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Moto Z Play review: An excellent Android phone, if not the most powerful

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Moto Z Play review: An excellent Android phone, if not the most powerful

The Moto Z Play is one of the cheapest ways to enter the MotoMods ecosystem, but is the phone any good on its own? And are those MotoMods worth the cash? Read our brief Moto Z review to find out, and then check out the MotoMods pieces.

We’ve been putting the Moto Z Play through its paces alongside a Hasselblad True Zoom camera mod and the JBL SoundBoost mod, which will be posted as separate reviews.

Moto Z Play review: Design and Hardware

The Moto Z Play looks similar to many other phones from the front, but turn it over and its differences become obvious – there’s a section of magnetic connectors at the bottom rear of the phone for docking the Moto Mods. The display is a bright 1080p panel crisp and accurate colours. It’s not as crisp as the 2K panel on the Moto Z, but there are still no real complaints here.

Powering things along is a 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM. Storage is pegged at 32GB, and this can be extended by popping in a microSD card.

The main rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with image stabilisation and auto-focus. On the front, there’s a more modest 5-megapixel selfie camera.

Most notably, the design includes both a fingerprint sensor that sticks out on the front, and a camera lens that prevents a flush finish on the back.  While the fingerprint sensor is nice and responsive, these are two design elements I’d prefer had come out a little different. The sensor also doubles as a button to turn your screen on and off too.

The battery, while sounding nothing special on paper, performed so well that the Moto Z Play can be considered near-essential if battery is your only priority. Even the much larger power pack on the 6-inch Meizu M3 Max can’t match it, and that was no slouch. Charging is via USB-C.

Check out the Moto Z Play review box for details on how well these performed and sample images. Reviews of the MotoMods will follow at a later date.

Moto Z Play: Camera and software

Let’s cut to the chase with the camera. The rear-facing 13-megapixel camera is going to do about as well as you’d expect any mid-range Android handset to do. That’s to say, it’s as good as the conditions you give it – and comes with the added advantage of supporting the Hasselblad TrueZoom add-on if you need a little more range to your snaps.

That’s not to say it’s bad, as it’s not, but it’s not replacing your DSLR either, and in low light, you should adjust your expectations.

Software-wise the Moto Z Play ships with Android Marshmallow, but it’s due to get an upgrade to the newer Nougat variant imminently – the rollout has started in China already. Of course, it’s not entirely stock Android and fans of the Moto Display will be pleased with the efficient notifications and battery-saving features. It supports some gesture controls too, like twisting your hand in a particular way to launch the camera app.

Moto Z Play review: Rating

Moto Z Play
8.1 RATED
0 User rating (0 votes)
£489Price
Android Marshmallow (6.0)OS
Pros
  • Good display
  • Excellent battery life - two days is entirely possible.
  • Moto software is useful but otherwise minimal
Cons
  • Distinctly average cameras
  • Dislike protruding camera lens
  • Value hurt by international pricing differences
  • Not the most powerful processor for demanding graphical tasks like VR.
Summary

The Moto Z Play is a much better phone than you might imagine at first glance. Its mid-to-high end spec list doesn't reflect the versatility of the MotoMods system, the sensible software tweaks or the impressive battery life.

It's not without it's problems, though. The design may be a bit of an acquired taste, and you're going to need to get used to the camera and fingerprint sensor protruding, whichever way you put down your phone.

Unfortunately, how good a bargain the Moto Z Play is depends on where you live. In the UK, it's still retailing for £489, but in the US it's currently on offer for $400. If you're a hardcore gamer, you can probably skip it, but everyone else might well want to consider it.

Design8
Hardware8
Software8.5
Camera7
Display8
Battery life9
Price8

Moto Z Play: Comparison

Comparison
A Design
B Hardware
C Software
D Camera
E Display
F Battery life
G Price
7.4 RATED
0 0 votes
7.5
7.5
7.5
7
7
7
8
ABCDEFG
7 RATED
0 0 votes
7.5
7
5
6.5
7.5
8.5
7
ABCDEFG
5.9 RATED
0 0 votes
6.5
4.5
7
5.5
6.5
5
6
ABCDEFG

*This article contains affiliate links that allow us to earn a small commission if you decide to purchase items. Any such links are provided independently of ratings. Please get in touch if you have any questions. 

I'm a tech journalist and editor with lots of opinions. 10second.tech is a place for me to put those. All views expressed are personal, and not those of any titles for which I write in other capacities. As well as running this site, I also write for WIRED, Engadget, Trusted Reviews, and a number of other leading technology titles. I also run SexTechGuide.com.You're welcome to contact me via [email protected] if you have news or anything else to pass along, on twitter at @10sectech or @TheNextWoodsTech startup founders that need media advice or PRs and brands that need content strategy advice should visit benwoodsish.com.

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