Lenovo Moto Z2 Play Review

Thomas Wellburn
August 1, 2017

[nextpage title=”Introduction” ]

Product Type: Smartphone | Manufacturer: Lenovo | Price: From £379.99 | Where to buy: Motorola | [et_social_share]

The Lenovo Moto Z2 Play is an excellent mid-range contender and the Moto Mods are the best attempt at modular capabilities to date.

Motorola has been getting around a lot in the past five years. The acquisition by Google in 2012 left many analysts scratching their heads, as the company was essentially competing against the very fabric of its operating system by owning a manufacturer outright. Shortly after this, Google sold the company to Lenovo at a loss of roughly $10 billion, which seemed to make more sense. Lenovo is a budding electronics manufacturer who has made several failed attempts to jump into the smartphone game and naturally, the Motorola name will help push their efforts. Just recently, Lenovo announced that all in-house smartphone branding would be replaced by Moto, rendering their Vibe range obsolete. If that’s not a sign of the power that branding has on consumers, then we don’t know what is.

Last years Moto Z Play was part of the first crop of devices manufactured since the Lenovo acquisition. It was an impressive continuation of what made the brand so great to begin with, offering strong design and performance at a reasonable price. It was also the first time that Moto Mod technology had been demonstrated, allowing hot-swapping of modular hardware that could be snapped to any Z-series device. The new Moto Z2 Play builds on this and offers largely the same design with beefed up hardware.

Technical Details

OS Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Processor Snapdragon 626
Screen 5.5 inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 DPI)
Memory 3GB/4GB RAM
Internal Storage 32/64 GB
External Storage microSD Up to 256GB
Waterproofing Water-resistant nano-coating
Rear camera 12MP f/1.7
Front camera 5MP f/2.2
Video 4Kp 30FPS
Connectivity WIFI a/b/g/n/ac, USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
Cellular Speed CAT 7 LTE 300Mbit/s
Dimensions 156 x 76 x 6 mm
Weight 145g
Battery 3,000mAh


[nextpage title=”Design and Screen” ]

Design and Screen

Since their acquisition by Lenovo, Motorola handsets have taken on a significant design change. A theme has emerged which seems to favour slender designs with a prominent camera sensor up top. The new Motorola Z2 Play doesn’t change this, looking pretty much identical to its predecessor. Screen size remains 5.5-inches, while the vertical/ horizontal dimensions are also unchanged. Thickness has been reduced to just 5.9mm, making this one of the slimmest handsets out there if you disregard the camera bump. The device has been covered in a splash-proof nano coating but isn’t IPX certified, meaning you’ll want to be careful about getting it too wet.

On the front, you’ve got a glass finish and large panel which covers about 70 percent of the device. A capacitive fingerprint sensor is located underneath, while the Moto logo sits proudly above. The inclusion of a front flash is always a nice touch, as it definitely helps with low-light video calling. Lenovo has now upgraded this to a dual-LED variant, helping to improve colour tone and give a more even selfie.

On the back, the handset is once again finished in brushed metal with the antenna lines integrated into the overall design. Wrapping around the edge, they give a unique look that works really well and gives the handset an eye-catching appearance. The Moto Mod connector lays at the bottom of the rear, which is used for attaching external accessories. We got the chance to try out a JBL SoundBoost 2 speaker and Style Shell, the latter of which is a wireless charging case. Attaching them to the handset remains as easy as ever, with a magnetic connection snapping them both together. You’ll then get an on-screen notification letting you know what’s connected, along with any prompts to download apps which open up additional features. For the JBL, we were directed to the Play Store and told to get the accompanying app. This gives an equaliser along with some other features not yet available at the time of testing.

Sound quality from the JBL SoundBoost 2 was good and perfectly adequate for watching films on the move. The overall circuitry is the same as it’s predecessor and there isn’t really much difference between them. Distortion-free listening is still possible at high volumes and it excels in speech, but bass struggles. The 200Hz cut-off means that you’re not getting any low end and it would’ve been nice to see Lenovo get this down. Sound quality from the Moto Z2 Play itself is okay, though it’s a mono speaker with no accompanying tweeter.

On the sides, you’ll find all connectivity that the Moto Z2 Play has to offer. Audiophiles will be pleased to hear that the headphone jack has been kept, once again proving that handsets don’t need to ditch it in order to be slimmer. A USB-C port ensures that the handset will remain future-proof. Motorola has chosen to combine the SIM and microSD trays into one port on the top, with the latter doubling as a second SIM slot. Buttons are arranged along the side, although they can be a bit confusing. The fact they are the same size means it can be difficult to decide which one is which, even with the textured finish on the power button. I often found myself hitting the wrong button entirely by mistake.

