Motorola Moto X Force Review: We get heavy-handed with one of the most rugged phones around, the new Moto X Force, a 5.4-inch souped-up version of the Moto X Style with an ‘unbreakable’ screen.
The Moto X Style is Motorola’s best flagship phone to date, boasting a super-sharp Quad HD screen, solid battery life and a pleasingly user-friendly experience. Which made us all the more surprised when Motorola announced a new version, the Moto X Force, just a month or so later.
It may look the same, but there are quite a few differences between the Moto X Force and the Moto X Style. For one, you can throw the X Force onto a concrete floor and it’ll survive quite happily. But is the rest of the phone as solid, and why should you choose the Force over the Style?
The Moto X Force’s main appeal is its ruggedness, which reaches beyond the usual Gorilla Glass screen that can be knocked and scratched without an issue. We dropped the Force over a metre onto a hard floor and it was still fully functioning, with not so much as a tiny chip to show for it. Long story short, if you’re after a hardy handset for taking on outdoor expeditions, or you’re simply a bit of a butter-fingers, the Moto X Force is a solid (ho ho) choice.
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Bear in mind however that the X Force isn’t water resistant, unlike the cheaper Moto G. Instead it is merely ‘water repellant’, which means it can get a bit damp in the rain without conking out.
Using Motorola’s online Moto Maker service, you can customise the look and feel of your Force. There’s a choice of nylon, soft-touch and leather backings, all of which are textured to help with grip, although we’d have preferred some brighter colours – the choices are all quite dark and lack the punchy vibe of the Moto G’s palette.
At 5.4-inches, the Moto X Force is a bit of a handful. It’s actually the smallest of the new Moto X family, but the thick bezels either side of the screen and relatively chunky design mean it’s a phone best used with two hands.
Screen and media
With the Moto X Force’s rugged credentials, you might be concerned that the phone has some thick glass sat on top of the display, given it a sunken appearance and ropey viewing angles. Thankfully that 5.4-inch AMOLED screen actually seems to sit flush with the phone’s surface, which is pretty damn impressive.
The display is every bit as awesome as the Moto X Style’s screen, with a super-sharp Quad HD resolution that packs an impressive 540 pixels into every inch. HD movies look fantastic, with a pleasing vibrancy for the full spectrum of colours. Brightness levels are strong on maximum, while contrast is easily a match for rivals such as the Blackberry Priv, Samsung Galaxy S6 and Sony Xperia Z5.
One difference over the Moto X Style is the Force’s speakers. You don’t have stereo speakers positioned above and beneath the screen for your media, just two narrow blasters down below which still put out an impressively powerful sound. Audio is still rather tinny, to be expected from such dinky speakers, but you’ll have no trouble hearing over general background noise.
The Force comes packing 32GB or 64GB of storage space, which is expandable via the microSD memory card slot.
Features and user experience
The Moto X Force user experience matches the Moto X Style’s, with a pretty much vanilla Android Lollipop OS on board. That means no complex overlays, with a simple, streamlined interface that will be familiar to Android fans and easy for noobs to pick up.
As well as your standard Android Lollipop features, Motorola has added its own Moto assistant. The Moto assistant works well in conjunction with Google now, offering bonus features such as hands-off operation (you can wake the phone with a launch phrase and Moto can even detect when you’re driving and read notifications out loud). It’s genuinely useful without being intrusive.
The only feature not found on the Moto X Force that deep down I miss is a fingerprint sensor, something found on most other premium handsets now. It’s not a deal breaker and the likes of Google’s Trusted Places/Devices feature helps to get around the clunky process of typing in a PIN each time you unlock. Still, given the price it’s something I’d have liked to have seen.
Check out our Android Lollipop and Moto X Style reviews for more info on the X Force’s features.
Performance and battery life
The Moto X Force bumps up the X Style’s Snapdragon 808 processor to a Snapdragon 810, which provides a smooth, satisfying everyday experience. The latest games such as Kill Shot Bravo run with a perfect frame rate, giving you no excuse about laggy controls when you get shot in the face yet again.
The only issue I noticed was a rise in temperature near the top end of the phone after twenty to thirty minutes of non-stop gaming. Thankfully the phone was only warm to the touch, not properly toasty.
I was impressed by the Moto X Style’s battery life, which easily sees you through a full day and a half of use between charges. Good news is, the Moto X Force is just as strong. As long as you’re not gaming or streaming video non-stop, you’ll happily make it through a full day with charge to spare, or close to two days if you’re restrained.
And if you do decide to cane the Moto X Force with endless video playback, you’ll still get a solid nine hours of life before the Force dies. That’s one of the best results we’ve seen on a phone for quite some time.
When you do finally run out of charge, you can power the Moto X Force back to full in just 80 minutes thanks to the bundled Turbo Charger. And if you don’t have that long, you can still get a good few hours of use from just ten minutes at the plug – the Force charged to 18 percent in that time, and over 50 percent in under half an hour.
The Moto X Force also supports wireless charging via PMA and Qi, although you’ll need to purchase the charging pad separately and charging is obviously slower without cables.
Once again you can wake the 21-megapixel camera with a quick double-twist of your wrist and Motorola’s camera interface is pleasingly simple, with a tap-and-shoot mentality and no on-screen clutter. As well as loading up quickly, the Force’s shutter is also nippy so you can take a quick action shot with minimal delay.
For photo and video samples and my full thoughts on the camera experience, check out our Moto X Force camera review.
The Moto X Force is one of the most rugged phones around, with no compromise on performance or features. That shatterproof screen is gorgeously sharp and vibrant, while battery life and camera performance are also solid. Of course, you’ll have to pay top dollar for the Force, which starts at £499, and you don’t get the sexy good looks – or some premium features such as a fingerprint sensor – found on similarly-priced rivals like the Xperia Z5 and Galaxy S6.
Bottom line is, if you want a premium phone to take on outdoor jollies where it’s likely to get a bit of a battering, the Moto X Force is a natural choice.
Many thanks to Mobile Fun and Motorola for our Moto X Force review devices. Check out our full Moto X Force vs X Style vs X Play comparison review.