Moto Z2 Force vs. Galaxy S8: David (and His Mods) Fight Goliath

Yeah, the new Moto Z2 Force ($720 to $750) has the same flagship specs as the Galaxy S8 (about $750), but does it really stand a chance against the world’s biggest smartphone maker? Samsung’s flagship boasts a nearly bezel-free Infinity Display, a killer camera and swift performance that’s the envy of the Android universe.

But hold on. The Moto Z2 Droid brings some seriously powerful weapons to this fight, including  a shatterproof display and dual cameras. Then there’s the Moto Mods, magnetic accessories that let you snap on everything from a mini projector and speakers to a 360 camera and gamepad.

So can David take down Goliath? Read on.

Galaxy S8 vs. Moto Z2 Force: Specs Compared


Galaxy 8
Moto Z2 Force
Display
5.8 inches (2960 x 1440) Super AMOLED5.5 inches OLED (2560 x 1440)
CPU
Snapdragon 835
Snapdragon 835
RAM
4GB
4GB
Storage
64GB
64GB
MicroSD
Yes
Yes
Rear Camera
12 MP
Dual 12 MP
Front Camera
8 MP
5 MP
Battery
3,000 mAh
2,730 mAh
Water Resistant
Yes IP68
Coating Only
Wireless Charging
Yes
Needs Accessory
Shatterproof
No
Yes
Size
5.9 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches6.13 x 3 x 0.24 inches
Weight
5.5 ounces
5.04 ounces

Design

Samsung has set the standard for smartphone design with the Galaxy S8. Its curved Infinity Display nearly goes from edge to edge, making this glass-backed phone look and feel like a slice of the future.

What doesn’t look or feel great on the S8 is the back-mounted fingerprint reader, which is located too close to the camera lens. The Moto Z2 Force places its fingerprint sensor up front, which doubles as a home button. Even better, you can use the oval-shaped reader to perform different tasks via swipe gestures.

The Moto Z2 Force is also very, very slim, as this aluminum handset rocks a profile that’s just 0.24 inches thick. That’s even thinner than the Galaxy S8’s 0.3 inches.

However, the Galaxy S8 gives you a 5.8-inch screen in something that’s easier to use with one hand because of its narrower 18.5:9 aspect ratio. The 5.5-inch display on the Z2 Force makes it tougher to use one-handed for those with smaller paws.

Winner: Galaxy S8. It just looks (and feels) better.

Display

Given that both the Galaxy S8 and Moto Z2 Force have OLED screens, you’re going to get treated to rich colors, wide viewing angles and perfect blacks. But they’re not quite equal.

On our tests, the 5.8-inch Infinity Display on the Galaxy S8 reproduced 183 percent of the color gamut in its Standard mode, but that soared to 255 percent in Adaptive mode. The Moto Z2 Force’s screen was in between those two numbers at 199.7 percent.

Where the S8 pulls ahead is color accuracy. On the Delta-E test, where 0 is perfect, the S8’s panel notched 0.28. That’s slightly better than the Z2 Force’s mark of 1.06. The Galaxy S8’s screen is also a bit brighter, as it hit 437 nits on our meter, compared with 331 nits for the Z2 Force.

Winner: Galaxy S8. Both screens are great, but the S8’s is close to perfect.

Special Features

This is Samsung, so of course the Galaxy S8 has a bevy of special features, starting with Bixby. The digital assistant isn’t designed to be like Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa. It can help perform various tasks with your voice that would normally take multiple taps. For example, you can say things like “Post my last photo to Instagram, and caption it “Delicious!,” and it will do everything - except hit the share button for you.

The Galaxy S8 is also fully water resistant, which means you can use it in the rain or even submerge it, whereas the Moto Z2 Force has a mere water-repellant coating. Plus, the S8 plugs into the optional Gear VR ($99) for some serious virtual-reality fun, and there’s the Samsung DeX dock for enabling your phone to double as a PC and an external 360 camera accessory.

But the Moto Z2 Force takes the cake in this category. It connects to a growing number of so-called Moto Mods, which are magnetic add-ons that deliver all sorts of capabilities. There’s a projector Moto Mod, another one for recording 360 video, a snap-on speaker and a game controller. And there’s plenty of others that just let you change the look and feel of the phone.

