Reviews

Moto Z3 Review: It’s all about the Moto Mods, again

Is Motorola dropping Moto Mods soon?

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Motorola‘s flagship series finally has a 2018 successor, but is it the Moto phone we’ve been expecting? This is the Moto Z3 and it could be the last Z-series phone that’ll support existing Moto Mods, because it’s the end of Motorola’s promise.

I took the Moto Z3 for a spin and here’s my review.

It now has a bigger 6.01-inch Super AMOLED display…

Protected by Gorilla Glass 3

… with minimal bezels and no notch!

The earpiece also doubles as a loudspeaker

There’s a bit of chin, but I don’t mind

A subtle Motorola branding lies here

The fingerprint reader has been moved to the side

It’s embedded in the aluminum frame

The textured power button is pretty small

It’s kind of hard to reach

The card tray is accessible from the top side

Our Verizon model accepts a single nano-SIM and a microSD card

Of course, the USB-C port is at the bottom

The phone is a bit thicker, but there’s still no headphone jack

The back is also a slab of Gorilla Glass 3

I’m digging the Z3’s sophisticated look

The Moto Mod connector kinda ruins the simplicity of the rear

Hopefully, the next design will be a lot cleaner

The round camera ring continues to be iconic

It sees right through any Moto Mod

Similar design for three years straight

Motorola needs to create a different design soon, because the Moto Z series’ looks have become boring already. There’s a reason why Motorola had to stick with the original Moto Z though, and that’s because of Moto Mods.

The Moto Z3 is the third-generation flagship for the Moto Mods platform and Motorola is able to fulfill the three-generation compatibility promise. This means that all Moto Z phones, even the first one, will keep working with any of the existing Mods. Our old Moto Mods in the office work well with the latest Moto Z3.

To keep up with the borderless trend, Motorola maximized the screen area without drastically changing the size of the phone’s body. As a result, we get a taller 18:9 display that measures 6.01 inches. Unfortunately, the Moto Z3 has fewer pixels than previous Moto Z phones: 402ppi vs 535ppi.

The Moto Z3 is also slightly thicker to accommodate a bigger battery, but Motorola still omitted the 3.5mm audio port. Nevertheless, the sharp edges and flat back make the phone feel thinner on hand.

The usual flagship specs

The best thing about owning a Moto phone is about the software. Even before Android One, Motorola already offers clean Android software with very little customization. Bare Android can sometimes feel lacking, so the extra features are very welcome.

The Moto Z3 comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and is loaded with Moto Experiences like Moto Actions, Moto Voice, and Moto Display. Motorola even has their own One Button Nav that is quite similar to Android Pie’s method. There’s nothing to complain about the added features, as they are nicely integrated into the phone.

The same can be said about the performance of the Moto Z3. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor paired with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. It’s quite surprising to see the older 2017 flagship chipset in a 2018 phone. With this configuration, the Moto Z3 is practically in the same league as the Moto Z2 Force.

Performance-wise, the Moto Z3 never felt sluggish. The clean interface helps maintain the smooth performance like it’s brand new. It’s also great for playing intensive games and there’s no issue whatsoever with graphics performance. The Snapdragon 835’s prowess can still go a long way even in the years to come.

Impressive dual shooters

The camera hardware of the Moto Z3 remains unchanged from last year’s Z2 Force. There are dual 12-megapixel rear cameras: a color sensor with an aperture of f/2 and a monochrome unit. They are equipped with both phase-detection and laser-assisted autofocus.

Overall, the Moto Z3 can shoot pleasant images but it’s not as great as the Pixel 2 or the iPhone X’s. Captured details are generally good, especially when there’s plenty of light. Colors seem to be okay as well, but the dynamic range is just average. Like other dual-camera phones, the Moto Z3 can also shoot portrait shots with soft bokeh.

Check out the samples:

An 8-megapixel front-facing is present to take selfies; though, the front dual-LED flash from previous Moto Z phones is no longer available.

Check out the samples:

The selfie camera is pretty good in taking well-exposed images. Beautification and portrait selfie modes are available if you feel like using them.

Longevity is a key to become a great phone

I’ve always been a fan of Motorola’s battery performance, so I had high expectations of the Moto Z3. Good thing it doesn’t disappoint.

Despite the modest 3000mAh battery, the phone is able to last me a day and a half of moderate use. During heavy usage, I get around six hours of screen-on time out of 15 hours of continuous use.

Fast charging is also something you’ll enjoy with the Moto Z3. The phone already comes with a TurboPower-enabled charger in the box. Using the bundled power brick, the phone’s battery will get to 52 percent in just half an hour. A full charge will take about an hour and a half.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Moto Z3 is quite hard to get. In the US, it’s only available through Verizon. In Asia, you’ll have to fly to China to get the dual-SIM variant.

The only special feature of the Moto Z3 is the Moto Mods. If you want a future-proofed phone from Verizon, the upcoming 5G Moto Mod which will make the Moto Z3 a 5G-capable phone. Other than that, there’s not much to like about it, aside from the usual Motorola traits.

Verizon is charging just US$ 20 a month for this device or US$ 480 in full, and honestly, it’s not a terrible deal. The phone is best suited for re-contracting Verizon clients. With the telco’s 5G network coming next year, it’ll be an attractive phone — at least for Verizon customers.

SEE ALSO: Motorola confirms eight Moto phones are getting Android 9 Pie

Lifestyle

Amazon Kindle PaperWhite Signature Edition Review

The best Kindle for every bookworm?

