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Motorola Moto Z2 Play review – the best modular phone?

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

£28 p/m
8.5

Build quality

8.5/10

Design

8.5/10

Ease of use

9.0/10

Performance

8.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Thin and light
  • Range of Mods
  • Long battery life
  • Great software
  • Good price

Cons

  • Camera might not inspire snappers

moto z2 play reviewI have been living with the Moto Z2 Play for a few weeks now and it’s time reflect on our recent life together.

As I pack the phone and the mods back up, it seems ages since I recorded the unboxing video. Ah, the excitement of a new phone coming in to the world.

The Moto Z2 Play looks to be quite a good contender on paper.

Not only is it reasonably priced as a SIM-free option, it is slimmer and sleeker than its predecessor. Furthermore, it is fully compatible with Motorola’s Moto Mod accessories.

Moto Z2 Play design

moto play z2 screenThis is an extremely lightweight phone. It easily slips inside a suit jacket. Granted, if you’re going to add the speaker module, for instance, it will get quite chunky very quickly. But, this a modular phone so just slip off the extra girth and shove that in a bag. Sorted.

Its vital statistics are 156.2 x 76.2 x 6 mm (6.15 x 3.00 x 0.24-inches) and it tips the scales at just 145g when naked.

moto play z2 leftThe Z2 Play features a fully metal design with brushed edges and a mostly flat back. Personally, I like it, although some of my friends said it felt like “half a phone”. I get that. But it doesn’t stop me from digging it.

I prefer the feel to the glass-y Moto Z Play. However, being all metal doesn’t make it any less slippy. I have juggled with the device a couple of times. No drops, thankfully.

moto play z2 camera bumpThe rows of visible pins on the rear, lower portion of the phone, are there for the mods.

I don’t mind them being exposed like that but, again, I can see how it might be a bit ‘Marmite’ in that you either like it or not.

moto play z2 rightOn the right-hand edge of the phone you have three small buttons for volume up/down and power.

The front is the Z2 Play’s good side though.

Its 5.5-inch display is surrounded by a fairly slim bezel.

moto play z2 angleAt the bottom of the screen is a fingerprint sensor. This sensor is more than for unlocking or Home, it can act as a gesture pad for replacing the on-screen buttons.

moto play z2 usb and headphone portsOn the bottom edge of the phone sits the USB-C port, and next to it is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Yay!

Sadly Motorola hasn’t gone for a waterproof design for the Moto Z2 Play, but it is splash-proof.

moto play z2 and moto shellIn the box, Moto includes a Style Shell. This is a thin fabric backplate that covers the back of the phone and those Mod pins. It also does a good job of reducing that camera hump.

Furthermore, it makes the device a lot more ergonomic to hold and a darned-sight less slippy. The Shell attaches by magnets, which is cool. However, sometimes it would get snagged on my jacket pocket and slip a little. No biggy though.

Moto Z2 Play performance

Under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor. This is mated to 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage.

A decent engineroom for this price, I reckon.

Display

The 5.5-inch, 1080p display is nice and sharp at usual user distance. Also, as it’s an AMOLED panel, blacks are deep and colours bright.

You get 401 pixels per inch, which is the norm for phones around this price point. That also means, sure, it’s not going to stand up to the closest inspection.

moto play z2 with moto 360 camera modThere are two screen modes to choose from, Standard and Vibrant. Standard leaves things slightly washed out and dull when compared with Vibrant. That’s why Vibrant is the default, I guess.

Viewing angles are also fine, especially for a phone at this price point.

Moto’s neat Moto Display feature is here. The cool thing about this bit of software is that it only lights up the pixels needed to show notifications when they come in. It also allows you to respond without unlocking the phone.

Processor

moto play z2 back with shellThe Moto Z2 Play has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 SoC with eight cores and clock speed of 2.2 GHz.

The main benefit of this chip is its efficiency and how it works to get as much battery life as possible. All this without sacrificing performance.

Considering the impressive battery life stats, coming up next, it really lives up to expectations.

Battery

jbl speaker moto mod sideSpec sheet numbers are all very well, but what can you actually do with a 3,000mAh? Well, apart from a slimmer body, quite a lot, actually.

I consistently got through a whole day without needing to recharge. When I was using it in a more ‘normal’ way, rather than testing things, I could even get through a day-and-a-half without a boost.

This was as impressive as the KEYone from BlackBerry.

Oh, it also charges up quickly too, thanks to the included Turbo Charger.

Software

Thankfully, it is basically stock Android 7.1.1. here on the Z2 Play. Also, frankly, it’s a joy to use.

I dig the swipe up app drawer and the circular icons. Naturally, Moto has added a few sprinkles of their own.

[youtube id=”zJCLrUBLcbE”]

I really like the battery level indicator right there on the main screen. The indicator is neatly ensconced around the clock. The marker recedes as the battery level falls, making it easy to see at a glance how much battery you’ve got left.

moto mod jbl speaker on standMotorola has also included its own Moto Mods app to handle the Moto Mods add-ons. More importantly, there’s really no useless bloatware.

The general ‘Moto’ app deals with customising Moto Display and the gesture-based Moto Actions.

Those Actions range from shaking the phone to open the camera, to chopping to turn on the flashlight. Additionally, split-screen multitasking is great for having two apps open side by side.

Camera

The Z2 Play has a respectable spec sheet in the camera department.

The 12-megapixel sensor and f/1.7 lens capture detail well. The wide aperture gives a lovely, natural bokeh effect and portraits are especially sharp.

motorola play z2 photoHowever, it struggles when the light isn’t perfect. I even found some daylight shots coming out even darker than expected. For the best results you need strong sunlight, but not in view.

motorola play z2 photo HDR

With HDR
motorola play z2 photo

Without HDR

I really couldn’t manage a decent night shot. That’s disappointing as the large pixels and wide aperture should’ve performed better. Perhaps it’s just down to my lack of skill.

The lack of OIS, something still rarely seen at this price, also becomes noticeable in lower light and when trying to capture 4K video. See the 360-degree 4K video below.

[youtube id=”fTgwRq7Gm_Q”]

The Pro mode on the Z2 Play doesn’t appear to add much in terms of functionality.

It’s worth noting here that you can give the rear shooter a major upgrade by fitting the Hasselblad Moto Mod. This costs £199.99 but hands you a 10x optical zoom and the ability to shoot in raw for superior quality.

Moving around to the front of the phone, you’ll find a 5MP selfie shooter that gets the job done. It’s fine for video calling or the odd pic to share on social media.

moto 360 camera modThe 360 camera Mod is fun to use, as seen in the video above.

However, again, it doesn’t dig poor lighting. It is capable in the right situations though. Click the Facebook snap above to be taken to the 360-degree version.

360-degree St Mary'sHere’s a flattened one.

Moto Z2 Play review conclusion

[amazon_link asins=’B074DZ1NLH’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’gadgnews-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=”]The Moto Z2 Play offers great value for money, and has enough going for it that I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone who values battery life and a clean software experience.
 
This is also looks to be the best option to get into modular phones. The JBL Sound Booster 2 speaker is great. I also really like the game controller Mod.
 
I reckon if you spent more time with the camera it would be possible to capture some great shots. But you will have to invest as simply pointing and shooting gave mixed results.
 
As an all-rounder at a reasonable price, however, it is more than competent.

Moto Z2 Play price and availability

 
The Moto Z2 Play is available right now over on Vodafone. Price plans start at £28 per month with £0 up front.

Motorola Moto Z2 Play review – the best modular phone?

by Jay Garrett time to read: 6 min
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