Motorola Moto Z3 Play Review



The Moto Z Play series has always been widely regarded as underrated, offering top-notch performances in key areas – while being priced modestly as mid-rangers. With this year’s Moto Z3 Play, however, not only is it receiving a slight facelift with its design, but it’s also trekking into new territory with its higher price point. Price aside, it’s going to take a whole lot for this year’s phone to really prove itself in the face of some today’s competitively priced flagships.

Design

A minor facelift, but it still exudes a premium feel


Given how it needs to adhere to certain standards, the Moto Z3 Play does feature a few cosmetic changes over its predecessors, but for the most part, its overall dimensions and weight remain almost unchanged. Sporting a svelte aluminum body, 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass, and rounded corners, there’s a premium look and feel to the phone – making it as equally convincing as a flagship grade device.

Naturally, it accommodates all the existing Moto Mods, which adds a certain dynamic to the phone’s functionality that others don’t offer. However, changes to the design include the removal of the headphone jack, repositioning of the fingerprint sensor to the right side of the phone, and the power button being situated on the left edge. We’re particularly bummed by the loss of the headphone jack, but there’s comfort knowing that it still continues to offer a splash-resistant p2i coating to withstand minor water splashes. At the same time, too, the fingerprint sensor’s new position makes it more prone to accidental touches when grasping the phone.

Motorola Moto Z3 Play

Motorola Moto Z3 Play

Dimensions

6.16 x 3.01 x 0.27 inches

156.5 x 76.5 x 6.75 mm

Weight

5.50 oz (156 g)

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Dimensions

5.81 x 2.7 x 0.33 inches

147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

Motorola Moto X4

Motorola Moto X4

Dimensions

5.84 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches

148.35 x 73.5 x 7.99 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6

Dimensions

6.13 x 2.97 x 0.31 inches

155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75 mm

Weight

6.24 oz (177 g)

Motorola Moto Z3 Play

Motorola Moto Z3 Play

Dimensions

6.16 x 3.01 x 0.27 inches

156.5 x 76.5 x 6.75 mm

Weight

5.50 oz (156 g)

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Dimensions

5.81 x 2.7 x 0.33 inches

147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

Motorola Moto X4

Motorola Moto X4

Dimensions

5.84 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches

148.35 x 73.5 x 7.99 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6

Dimensions

6.13 x 2.97 x 0.31 inches

155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75 mm

Weight

6.24 oz (177 g)

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




Display

All the typical OLED qualities

Moving towards that all-screen trendy look, the Moto Z3 Play’s display nearly occupies the entire front of the phone. It’s now rocking a 6-inch 1080 x 2160 Full HD+ Max Vision Display, keeping itself in the same class as many phones nowadays with its 18:9 screen aspect ratio. We have very few complaints about this OLED panel, seeing that details are sufficient, it’s visible outdoors under direct sunlight, and doesn’t exhibit any major distortion at various viewing angles. Sure, its color production skews towards the saturated side, but it’s still a pleasant looking display overall for our eyes.

Interface and functionality

New Moto enhancements streamline the experience

In being part of the Moto Z family, the Moto Z3 Play comes with all the usual trimmings we’ve seen in the past consisting of various functions for Moto Actions and Moto Display – like performing a chopping motion to turn on the LED light or twisting the phone a couple of times to run the camera app. New to the experience, we now have a three-finger screenshot mode, face unlock, and Moto Voice experience in beta. The latter is yet another personal digital assistant service alternative, which works reasonably for basic commands, but it’s not as comprehensive as Google’s own Assistant. Beyond that, the Android 8.1 Oreo experience here is very close to what we find with vanilla Android, with a few minor modifications – such as the case with its new One Button Nav, which consolidates the typical on-screen Android menu buttons with a single gesture based one.

Processor and performance

It’ll get you by with most things, but don’t game with this.

Upgraded to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and the Adreno 509 GPU, the Moto Z3 Play performs reasonably on a superficial level for most things. There’s the typical fluidness with its response, such as scrolling a web page and navigating between the homescreen interface, but when it comes to gaming, it suffers from a choppy performance. Graphically intensive titles are impacted the most, so if you’re into gaming, you may want to look elsewhere.

Accompanied with 64GB of internal storage, it’s a generous capacity that should appease most users, but as an alternative, there’s the microSD card slot for expansion.

