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Review: Moto Z Play

October 26, 2016 10:00 IST

Himanshu Juneja is impressed with the Moto Z Play's 'wow' factor.

Moto Z Play: Should you buy it for Rs 25k?

If people thought that only the flagship phones were having a party this year, then that thinking needs to change. The upper mid range handsets too have taken their game up by a few notches.

If earlier there there the Xiaomi Mi5s and the One Plus3s, now it is the turn of Lenovo's Moto Z Play to wow the audience.

Motorola Moto Z series has decided to go modular, and the Z Play is the cheapest of the lot. It is also the one to feature the good old 3.5 mm audio jack.

The near apt price tag should definitely not hinder its plan to become the budget leader, but is the handset capable enough without the 'Moto Mods' attachments to hold its ground?

Let us find out.

Design

The Moto Z Play measures 156.4 x 76.4 x 7 mm and weighs a decent 165 gms. Lenovo has gone ahead with a glass back, which will attract smudges more often than not; it is aluminium otherwise in construction.

The flat back is supposed to assist the 'Mod' attachments. Splash proof coating exudes some confidence against accidental exposures to moisture. Oh, and there is a slight bit of plastic towards the fag end of the back.

There is the girth factor here which needs to be talked about. Thank the nice battery and the 3.5 mm audio jack's presence for it. And since the USP of the current Z series of Motorola is the modular approach, expect the handset to get a bit chunkier with a Moto Mod attached.

Thankfully, there is no alarm to be raised here. Things stay manageable.

Located below the display is the fingerprint scanner, which may not be the most aesthetically designed scanner going around currently. Speaking of the buttons, Motorola Z Play carries on its right the volume and power buttons, which look a lot alike. This may pose a problem for people, should they fail to discern the textured power button early.

Further weird is the decision to make all these equidistant from each other, and being of the same shape and size.

The USB Type C and the 3.5 mm audio jack are located at the bottom. The SIM card tray has been positioned right at the top.

Camera bump at the back aside, it is quite a good looking device. The chamfered edges lend the appeal, while lack of any adventurous design elements keep things simple.

Display

Moto Z Play: Should you buy it for Rs 25k?

Moto Z Play is not touting the Quad HD display, but users are unlikely to crib a lot with the 1080p full HD screen. With a 5.5-inch super AMOLED panel, the 1080 x 1920p brings about 403 ppi worth of pixel density. Sharpness is guaranteed.

The brightness is ample, and the colours carry natural tone. The panel is not bad by any stretch, and the Moto Display only adds the perfect icing on the cake. Wave your hand over the phone, or pick 'em up to reveal the notifications. One only has to start using this to understand the obviousness of this feature to be permanent for every phone.

The panel has pretty good viewing angles as well, making quite a good choice. Even though the trend is leaning towards 2k and 4k panels, users will not feel shortchanged here.

Specifications

Lenovo has brought forward Qualcomm Snapdragon's 625 chipset for the Moto Z Play. The Octa core Cortex A53 processor is clocked at 2Ghz, has Adreno 506 GPU, and 3 GB of RAM for company.

There is a very generous dose of 32 GB worth of internal storage capacity. The users can further expand this by another 2 TB, with a microSD card of course.

It is good to see there is no hybrid styled SIM tray, forcing the user to choose between a microSD or a secondary SIM card.

Connectivity

The dual micro-SIM Moto Z Play comes with the expected set of connectivity options. There is the Wi-Fi 802.11(a/b/g/n/n), Bluetooth (ver 4.0), AGPS, NFC and of course 4G.

USB Type C feature gives a feeling of future proofing, while the FM radio option along with the 3.5mm audio jack brings cheers for the music lovers.

Operating system

Moto Z Play: Should you buy it for Rs 25k?

The device comes running on the Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 version, and keeps things delightfully simple. The add-ons only increase the user experience.

Apart from the Moto Display, there is the attentive display, keeping the display active as long as the user is looking at it. The twist to launch camera app, chop to activate the flashlight, flip to activate DND (Do Not Disturb), and stop the ringing of the phone once picked up -- all these features are very neat in the longer run.

