Motorola Z2 Play 2017 Model + 2017 MOTO MODS – REVIEW

Unique, proprietary, thin, budget-friendly – a fantastic option for the niche consumer.

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Hey everyone, Jimmy with Jim’s Review Room.  It’s that time of year again, starting off phone reviews for August and into the fall season, we’re going to start seeing phones being announced and released pretty shortly.  So first up, we’re looking at the new Motorola Moto Z2 Play accompanied with several MotoMods.  Per their website, this phone is going for $408 and the moto-mods prices are below for your convenience.

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Going over the physical features first, the Z2 Play is crazy thin from the factory.  While most other phones are coming in around 8mm thick, the Samsung S8+, LG G6, iPhone 7 to name a few, this is the thinnest phone that I’ve personally tested coming in at 6mm.  I’ll all for slim phones as they’re easier to manage in the pocket, but when holding the Z2 Play, it is a bit slippery as there’s less meat you can say to hold on to.  There are MotoMods you can attach that does completely fix the matter, but I’ll show you those later in this review.

The phone is splash proof, perfect and ideal for those who likes using their phones around the sink in the morning.  My time testing, spills to splashes, they all held up fine.  You just can’t submerge it.

Going around the physical features, your Sim and Micro-SD card reader is up top.  Rotating to the right there’s volume rocker buttons with power below.  All three buttons were quite small and very similar to each other, having it take more time than usual to build up muscle memory.  Give it several days and you should be fine in identifying where everything is located.  On the bottom is the 3.5mm connection for your earphones in the middle is a USB-Type C port for charging.  Motorola claimed from a dead battery, you can have up to 8 hours of life with it in the charger for just 15 minutes.  From my testing, after leaving it the charger for a quarter of an hour, I achieved 15% of battery life.

For general battery life, I’m getting on average a day and a half before needing to recharge, and 6 hours and 52 minutes of screen-on time.  The most I’ve gotten was 7 hours and 32 minutes for days of heavier use.

Rotating to the rear, this is where it gets really interesting and the phone starts to differentiate itself from the others.  The Moto Z line of phones, they’re modular to an extent.  You can buy various back plates to attach for different functions.  First up is the JBL Soundboost 2.  It looks great, it has a little kickstand, it’s also splash proof…   Shaking this in mid air didn’t have the speaker move or shimmy at all.  From my testing, the audio performance sounds equivalent to a small $50 stand-alone bluetooth speaker.  It’s great for personal casual listening even at maximum volume.  On a few rare occasions, there is some slight raspiness at those high levels.   The biggest concern that I had, at maximum volume, the battery drains at about 10% every 5 minutes.  At 50% volume, the audio is low for very casual at the desk listening, I was able to achieve 16 and a half hours worth of use.

Other attachments to quickly glance over, there’s the additional power bank back plate which I loved.  This gives you an additional day of battery life.  Also, there’s tons more grip not only because it’s awesome texture, but it does give the phone slightly more meat to hold on to.  Last, Motorola sent me a floral pattern which isn’t really my style, but there are a lot of other designs out there.  This gives the back some protection, gives the phone a bit more meat to grab again and last, this mod gives the phone the ability to wirelessly charge.  There are many other MotoMods out there, like a projector for displaying video on the wall, to a camera attachment that gives you better optical performance and better looking images.

But getting back to the phone and continuing with what is unique.  What are called Moto Options, are actions which include chopping the phone twice to activate the flashlight, with two more chops to turn it off. And Twisting the screen to turn on the camera, even if the phone is locked.  Both of these actions required a pretty firm movement, most likely to prevent accidental actions when not intended.  The Home button can be used as your navigation with swiping right to left to go back on webpages and certain apps.  Left to right to access the menu features, and to lock the phone, a slight hold till it vibrates.  Sounds great in theory, but from my testing, it’s been hit or miss.  There have been moments where it works, and some moments where you’re swiping multiple times to execute.

Now, looking at the camera, we have a 12-megapixel shooter on the rear.  This has to be the second fastest auto-focus system I’ve experienced to date.  Motorola says it’s using “Dual Autofocus Pixels” and lasers to measure distance – and this is not Motorola’s $700 flagship phone either, which is impressive.  Well, who has the fastest Auto-Focus? Both the Samsung S7 and S8 phones are instant, and works at closer distances.  With the Moto, it does a slight hunt for a millisecond.  Although not number one, it’s very darn close and beats nearly every other phone out there.

The menu’s and features are very straight forward.  You can’t adjust aspect ratios and resolution size for photos which was odd.  I think most won’t mind unless you absolutely need a wide 16×9 aspect ratio.  On the flip side, you do get Pro mode, where you can manually control and adjust shutter speeds, ISO levels, focus, etc.  Possibly the biggest downfall for me while using the camera is after each photo, there are no icons that let me preview my images – I would have to back out the camera, then go into Google Photos.

Going through some samples…   Everything was set on Automode as most average consumers would use.  The photos in general were good for a $400 phone.  The images doesn’t necessarily pop, but offered photos still worth using and sharing on social media.  One example, here’s a photo from the Motorola.  This was in a dimly lit restaurant on Saturday.  As I said, nothing too special but clearly usable.  And I know this is not an apples to apples comparison, but only for reference to see how far off the Motorola is from a flagship phone, this image is comparing to my Samsung S8+, a $800 plus device.

As you can see, the Z2 Play is not as sharp, not as saturated in colors, if I can sum it all up, the images don’t pop. But again, the images are still usable for very generic use.  I’d say, throw on a filter and you’re good to go.  Last up is low light performance.  The camera does somewhat struggle with providing more noise in moderately dark areas and objects..

Alright, so enough about the camera.  We’ve discussed the unique features from Motorola like the flashlight turning on, twisting your wrist to turn on the camera.  We’ve covered the MotoMods which were very unique.  And we went into the camera.  Jumping over to phone use, I’ll place the specs below for your convenience.

The display comes in at 5.5 inches with a 1080 resolution.  The bezels are quite large however, having the phone in black, it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb as my white Pixel XL. Despite flagship phones offering more pixels, using the Moto Z2 play on a daily basis I couldn’t tell the difference.  Colors are accurate and the display strays away from popping out at you with strong contrasts and saturation.  The Super AMOLED display still gives off a pleasing look and more importantly, doesn’t make skin-tones look orangey or red.  For average user experience, it looks perfectly fine.

As for performance, the Z2 Play is using the latest mid-tier Processor available, the SnapDragon 626.  From my experience, the average consumer will be perfectly fine.  During my time using the phone like my work phone, checking on Twitter, Instagram, uploading and downloading photos, opening up the camera app, they all performed as it would normally.  I quickly tested playing a bit more graphic-intensive games like Madden, UFC, and such and during gameplay, never noticed a hiccup or skipped frame rates for those titles – everything loaded in a reasonable amount of time, webpages loaded reasonably, down to call performance, cell signal in my office building, and such.  Really no complaints for everyday use, to gaming on it.

In the end, for a mid-tier performer, you’re getting a lot of value considering how thin it is, the unique and proprietary features, plus the options and expansion with MotoMods.  If you’re in the $400 range and you have the right expectations, this phone is surely a hit in my opinion.  In the comments section below, please let me know your thoughts, is this an awesome phone, are the MotoMods cool, are they worth it?  I would love to hear your thoughts. Again, I’m Jimmy with JimsReviewRoom. You guys take care, I’ll see you on the next one.

[table id=6 hide_columns=”all” show_columns=”a,b,h,k,l” /] Specs from manufacturer. If incorrect, please contact us.