Moto Z2 Play ...........................................................
LENOVO STICKS TO ITS MODULAR PHONE GUNS, ALBEIT WITH ONLY A MODEST IMPROVEMENT OVER LAST YEAR’S MODEL
Remember when modular phones were supposed to be the future? Google and LG may have lost faith in that vision, but Motorola’s parent company Lenovo is still plugging away with the Moto Z2 Play. Which is great news. Not only is this the most convincing integration of custom modules I’ve seen, it’s backwards compatible with last year’s add-ons.
At a glance, there’s little dierent from the Moto Z2 Play and the original, but that’s no bad thing: if the design had changed, then last year’s mods wouldn’t fit. Besides, there are a couple of changes. First, the phone has gone on a diet. At 6mm thin, it’s roughly 15% skinnier than last year’s Moto Z Play. On top of this, the back switches from a glossy fingerprintmagnet of a design to a stylish matte metal grey finish.
Not that you’ll spend a lot of time looking at that if you use the phone in the way Lenovo intends. After all, the back is where the modules that make the phone unique are attached.
As with last year’s model, each mod takes the form of a magnetic backplate. And I remain just as amazed at how well the system works. Modules stay securely in place but can be easily removed with even close-cut nails. It’s a design triumph.
Last year’s Moto Mods included a battery pack, a Hasselblad camera, a projector and a JBL speaker. You can also sub in a textured plasticky back plate (included in the box) to reduce the protrusion of the camera lens. This set of mods continue to work, and are sold with, the new Z2 Play. Our pick of the bunch is the JBL speaker, which can fill a small hotel room or bedroom with acceptable music quality, and the volume is enough to enjoy without disturbing the neighbours.
This time around, we’ve got an ocial Lenovo battery pack (last year’s was a third-party model), a wireless charging backplate and a gamepad grip. While the gamepad is undoubtedly handy if it works with enough Android games, the wireless charging plate is baing: you either have to attach it every time you charge or keep it on all the time, in which case why not just buy a phone with built-in wireless charging and skip the modules?
One side eect of the slimmer chassis is that battery life is worse than last year’s Moto Z Play – but then again, this was something of a marvel thanks to its unprecedented 23hrs 45mins of life in our video-rundown tests. Battery capacity drops from 3,510mAh to 3,000mAh this year, and this was reflected in it managing “only” 19hrs 33mins in our rundown tests. That’s still a very good score; it’s just no longer incredible. Other than that, it’s business as usual: a USB-C connection is present for charging (including Quick Charge support) and Lenovo finds room for a 3.5mm headphone jack.
I’m less enamoured with the 5.5in display. It’s an AMOLED screen, so contrast is perfect, and with a maximum brightness of 420cd/m2, it’s fine for outside use – it’s just that colour accuracy is poor. Even after turning o the oversaturated “vibrant” screen mode, the phone has trouble producing accurate colours, with our measurement tool showing an average Delta E of 4.04. We hope for 2 or less.
As a performer, the Moto Z2 Play is – just like its predecessor – strictly a mid-ranger. There’s now a Snapdragon 626 (rather than 625) processor in place, 4GB of RAM rather than 3GB and 64GB of storage. This results in a modest boost in day-to-day tasks – it scored 12% higher in the single-core Geekbench 4 with 911, while 4,620 in the multi-core tests means it’s 18% faster – but 3D graphics performance remains slovenly, scoring 10fps in GFXbench’s Manhattan 3 tests. If speed is what you’re after, choose the OnePlus 5 or Xiaomi Mi 6.
Fortunately, the Moto Z2 Play has one more trick up its sleeve: a very good camera. While there’s still no optical image stabilisation, the new 12-megapixel camera features both laser- and phasedetection autofocus, and the aperture has jumped from a middling f/2.0 to a bright f/1.7. That means the photos it takes are far better than last year’s, especially in low light. Outdoor shots were even better, with rich colour and crisp details in good conditions.
So there we have it: the Moto Z2 Play is a great mid-ranger, with super stamina and a clever party trick, just like its predecessor. And Lenovo has been extremely sensible in ensuring it’s backwards compatible with last year’s Moto Mods. That alone should be applauded.
The Z2 Play with its wireless charger attached – it’s still a skinny phone
Want to boost battery life? Then simply attach the new battery mod