Moto Z2 Play review: Slimmer, minor updates, and a bigger price tag

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Moto-Z2-Play-review

While the Moto Z2 Play is a solid mid-range smartphone with Moto Mod support, the minor upgrades don’t justify the increased cost over the original Moto Z Play.

TA-ratings-93It’s been less than a year since we reviewed Motorola’s innovative Moto Z and Moto Z Play modular smartphones and the accompanying Moto Mods. While we were pretty impressed, like almost anything there’s always room for improvement. Our Moto Z2 Play review takes a look at the updated version of the mid-range version and sees if the slimmer design can keep up with the functionality and battery life of the original.

Specifications

The Moto Z2 Play has the following features and specifications:

  • Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 626 processor with 2.2 GHz Octa-Core CPU and Adreno 506 GPU
  • RAM: 3GB LPDDR3
  • Storage: 32GB, microSD Card with UHS-I support (up to 2TB)
  • Display: 5.5″ Super AMOLED 1080p FHD (1080x 1920) Corning Gorilla Glass; 401 ppi
  • Battery: 3000 mAh (up to 30 hours) with TurboPower charging (up to 8 hours of battery in 15 minutes of charging)
  • Rear Camera: 12 MP, 1.4um, f/1.7, dual autofocus, laser autofocus (up to 5 meters), phase detection autofocus, Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) dual LED flash, Professional Mode
  • Front Camera: 5 MP, 1.4um, f/2.2, wide-angle lens, front Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) dual LED flash, auto night mode, beautification software, professional mode
  • Video Capture: 480p (30fps) 720p (120fps) 1080p (60fps), 4K (30fps)
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2 LE + EDR
  •  Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz
  • Speakers: front-ported earpiece loudspeaker
  • Mics: 3
  • NFC, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • Networks: 4G LTE, UMTS/HSPA+, GSM/GPRS/EDGE
  • SIM Card: Nano-SIM
  • Sensors: Fingerprint reader, Accelerometer, Ambient Light, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Proximity, Ultrasonic
  • Connectivity: USB-C with USB 3.1 support, 3.5mm audio port, Moto Mods Connector
  • Operating System: Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)
  • Water repellent nano-coating
  • Dimensions: 156.2mm x 76.2mm x 5.99mm
  • Weight: 145g

What’s in the box

  • Moto Z2 Play
  • TurboPower Charger
  • Micro-USB to USB-A cable
  • SIM Tray Key
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty Information
Moto-Z2-Play-review-01

What’s in the box…

Design

Before I get too far, this review will mostly touch on what’s different as, well to be honest, not much has changed since our review of the original Moto Z Play. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you read our review of the original Moto Z Play from last October.

The Moto Z2 Play is roughly the same size and shape as the original Moto Z Play, but that was to be expected given Motorola’s promise that past and future Moto Mods for a few years would work with each new model released. While a mere 0.2mm smaller in height and width, the most notable size difference is that the second iteration of the Play is 1mm thinner and 20g lighter than the original. Unfortunately, this means a smaller battery as well (more on that later).

Moto-Z2-Play-review-08

The Moto Z2 Play (bottom) is much thinner than the Moto Z Play (middle) and only slightly thicker than the Moto Z (top).

The bezels on the edge are much more pronounced as well, giving the Moto Z2 Play an even sleeker look. One, I’m assuming unintended, side effect of the larger tapered bezels is that at first glance Moto Mods don’t seem to be properly seated and have a gap between the phone and the mod. However, this isn’t the case upon close inspection and Moto Mods — both previous generation and new — fit just fine on the Moto Z2 Play.

Moto-Z2-Play-review-03

A more pronounced bezel and thinner design make for a slick looking phone.

The placement of the Moto logo, camera, flash, and fingerprint scanner on the front are all the same. The flash has been updated to a Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) dual LED flash and now sports a more rectangular/oval shape and the fingerprint scanner is the new indented type we first saw on the Moto G5 a couple months ago.

Moto-Z2-Play-review-06

The Moto Z2 Play sports the new fingerprint scanner style with added functionality.

The Moto Z2 Play came in Lunar Grey and it looks much nicer than the silver edge of last year’s model. Instead of the glass back, Motorola has replaced it with a metal back which, in my opinion, is a much better design option considering you’ll likely be using it extensively with Moto Mods. Due to the slimmer size, the camera hump on the back is much more pronounced and is even thicker than the original Moto Z — which is thinner yet — camera hump.

Moto-Z2-Play-review-04

The glass back has been replaced with metal, and the camera hump is noticeably larger.

Display

Not much to say about the display as it’s the same one that came in the original iteration of the Moto Z Play. It’s clear and easily readable, and there’s also the Standard or Vibrant setting you can toggle depending on how vibrant you want your colours. This time around, Corning Gorilla Glass is used on the display as well, something that wasn’t mentioned and seemed to be missing from the first version of the device even though the Moto Z had it.

Software/Ecosystem

While the Moto Z and Moto Z Play are currently running Android 7.0, neither have been updated to 7.1.1 yet. Fortunately, the Moto Z2 Play ships with Android 7.1.1 Nougat installed including Google Assistant support and a Pixel-style launcher. As far as pre-installed software, the usual Google suspects are installed as well as the Moto app, Moto Mods app, and an FM Radio app.

