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Looking to buy Motorola? Here’s our ultimate guide to all 2017 Moto smartphones

Why it matters to you

The Moto X4 starts at £400, launches on October 26 If you’re looking for a well-rounded smartphone running a close-to-pure version of Android, Motorola may be your best bet. Trouble is, the company has produced many new models in the past year that the lineup can be quite confusing at times, even for seasoned veterans.

Our guide to Motorola’s 2017 smartphones take you through the portfolio, starting with the £130 Moto E4 Plus all the way up to the top-of-the-line modular Moto Z2 Force.

Moto E4

Pricing: £130, £100 (Amazon Prime Exclusive with ads) Who it’s for: Someone who needs a basic smartphone and nothing more In terms of specs and price, the Moto E4 is the bare minimum the company offers.

That said, you still get a respectable handset for the money. The E4 comes with Qualcomm’s low-end Snapdragon 425 system-on-chip (Sprint[1] buyers get a slightly more powerful 427 processor), 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a MicroSD card slot for additional space. The display is a 5-inch LCD with a 1,280 x 720 resolution, and the main camera is rated at 8 megapixels.

It proved average in our testing tests, which isn’t particularly surprising given the low, low price of the hardware. And you get a front-mounted fingerprint sensor for your trouble, though — a welcome inclusion.

Moto E4 Review[2]

Moto E4 Plus

Pricing: £180 (16GB); £200 (32GB); £140/£160 (Amazon Prime Exclusive with ads) Who it’s for: Someone who wants the best battery life, and doesn’t need a powerful phone

We called the Moto E4 Plus the best smartphone under £200 when we reviewed it earlier in the summer, and that’s mostly down to one standout feature: The almost un-killable battery. Motorola stuffed a 5,000mAh unit into the E4 Plus’ 5.5-inch chassis. Coupled with the phone’s frugal Snapdragon 427 processor and 720p display, the E4 delivers incredible longevity on a charge.

It easily lasts two days without breaking a sweat, and three is certainly doable. We say if you have the extra £50 to burn, spring for the Plus over the standard E4 — you’ll have a budget phone that does something even the four-times more expensive Apple iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Google Pixel 2 XL[3][4][5][6]

Moto G5 and G5S

Pricing: 230 euros (G5); 250 euros (G5S); U.S. Moto G5S pricing TBA

Who it’s for: Someone who wants a full HD display in a compact package Here’s where things get a little confusing. The standard Moto G5 isn’t available in the U.S., but the slightly improved Moto G5S is.

Both phones sport Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 processor, though the G5S features a slightly improved battery (3,000mAh versus 2,800mAh); a 16-megapixel rear camera to instead of the regular model’s 13-megapixel shooter; and a metal body instead of plastic. Otherwise, they’re the same — both have a 5.2-inch 1080p display and 2GB of RAM. To be honest, there’s not much reason to go with the G5 or G5S in the context of Motorola’s larger lineup.

The processors aren’t noticeably faster, and the designs aren’t radically different. The batteries are substantially less than what Motorola phones like the E4 Plus offers too, and the cameras are average at best. Bottom line?

You’re best spending a bit more (or a bit less) on something else.

Moto G5 Plus and G5S Plus

Pricing: £230 (G5 Plus, 32GB/2GB); £280 (G5 Plus, 64GB/4GB); £280/£350 (G5S Plus, 32GB/64GB) Who it’s for: Someone who wants a jack-of-all-trades midrange phone under £300 But what of the G5S Plus?

The £280/£350 phone may be tough to find outside of Europe and Latin America right now, but it’s worth tracking down. The G5S Plus is slightly bigger than the regular G5 Plus, with a 5.5-inch display at the same resolution. It’s also got dual cameras, both rated at 13-megapixels, replacing the G5 Plus’ single 12-megapixel shooter.

The base model of G5S Plus has an extra gigabyte of RAM for a total of 3GB, though 4GB is an option. The Moto G5 Plus, the G5S Plus’s predecessor, was one of our favorite budget smartphones this year. For £230, you get a Snapdragon 625 processor — a step up from the 430 found in the regular G5 and G5S — as well as a 5.2-inch 1080p display and 2GB of RAM.

If you spend £50 more, you can have double the storage and RAM, making the G5 Plus one of the best values under the £300 mark.