AnTuTu Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 115699
Samsung Galaxy S9 244207.33
Motorola Moto X4 70292
OnePlus 6 260353.5
JetStream Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 42.468
Samsung Galaxy S9 61.834
Motorola Moto X4 27.999
OnePlus 6 88.123
GFXBench Car Chase on-screen Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 6
Samsung Galaxy S9 25.66
Motorola Moto X4 5.8
OnePlus 6 30
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 15
Samsung Galaxy S9 43.33
Motorola Moto X4 11
OnePlus 6 50
Geekbench 4 single-core Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 1334
Samsung Galaxy S9 3709
Motorola Moto X4 865
OnePlus 6 2413.66
Geekbench 4 multi-core Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 4902
Samsung Galaxy S9 8814.66
Motorola Moto X4 4154
OnePlus 6 8929

Camera

Simply impressive


Unsurprisingly enough, this year’s edition follows the trend of employing dual-cameras – one 12MP sensor with 1.4μ pixels and one 5MP depth-sensing sensor for portrait and bokeh shots. In addition to that, the camera interface has Google Lens built right into it, allowing the camera to intelligently detect scenes and provide us with relevant information. Take for example scanning a barcode on a box, which will then show us where we can buy it.

Rummaging around the camera interface, it’s quite obvious that there’s a huge emphasis on providing users with fun modes. Naturally, there’s portrait mode for capturing sharp looking faces with backgrounds softened, which works for both the front and rear cameras. For the more creative ones, the Cinemagraph mode is a delightful new way of capturing snapshots because it adds motion to still images. And lastly, spot color mode isolates specific colors in a scene – while turning the rest into black and white.

Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 2.4
2.9
888
927
Samsung Galaxy S9 0.7
1
No data
No data
Motorola Moto X4 2.71
2.98
825
897
OnePlus 6 1.8
2
No data
No data

Don’t count out the Moto Z3 Play in this area, because it performs impressively well. We really mean it! When there’s ample lighting in the scene, it captures crisp images with great details and colors – albeit, it’s on the warmer side. Even its HDR mode manages to impress us, as shadows are brightened to match the exposure with the mids and highlights, resulting in an image with superb dynamic range. The only minor blemish we’re able to uncover are the softer details with photos taken under low light, which is the only worry we have because there’s not as much noise in the image.

Over on the video side, the Moto Z3 Play also manages to impress us with its strong performance. If there’s only one distraction, it has to be that it lacks any kind of stabilization – so all the jitters and movement are evident. Besides that, its 4K video quality is rich in details, warm colors, and clear audio recording. Even under low light, there’s not as much of a huge degradation in its quality.


Battery life

Aided by a battery mod

Due to the restrictions of being a Moto Mod compatible phone, there’s no room to increase the battery capacity in the Moto Z3 Play, which carries the same 3000 mAh battery cell as its predecessor. Thankfully, the optimizations with the Snapdragon 636 processor coupled with the software, allows the Z3 Play to easily get through a solid one-day of normal usage. With the included Battery Mod, it pushes our usage to two-days easily, which is comforting, but the overall battery life of the phone is average in our opinion.

Conversely, though, the Moto Z3 Play puts up one impressive recharge time – besting its predecessors in the process! Using the included charger, it only requires 84 minutes before it’s filled back to 100% capacity.

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 8h 50 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S9 7h 23 min (Good)
Motorola Moto X4 9h 37 min (Excellent)
OnePlus 6 8h 10 min (Excellent)
Charging time (minutes) Lower is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 84
Samsung Galaxy S9 107
Motorola Moto X4 99
OnePlus 6 80

Call Quality


Placing phone calls with the Moto Z3 Play isn’t all too challenging, since it manages to handle all sorts of situations with no problems. Voices through the earpiece sound distinct enough to discern, including in noisy environments, as there’s ample volume to help magnify voices. On the other end of the line, however, our callers mention a little bit of distortion – sounding as though we’re distant. Switching over to the speakerphone is the most challenging part about the entire experience, seeing that the earpiece doubles as it too! Due to the weaker volume output, voices can easily be drowned out in noisy settings.

Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z3 Play 77.5
Samsung Galaxy S9 78
Motorola Moto X4 77.5
OnePlus 6 79

Conclusion



The Moto Z line has traditionally proven itself as being one of the best in the mid-range category, striking a balance between performance and price. With the Moto Z3 Play, it introduces a few new things into the mix that we haven’t seen before in the line – like the 18:9 display and dual-cameras. We’re especially blown away by the camera’s performance, which rivals even some of the best flagships out there!

What’s surprising, though, is the increase in price that we’re getting with the Moto Z3 Play. At $499 for the unlocked version, it’s a $100 increase over its predecessors, placing itself in an odd predicament because it’s intruding on a threshold. Take the OnePlus 6 for example, which seems like a bargain at $529! That’s a tough act to follow considering the specs battle that the Moto Z3 Play has to contend with. Sure, the included battery mod is a nice treat for buyers, but it would’ve been even better if its price remained similar to its predecessors at the $400 mark.

Go with the Moto Z3 Play if you fancy those Moto Mods, but don’t go with it if you intend on gaming because of its choppy performance.

Pros

  • Camera captures stunning looking photos
  • Tons of fun camera modes
  • Speedy recharge time
  • Premium design

Cons

  • Sluggish performance with graphics processing
  • Finger print sensor is constantly being accidentally pressed
  • Weak sounding speaker
  • $100 increase in price over its predecessor

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

User Rating:

4.0
1 Reviews

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18 Comments

1. antmiu2

Posts: 551; Member since: Jun 19, 2011

R.I.P Motorola

4. Acdc1a

Posts: 477; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

This is an excellent phone. All points PA hit on are spot on, except the complaint about the fingerprint sensor. It takes some work to find it, so I don't know how there would be an accidental nudge. Most games play just fine, but some of the newest stuff designed to run on cutting edge phones gets choppy. Asphalt 8 looks good on it. I'm disappointed by the 7.5 rating.

2. mahima

Posts: 744; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

Battery-excellent? C'mon pa...this is not iphone...lol

3. Technicalsain

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 20, 2018

Excellent review

5. Tech-shake

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 14, 2016

Excellent review. Covered everything I wanted to know about the phone and its quirks. The cons were spot on as wel !

6. idees

Posts: 28; Member since: Sep 25, 2009

omg, this device has same score as U12+? !!!

7. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Thin phone with decent battery, good design, big AMOLED screen. That's all I need.

8. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Should be under $350 with those specs. Change the processor with SD710, then it will be worth for that price.

9. Acdc1a

Posts: 477; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

Battery mod is worth $50, the limited time free speaker at Amazon is worth another $50 in my opinion putting the $450 exactly where I paid. Good phone for the money with the extras.

12. Quantify

Posts: 9; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

Agreed. This was my calculus. Really loving the phone, even compared to my wife's op6.

10. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1278; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

Nice review PA, after a long time...

13. ijuanp03

Posts: 669; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Coming from PhoneArena, the camera, they say, is impressive. Then it must be really impressive. I will consider this as my next phone :) Great review btw. But the score is just so sad :(

14. fyah_king unregistered

Loving my z3 play

15. Avenger337

Posts: 93; Member since: Apr 14, 2013

200/5000 Good mobile, the problem is undoubtedly, its unjustifiable price. After this cell phone several times, I do not see a single detail to justify its price at $ 500. Surely this model will not sell much.

16. Avenger337

Posts: 93; Member since: Apr 14, 2013

200/5000 Good mobile, the problem is undoubtedly, its unjustifiable price. After this cell phone several times, I do not see a single detail to justify its price at $ 500. Surely this model will not sell much.

17. DasGebuesch

Posts: 19; Member since: Aug 31, 2017

Still using a Moto X 2014 and I want to stay at Motorola but not like that. The last Moto X already was a disappointment. Get rid of Alexa and give me another good and clean Moto X. Thank you.

18. steveedojob

Posts: 20; Member since: Nov 06, 2012

Motorola phone is so difficult to find in Malaysia especially in Mobile Phone shop. I tried to find this phone and Motorola Moto G6 Plus either at the store or online store in Malaysia buy I fail.

19. alpster1

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Price increase yes, but last year's phone was 3gb ram and 32gb storage... And didn't come with the battery mod. The fingerprint scanner is right where I pick the phone up, so it's unlocked by the time I look at it.
Moto Z3 Play
  • Display 6.0" 1080 x 2160 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, Octa-core, 1800 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(24h talk time)

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