The Moto Z2 Play once again ships with a 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display. This technology is known for being rather vibrant and the Z2 Play is definitely exemplary of this. It’s one of the more lively handset panels with plenty of punch and saturation, though the colour palette seems a little off. Compared to our calibrated panels, there’s a yellow hue which is very obvious in dark environments. This is pretty common of AMOLED displays but the Z2 Play seemed to accentuate it, tarnishing an otherwise good display. Thankfully, you can adjust the tone in display settings and get a convincing white balance. Brightness on the Moto Z2 Play is excellent and it’s one of the easiest displays to read under harsh conditions. Black levels are excellent thanks to the ability to completely shut off individual pixels, a massive positive of the AMOLED technology.


[nextpage title=”Camera” ]


Budget Motorola devices are often known for having class-leading cameras, however the Z2 Play is a little bit more expensive. Slotting into the mid-range, you would expect camera performance to be bumped up somewhat as a result. On paper, Lenovo has done a good job of improving the Moto over its predecessor. The megapixel count has been reduced to 12 and in its place is a much larger f/1.7 aperture. The combination of larger pixels and improved f stop should help to improve low-light images specifically, while also enhancing overall detail on daylight photographs.

While the Moto Z2 Play is a perfectly competent shooter, it’s not going to worry any of the flagship devices. It’s possible to get some very good pictures in daylight conditions, though the handset does struggle with highlights. We noticed the sky was often overexposed, while there was some obvious light rays on the bike image. This can have a knock-on effect with the overall image, making things seem a little washed out.


[nextpage title=”Performance and Software” ]

Performance and Software

The Moto Z2 Play ships with the latest mid-range Snapdragon 626 processor and 4GB RAM, both of which are subtle jumps over its predecessor. The new processor isn’t a huge step up from the Snapdragon 625, featuring a marginally faster 2.2GHz clock speed per core, Bluetooth 4.2 and TruSignal Antenna Boost Technology. Lenovo has said that the Bluetooth technology will get upgraded to version 5.0 once Android O drops, as the company is planning an update to the operating system.

Using the handset for day-to-day tasks, we found it to be speedy and fluid. The only issues we encountered were during more intensive applications, where loading times took a little longer. Gaming was a similar story, with entry-level titles such as Candy Crush Saga running fine and more demanding games like Ashpalt Xtreme coming a little under par. It wasn’t unplayable by any means but the frame-rate does flutter occasionally. If this chipset was powering a QHD screen, we imagine that things could get quite choppy.

Benchmarks for the new Moto Z2 Play paint a different story, with a noticeable jump over its predecessor. The handset scored 68,824 on AnTuTu, a 10% improvement. GeekBench saw the device score 911 for single-core and 4627 for multi-core. The former isn’t that impressive but the latter is a very good score indeed. In fact, in multi-core performance the device actually managed to beat a OnePlus 3. Considering that handset shipped with a Snapdragon 820, it’s a surprisingly high score.

Things start to go a bit south when we run the graphics benchmarks, as it’s clear that the Adreno 506 GPU is starting to show age. It scored just 468 on the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Test and 207.3 frames on the GFXBench test. This puts it at the same level as the BlackBerry KEYone and Huawei Nova, two handsets which are both powered by the Snapdragon 625. As we know, the new chipset doesn’t add anything to the graphics performance so this is largely to be expected.

The Moto Z2 Play runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which is the latest version of the operating system. It carries a launcher that’s practically stock and feels a lot like the Nexus variant. The app tray icon is replaced with an upward gesture, while the tray itself is transparent and minimal. The notification and quick launch bars remain the same. The inclusion of Google Assistant is welcome and helps to future-proof against other mid-range handsets which don’t carry the feature. Some critics have mentioned a large amount of bloatware in their handsets, though ours didn’t have any at all.

Battery life is 3,000mAh, which is 510mAh less than last year. Considering its predecessor had arguably the best battery life of any handset available, this could be upsetting to some. We can only assume that the 1mm shaved off its thickness has forced them to do this, as it seems like a missed opportunity to not play on what was perhaps the biggest positive in the original Moto Z Play.

Testing the handset using AnTuTu, it still comes out on top with a whopping score of 14,902 which is way above everything we’ve tested in recent memory beside the BlackBerry KEYOne. Under day-to-day testing and moderate usage, it successfully lasted almost two days on a full charge. It’s a fantastic result which really reflects just how well Motorola has optimised things for maximum battery life.


[nextpage title=”Conclusion” ]


The Motorola Moto Z2 Play remains a strong mid-range contender and offers a good blend of hardware and software. While it’s not perfect, there’s nothing in the device which is inherently bad or disappointing. At £379.99, Motorola has also priced the device sensibly, though it’s under threat from one major competitor. The Honor 9 is more powerful and arguably more premium, yet retails for exactly the same price. Unless you’re specifically interested in trying Moto Mods, it’s going to be a tough sell recommending this over the Honor.

Do you agree with our review of the Moto Z2 Play? Sound off in the comments below!



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