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Moto X Force (XT1580) Shatterproof Phone Review

Ben Andrews reviews the smartphone designed to survive the tough life, with a shatterproof screen and 20 megapixel camera.


|  Motorola Moto X Force (XT1580) in Camera Phones
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Motorola Moto X Force XT1580 Product Shot1 Front Cleaned

In a world where smartphones are separated by extra screen resolution and faster processors, how do you really stand out from the crowd? Motorola thinks it has the answer with the Moto X Force, as this smartphone sports a shatterproof display guaranteed for four years against breaking from normal drops. Beneath the toughened exterior lies premium components that help justify the X Force’s £480 price tag.

Moto X Force Features

The Moto X Force features the same 21MP rear camera and 5MP front-facing selfie camera as in the Moto X Play and X Style. The rear camera gets a large aperture f/2.0 lens to improve low light image quality, along with phase detection autofocus for faster focusing. 

There are no compromises on performance though. The X Force uses an even more powerful processor than the X Style and features a healthy 3GB of RAM to ensure smooth performance in demanding apps and games. All this power is fuelled by a high-capacity 3760mAh Li-ion battery, which Motorola is claiming will last two full days of mixed usage. When charged by Motorola’s included TurboPower charger, the battery can be recharged to give 13 hours of use from only a 15-minute charge.

As well as being shatterproof, the X Force’s 5.4-inch AMOLED screen has a high Quad HD 1440 x 2560 resolution equating to an impressive pixel density of 540 ppi.

Key Features

  • 21MP 1/2.4-inch image sensor
  • Fixed 27mm-equivalent lens, f/2.0, 4x digital zoom
  • Phase detection autofocus
  • 5.4-inch AMOLED screen, Quad HD 1440 x 2560, 540 ppi
  • GPS / Wi-Fi / NFC
  • Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video recording
  • HDR / panoramic shooting / 5MP front-facing camera
  • MicroSD slot, up to 200GB expandability
  • Smash and splash resistant
  • Customisable rear panels
  • Available in black or white chassis finishes

Moto X Force Handling

Motorola Moto X Force XT1580 Product Shot2 Back

Possibly the most striking aspect of the X Force is that it doesn’t immediately stand out as a rugged smartphone. The styling is sleek with no sign of fake hex bolt heads or other military-themed design cues. Only the Ballistic Nylon textured rear panel looks slightly utilitarian, but this can be swapped out for more attractive Soft Grip or Pebbled Leather rear panels when you order the phone direct from Motorola.

Build quality is as high as you’d expect for a phone at this price point, and that’s before you really give it some abuse. We dropped our test example onto tiled concrete and it survived almost unscathed. We say almost, as the final layer of screen protection is a factory-fitted protection film which does pick up marks and scratches, though it can be replaced. But don’t assume this is an indestructible phone – take a hammer to the screen and it will break – rather, this is a device that’s designed to survive typical everyday mishaps, leaving you free to enjoy life without worrying about your phone. A nano coating has also been applied to the X Force to make it splash and rain resistant, but it’s a pity it isn’t fully waterproofed like the cheaper Moto G.

Another minor handling gripe is screen quality. In most respects, the 5.4-inch 1440 x 2560 display is very easy on the eye, with the high resolution and pixel density producing excellent clarity. Colour vibrancy is also excellent, as is black depth, however the screen struggles to display whites with the same purity and intensity as the Moto X Play or X Style, instead producing dirtier, yellower results.

Moto X Force

The Moto X Force uses an identical camera app to cheaper Motorola smartphones like the Moto X Play and Moto G. It’s a streamlined and simplified design that makes sense in a mid-range product, but less so here. You don’t get ISO sensitivity options or white balance control, and the app is far less comprehensive than equivalent Samsung, HTC, Sony and LG offerings.

The camera app’s only adjustment comes in the form of a single virtual control wheel that’s revealed by swiping inward from the left of the screen and includes a basic focus and exposure compensation utility, along with low light, HDR and panorama modes.

Unusually there’s no camera shutter icon, as you simply tap the image preview to capture an image. In theory, that’s about as easy as snapping a photo could be, but we missed the traditional method of tapping the screen to select a focus point. It also means you’ve got no way of knowing whether the camera has successfully focussed, which is particularly problematic when shooting close-up subjects at the limit of the camera’s close focussing ability, unless you press and hold the screen, and then you get focus confirmation.

Moto X Force Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.


Motorola Moto X Force (XT1580) Sample Photos

Images from the X Force’s 21MP sensor are vibrant, well-exposed and have plenty of dynamic range. If the camera detects a high contrast scene, the automatic HDR mode makes a noticeable difference to highlight and shadow intensity, whilst also boosting colour vibrancy. The effect is very noticeable, although in some instances it can look a little too intense.

High megapixel counts and small sensors aren’t necessarily a good combination, but the X Force manages to resolve plenty of detail and doesn’t apply too much noise reduction processing and image smoothing. If you really scrutinise, some distant detail like foliage can look slightly painterly, but it’s no deal breaker. Compared to a Samsung Galaxy S6, the Motorola’s results in good light aren’t quite as crisp or eye-catching, but they’re not far off.

