Moto Z2 Play review: A design marvel that gets most of the things right

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What started by Google in the early 2013 has gradually become a key selling point for Motorola. After LG dropped the idea of improving over the LG G5's modular approach, Motorola has come out as the sole player in the new challenging field. The company has recently announced the second generation Moto Z Play smartphone in the Indian market at a price of Rs. 27,999.

The mid-range Android smartphone features a sleek metal design and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 chipset paired with 4GB of RAM. The smartphone supports a variety of first and second generation Moto Mods.

These include the JBL Sounboost (2016), JBL Soundboost 2, new Turbo Pack Mod that comes with a 3,450 mAh battery, a Wireless Style shell, Hassleblad True Zoom and Moto Insta-Share Projector.

Moto Z2 Play runs on the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat and brings some noticeable improvements in the software department. Sadly, the battery power has been reduced in lieu of a sleeker design and there's no new development in the camera section as well.

This brings us to the question 'Is Moto Z2 Play a smartphone worth spending Rs. 28K? Scroll down to find out.

Stay tuned to GizBot for more updates!

Design: Best looking smartphone of the year 2017 with the standard 16:9 aspect ratio screen

Moto Z2 Play is by far the best looking handset with the standard 16:9 aspect ratio screen that I have reviewed in the last six months. While it takes design cues from its predecessor, the new Moto Z2 Play feels much refined and polished. It is also amazingly thin (5.99 mm) and feels very light (145g) in hands. If you own a Moto Z Play, you will instantly feel the difference in overall look and feel.

But this difference in thickness and overall weight comes with certain compromises. The company has downgraded the battery size to 3,000 mAh from the 3,510 mAh battery unit that powers up the previous Moto Z Play. You can read about the battery performance of the handset later in the review.

Nevertheless, the smartphone is entirely crafted out of metal and Glass. It feels quite premium and instantly makes an impression. The matte finish rear panel, the circular camera module and the Moto design elements makes it one of the stylish looking handset in sub Rs.30k price-point. And while we can argue on the protruded camera module and the design team's inability to give it a seamless feel, it still gives the Moto Z2 Play its unique identity.

The right side of the deice houses the volume rockers and power button. The top of the display is a place where you will find the dual two-tone LED flash, earpiece, proximity and ambient light sensors and the 8MP selfie camera. The top of the phone has a microphone and a tray that can accommodate two nano SIM cards and a microSD card.

The fingerprint scanner rests at the bottom of the display and has some wasted space on either side as Motorola is offering on-screen touch controls. But you can use fingerprint scanner as a home, back and multitasking button by activating a particular function within Moto Actions in settings. You can read about it in the software part of this review.

What's truly amazing about the Moto Z2 Play is the fact that even with such a sleek profile, the smartphone gives you the liberty of using a standard headphones working on a 3.5mm jack. Alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack, you will find a type C port.

The rear panel of the smartphone has got some noticeable changes when you compare it to the previous Moto Z Play. Unlike the glass rear panel on Moto Z Play which was quite prone to smudges, the matte finish aluminum rear panel on Moto Z2 Play feels more durable and easily restricts fingerprints and smudges.

The antenna lines now run along the edges of the rear panel and the magnetic pins are placed at the bottom along with a gold coloured strip.

Talking about the in-hand feel, Moto Z2 Play feels amazingly light and robust at the same time. The smartphone is a bit wide but not to the point that it troubles one-hand usage.

Another important design element is the water-repellant nano coating which might not be as durable as IP67/68 certification but as Motorola pitches it, it can protect the device from water splashes.

Display: Colors look vivid on AMOLED screen but brightness is an issue

The screen on Moto Z2 Play is fairly touch responsive and offers a good color reproduction. It is a 5.5-inch AMOLED panel and is protected by a 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass. Known for their vibrant colours, the AMOLED panel on Moto Z2 Play offers deeper blacks and will please consumers who prefer saturated colours on their phone's screens. But if you prefer natural colour tones, you can select the standard mode that lowers the saturation levels of the screen.