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It’s been a while ever since the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite had a refresh. To be particular about it, its 10th-Generation model was released last 2018 — merely three years ago!

This 2021, the new 11th-Gen Kindle PaperWhite offers better upgrades including a larger and brighter display, as well as USB-C and wireless charging support.

But are those enough to make you upgrade? Or should you wait for the next version of Kindle Oasis instead?

Head over to our unboxing and in-depth review of the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite and watch it in 4K too.

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Accessories

AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review

Watch before you buy!

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If you’ve been holding your money for so long just to buy the new AirPods 3 (also called the AirPods 3rd Generation), this is your chance to finally get one.

But with the absence of removable ear tips and Active Noise Cancellation from the AirPods Pro, would you still consider buying the pair?

Head over to our AirPods 3 Unboxing and Review to help your impulsive self.

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Gaming

Hot Wheels Unleashed review: A childhood dream realized

It’s action-packed and rather nostalgic

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Hot Wheels Unleashed

As a kid, I wanted all kinds of toys whenever we went to toy stores in the city. One of the very first toys I had an obsession over was Hot Wheels. From collecting cars to building tracks in the living room, it became the quintessential set of toys that got me into racing games all this time.

When Hot Wheels Unleashed was released, I instantly knew that this was a game I didn’t want to miss. As someone who plays a ton of racing games, this one felt right at home next to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Unlike CTR:NF, the nostalgia I felt for this game was more on the side of “playing my toys on a virtual screen” type of thing.

However, if you’re looking for another game to help you pass the time, is this a game worth considering?

A racing game at its core

As with most games involving toy cars, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels right at home as a racing game. It even comes with some of the most standard game modes you can think of for any racing game, so you won’t necessarily miss out if you’re a racing game fan. Where this game sets itself apart is in its easy-to-grasp game mechanics.

Usually, all you have to do is drive around the course and win 1st Place by outspeeding and outsmarting (in some situations) your opponents. You still do that but with some key differences, particularly towards boosting. Honestly, I like the fact that boosts are activated by button pushes and accumulated by drifting. To me, it’s friendly even to new players getting into racing games.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

The other thing I like is the fact that each Hot Wheels toy car comes with its own cart stats, and not just a general one all throughout. This also gives you an incentive to try and get every available model in the game and try them out for yourself. Furthermore, you can even upgrade these stats using Gears, and customize their Livery to however you like.

Creativity and originality in track design

Every racing game needs some interesting tracks to race around, especially with something like Hot Wheels. In Hot Wheels Unleashed, you have access to 5 main backdrops, each with about 8-9 different tracks that come with their own surprises. From high-arching loops to acid pits, each track will have you doing things a bit differently each time you race.

In fact, the first thing I noticed was that the elements in the tracks are quite similar to the actual models in those track builder sets. The designers did an incredible job with maximizing the entire backdrop to produce tracks with enough twists and turns along the way. Also, I would even argue that these tracks let you play around with the driving mechanics.

Now, I have some good news and bad news for you on these tracks. The bad news is that when you start the game, most of the tracks are locked as in-game transactions. If you wanted to unlock them the easy way, just pay a few bucks to get in-game currency and buy them.

However, the good news is you can unlock them by completing the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. Although it will be an immense grind on your part, but I honestly think it’s worth it!

Wait, you can make your own tracks?!

Yes, you read that right: Hot Wheels Unleashed also allows you to create your own tracks to race on with your friends online. See, one unique mode to the game is the Track Builder, and I guess the name is self-explanatory. To be honest, this game mode was the best and it actually brings me back to my childhood.

Once you start the game mode, you basically have a blank canvas to work with, depending on the main backdrop you choose. After choosing your desired backdrop, you have a variety of track builder pieces to choose from and customize. Also, it even comes with your set of obstacles and boost pads to add some flavor to your tracks.

I absolutely enjoyed going on Track Builder as someone who collected Hot Wheels track sets before. Basically, you can create some of the most death-defying tracks that your younger self could not afford to before. Seriously, Hot Wheels track builder sets are expensive, and this game basically lets you experience this without spending a hefty amount.

Some low points

Much like most racing games, this one doesn’t come with its own set of shortcomings. To no one’s surprise, this game comes with a Hot Pass that allows you to earn more cars, tracks, and track builder sets. The good thing about it is, well, it’s more content at your disposal. At the time of writing, they’re currently running one with Batman vehicles as the main rewards,

The thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay for it. I genuinely feel that this is something that would have been better off as a Battle Pass-type of package instead of paid DLC. I mean, it’s additional content that people also want to try out but with a rather hefty price tag. Maybe if they did it this way, people would continue to grind out the game.

Another thing that felt lacking in my eyes was the Basement, particularly the customization aspect.

I get it, it’s another main backdrop for your tracks and you can work with a ton of elements when creating your own. However, I didn’t like that the customization was limited to just the exterior design. Honestly,  I was looking for more customization options like moving the furniture around.

A roaring good time

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing game that feels right at home with the best of them. From a vast selection of carts to creative and unique track design, it feels fresh to anybody trying to get into racing games. Also, if you grew up playing your Hot Wheels car collection, this takes you back to simpler times.

Again, it’s not perfect and hopefully with upcoming patches, the game does get better. However, they missed out on some opportunities to make it a worthwhile game to play for any occasion. Sure, if you had money to burn, this wouldn’t be an issue; for others, however, they want a lot more without spending too much.

Overall, this game will give you a roaring good time, especially when you just need some down time from all the stress. What made it even more special for me was that this game pretty much made one of my childhood dreams a reality!

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