Things are less impressive in low light, where noise becomes more obvious as the camera requires higher ISO sensitivities to compensate for the lack of image stabilisation. However, the benefit of relaxed noise reduction smoothing is increased detail retention, resulting in more natural-looking images.

Motorola Moto X Force (XT1580) Lens test images

The front-facing selfie camera generates good enough image quality for social media sharing or 6x4 prints, however there isn’t enough detail for images to stand up to closer scrutiny.

The fixed focal length, 27mm-equivalent lens produces distortion-free images, while corner sharpness is almost a match for the centre of frame. However there’s no way of knowing whether the camera has accurately focussed for a close-up shot, without holding the screen, so judging the minimum focus distance can be tricky. We found it to be approximately 10cm.

Panoramas are captured at just 936 vertical pixels, which is less than a typical compact camera with a sweep panorama mode and inexcusable for a smartphone with this much processing power. At least the results are sharp and well stitched, but they’re still no match for panoramas produced by flagship Apple or Samsung smartphones.

Video - Videos recorded at the maximum Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 quality consume around 360MB per minute, which is fairly typical for this resolution. The results are highly detailed, vibrant and accurately exposed.

Value For Money

The Moto X Force comes in 32GB or 64GB versions, costing £499 and £534 respectively when purchased direct from Motorola. At these prices it’s up against high-end smartphones like the HTC One A9, available for £419.99 with 16GB storage and Micro SD expandability. £499.99 will buy you a 64GB Samsung Galaxy S6 or the waterproof Sony Xperia Z5 with 32GB internal storage and Micro SD upgradability. A base 16GB iPhone 6s will set you back £539, and the LG G4 can be picked up for as little as £300 if you shop around, although the G4 is about to be discontinued.

Given its premium processing hardware, camera and screen quality, the X Force’s price compares well to the competition, especially considering cheaper devices like the HTC One A9 and LG G4 are older phones which have received price cuts. The X Force is even better value when you remember it’s the only phone in its class to boast such rugged build quality.

Have a look at more smartphones in our Top 10 Best Smartphone Cameras. You can also buy a MicroSD memory card and a case or bag to keep your smartphone safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to bags.

Moto X Force Verdict

Creating a flagship smartphone that’ll take on the might of Apple, Samsung and Sony isn’t going to be easy without a unique selling point, but the rugged X Force gets just that. It’s a fully-featured, no-compromise device which, unlike a typical smartphone, you can use without worrying that a single drop could kill it. What’s equally refreshing is this toughness doesn’t come at the expense of style, or indeed camera quality.

Slapping a high megapixel camera into a phone is by no means a guarantee of success – just take the HTC One M9 – but thankfully the X Force’s snapper comes close to rivalling the best smartphone cameras for daylight shooting. Low light performance is more average though, as are the X Force’s panoramas, and it’s a pity the camera app is nowhere near as well featured as many rivals.

However it’s worth remembering that you can get the exact same camera in the Moto X Play, and this phone also packs a very capable battery, along with a screen which while inferior to the X Force on paper, looks better in reality. Given the X Play costs little more than half the price of the X Force, it makes much more sense if you can do without the X Force’s ruggedness.

Moto X Force Pros

Attractive image quality in good light
Ultra HD video
High resolution, shatterproof screen
Water resistant
Good battery life
MicroSD expandability
Customisable casing

Moto X Force Cons

High price when compared to other Moto phones
Average low light performance
No ISO or WB control
Lacks real-time filter effects
Low-resolution panoramas
Not quite as sleek as some rivals

 

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

 

Motorola Moto X Force (XT1580) Specifications

ManufacturerMotorola
Front Camera
PixelsNo Data
Max ApertureNo Data
Smartphone Cameras
Smartphone Cameras
    Additional CamerasNo Data
    Lens
    Max Aperturef/2
    35mm equivalent27mm
    Optical Zoom0x
    Image Sensor
    Pixels21Mp (Megapixels)
    Pixels (W)5344
    Pixels (H)4008
    Sensor TypeCMOS
    Sensor SizeNo Data
    Sensor Size (width)No Data
    Sensor Size (height)No Data
    Aspect Ratio
    • 4:3
    LCD Monitor
    LCD Monitor5.4in
    Screen resolution1440p Quad HD (2560 x 1440)
    Touch ScreenYes
    Focusing
    Focusing modes
    • Autofocus
    • Face Detection
    • Touch AF
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortestNo Data
    Shutter speeds longestNo Data
    ISO sensitivityNo Data
    Video
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
    • 1920x1080 FullHD
    • 4K
    Video FPS30fps
    Stereo SoundNo Data
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationNo
    Interface
    USBUSB 2
    Wi-FiYes
    Storage
    Internal Memory3000MB
    Power Source
    Battery Type3760mAh battey
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsNo Data
    Dimensions
    Weight169g
    Width149.8mm
    Height78mm
    Depth9.2mm

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