What I didn't like about the screen on Moto Z2 Play is the low brightness level. The screen does a great job while using the handset indoor, but it seems kind of dull and less lively in outdoors. You can still use it but somehow it leaves you waning for a little more light for a comfortable viewing. Compared to Moto Z2 Play's AMOLED display, the IPS screen on OPPO F3 Plus and even the Optic AMOLED panel on OnePlus 3T seems much brighter and usable in outdoors.

Besides, another notable thing is the substantial size of bezels surrounding the 5.5-inch AMOLED screen. These borders seem quite broad (especially on top and bottom) in the times when other manufacturers are going bezel less. I got the Black variant as the review unit and the dark color worked well in hiding the broad bezels, which otherwise seem quite apparent on the White variant.

Overall, Moto Z2 Play has a good display but not the brightest in its price-point.

Hardware: Good on everyday performance but not a speed beast

Moto Z2 Play does not pack the fastest CPU in town but it offers abundant RAM to take care of your multitasking needs. The smartphone works on Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 CPU which brings minor improvements over the last year's 625 chipset. It's not the fastest CPU offered by smartphone makers at this price-point; however it's quite capable and when paired with 4GB of RAM and stock Android UI, the combination works without a glitch.

For users who just follow the textbook can argue for not integrating the speedy Snapdragon 820 or 821 SoCs, but in everyday life the performance was quite satisfactory.

There were no heating issues with prolonged camera usage and photo editing. As far as gaming is concerned, it's not the strongest feature of the Moto Z2 Play as the handset is backed by a modest Adreno 506 GPU. It can deliver on light and mid-level gr games but give it some real graphical intensive games and the handset will start skipping frames.

As far as storage is concerned, Moto Z2 Play comes with 64GB internal memory that can be expanded by up to 2TB via microSD card.

Audio performance through the mono speaker unit is not very impressive and you have to use earphones to enjoy multimedia content. Otherwise you can buy the JBL Soundboost Moto Mod which was launched in 2016 at Rs. 6,999. The music mod is currently out of stock on Flipkart and Amazon.in.

Software: Lag free and thoughtful

One thing is quite sure when you buy a Motorola smartphone, there will be no compromises as far as software performance is concerned. As expected, Motorola is offering the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat with some minor changes and additions that improves the overall user experience. These additions over the stock Android come in the form of Moo Actions, Moto Display and Moto Voice.

We have seen the Moto Actions, which are basically a set of gestures to control your smartphone in everyday use. You can convert the fingerprint scanner into a track pad to navigate throughout the UI. A tap on the scanner takes you to the home screen, swiping to the left works as back key and swiping to the right opens up the recent apps tray. Besides, twisting the device activates camera, a chop motion switches on the flashlight, swipe on the display can shrink the screen and flipping the phone on a flat surface can activate the DND mode.

Coming on to the Moto Voice, the feature is already available on a number of handsets (Ok Google), but the way Motorola has implemented it makes it quite useful in everyday life. You can setup voice commands to address a number of tasks. For instance, you can just ask Moto Z2 Play to show the calendar, your next meeting, events, weather forecast, Gmail app, voice recorder, etc. It basically ends the extra step to first call ‘Ok Google' to wake up the device and then give it XYZ instructions to get a job done. Minor but thoughtful, that's what Moto has done to the overall UI which makes Moto Z2 Play a great Android device.

Moto Display feature has also got some improvements. In addition to the time and date, it now also shows a battery meter and let you interact with notifications without unlocking the device.

In general, the software performance is quite smooth and is free of glitches. I did not face any app crashes, applications load quickly and screen navigation is fairly smooth. There's no insignificant bloatwares and whatever is provided, works without any performance issues. In short, if there's any device that offers the kind of software experience the world actually demands, it is the Moto Z2 Play.

Camera: Same old 12MP camera we have seen on Moto G5 Plus

Moto Z2 Play features a 12MP dual autofocus pixel camera with 1.4um sensor and F/1.7 aperture. The camera comes equipped with laser autofocus, phase detection autofocus (PDAF), and dual LED color correlated temperature (CCT) flash.

