Moto Z Play review

The longer-lasting modular phone with a headphone jack

Moto Z Play review
Moto Z Play review

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Specs and performance

  • Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM
  • Slower than the popular 820 chip and 4GB of RAM
  • 32GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot

The Moto Z Play also takes the specs down a notch with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor instead of the Snapdragon 820 chip almost every major Android uses in 2016.

Moto Z Play

It's still competent with a 2GHz octa-core CPU, 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU, but it's not as fast or as future-proofed as the Moto Z or Moto Z Force.

Qualcomm keeps touting its Snapdragon 625 processor as incredibly fast, just shy of the 820 chip. It's still adequate for most people, but doesn't have the absolute best performance in our labs and real-life tests.

Running Geekbench 4.0 benchmarking software, we found that the Moto Z Play achieved a multi-score of 2,600. That's rather low compared to Moto Z at 5,167 score. Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge outperforms them all thanks to a 6,500 multi-score.

In real life testing, we experienced slowdown when doing several things at once: downloading apps, receiving a backlog of notifications and trying to navigate the menus. True multitaskers, watch out. Everyone else will be fine.

You'll also be okay with the 32GB of internal storage, even if phones like the ZTE Axon 7 and Samsung Galaxy Note 7 have launched with 64GB inside. Moto Z Play includes a microSD card slot within its nano SIM tray for expandable storage, just in case.

Interface, reliability and compatibility

  • Runs close-to-stock Android Nougat, with Oreo coming soon
  • Motorola's apps are helpful, Verizon apps in the US are not

Moto Z Play runs one of the latest versions of Android and it functions like Google intended it, without the alterations that Samsung, LG, and other phone makers see fit.

Moto Z Play

Stock Android is a big deal for many purists, and for good reason. This Android Nougat interface is very streamlined. Motorola, once a Google company, doesn't deviate far from its former parent's playbook.

It adds a few of its own apps to the phone, like Moto Actions and Moto Voice, but these are only a help, not a hindrance. All of the menus are just like a Nexus running stock Android.

In the US, you'll have to deal with some pesky Verizon bloatware, and the fact that HD video calls only work with people on the same network, even if they have the same phone. That's annoying.

Thanks to the Android Nougat update, the Moto Z Play has desirable features like splitscreen apps and better battery life-saving tweaks. And it's likely to only get better with Android Oreo, which is coming in the next few months.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Super AMOLED display looks good for 1080p
  • The headphone jack is a big deal for multimedia users
  • Fingerprint sensor screen-off function can get in the way

The Moto Z Play takes its name seriously when it comes to watching movies, listening to music and playing games, even with a lower-resolution screen involved.

It looks nearly as good on the 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, unless you're trying to count pixels at a close distance. Our biggest issue is that it's quite as bright as the Moto Z and Moto Z Force outdoors.

The advantage that it does have it the inclusion of that headphone jack. That's a big deal when you're stuck on an airplane and only have earbuds with a 3.5mm jack, with no USB-C adapter in sight.

We did run into one unique issue when holding the Moto Z Play: the fingerprint sensor's ability – to not only wake the screen and unlock the phone, but also put it to sleep and lock it – got in the way at times. Dear ill-placed thumb, I was watching that movie.

Matt Swider