In this comparison, we match up Samsung's high-end stylus-navigated Galaxy Note 7 with Lenovo/Motorola's dynamic, modular Moto Z. Both are clearly premium smartphones with solid foundations topped off with bells and whistles too substantive to be passed off as mere gimmicks (well, for the most part anyway).
The two flagships nearly match in height and width. Sans attachments (the official moniker is "Moto Mods"), the Moto Z is notably thin - about 42 percent slimmer than the Note 7.
Let's take a moment to talk about the Moto Z's mods before we go any further. You can definitely use the Moto Z without any "Style Shells" (strictly decorative snap-on backs) or any other type of mod, but you probably won't love its looks. Without a shell, there are exposed connectivity prongs on the back, the camera juts out a little and the body is quick to pick up fingerprints. That being said, you may still like to use the ultra-thin phone as-is. It's not an eyesore, it's just less than ideal.
Again, this is a "naked" measurement for the Moto Z, but even so, it's a substantial 20 percent lighter than the Note 7. Of course, mods add varying amounts of bulk.
The Note 7's sophisticated build is one of its most impressive features. Its aluminum frame is so minimal that the phone seems almost as if it's made entirely out of glass. The body on the bare Moto Z is aluminum and steel, though there are several options for detachable shells. A basic wooden shell is included with purchase, but there are also fabric and textured varieties sold separately.
The Moto Z's well-executed modularity makes it a true standout amongst smartphones. Style shells and dynamic accessories are a snap to take on and off – there's no need to remove the battery, like with the LG G5. Apart from the aforementioned style shells, Moto Z has three dedicated mods (sold separately): the JBL SoundBoost speaker, Moto Insta-Share Projector and Incipio OffGrid Power Pack.
The JBL SoundBoost speaker (US $80) is a speaker with a kickstand that makes audio from the Moto Z loud enough to fill a room. The Insta-Share Projector ($300) broadcasts the phone's screen as a projection against a wall or ceiling. The Incipio Power Pack ($60) is the most universally utilitarian mod. It provides extra battery life, similar to battery pack cases available for many types of phones. For a more in-depth look at the mods and their functions, check out our Moto Z review.
There are four color options for each flagship. To be clear, we're referring to the actual body of the Moto Z. There are many more options with style shells in play.
The Note 7 is the winner here, fitting more screen space onto a similarly sized surface. The Moto Z uses its "chin" space for its taller fingerprint sensor. But at 5.5 inches, it's still on par with most of this year's larger flagships.
Both screens have 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, but since the Moto Z screen is smaller, it has a 3 percent pixel density advantage.
The flagships have AMOLED displays in common.
Thanks to AMOLED technology, both devices have display options that keep core notifications just a glance away.
Moto Z has a flat screen, while the Note 7 flaunts the glossy, glassy curved display characteristic of Samsung's "Edge" series flagships.
The Note 7 is the only major high-end flagship with a stylus.
The Note 7's S Pen stylus has thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity, so there's probably no need for touch screen sensitivity like Apple's 3D Touch. But the sans-stylus Moto Z doesn't have it, either.
The two flagships are almost neck-and-neck here. The Moto Z front camera has one more megapixel than the Note 7.
Camera aperture (rear)
Both cameras have lenses with impressively large apertures for better low-light shooting. The Note 7's slightly smaller f-stop means a wee bit bigger aperture.
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Both cameras incorporate technology to counteract shaky hands and steady the capture.
Manual shooting modes
DSLR photographers may appreciate being able to set their own controls for white balance, ISO, and more, especially for making the most out of those large aperture lenses.
Physical camera shortcut
A double tap on the Note 7's home button launches the camera. Moto Z has reintroduced the twist-to-launch feature last seen in 2013.
The Note 7 has a capacious battery built right in. The battery life on the Moto Z is decent as-is, but the Incipio Power Pack mod nearly doubles it with an additional 2,220 mAh (while also making the phone thicker and heavier).
Both flagships have fast charging capabilities, a typical Android perk.
Both phones can be charged wirelessly with additional accessories, though the Moto Z requires a Mod to make it so (some of the battery mods include wireless charging capabilities, others don't).
Neither device has a removable battery, though the Moto Z's battery mods meet a similar end in a roundabout way.
In most markets, both flagships have the capable Snapdragon 820 processor. Outside of Japan, China and the US, the Note 7 has an octa core Exynos 8990 instead.
The devices have an identical 4 GB of RAM, though the Note's occasional lag when multitasking has us wishing Samsung had opted for more RAM.
The Note 7 is only available with an ample 64 GB of storage. The Moto Z has 32 GB and 64 GB options.
Both devices support external storage, so don't sweat that 64 GB limit.
Both devices have USB-C ports, a standard that is new to Android phones.
Headphone jacks haven't fully gone the way of the dinosaur. The Note 7 still has one, but the Moto Z does not.
The Note 7 has Samsung Pay, which only works in the United States and Korea. But within these countries, it is accepted by more merchants than Android Pay because it can actually mimic the swiping of a magnetic strip.
Both phones have a fingerprint sensor, a rather de rigueur feature these days. On the Moto Z, it is a little larger than usual, and somewhat counterintuitive: you'd expect it to act as a home button because of its placement, but it does not.
The Note 7 adds another biometrics-based security tool, the iris scanner. It's cool ... sort of. It's arguably more of a party trick that's not particularly convenient or necessary, in light of the faster and more convenient fingerprint sensor.
The Note 7 has an IP68 water resistance rating. It withstands rain, splashing, and continuous immersion up to 1 m (3.3 ft). The Moto Z has a "water repellent nano-coating," but that is definitely not the same: it's mostly for splashes.
The Note 7 is sold on all major US carriers. Verizon has exclusivity on selling the Moto Z for the time being, but that model is unlocked and works on other networks.
Both flagships run Android Marshmallow at present, but we can (hopefully) expect the Nougat updates before too long. Samsung has said the Note 7 will get Nougat before the end of the year, even it has typically been slow to add the significant TouchWiz interface to updates. Moto Z runs near-stock Android, so it could be an earlier adopter of the big update.
These devices were new to the market this (Northern) summer.
Neither of these phones are cheap. The Note 7 price varies depending on carrier and package, but plan on shelling out about $850 full retail (either at once or spread over an installment plan). The Moto Z is $624 for the phone alone, but if you want any mods - the accessories that make it so special - you'll have to cough up an additional $60 - $300 each.
If you're on the market for a premium niche phone and don't mind paying a premium, these two flagships are easily two of your best bets. Either phone is well-equipped for power users, but the Galaxy Note 7 is a stylus-lover's gold standard, while the Moto Z is a better match for a general gadget lover.
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