★★★★★ £379 • From www.motorola.co.uk
Our favourite modular phone gets a welcome upgrade in the Motorola Moto Z2 Play
This well-priced modular smartphone builds on (almost) everything we loved about the original
IT’S NO SURPRISE that last year’s Moto Z Play (Shopper 349) remains a top-tier smartphone. It cooked up almost everything to perfection, coupling top-notch looks with a long-lasting battery, a great camera and the ability to add capabilities via Moto Mods – modular attachments, such as speakers, battery packs and even projectors, that affix to the phone’s rear. Crucially, though, cost was kept to a minimum, and its successor, the Motorola Moto Z2 Play, seeks to bolster the original’s successes.
When it comes to looks, the Moto Z2 Play doesn’t deviate too far from the rest of the Moto Z lineup, but there are a few subtle (and welcome) changes. The new phone’s aluminium unibody is just 6mm thin, a good 15% skinnier than last year’s model, and it weighs a mere 145g, which is pretty impressive for a phone with a 5.5in display.
Thankfully, the fingerprint-attracting glossy back has gone, replaced with a cleaner-looking gun-metal grey matt finish instead. On the left edge, you’ll find the volume rocker and power button, with a USB Type-C port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone jack mounted on the bottom edge.
MODS AND ROCKERS
The rear camera protrusion is still there, bulging 2.7 millimetres from the rest of the device, and means the phone doesn’t sit nicely on a desk. The connector pins for the Moto Mods aren’t anywhere near as obtrusive, however, sitting flush with the rest of the phone’s rear panel.
Up its metaphorical sleeve lies the Moto Z2 Play’s party trick: it’s moddable. As mentioned, a series of connector pins reside on the back of the phone, and these enable connectivity with a variety of add-ons.
There’s a good handful of Mods to choose from at the moment, with more heading our way in the near future. Currently, there’s the Hasselblad TrueZoom, which adds a 10x optical zoom to the phone; the Incipio offGRID Power Pack, which gives you an extra 2,220mAh battery; and the Moto Insta-Share projector, which turns your phone into a mini projector.
Those due to launch later this year include Moto’s own TurboPower pack, which adds a supplementary 3,490mAh battery to your phone; the Moto GamePad for controller support with all sorts of titles on the Play Store; a wireless charger plate; and the new JBL SoundBoost 2 speaker. These have already launched in the US, though UK pricing has yet to be confirmed.
All the Mods we tested were a doddle to connect and use. They fix on magnetically, with no mechanical latches to break or snap, and stay solidly in place. As with the original Moto Z Play, Motorola has also released a Moto Mod dev kit, so you can expect to see many more third-party Mods become available in the near future.
Internally, the Motorola Moto Z2 Play has seen a pretty generous bump in performance. With Qualcomm’s mid-sector octa-core Snapdragon 626 processor and 4GB of RAM, this was hardly going to be the snappiest of handsets, but we should see a jump from last year’s offering, which employed the older Snapdragon 625 processor.
And, for the price, it’s a respectable enough performer: in Geekbench 4, which measures overall CPU performance, the Moto Z2 Play scored 4,620 in the multicore test and 911 in the single-core test. Compared to the Moto Z Play, that’s an 18% bump when it comes to multicore processing, and a 12% increase in single-core tasks. It doesn’t fare quite so well against the OnePlus 5 (Shopper 356), but that is about £80 more expensive. It manages to edge past Samsung’s latest Galaxy A5 (Shopper 353), too.
Graphics performance is less impressive, though, with no improvement on the Moto Z Play in either the onscreen or offscreen GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 tests, at 10fps and 9.7fps respectively. The OnePlus 5 managed 55fps and 59fps in these tests, so is clearly better for games, and even the Galaxy A5 clawed ahead with 14fps in both tests. Dodging oncoming traffic in Crossy Road was easy enough on the Moto Z2 Play, but things did slow down a little during enemy-heavy firefights in Sky Force: Reloaded.
Crucially, battery life is still impressive, although it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the Moto Z Play. That’s largely because the Moto Z2 Play has a smaller 3,000mAh battery than the Z’s 3,510mAh, but longevity remains impressive, and the Moto Z2 Play achieved a time of 19h 33m in our video playback test (the original Moto Z Play broke records at the time with its 23h 45m result). At the time of writing that was good enough to place it fourth in our all-time smartphone battery charts, behind the Lenovo P2 (Shopper 352), the Moto Z Play and the OnePlus 5.
measurements returned an average delta-E of 4.04 (0 would be perfect), a result that indicates a display that struggles to reproduce key colours accurately. Coverage of the sRGB gamut is good, at 98.4%, but that doesn’t mean much if those colours aren’t shown accurately.
Elsewhere, given this is a Super AMOLED panel, the contrast ratio is perfect and maximum brightness has jumped from 354cd/m2 to a more sunlight-friendly 420cd/m2, so it ought to be comfortably readable outside in all but the sunniest of conditions.
Just like last year’s model, the Moto Z2 Play’s camera doesn’t have optical image stabilisation, but the rest of the specifications are decent. The resolution is 12 megapixels, falling from the 16 megapixels of last year’s phone, but that’s fine since larger images sizes don’t automatically mean better images quality. You get both laser and phase detection autofocus, and the aperture is a bright f/1.7.
The aperture, in particular, is a considerable improvement over the Moto Z’s f/2.0 and, in low light, the difference is stark. As our still-life tests proved, the camera is capable of reproducing heaps of detail without too much noise spoiling the image. Exposure levels could do with a slight tweak, mind, as images did tend to look a little overexposed.
Outdoor shots didn’t pose too much of a problem, either. In fact, the Moto Z2 Play picks up plenty of rich colours and crisp details in sunny conditions, particularly in hard-to-capture areas such as foliage.
Enabling HDR did have a slight tendency to make shots look artificial, with hints of oversaturation, but on the flipside it also tended to reduce instances of over-exposure.
SEIZE THE PLAY
With last year’s Moto Z Play bucking the trend of the middling mid-ranger, we had high hopes its 2017 sequel would be even better. That’s not entirely the case, but when all’s said and done, the Moto Z2 Play is still a very good smartphone.
Its all-day battery life alone is enough to have you reaching for your wallet, even if it isn’t quite so long-lasting as last year’s. The issue, aside from the slight performance bump and the design overhaul, is that the Moto Z2 Play doesn’t really offer anything new. It’s still a thoroughly impressive phone, though, and one we’re happy to recommend.
The 5.5in screen should be a beauty. Its size is generous and the 1080p resolution is sharp. Unfortunately, it’s not as good as we were hoping