The handsets with 5-inch plus screen size maybe difficult to operate with a single hand, so there is the swipe to shrink the display. Moto Voice can again come in handy, allowing user to set the Google search keyword, or even asking it to read out messages.

The promise to bring Android's latest version sweetens the deal, but the recent revelation of not assuring the security updates spoils the party to a good extent.

After all, what good is a system with trapdoors unguarded? When a hack or an exploit will play havoc is anybody's guess. Till then, the software side looks pretty hunky dory.

It is good to see that Motorola's interpretation of Google's Android has not been tinkered around after Lenovo took over.

Camera

Moto Z Play: Should you buy it for Rs 25k?

The rear shooter is a 16 MP affair, with f/2.0 aperture, laser and phase detection autofocus. It has its dual-LED flash, but lacks Optical Image Stabilisation. As for the front facing camera, its a 5 MP unit, and carries its own LED flash.

Even when the rear camera takes some really good pictures during the day time, it earns the tag of being a decent performer. All the good work done during the day time photography is dented by the snaps taken during the night time, or even indoors, denting the camera's claim to fame majorly. The grains are a clear indication of noise making its presence felt when light conditions are not suitable.

To compound the issue, the shutter speed goes down to compensate what it perceives as lack of ample light, and that means further trouble for a phone with no OIS. For those who are going to click during daytime mainly, or use camera less frequently, things should turn out to be fine.

The videos are an okay affair, with same issues as seen with still photography. The slow motion videos at 120 fps should prove to be handy. Front facing camera coming with its own flash system is a good thing to have, but the LED seemed too bright, with results smacking of being overtly bright.

Depending upon the dexterity of the photographer, results can be managed to look decent.

Performance

The handset is generally quite zippy, and performs as per expectations. The apps launch and exit with aplomb, while there is no issue with HD content either. There is a slight hitch with heavy tasks though.

Those HD games with high bitrate will test the Snapdragon 625 at times. The proceedings do take a hit, but the phone just about manages to pull itself. A quick toggle to slightly lower resolution smoothens out things.

The fingerprint scanner is pretty fast and accurate. At times it even overshadows the ones seen on Samsung devices, which is an impressive feat.

Moto Mods

The defining feature for the Moto Z series happens to be the option to enhance the functionality via attachments. These 'Moto Mods' are currently four in total for the time being, and cater to some of the popular preferences.

There is the Moto Insta-Share Projector (Rs Rs 19,999), the Hasselblad True Zoom mod (again Rs 19,999), JBL SoundBoost (Rs 5,999) for the media enthusiasts, and the Incipio OffGrid Power Pack (Rs 4,999) to further boost the already magnificent battery.

A good chance that third party options surface up in time to come, allowing the users to further future proof their device.

Battery

Once you read the 3,510mAh capacity on the battery pack, the slight girth on the Moto Z Play starts to look justified. Add to this the fact that there is a 1080p resolution screen and Moto Display as well, one starts to expect better battery back up.

And the battery back up is definitely one of the major highlight here. To the user's delight, the handset will easily last more than two days on a single charge. This is while using the phone on a moderate to heavy usage pattern.

There is the fast charging technology onboard as well to get the battery up and running quickly. Any user who has had any craving for a handset which will go on and on, need to look no further than the Z Play.

Verdict

Moto Z Play is that mid-range device which every budget conscious buyer would want to snag. Backed by a good hardware and the prospects of adding the 'Mod' attachments, the case put forward by Moto Z Play is pretty compelling. Boosting the phone sometime later with a Hasselblad True Zoom mod or the Incipio OffGrid Power Pack for future proofing is not a far fetched idea.

Right off the bat, the operating system is a treat even for the purists, the supplied battery is already a behemoth, and the camera is quite decent. The display will not disappoint. All these make the Moto Z Play a well rounded handset in itself.

The closest competitor would be the One Plus 3 and the Xiaomi Mi 5, but the Z Play is priced quite aggressively at Rs 24,999, and looking at the advantages, it becomes pretty much an automatic recommendation.

Himanshu Juneja