Moto G5 Plus Review[7]

Moto X4 / Android One Moto X4

Pricing: 399 euros (64GB); £400 (64GB) Who it’s for: Someone who wants flagship-quality dual cameras in an otherwise midrange device Once upon a time, the Moto X was billed as Motorola’s flagship.

That designation has shifted to the modular Moto Z in recent years, but now the company is reviving the Moto X[8] as a midrange product. From the outside, it looks nothing like the previous versions: You’ll find chunky bezels, super-reflective glass construction, and dual cameras. On the other hand, in terms of specs, it may be too similar to the Moto G5 Plus to really make a splash.

The processor is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630, the chip maker’s newest midrange silicon. It should only offer a negligible bump in day-to-day performance over the outgoing 625. Alongside are 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, IP68 water resistance, and a dual-sensor rear camera with an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens.

In the U.S., the Moto X4 is the first non-Pixel/Nexus device available on Project Fi[9], Google’s pay-as-you-go MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). The £400 Android One Moto X4[10], which is available from the Project Fi website[11], comes with free unlimited Google Photos storage, and up to £165 in credits for subscribers who trade in an old Nexus device. For a limited time, Google’s offering an additional £50 in bill credit for folks who start start a trade-in before October 5.

If Fi isn’t your style, the Moto X4 is available from Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, Jet.com, Motorola.com, Newegg, Republic Wireless, and Ting starting at £400. It begins shipping October 26. It’s £70 cheaper on Prime Exclusive Phones (£330), Amazon’s discount phone program, but there’s a catch: You’ll have to put up with ads on the lockscreen and sign up for Amazon’s £99-a-year Prime program.

Moto X4 Hands-On Review[12]

Moto Z2 Play

Pricing: £408 (32GB, Verizon exclusive); £500 (64GB) Who it’s for: Someone who wants a modular phone at the cheapest price The Moto Z2 Play brings the modular capabilities of the company’s Moto Mods[13] platform down to an affordable cost.

With a Snapdragon 626 processor alongside 3GB of RAM, it’s not necessarily more powerful than the G5 Plus, but it certainly is longer-lasting despite a 3,000mAh battery. The system Motorola has devised for its Moto Mods is incredibly user-friendly — they simply snap onto the back magnetically. Some are a bit too expensive, especially the Hasselblad TrueZoom[14] camera mod and InstaShare[15] projector.

But if the idea speaks to you and you don’t need a device with the fastest processor, the Z2 Play is a solid choice. If you want to learn about more Moto Mods, here’s a list of our favorites[16].

Moto Z2 Play Review[17]

Moto Z2 Force

Pricing: £720 Who it’s for: Someone who wants a modular phone with flagship performance

Though they may mostly share the same name, the Moto Z2 Force is a very different beast from the Z2 Play. The latter is a midrange handset at heart, but the Moto Z2 Force is Motorola’s flagship. It features Qualcomm’s powerful system-on-chip, the Snapdragon 835, and 4GB of RAM.

The only similarity between them is they both support Moto Mods. The Z2 Force features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440. It’s a remarkably thin device, though Motorola has protected the screen from inevitable mishaps with its proprietary ShatterShield[18] layered technology.

Unfortunately, that slimmer profile necessitated a smaller battery compared to last year’s model. If you want better battery life, the Z2 Play is a better option. Or you can grab a battery Moto Mod to extend the Z2 Force’s life.

The Z2 Force does, however, feature a better camera, and one with two lenses. Both have 12 megapixels, but one is monochrome, allowing you to achieve true black and white photography. Bear in mind that for all the Z2 Force’s bells and whistles, though, it starts at £720 — over £200 more than an unlocked Z2 Play.

Moto Z2 Force Review[19]

Updated: Added Project Fi availability and pricing to the Moto X4 section.

