The smartphone experience on the Motorola Moto Z2 Play
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play does an excellent job when it comes to phone calls. Regardless of whom we have talked to over the phone, conversations were crystal clear. Even in the noisiest of environments, we had no problems in understanding the people we were talking to. The signal reception is also good. We used the Motorola Moto Z2 Play in a geographical area where 4G is available, but the network signal is not the best. It is a mountain area, and the mobile network operator does not have the most reliable radio towers. However, the Moto Z2 Play somehow managed to keep a steady mobile connection through all the days we used it.
Regarding audio quality when playing music or when watching movies, the Motorola Moto Z2 Play does a decent job. The smartphone has one loudspeaker mounted on its front that provides clear sound but low maximum volume. We did not notice any distortions when using the highest volume setting, but that volume is not high. If you want higher audio fidelity, we recommend that you use a pair of headphones. We found the Motorola Moto Z2 Play to have a much better sound this way. Keep in mind though, that Motorola does not include any headphones in the box. Of course, another option for better sound is to buy and use a JLB Soundboost Speaker Moto Mod.
The screen uses a Super AMOLED display, and that means that the colors are vivid and deep, with high contrast and brightness values. It is a good display, which you can read comfortably even when outside, in sunlight.
The Motorola Moto Z2 Plus handles multitasking well. The operating system is snappy, probably because Motorola keeps the Android user interface mostly untouched. The processor is also powerful enough to load apps almost instantly and switches between them just as easily. Gaming is also a pleasant experience: the smartphone has a good enough GPU to handle any modern video game at decent framerates.
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play is powered by a non-removable lithium-ion 3000 mAh battery. It can last a day in normal usage, but it usually does not go more than that. If you use the smartphone a lot, you might even have to charge your smartphone twice a day. Adding a battery Moto Mod is a good choice if you want to increase the autonomy of the smartphone, even if it means having a thicker device.
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play offers a good smartphone experience. The phone calls are clear, and the network reception is excellent. The audio quality is also good, but the front-facing loudspeaker is not powerful. If you want better sound, we recommend that you buy a pair of headphones or a boombox Moto Mod. Regarding daily use, the Moto Z2 Play is fast and snappy, and both multitasking and gaming are satisfying experiences on it.
The camera experience on the Motorola Moto Z2 Play
The rear camera on the Motorola Moto Z2 Play uses an image sensor with a resolution of 12 megapixels and has an aperture of f/1.7. The camera benefits from phase detection and laser autofocus (up to 5 meters) and has a dual-LED flash. The front camera has 5 megapixels, an aperture of f/2.2 and also a dual-LED flash.
The primary camera takes good photos, and it takes them fast. The laser autofocus helps in this matter. The colors are good, and the sharpness is as it should be. The photos are shot using HDR by default, and that gives you well-lit backgrounds as well as subjects. However, the main camera feels like it has a few problems with oversaturation in photos with high lighting variations, like when the clouds in the sky are very bright. Overall, it does a good job but not a spectacular one. As for the front camera, what we can say is that it can deliver decent selfies and it can do it even at night, because of its dedicated front LED flash.
In the gallery below you can see a couple of pictures that we have taken with the Motorola Moto Z2 Plus. There are photos shot outdoors as well as indoors; photos taken in natural light and photos taken in the dark (with and without flash) and also a few close-ups.
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play can also record videos at a maximum resolution of up to 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 30fps. Unfortunately, the smartphone does not have any optical image stabilization system, so you have to keep the smartphone very steady to get good results.
If you want to see how good the Motorola Moto Z2 Play is at recording dynamic videos when movement is involved, here is a sample:
We also used the Motorola Moto Z2 Play to record a panorama to show you a sample of how good it is at recording static videos, with little or no movement involved.
We are happy with the quality of the main camera found on the Motorola Moto Z2 Play. The photos you take with it are good, with nice vivid colors, good sharpness, and contrast. We would have preferred though, that the smartphone had an image stabilization system built in.
Android 7 Nougat and default apps
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat pre-installed. The operating system and default Android user interface have not been tampered with, except for a few minor tweaks, and that is an excellent thing in our opinion. If you want a clean operating system on your smartphone, Motorola is among the few smartphone brands that come with stock Android. If you buy the Motorola Moto Z2 Play from a retail store, there should be no bundled apps on it except those from Google. However, if you buy the Motorola Moto Z2 Play from a mobile operator, you may get a few other apps that have been pre-installed by the operator.
Motorola Moto Z2 Play comes with the modern version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The stock Android user interface is not altered, and there are no useless apps bundled on it. Many users will love this.
Performance in benchmarks
There is no point in knowing the hardware specs or how good a device looks if you do not also know how it fares in actual use. To find out, you would have to run some benchmarks and test how fast a device is. That is why we ran more than a few tests on our Motorola Moto Z2 Play.
We started by testing the processing performance offered by the octa-core 2.2 GHz processor found in the Motorola Moto Z2 Play. To perform these measurements, we used the Android benchmarking app called Vellamo.
The first test we ran is Vellamo Multicore, a benchmark that measures how fast a CPU is when you run multiple tasks simultaneously. The Motorola Moto Z2 Play got 2028 points, which is a good but not an impressive result. It is a close result to those we have seen on the Huawei P10 lite or ASUS ZenFone 3.