We have tested the same camera hardware on the affordable Moto G5 Plus, which raises a question why Motorola did not come out with something entirely new for the Moto Z2 Play. It's an important device for Motorola in sub Rs. 30k price bracket and keeping in mind the kind of competition we have seen, it deserved something more than the same 12MP primary snapper.

Nevertheless, the output from 12MP rear camera is largely good when light conditions are favourable. You can get ample detailing in daylight images and colors also look quite vivid on the full HD AMOLED screen. The camera is also capable of capturing a decent dynamic range and is a good macro shooter. The problem starts when you start clicking in low-light conditions. The sensor struggles in capturing color information and results in noticeable noise. The HDR mode tries to resolve the issue but the results are not always satisfactory.

On the video front, you have the option to record 4k at 30 fps, standard 1090p at 30/60 fps and slow motion at 720p with 120 fps. To help you prevent shaky videos, Motorola is offering Electronic Image Stabilization but it's only accessible while capturing videos in 720p and 1080p format. Sadly EIS is also not offered for recording videos in 60 fps on 1080p format.

If you are willing to spend Rs. 20,000 Hassleblad True Zoom Moto Mod, you can extend the camera's zoom capability to 10x optical zoom and also experience some real camera controls for a better shooting experience.

Battery: Surprisingly good for a device this sleek

While the sleeker phones have their own charm, the design process to achieve such a feat makes it a task for engineers to incorporate a big battery. This is the reason I was pleased and disappointed at the same time when Motorola showcased the Moto Z2 Play during the launch event.

To make the handset sleeker by 1mm, the company has squeezed the battery unit by a total of 510 mAh when compared to last year's Moto Z Play. Does this affect the battery performance? Yes it does when you compare the battery lasting abilities with its predecessor but as a solo player, Moto Z2 Play can easily last for a day and half on a single charge.

The humble 3,000 mAh battery unit that has to support a 5.5-inch full HD Super AMOLED screen and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 chipset is quite a performer. In my usage pattern that involves a lot of YouTube streaming, Tweeting, Instagram posts/stories, Emails, calling, wireless music streaming and uncountable camera shots, Moto Z2 Play managed to last for a day which is quite surprising for a smartphone of such a thin profile.

I believe this is due to the fact that Motorola has done a really good job in optimizing the OS which shows us how a modest 3,000 mAh battery unit can deliver a long-lasting performance.

And if you want your Moto Z2 Play to last even longer, you can invest in Battery Mod that is priced at Rs. 5,999.

Conclusion

The new Moto Z2 Play does not offer the fastest CPU nor does it have the best camera and the brightest display in sub Rs. 30k price-point. However it's near perfect software combined with a snappier processing unit and ample RAM makes it a great everyday performer. Further, its appealing design complemented by Moto Mods makes it one-of-its kind Android smartphone in its price-point. I was doubtful about the battery performance but Motorola has done a commendable job and the smartphone's battery performance is appreciable.

What's important here is to understand the fact that Moto Z2 Play is build around the modular ecosystem and if you are not willing to invest in them, then there's not much sense in buying the handset. This doesn't mean the smartphone is a poor performer or is not a value for money deal, it simply means that to make the most out of Moto's Z series lineup, you should have the Moto Mods handy with you. Otherwise the 16-pin connectors will remind you of the fact that you are not utilizing the full potential of a hardware that is innovative, unique and quite ahead of its competitors.

Had it been the case that Moto Mods were not heavy on pocket; Moto Z2 Play would have topped my list of best sub Rs. 30k smartphones. In the current scenario, I would recommend exploring other worthy option such as OnePlus 3T, Oppo F3 Plus, OnePlus 5, Honor 8, Nubia Z11 and Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro.

Stay tuned to GizBot for more updates!

Moto Z2 Play review

Moto Z2 Play review

Moto Z2 Play review

Moto Z2 Play review



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