References

  1. ^ Sprint (www.sprint.com)
  2. ^ Moto E4 Review (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ best smartphone under £200 (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ Apple iPhone 7 (www.digitaltrends.com)
  5. ^ Samsung Galaxy S8 (www.digitaltrends.com)
  6. ^ Google Pixel 2 XL (www.digitaltrends.com)
  7. ^ Moto G5 Plus Review (www.digitaltrends.com)
  8. ^ Moto X (www.digitaltrends.com)
  9. ^ Project Fi (www.digitaltrends.com)
  10. ^ Android One Moto X4 (www.digitaltrends.com)
  11. ^ Project Fi website (fi.google.com)
  12. ^ Moto X4 Hands-On Review (www.digitaltrends.com)
  13. ^ Moto Mods (www.motorola.com)
  14. ^ Hasselblad TrueZoom (www.motorola.com)
  15. ^ InstaShare (www.motorola.com)
  16. ^ a list of our favorites (www.digitaltrends.com)
  17. ^ Moto Z2 Play Review (www.digitaltrends.com)
  18. ^ ShatterShield (www.motorola.com)
  19. ^ Moto Z2 Force Review (www.digitaltrends.com)

HP ZBook x2 Release Date, Price and Specs

HP chose to launch its 14-inch ZBook x2 mobile workstation at Adobe Max,[1] the annual conference for Creative Clouders; that should tell you exactly who HP is targeting with the x2. And from what I’ve seen, it hits the mark as exactly what professional creatives will want by the time it ships in December. It’s the first detachable mobile workstation — a laptop that turns into a tablet when you remove the magnetically-attached keyboard — which can be configured with a 10-bit 4K UHD pressure-sensitive display, the first available on a mobile device.

While the prices start at £1,750 (directly converted, approximately ?1,330 and AU£2,230), that’s for a relatively underpowered configuration with a dual-core Intel Core i5 and integrated graphics, an 8-bit 4K display and so on. HP doesn’t have a price yet for the maxed-out configuration — which would have an 8th-generation i7, the DreamColor 4K display, an Nvidia Quadro M620 GPU, 32GB RAM and 2TB NVMe M.2 SSD — but if this is going to be your only system, you’re going to want the power. It comes with 20 percent off a year’s subscription to CC for new users, too, for whatever that’s worth.

Why does all this matter? Let me count the ways.

You want a detachable

There are two types of laptops that double as tablets: detachables[2] (aka 2-in-1s, where the keyboard comes off, like the Microsoft Surface Pro[3]) and convertibles, where the keyboard rotates around the lid for tablet use. Convertibles[4] (aka hybrids) tend to be more business-oriented: in addition to standard laptop and tablet use, they can be positioned for presentations and video conferencing. Because the keyboard remains attached, there’s also room for more battery cells and bigger components.

But it also means that they’re not terribly comfortable to use as a tablet, especially with a stylus. Detachables, on the other hand, are a lot more comfortable for extensive stylus use, and you have the option of leaving the keyboard behind to make it lighter. And as long as they’re properly designed, they can be tons more flexible than plain-old tablets like the iPad Pro[5] because they run desktop applications, offer convenient connections to physical devices and can drive displays at high resolution.

HP ZBook x2 workstation lets you tear off the keyboard

The ZBook x2 even does detachable better; when you physically disconnect the keyboard, it automatically connects via Bluetooth so you can still use it.

Anyone with keyboard shortcuts for their most-used applications deeply ingrained in muscle memory will appreciate it. Yes, it has 18 programmable buttons on either side of the display, but I for one have never been able to use those with as much alacrity as the keyboard. The kickstand parks rigidly and tilts to angles appropriate for comfortable stylus use.

You can pair a Wacom MobileStudio Pro[6] with a Bluetooth keyboard, but that’s clunky to carry. Plus, it doesn’t have a kickstand, and more generally, Wacom isn’t a system vendor, so it doesn’t offer up-to-date components or the same type of support. However you can connect it to a system and use it like a pen-capable monitor, which is a really nice feature.

The system also supports 32GB of memory, more than other detachable or its closest competitor in spirit, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro. Add to that connectors for HDMI, SB© USB Type-A, SB© USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, plus a fingerprint reader and UHS III-capable SD and smart card slots, and it’s ready for anything.

You want a Wacom EMR stylus

Wacom’s been in the premium graphics-stylus business for longer than almost anyone still around, and its electromagnetic resonance technology is still the best. The x2 doesn’t incorporate the latest generation, which offers 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and 60 levels of tilt detection and which only Wacom’s products currently use, but it does offer 4.096 levels of sensitivity and tilt detection (I don’t have a tilt specification).

