Hand­helds

★★★★★ £379 • From www.mo­torola.co.uk

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - Nathan Spendelow

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.

PAST FASTER

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.

STAN­DARD PRAC­TICE

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.

DARK HORSE

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

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