Moto Z Play Droid Review

Introduction


Earlier this year, Lenovo started something special. It launched a modular smartphone hardware program that wasn't just a bunch of accessories for one phone (with the promise that hopefully, maybe, some of that hardware might also work with some future handset). Instead, it was an ecosystem: multiple add-on modules, and multiple phones, for users to mix and match as they desired. With support for just two phones and a handful of modules, it was still in its infancy, but it felt like what really could be the beginning of a lasting modular platform.

Moto Z Play Droid Review
Moto Mods may have gotten rolling with the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, but that's just the first chapter of this modular story, and now Lenovo's back for round two, bringing us the third Moto Z phone to take advantage of Moto Mods expansion – and one without a flagship price this time around.

Does the new Moto Z Play Droid give you everything you need to enjoy the exciting new world of modular smartphone hardware while also helping to keep costs down? Or will you ultimately find yourself wishing you held out for a full-fledged Moto Z Droid flagship? We're putting the most affordable Moto Z through its paces in the hopes of finding out.

In the box:

  • Moto Z Play Droid
  • Style Shell
  • USB Type-C 15W fast charging adapter
  • SIM tool (pre-installed Verizon SIM)
  • Introductory guide
  • Safety notice

Design

The Moto Z Play's new tricks find a home in a familiar package

Moto Z Play Droid Review

When you're doing modular smartphone hardware like Lenovo is, you quickly find yourself locked in to one phone design; for all Moto Mods to be compatible with every Moto Z family member, we're looking at handsets that need to share the same basic layout.

As a result, the Moto Z Play Droid is one heck of a familiar-looking unit, borrowing the same basic styling as the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid. And while it's not anywhere close to the super-thin construction of the Moto Z, the Play comes in with nearly the very same dimensions as the thicker Moto Z Force – a fraction of a millimeter of wiggle room here and there, but basically the same size and shape.

Moto Z Play Droid Review
Moto Z Play Droid Review

While that might have you thinking that Lenovo took the Force and swapped out a few components for the Play, the truth is a little more interesting, and we see a number of changes to how the phone's put together.

For one, screen placement shifts, with the display resting slightly lower down on the Play than the Force, and at the same time, the “Moto” logo jumps from below the screen to up top. As a result, the Play is slightly more one-hand-friendly than the Force.

Front-facing camera and flash components swap locations on the Play, but that's a change of little consequence. More interesting is the revised take on the handset's edge design, and while the Force has a nice little pointed ridge that runs all around its edge, the Play goes for a smooth ridge-free curve.

Finally, and maybe the most impactful of the differences between the Play and Force's layouts, the Play arrives with an analog headphone jack on the phone's bottom edge, adjacent to the USB Type-C port (the very same one the Force used for audio output – with the included adapter). Why there's room here and there wasn't on the Force is only for Lenovo to say (and we wouldn't be surprised if there was room previously, but the jack's absence was a strategic decision), but we're happy to see it back here.


Motorola Moto Z Play Droid

Motorola Moto Z Play Droid

Dimensions

6.16 x 3.01 x 0.28 inches

156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.82 oz (165 g)

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition

Dimensions

6.14 x 2.98 x 0.28 inches

155.9 x 75.8 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

LG X Power (International)

LG X Power (International)

Dimensions

5.86 x 2.95 x 0.31 inches

148.9 x 74.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.90 oz (139 g)

Honor 8

Honor 8

Dimensions

5.73 x 2.8 x 0.29 inches

145.5 x 71 x 7.45 mm

Weight

5.40 oz (153 g)

Motorola Moto Z Play Droid

Motorola Moto Z Play Droid

Dimensions

6.16 x 3.01 x 0.28 inches

156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.82 oz (165 g)

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition

Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition

Dimensions

6.14 x 2.98 x 0.28 inches

155.9 x 75.8 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

LG X Power (International)

LG X Power (International)

Dimensions

5.86 x 2.95 x 0.31 inches

148.9 x 74.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.90 oz (139 g)

Honor 8

Honor 8

Dimensions

5.73 x 2.8 x 0.29 inches

145.5 x 71 x 7.45 mm

Weight

5.40 oz (153 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

Pixel count ain't everything, especially when power's on the line

Moto Z Play Droid Review

No matter which Moto Z phone you go with, you're looking at a 5.5-inch display. But already with the Moto Z and Force we saw some variation, as the Force picked up a shatter-proof screen. Those differences continue with the Moto Z Play, as it swaps out the quad-HD 1440 x 2560 panel of the previous two Moto Z phones for a lower-res 1080 x 1920 screen.

It's still a nice, crisp AMOLED display, and especially with the phone's “vibrant” color-enhancement mode engaged, one with some really bold, satisfying hues. Testing revealed the screen to be about as bright as the displays on the Moto Z and Force when manually setting the brightness, though those two models were capable of significantly brighter output in auto-brightness mode – and as a result, have a leg up over the Play in outdoor readability.

More than this screen resolution being sufficient for what the Play is doing, keeping pixel count in check can only help improve the screen's power consumption – and as you'll begin to see revealed over the course of this review, power management ends up being one of the phone's biggest wins.



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19 Comments

1. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Legit thought it was an early i review...good review by PA with a score I can agree on.