Some of the best things about EMR is that the stylus charges through the surface, so no batteries are required, and it automatically connects on contact rather than using Bluetooth. HP claims no parallax (offset between the tip and the pixel location) and minimal latency, but I find that usability is more a function of the complexity of the brush and the application — latency is one thing but lag, as I frequently see with some complex brushes in Photoshop or Painter, is another. In any case, any Bluetooth stylus is going to have some latency from the connection.

HP also chemically etched the screen to provide a better feel for both stylus and touch. There’s a fine line between too slippery and too rubbery when using a stylus on tablet screens and in my brief fingers-on with the x2 I did like the feel. The company also custom-designed the stylus, but while it’s certainly comfortable it didn’t really stand out in that respect.

HP’s stylus looks and feels more like a Wacom Intuos Pro Pen 2 than the typical stylus that comes with a Windows tablet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You want antiglare, Adobe RGB-accurate 4K

If you opt for the 10-bit DreamColor display, it comes factory calibrated for Adobe RGB with 100 percent gamut coverage — and supports hardware profiles — all essential for color-critical work.

For reference, the recently announced Surface Book 2[7], which Microsoft touts as a great “workstation,” has a way-too-glossy screen and only claims accuracy for the much smaller sRGB color space. And that chemical etching that gives drawing a more natural feel also renders the screen antiglare. I can’t stress enough how much more comfortable it is to work on a matte screen than a glossy one.

With the exception of gaming laptops, most consumer laptops have glossy screens to make colors pop. Even the ones that claim to be antiglare are still too shiny — or they are really antiglare and not very graphics friendly. And for photo editing, 4K is much better than lower resolutions for judging sharpness and detailed masking.

You probably want a workstation

The term “workstation” has become diluted, frequently used to describe any fast computer that can be used for professional graphics work.

But it really has a very specific meaning: a system that can be certified stable and secure by software manufacturers. That requires specific configurations, which almost always includes a workstation-class GPU like an Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro/FirePro. Workstation applications rely on OpenGL a lot, but just because a GPU supports OpenGL doesn’t mean it has the appropriate drivers for the the application to take advantage of it.

For instance, one of the biggest points of contention among people who game and edit photos is Nvidia’s hardline distinction between its consumer GeForce and workstation Quadro lines: You can’t get true 10-bit color in applications like Photoshop because Nvidia’s GeForce drivers don’t support it, but you can’t get GeForce performance in games from a Quadro. The upshot is you need a workstation GPU to access certain levels of acceleration — and occasionally features, such as real-time renderers in CAD programs — in your applications. And if you really want gaming performance, you can connect an external GPU chassis via the Thunderbolt port.

And some industries have stringent security requirements to prevent, for instance, leakage of profitable content[8] you might be working on. Workstations have enterprise-class security.

But you might want a little more, too

The ZBook x2 looks like it might be one of the best options I’ve seen thus far for professional creatives, but a few things did jump out at me. For one, the design aesthetic is more engineer than artist; I wish it took after the Spectre[9] line rather than HP’s clamshell workstations.

Fourteen inches is a good compromise size — it weighs at least 4.8 lbs/2.2 kg as a laptop, so I shudder to think how heavy it would be at 15 inches — but the battery life is probably not great. It has a 70Wh four-cell battery rated for 10 hours, but that’s a maximum and usually for the least power-consuming configuration. I wouldn’t mind adding a couple of ounces of weight to the keyboard to supply some extra juice, especially since it already must have a battery in it for Bluetooth-connected operation.

And given its purpose, it also deserves a better-than-average back camera rather than a random 8-megapixel model. As for the internals, while it uses eighth-gen Intel Core chips, those are still based on a tweaked version of last year’s Kaby Lake architecture and the integrated graphics are just rebranded from last year’s. That’s unavoidable; Intel still hasn’t shipped Coffee Lake-based mobile CPUs.

But given how much the high-end configuration will probably cost, I’d be tempted to wait and at least get a sense of how much of an improvement the desktop Coffee Lake processors deliver.

More cores for a workstation are more important than in a consumer laptop.

References

  1. ^ Adobe Max, (max.adobe.com)
  2. ^ detachables (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ Microsoft Surface Pro (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Convertibles (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ iPad Pro (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ Wacom MobileStudio Pro (www.cnet.com)
  7. ^ Surface Book 2 (www.cnet.com)
  8. ^ leakage of profitable content (www.cnet.com)
  9. ^ Spectre (www.cnet.com)

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