Again, the usual Moto App with Moto Actions is included allowing you to chop twice to toggle the flashlight, twist quickly to open the camera, swipe to shrink the screen, lift the device to stop ringing, flip it over so silence notifications and calls, and reach towards it to trigger the Moto Display. Another feature we first saw on the Moto G5 was the new One Button Nav functionality. When enabled, it lets you swipe the fingerprint sensor to navigate instead of using the Android buttons. Once enabled, the Android buttons disappear from your screen, giving you a bit more real estate. Swiping left on the fingerprint sensor will go back, swiping right will bring up your recent apps, pressing on the sensor will go to your home screen (or unlock your phone if locked), pressing and holding the sensor will lock your phone, while pressing and holding longer launches the Google Assistant. While it does take a while to get used to, once I did I really missed it on other phones I used.

Performance

Again, a slight update to the CPU in the Moto Z2 Play. This time it’s sporting the  Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 626 processor with 2.2 GHz Octa-Core CPU versus the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 625 processor with 2 GHz Octa-Core CPU, has the same Adreno 506 GPU, and the same 3GB LPDDR3 RAM. As mentioned in my previous review, I had no issues running apps or games with the hardware and the slight bump in CPU doesn’t really make a noticeable difference and everything we tested ran smoothly.

Speakers/Sound

Sound between the Moto Z Play and Moto Z2 Play is roughly the same through the front-ported earpiece loudspeaker. Like most smartphones, it’s adequate enough but you’re definitely going to want to use a speaker Moto Mod or headphones for better sound.

Moto-Z2-Play-review-07

The single speaker is decent for a smartphone, but you’ll still want to use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker for better sound.

Camera

While the Moto Z Play sported a 16 MP, f2.0 camera with 1.3um pixel size, the Moto Z2 Play sports 12 MP, 1.4um, f/1.7 camera. Even though it has fewer megapixels and a larger pixel size, the photo quality is slightly improved over the previous version of the phone, but not by much. Photos taken with the flash, however, are much more color accurate with the upgrading of the colour-balancing dual LED flash to the Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) dual LED flash.

Moto-Z2-Play-camera-sample

Unedited, 100% crop of photo taken with the Moto Z2 Play.

In addition, the dual autofocus does seem to focus a bit faster than the previous system used in the Moto Z Play. As with most other Motorola devices, the Moto Camera features Photo, Video, Panorama, Slow Motion, and Professional Mode as well as easy brightness adjustment and HDR support.

Reception/Call Quality

During our testing, there were no issues with reception or call quality on local LTE networks.

Battery Life

Like I mentioned above, the thinner phone design means a smaller battery. One of my favourite features of the Moto Z Play was its whopping 3510mAh battery which managed to get 11 ½ hours of screen on time with 16% battery remaining over the course of the day. The Moto Z2 Play sports a 3000mAh battery, which isn’t too shabby and still larger than the Moto Z battery. While I managed to get between 6-7 hours of screen on time (watching videos, streaming music, checking email and texts, as well as some short gaming sessions) with 25-30% battery life left at the end of the day, which is still very decent, it’s definitely no match for the original device.

Price/Value

Given that the Moto Z2 Play is a mid-range smartphone and has minor upgrades over the original, one would expect it to be around the same $650CAD pricepoint. That’s not the case, and the minor upgrades and slimmer design will set you back around $800CAD off contract. By comparison, the much beefier and slimmer Moto Z ran you $900CAD off contract at launch. To be honest, I don’t see the value in the minor additions and smaller battery for the $150 increase in price and would have liked to see it stay more within mid-range smartphone budget range than teetering on the higher end of the price scale.

Wrap-up

There’s no mistake that the Moto Z2 Play is a solid, well designed, and functional mid-range smartphone — especially with its Moto Mod support. However, the minor updates over the original Moto Z Play don’t justify the price increase in my opinion. If you’re in the market for a Moto Z phone, I’d be tempted to wait another month or two (hopefully) for the Moto Z2 launch announcement to see what price that is going to come in at. If you’re pressed for time, you could definitely get by with the original Moto Z Play and should be able to find it at your local provider for a very reasonable price considering the Moto Z2 Play is now available.

*We were sent a sample of the Moto Z2 Play for the purposes of this review.

Moto Z2 Play

$800 CAD
Moto Z2 Play
9.3

Design

10/10

    Display

    10/10

      Software/Ecosystem

      10/10

        Performance

        10/10

          Speakers/Sound

          9/10

            Camera

            9/10

              Reception/Call Quality

              10/10

                Battery Life

                10/10

                  Price/Value

                  8/10

                    Nailed it

                    • Quality design
                    • Thinner
                    • Sleeker looking
                    • New Moto One Button Nav feature
                    • Decent camera
                    • 3.5mm headphone jack
                    • Front LED flash

                    Needs work

                    • Smaller battery than the Moto Z Play
                    • Not enough of an upgrade over the original Moto Z Play
                    • Pricey
                    • Much larger camera hump
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