can’t help feeling that it’s a placeholder, the lowest denominator of a commitment. It is as if Motorola is obliged to Verizon to make another generation of Mod-compatible Z-phones, and this is what we got. Motorola is entering the water, keeping its head above water but not necessarily moving forward to the coast. The Z4 is not a flagship like its predecessors, despite wearing their brand. It is a more real successor to the Z3 Play than the Z3 and even then has a number of compromises that are hard to overlook.
What are the reasons for buying this phone? The great screen, the battery life shortened, and the excellent Android experience. Do share your thoughts on our Moto Z4 Review in the comments box.
Moto Z4 Review Rating – 7/10
The Motorola Moto Z4 is the latest phone that is compatible with the company’s Moto Mods series of snap-on accessories. The Moto Z4 only makes sense if you have already invested in Motorola’s Moto Mods ecosystem, or if you want to swirl the 5G Mod on Verizon.
- Impressive display
- Incredible battery life
- Moto Mods add features
- Headphone jack
- Excellent software
- Middling camera
- Uneven performance
- Not truly water resistant