The most compelling Moto Mods, including those that boost the battery life, start at $79 and go up to $299. Plus, only the Z2 Force has a shatterproof screen. We’d rather have that than a phone we can dunk in water.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force. Moto Mods are pricey but truly innovative, and the shatterproof screen is very useful.

Cameras

Who says two isn’t better than one? We do. The Moto Z2 Force does some pretty nifty tricks with its dual rear 12-megapixel cameras, such as taking black-and-white photos and applying a bokeh-like blur effect to images to make subjects pop. But the former feature worked a lot better than the latter; the blur was unevenly applied to the photos we snapped.

In head-to-head tests, the Galaxy S8’s single 12-MP sensor delivered sharper and brighter images, especially in low light. It also benefits from a higher-resolution front camera than the Z2 Force: 8 MP versus 5 MP.

Winner: Galaxy S8. It’s not that the Z2 Force is bad, it’s that the Galaxy S8 is the best camera phone period (at least for now.)

Performance

The Galaxy S8 and the Moto Z2 Force both pack the latest Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, so it’s not surprising their benchmark scores were similar.

On Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance, the Z2 Force scored higher than the S8 (6,489 versus 6,124). Same thing goes for the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics test; the Z2 Force has a slight advantage over the Samsung (39,807 versus 35,903).

Unfortunately, while both phones were equally swift at opening and closing apps, the Galaxy S8 was significantly faster in one critical task: taking photos. While the S8 was so fast that we barely noticed the camera fired, the Z2 Force took longer to process each image. Just as annoying, the Moto phone was slower to launch its camera, whether it was from the lock screen or tapping the app once unlocked.

Winner: Draw. The Z2 Force performs better on benchmarks, but the S8 is the faster shooter.

Battery Life

With its 2,730 mAh battery, you wouldn’t expect the Moto Z2 Force to hold a candle to the Galaxy S8’s 3,000 mAh battery. But it does.

On the Tom’s Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G LTE, the Moto Z2 Force latest a very good 10 hours and 23 minutes. The Galaxy S8 lasted a longer 10:39, but it’s not that big a delta between the two. Thinking of getting the bigger Galaxy S8 Plus? That lasted an even longer 11:04 with is 3,500 mAh battery.

Winner: Galaxy S8. But it’s not as wide a gap as you think.

Software

Software is a very subjective thing, but I’m partial to Motorola’s flavor of Android 7.1 Nougat and the enhancements it adds on top. The gestures alone are pretty great, such as twisting the phone in your hand to launch the camera. You can also turn on the flashlight with a chopping motion - nifty.

The Moto Voice software feels a bit half-baked, however, allowing you to open apps and do things like show you your next appointment by barking various commands. Not a game changer.

The Galaxy S8 has its fair share of software tweaks to Android, including Edge screen shortcuts you access from the side, a one-handed mode, and a camera-launch shortcut you can take by pressing the power key twice. The S8 also has an app for controlling smart-home gear. Finally, I like that the S8’s keyboard has a dedicated number row; the Z2 Force’s keyboard does not.

Both the Z2 Force and Galaxy S8 have an always-on display option for showing you notifications.

Winner: Moto Z2 Force. It feels close to stock Android with slightly better enhancements on top.

Overall Winner: Galaxy S8


Moto Z2 Force
Galaxy S8
Design

X
Display

X
Special Features
X

Cameras

X
Performance
X
X
Battery Life

X
Software
X

Total
3
5

The Moto Z2 Force fought valiantly, but it was ultimately defeated by the Galaxy S8’s sleeker design, nearly perfect display and higher quality cameras. Plus, Samsung's flagship lasts a bit longer on a charge. On the other hand, the Z2 force has a few key advantages over its rival, including a growing ecosystem of innovative Moto Mods and a shatterproof screen. We also like that the Moto’s fingerprint sensor is in a less awkward place.

Overall, though, the Galaxy S8 retains its title as the best Android phone you can buy.

Photos credit: Tom's Guide