Moto X Play is an Android smartphonedeveloped by Motorola Mobility, a division of Lenovo. Unveiled on July 28, 2015, it is one of two devices that succeeded the second-generation Moto X. In contrast to the high-end Moto X Style phablet, the Play is intended as a mid-range device distinguished by its large battery.
The first Moto X was a wonderfully priced compact handheld, with the second generation morphing into a significantly more premium device worthy of the flagship title. Motorola seems to have reverted back to the original design, bringing a budget-friendly smartphone to the masses with their Moto X Play.
Design and Storage
That doesn’t mean the Moto X Play is any less of a great handset, though. While not the slimmest of phones, measuring 8.9mm at its thinnest point and curving out to 10.9mm, the Moto X Play is very comfortable to hold thanks to its rubberised rear panel. The rounded edges can be a tad slippy at times, but I was easily able grasp it in one hand and reach across to the other side of the screen without any fear of dropping it.
Unlike the 3rd Gen Moto G, the Moto X Play isn’t completely waterproof. Instead, it’s merely water resistant, so it will survive the odd splash or accidental spill as well as a light rain shower, but it won’t fare so well if you drop it down the loo. This is a shame, but it’s the exactly the same situation with the Moto X Style, so it’s not like you’re missing out by opting for the Play.
Ironically, it’s the Moto X Play which has the more flexible design, as its removable back cover means you can customise it with as many different coloured inlays or Flip Shell cases as you like. Admittedly, a rubber back is never going to match up to the Style’s real leather or wood panel textures (both of which add a bit more to the Style’s overall price), but it does mean you can always change the colour later on if you get tired of the one you bought originally. The design of the Style, on the other hand, remains fixed for the life of the handset.
There’s a range of different colours to choose from using Motorola’s Moto Maker service, and you can even customise the colour of the metallic accent that runs down the back around the camera. Prices here start at £280, which is only £10 more than the standard black or white model available from other retailers, allowing you to find your perfect personalised colour combo without compromising your wallet.
The only option which does increase the phone’s price is the amount of storage. The phone has 16GB by default (around 11GB of which is available to the user), but you can get 32GB for another £40, taking the total cost up to £319. However, the microSD card slot accepts cards up to 128GB, so this seems like a bit of waste of money – you could buy a 128GB microSD card for the same amount of money.
Performance and Battery Life
The Moto X Play may not be quite as fast as its big brothers, but its octa-core, 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor is certainly no slouch. Paired with 2GB of RAM, Android 5.1.1 runs beautifully, with super smooth menu animations and lightning fast loading times. Likewise, its performance in Geekbench 3 is actually on par with the Snapdragon 808-based LG G4 with scores of 708 and 2,567 in the single and multicore tests respectively. This also outstrips many of its Snapdragon 615-based rivals, such as the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 and Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, giving the Moto X Play an extra speed boost worthy of its slightly higher price.
The Moto X Play drops the ball slightly when it comes to browsing the web, though, as its Peacekeeper score of 828 is decidedly average compared to other 615-based handsets. Scrolling down The Guardian’s home page, for instance, was still quite jerky even once it had loaded, but the Moto X Play coped much better with other sites such as the BBC and Expert Reviews.
Thankfully, its graphics capabilities are far more in keeping with a sub £300 smartphone. While it may only have scored 361 in GFX Bench GL’s offscreen Manhattan test, equating to roughly 5.8fps, the Moto X play was equally capable of playing demanding games such as Blizzard’s Hearthstone and 2D puzzlers like Threes were super smooth, so you should be able to play any game on the Google Play Store without any trouble.
Battery life was good, too, as its large 3,630mAh battery lasted 13h 08m in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to half brightness. This is just 30 minutes behind theSamsung Galaxy S6, so the Moto X Play certainly has the stamina to match this year’s top flagships despite being a fraction of the price
This is fantastic considering it has to power a large 5.5in, 1,920×1,080 resolution display, but you’re unlikely to get similar figures if you keep the screen’s brightness levels turned up to max. Our colour calibrator measured a massive 613.23cd/m2 on its highest brightness setting, pushing it even higher than Sony’s ultra-bright Xperia Z3. Still, at least it makes the phone easy to use outside.
I was also impressed by its relatively low black level of 0.36cd/m2. Black levels often suffer the most when the screen is this bright, as I’ve seen plenty of equally-bright Xperia phones reach black levels as high as 0.72cd/m2, giving dark areas a distinctly grey-ish undertone. Luckily, the Moto X Play averts this problem, ensuring text is deep and inky and images aren’t bleached out by its high white levels.
Admittedly, I’m slightly disappointed that Motorola has opted for an IPS display this time round, as all previous Moto X handsets have used AMOLED panels. However, an sRGB coverage of 91.0% is still very respectable for a £280 phone, and colours were very evenly balanced across the entire gamut. Greens and yellows were very slightly short, but skin tones still had a warm, natural appearance, and all of my test images looked bright, rich and vibrant. Likewise, a contrast ratio of 1,670:1 ensured there was plenty of detail on show, and the screen’s viewing angles superb.
All this makes for an excellent viewfinder for the Moto X Play’s 21-megapixel rear camera, and the quality of my initial test shots was excellent. Despite the cloudy weather, colours were rich and vibrant and there was plenty of fine detail present. Some photos were perhaps a touch dark in places, but this was quickly remedied by switching on HDR mode, which helped illuminate images without making them appear too harsh or unnatural.
Thankfully, you can help eliminate shadows by switching on HDR mode
Indoors, the camera performed equally well, as colours maintained their vibrancy while keeping noise to a relative minimum. There was still some grain present when we zoomed in to rach photo’s native resolution, but it’s no worse than what I saw on the LG G4, for example. The Galaxy S6’s camera still pulls ahead thanks to its fantastic noise reduction, but the Moto X Play certainly gives it a run for its money.
To help improve your photos even further, there’s also a dedicated night mode and manual focus and exposure controls. This is particularly useful in low lighting conditions, as both really helped open up the lens to let more light in, reducing the amount of overall noise. While it didn’t get rid of the noise completely, the grain I could see was significantly softer than photos I took with these settings turned off, so they’re well worth experimenting with if you’re shooting at night or indoors.
My favourite part of the Moto X Play, though, is Motorola’s clever Moto app, which has various settings to help make the phone feel that much smarter than your average Android handset. For instance, a quick twist of your wrist will automatically open the camera, while Moto Display shows the clock and any notification icons you have when you pick it up without having to turn the screen on.
This is particularly useful if all you want to do is quickly glance at the time, and swiping upwards on a notification button will automatically open up its respective app. You can also dismiss an app by swiping the button to the side. Admittedly, Android 5.0 lets you do all this from the lock screen anyway, but there’s something extremely convenient about having all that information present without having to press a button when you simply pick it up off the table.
I’m also a big fan of the Moto app’s quiet hours settings, as this automatically puts the phone into silent mode while I’m asleep, meaning I’ll never be disturbed in the middle of the night unless someone from my priority contacts lists tries to get in touch. The Moto app can interact with your calendar as well to automatically silence itself during meetings, sending auto-reply texts saying you’re busy to anyone who tries to get hold of you, as well as read text messages aloud while you’re driving.
Moto x play won best buy award