7. PhoneFix

Posts: 81; Member since: Aug 30, 2016

I don't! This is DEFO not better than Honor 8! PA AGAIN praising USA manyfs. Just bcos it is from usa they had to or theyvmust rank it high..

11. jellmoo

Posts: 2525; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Lenovo is a Chinese company... The phone isn't manufactured in the US... I'm not sure what your point is? In same ways this is better than the Honor 8, in other ways it is worse.

2. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

They listed not having a slightly more capable 6-series SoC as a con, but they fail to realize that doing so would destroy this thing's battery life. Oh PA... On another note, this phone fares so well in benchmark battery tests because of the low-and-slow type of performance scheme the SoC has. In day to day use, you'll likely do about 9-10 hours screen on time. My Z3C did 10-11 on kitkat...lollipop screwed it up and brought it down to 8 hours :-(

5. JC557

Posts: 1914; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

I'm sure a 652 wouldn't be bad when it comes to efficiency but the current processor in use still feels smooth on the Z Play.

6. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Yes it would. The Xperia X uses a 650 series SoC, and its battery life is no better (actually slightly worse) than the battery on the X Performance. They have 2600mAh and 2700mAh batteries, respectively. The 625 has the efficiency that the SD801 series had, only this time it's in 64-bit

3. raju516

Posts: 19; Member since: May 05, 2016

Can some one clarify why Moto Z force has not great call qulaity when compared to this phone which is not a flagship. Therotically they might have used good speaker.mic in flagship phones

4. JC557

Posts: 1914; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Some people may have faulty units. The call quality on my Force is loud and clear though a recent update rendered notification sounds to be quiet yet ringtones and alarms remain really loud. The battery life is still really good but sometimes Google Services randomly eats up my battery life.

16. EricNC

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 15, 2016

Consumer Reports did give the Z series 4/5 stars on call quality, which was about as good as any touch screen received in their rankings.

8. Clars123

Posts: 1072; Member since: Mar 16, 2015

*that goes further..A LOT further...PA please proof read your reviews

9. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

It must pain Verizon not to call this the Droid Maxx 3. Now that the Droid brand is secondary to the Moto brand, can they finally let it go?

10. libra89

Posts: 2148; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

This seems like a solid phone. Decent review.

12. LeoC57

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

I get it... its all decent and great and all... but then again id take those $400 and get a Axon 7 or a One Plus 3 (im sure they dont do as well on battery life, but then again you cant have it all, QHD panels, SD820, 4GB and 6GB of RAM). IMO those 2 are better (way better) options than the Z Play Droid.

13. BigCTM

Posts: 9; Member since: Oct 25, 2009

Not on Verizon...The Z Play Droid looks like the best mid range option on Verizon.

15. EricNC

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 15, 2016

From Consumer Report reviews of one plus 3 and Z Droid series, it sounds like they are very similar. The One Plus may be a little better with video because of the processor (but lesser battery life). I saw the Z play this week, and it's much nicer than the older Turbo2 despite better price point. It compares well to the 600.00 Z Droids.

17. Veteater

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

I understand what you are saying, but the software on the ZTE Axon 7 is nowhere near as good as the software on here, though it does beat it everywhere else; the OnePlus 3's battery life doesn't come close to this thing and it has no expandable storage. I really wish this thing had a SD652; that would lower battery life a bit due to the use of Cortex-A72 cores, but that would be fine considering this already has some of the best battery life as is.

14. iLovesarcasm

Posts: 589; Member since: Oct 20, 2014

Good review, good phone if you're not a flagship guy.

18. Tommy5725

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 17, 2016

Hello all, I'm in the process of changing my mvno. I now have 5 lines with Cricket (At&t) and use a OP3. I have recently moved and now need Verizon's network. I am planning on moving 4 lines to Total Wireless (TW) and dropping the last. So I'm preparing for the conversion, and will be needing new phones. I like the ZTE Axon 7 but what I really want is the "Moto Z Driod Play" ( motorola.com/us/products/moto-z-play-droid ) on TW. So I've been reading for what seems like days and need some help or clarification. I chatted with a rep on moto's site and asked him that very question. Can I activate a Moto Z Driod Play on a mvno like "Streight Talk" or "Total Wireless"? He said yes, just use the BYOP option and it'd be no problem. I then found this link ( motorola.com/us/carrier-compatibility ), which seems to contradict what the rep told me. Although the Moto X Pure and Moto G's seem like they'd work fine. I have called TW customer service and they said it would not be a problem so long as i wasn't under contract to Verizon. They told me to get the IMEI and that they could check it. Problem is to do that I'd have to buy the phone. It seems that they do not even list the IMEI's in ebay auctions any more. I found a link where I could check ( totalwireless.com/wps/portal/home/h/check-compatib​ility ) though I do not have an IMEI. I didn't think phones could really be locked any more but it sure seems that way. Maybe the Axon 7 would be a better idea? I was hoping that someone that really knows and understands the process could give me some pointers. I would really appreciate it Thanks for your time, Tom

19. Peckiro

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 26, 2017

Sorry "PhoneFix" but the logic in your comment seems illogical; rather hostile as well.
Moto Z Play Droid
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3510 mAh

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