We know you’re probably sick of hearing about the Moto X every time a new model of Moto Z is introduced, but it’s particularly relevant this time.
You see, when the Moto X was announced, it didn’t have the most high-end specs or the most premium casing, but that didn’t matter. The way the device felt in your hand and managed to keep up with day-to-day tasks was still better than some flagships at the time, and the price more than made up for any misgivings.
The Moto X was the perfect blend of performance and style, specs and pricing, something carried on by other entries into the Moto X series. The Moto Z and Z Force are not that phone. They are full-on, unabashedly high-end. The latest Moto G4 Plus picked up the torch, offering another killer experience for a fraction of what the normal flagship costs. But what if you want the best of both worlds? What if you want a more affordable handset that still performs well, looks good and can run Moto’s innovative Moto Mods platform of accessories? Enter Moto Z Play.
For all the ways the Moto Z Play differs from the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, it’s just the same. It mostly looks like a Moto Z and it mostly feels like a Moto Z, but there are some key differences set it apart. Some for the better, and well, read on more to find out.
The Moto Z Play is fantastic little handset that fits right in with the current crop of mid-range devices available today:
- 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display
- Android Marshmallow
- Snapdragon 625 with Adreno 506
- 3GB of RAM
- 32GB of storage
- MicroSD expansion
- 3510mAh battery with Turbo Charge
- Water repellent coating
- 16MP f/2.0 rear camera
- 5MP front-facing camera
- Bluetooth 4.0LE
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Fingerprint reader
There are a few eye-popping specs that should have you excited reading from this list alone.
First, yes, the Moto Z Play uses USB-C and has a 3.5mm headphone jack. For those of us who aren’t entirely ready to dive headfirst into the future, this is a huge selling point.
Second, the Moto Z Play is a battery-efficient powerhouse, meant to go over two full days of mixed used. Not only does is include the biggest battery of the entire Moto Z lineup, it’s powered by the energy-efficient Snapdragon 625 that’s paired with a battery-sipping 1080p AMOLED display, as opposed to 1440p, for maximum battery life. You’ll see how this all plays out as you read on, but suffice it to say that Moto nailed the balance of the Moto Z Play.
Design and Build Quality
We couldn’t praise the Moto Z enough for its ultra high-end design. Thankfully, the Moto Z Play is closely related in this regard.
The overall design is almost identical, with a minimally-branded glass face decorated with only a small, square fingerprint reader. The edges of the device are wrapped in a chamfered aluminum band, and the rear features a protruding camera that shares the aesthetic of the Moto 360 that’s leveled flush with the body of the phone with a Style Mod is applied.
The only real difference here is the material the back is made out of, which is glass. Whether or not it feels better is subjective (we are torn), but it definitely looks better. The metal rear on the Z and Z Force are fingerprint magnets. The Moto Z Play, not so much.
Overall, the design and build quality of the Moto Z Play are fantastic. It’s a little thick, but where else are you going to put that enormous battery? Just for comprehensive comparisons sake, the Moto Z Play feels more premium than last year’s Moto X Pure Edition and the Moto G4, but maybe just a skosh below the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. Again, this is more likely to be a preference though.
This section could have gone between good and neutral. Why? It’s not that the 1080p AMOLED display on the Moto Z Play is bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But it’s definitely not the best you can buy.
Good edges out neutral here for a few simple reasons. For one, do you really need much more than a display at 403ppi? It’s incredibly crisp, and colors are still bright and vivid. And let’s not forget the balancing act (balance is the word of the day in today’s review) the Moto Z Play is pulling off here. Crank up the pixel density and you can crank down battery life and performance. Choose a brighter LCD panel, and you could say the same thing.
Moto made the right call with this display, and they deserve recognition for it.
This section could be an exact repeat of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force review. As Droid edition devices, there is some annoying bloatware mucking up the Z family. But that’s all on top of pretty-much-stock Android with some great Moto enhancements to boot, like gestures (really cool), custom launch phrases (like a best friend in your pocket) and Moto Display (the best part of Moto’s custom software, honestly).
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you could do much worse. A non-carrier-branded Moto Z Play would be better, but compared to other phones on Verizon, the Moto Z Play is still good.
Remember what the word of the day is for today’s review? That’s right, balance. That’s what all mid-range handsets are about, but it bears repeating time and again with the Moto Z Play becuase it’s so wonderfully done.
In normal use, the Moto Z Play sings, no matter what you throw at it. The UI is slick, animations are buttery smooth and games load with little to no problem and with little to no lag. In everyday use, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the Moto Z Play wasn’t a top of the line phone.
Out of curiosity, we benchmarked the Moto Z Play against a Nexus 6P and iPhone SE using Geek Bench 3. Here are the results:
Moto Z Play: Single – 917 / Multi – 4647
Nexus 6p: Single – 835 / Multi – 3300
iPhone SE: Single – 2525 / Multi – 4418
While numbers don’t tell the whole story, in this case, we believe they accurately reflect real world use. In other words, you don’t need to worry about performance with the Moto Z Play.
This is one area where we would be glad to see the Moto Z Play break way from the Moto Z and Z Force, but alas.
It’s not that the Moto Z Play has a bad camera, it’s more than serviceable. But it’s still not the best you can buy. What does that mean today?
Photos you share on social media are going to look great. In fact, with only a little practice, every photo you take will look great. But if you’re pixel peeping, you can see the difference between the Z Play and higher-end Android phones. Some people would argue that that means the Z Play really has a good camera, but we’re sticking with average because we feel it is precisely that.
Performance on the camera was average as well. Most photos were captured perfect, quickly and on the first try, but not all. Though we don’t know if any smartphone can really pull that off.
Enough talk, though, click the link below for the real story.
One of the biggest selling points of the Moto Z Play will undoubtedly be its massive battery life. Motorola claims you should be able to get 50 hours of mixed used, lasting you well over two days on a single charge.
Battery size-wise, it’s merely on par with other high-end Android phones in 2016. But thanks to a lower screen density, power-sipping processor and energy-efficient AMOLED display, those claims stand up. Moto has battery life pretty well figured out. This was the case with the Moto Z Force, and the Moto Z Play has a slightly bigger battery.
This is all without even mentioning battery enhancements with Moto Mods and Moto’s Turbo Charge. What we mean to say is, if you care about battery life, the Moto Z Play is deserving of your attention.
The Moto Z Play from Lenovo is truly the culmination of years of work from the Moto team. It takes the performance to style balance of the Moto X and seamlessly combines it with the innovation of the Moto Z.
The Moto Z Play, unlocked and off-contract, customized and devoid of any Verizon bloat and branding, is a very strong competitor to anything currently on the market, and should even give whatever Nexus is in the pipeline a run for its money, too. Not only that, but true to history, the Moto Z Play is a worthy competitor at all budget levels as well. Because of this, we’re not shy in saying it’s the best entry in the Moto Z family. The best of all worlds.
If it’s innovation, performance, design, battery life and price you want, it’s Moto Z Play you want. It’s as simple as that.
The Moto Z Play Droid edition goes up for preorder on September 8 with a September 15 release at Verizon for $408 off-contract. An unlocked U.S. GSM model of the Moto Z Play also launches September 8 for $449. It comes in Black Silver/Black Slate, White/Fine Gold/Sugar White.