Next, we ran the Vellamo Metal tests, which measure the performance of the processor when running only one task, on a single processor core. This is an important test, as there are many apps in the Play Store that do not use more than one CPU core. The Motorola Moto Z2 Play got 1617 points. It is a result that makes it almost equal to a Huawei P10 lite, ASUS Zenfone 3 or even an old Motorola Nexus 6. We are dealing with a mid-range smartphone.
Another critical aspect regarding performance is how good a smartphone is to gaming. To assess our Motorola Moto Z2 Plus in this regard, we used the GFXBench GL Benchmark app. The tests we believe are relevant to "real world" gaming are 1080p Car Chase Offscreen, 1080p Manhattan Offscreen and 1080p T-Rex Offscreen benchmarks. We use only the standardized 1080p Full HD tests because their results are more relevant if all the devices we test are running the benchmarks using the same resolution.
In the 1080p Car Chase Offscreen, the smartphone rendered 207 frames. It is a similar result to what you get on an ASUS ZenFone 3, and it is more than what you get on a more affordable Huawei P10 lite.
The Motorola Moto Z2 Plus managed to render 399.7 frames in the 1080p Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen test. Again, it is the same as what you get on an ASUS ZenFone 3, and it is a lot more than you would get from a Huawei P10 lite.
In our final gaming benchmark, we ran the 1080p T-Rex Offscreen test. The Motorola Moto Z2 Play rendered 1276 frames, which is close to what you get from an ASUS ZenFone 3 but a lot more than what you should expect on a Huawei P10 lite.
Now we know how the Motorola Moto Z2 Play does regarding raw processing power and gaming possibilities. Let's check how it does in other daily activities, like browsing the internet. To measure its performance in this area, we returned to Vellamo and ran its Browser tests. Using Chrome, we got a score of 3034 points, which is a good result, close to that of a Huawei P10 lite, yet a little weaker than that of an ASUS ZenFone 3.
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play offers support for 4G data connections, so we measured its performance in this area also. To do the measurements, we used Speedtest, an app which tests how fast your internet connection is. The results we got were not impressive, but we must point out the fact that the 4G signal strength in our area and the transfer speeds offered by our mobile operator are not high.
One other significant thing about any mobile device, including smartphones, is how long it lasts on a full battery charge. To measure that, we usually run the "Work battery life" test from PCMark, which measures the autonomy of the battery when the device is running the normal day to day activities like browsing the web, working with documents, or editing photos. However, Motorola Moto Z2 Play had troubles running this benchmark, so we had no choice but to use AnTuTu. Using its battery tests, the Motorola Moto Z2 Play got a score of 13897 points, which is a good result. It shows that this smartphone could stay on for more than a day, without having to charge it, if you do not use it extensively.
The benchmarks that we ran show that the Motorola Moto Z2 Play is an excellent smartphone when it comes to regular daily activities. It is also capable of running games at good quality settings and framerates. However, this smartphone does not impress in any of these areas, so it is safe to say that it is the perfect exponent of the mid-range market: it is not weak, it is not powerful, it can do anything you ask, at a decent speed and quality.
What are the Moto Mods and why do they matter?
The Motorola Moto Z2 Play is one of the few modular smartphones in the world, and it is compatible with all the Moto Mods ever manufactured by Motorola. The Moto Mods available at the time of writing this review are:
- moto 360 camera
- moto smart speaker with Amazon Alexa
- moto gamepad
- JBL SoundBoost 2
- moto turbopower pack
- moto style shell with wireless charging
- moto power pack
- Incipio offGRID Power Pack
- Incipio Vehicle Dock
- moto style shell
- mophie juice pack
- JBL SoundBoost | Speaker
- moto insta-share projector
- Hasselblad True Zoom
You can find them all on this Motorola webpage: Moto Mods.
Out of all these Moto Mods, we tested the moto 360 camera, the Hasselblad True Zoom and the moto insta-share projector.
The moto 360 camera lets you shoot photos or videos at a 360 degrees angle, capturing essentially everything that surrounds you. If you can afford to spend 300 dollars on it, it is a great gadget for parties as well as for sports. Here is a sample of what a wide-angle photo shot with the moto 360 camera looks like:
The Hasselblad True Zoom, when attached to the Motorola Moto Z2 Play, makes the smartphone look more like a DSLR than a smartphone. The 10X zoom you get from it is very impressive and useful for wildlife photography, for instance. If you are an amateur photographer, you will probably want to buy yourself a Motorola Z smartphone together with this Moto Mod. Be prepared though, to spend around 300 dollars for the Hasselblad True Zoom alone. Here is a sample of what a photo shot with it looks like in normal zoom versus 10x zoom:
The third Moto Mod that we had the chance to play with is called the moto insta-share projector. It transforms your smartphone into a projector which you can use to show your smartphone's screen on any flat surface, with a maximum diagonal of the image of 70 inches. Whether you want to show your photos to others, watch a YouTube clip or a Disney movie with your children, the insta-share projector is your home cinema if you want it. All you need is a white wall. Be prepared though, to spend another 300 dollars on this gadget alone too.
The Moto Mods are a great way to enhance your Motorola Moto Z2 Play smartphone, but their cost adds up. Whether that makes sense or not, is up for you to decide.
What is your opinion about the Motorola Moto Z2 Play?
You have read about our thoughts about the Motorola Moto Z2 Play, and you have seen its results in the benchmarks. Do you believe this smartphone is worth its price? What about the Moto Mods? Are they the real game changer here?