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Hands-on Moto Z Play review: Lenovo leads the charge

Lenovo has just announced another Moto Z family member at an event during IFA 2016. I confess I got off to a frustrating start to the trade event with my Zenfone 3 hands on, but Lenovo has succeeded in showing me a bright future for smartphones and the universe that surrounds them.

The Moto Z Play is the first smartphone from this Chinese manufacturer’s new era that I have had the opportunity to test, and, without fear, I can say it has been a long time since a phone has captivated me so much.

Lenovo Moto Z Play release date and price

The Lenovo Moto Z Play is coming to the US in September, although a specific date is not yet available. It will be an exclusive to Verizon for a short while, for $408, before an unlocked variant is made available for $449.

Alongside the device itself, users will have access to attachable units, known as Moto Snaps. These are modules that enhance device functions, such as audio, display, and, in a big way, the camera. I believe that the launch of these modules will take place alongside the Moto Z, but still do not know if the Moto Z Play itself will arrive at the same time.

Lenovo Moto Z Play design and build quality

Moto Z Play is beautiful, except for the bulge of the main camera and the faux-button fingerprint scanner on the front. Aside from these niggles, the use of metal and glass provides a very stylish enclosure for the device. Despite the fingerprints that insist on sticking to the rear panel, the Moto Z Play feels great in the hand.

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On the left, the Moto Z Play; on the right, the Moto Z. / © AndroidPIT

The new device is thicker than the higher-end Z models. The Moto Play Z dimensions are 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm; for comparison, the standard Moto Z comes in at 153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19 mm. However, the display size is the same: 5.5 inches. The differences in design between the Moto Z and Moto Z Play are small, limited to a change in the position of the LED flash – as this one has it on the right, the other on the left.

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Both the Moto Z (right) and Moto Z Play feature the questionable fingerprint scanner. / © AndroidPIT

It surprised me that Lenovo has forgone a great chance to be different here and mark a change. Instead of opting to promote USB Type-C as the only port for headphones, the company has played it conservatively, electing to stick with the standard headphone jack.

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Lenovo will earn my full stamp of innovation once they remove this. / © AndroidPIT

Lenovo Moto Z Play display

The Moto Z Play screen is 5.5 inches; it's Super AMOLED, making for supersaturated colors, which was a downside to Motorola handsets in the past only because the screen technology is the strong point of Samsung, so seeing an AMOLED display on another smartphone leaves the impression that this type of panel is simply done best on the Galaxy series.

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The colors in the Moto Z Play display appeared oversaturated in this hands-on review. / © AndroidPIT

The Moto Z Play screen resolution is Full HD (1080p) and provides a pixel density of 403 ppi. Despite the supersaturated colors, especially when looking at app icons, video quality is very good. During my hands on, I had no problems with the touch display.

Lenovo Moto Z Play special features

What makes the Moto Z Play really special and unique are its modules. These are responsible for expanding what the device is capable of and I had the opportunity to try a few of them out.

Moto Mod: Insta Share Projector

It is impossible to look at the Moto Z Play projector module without thinking of the old Galaxy Beam. Back in 2012, this Samsung device came with a small embedded multimedia projector, and it was not a success. This Moto Mod operates the same way: it allows whatever is on the screen to be projected onto a flat surface with a resolution of WVGA 854x480 pixels (408 ppi).

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The projector module for the Moto Z line. / © AndroidPIT

When connected to the device, you can adjust the image to any surface, as well as the brightness of the screen and notification settings, which can be silenced during mirroring. This feature is especially important for those who might work conventions and, of course, for those lovers of holiday slideshows with a modern twist.

The projector comes with a 1,100-mAh battery for extra power, and what really caught my attention is the extent to which this module in particular overheats. The Moto Z Play and the Insta Share Projector are almost impossible to hold when connected. However, it can be used without interruption, and the accessory has a built-in fan for cooling, just like in a PC.

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Rest the device on a flat service while projecting a video. / © AndroidPIT

Moto Mod: JBL SoundBoost

Moto Mod JBL offers the chance to amplify the volume of Moto Z Play speaker and turn the mono audio into stereo. The system always notifies the user when the module is connected to the device through a vibration and an audible alert.

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The JBL SoundBoost optimizes the Moto Z Play's sound quality. / © AndroidPIT

In addition, the JBL SoundBoost has audio of 80 dB SPL @ 0.5 m, frequency response from 200 Hz to 20 kHz, and packs enough power for 10 hours of use. The gadget is perfect for use at home, for moments of celebration or a dinner among friends. The ease of use this module offers makes it preferable in many ways to plugging in a tablet or smartphone to a separate audio system.

Moto Mod: Hasselblad True Zoom

When Lenovo introduced the Moto Mods, many were surprised at the absence of a camera module. However, all fears were stylishly quelled during IFA 2016, when the company announced a partnership with Hasselblad.

Hasselblad is one of the world's leading manufacturers of cameras and photographic equipment. The company is responsible for, among many things, recording the arrival of man on the moon and the famous photograph on the cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album.

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The Hasselblad module for the Moto Z line is one of the most captivating modules so far at IFA 2016. / © AndroidPIT

This module is captivating, even though the one I tried was still being worked on. The module has a Xenon flash, 10x optical zoom, RAW format support, a physical shutter and automatic backup. In other words, this module is better than many dedicated cameras out there.

The suggested price of this little beauty is $300.

Lenovo Moto Z Play performance

Moto Z Play is packing a Snapdragon 625 processor (octa-core), clocked at 2 GHz. This is backed by the Adreno 506 GPU, the very same as in the Zenfone 3, and it has 3 GB of RAM. Its storage capacity is 32 GB, with microSD support offering the option to expand upon this.

As with the Moto X line, the Moto Z Play boasts natural language processing and contextual computing. So imagine using all that Motorola voice command technology in conjunction with the Moto Mods: it will be a treat. I can not wait to test it and see how well they match in reality.

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The Moto Z Play runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow / © AndroidPIT

The device comes running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and supports dual-CHIP. Among the range of sensors, we have the fingerprint scanner, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, gyroscope, hall effect, magnetometer, proximity sensor, and audio monitor. In other words, we have here a multitude of possibilities for joint use with the new mods (or snaps, as you prefer).

Lenovo Moto Z Play camera

The main camera comes with a 16 MP sensor, and the selfie snapper comes in at 5 MP. That's right, the rear camera of this device has a greater resolution than the more expensive Moto Z. The camera software is more in-depth than on other Moto devices, too, and also brings a manual mode.

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The front camera comes with an LED flash. / © AndroidPIT

The camera has an LED flash, similar to the Moto X Style. The lenses of both cameras offer good aperture angles, suiting both single and group selfies.

As we saw on the Galaxy S6, a camera bulge is not a feature favored by users, and the Moto Z Play suffers from this same problem. While I need to spend more time with the device to be sure, I fear that this bulge may prove problematic with everyday use.

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The rear camera on the Moto Z Play has a higher MP sensor than the Moto Z proper. © AndroidPIT

Lenovo Moto Z Play battery

Despite being the more affordable option in this line of devices, the Moto Z Play does well on the battery front (3,510 mAh), and promises 50 hours of use, according to the manufacturer. The device also features fast charging technology, called PowerTurbo.

Lenovo says the Moto Z Play can be charged for 9 hours of use from a 15-minute charge. I can't confirm that at this point, but, rest assured, I will thoroughly test both of these claims come the final review.

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The status bar shows the device's battery percentage and the battery of any attached modules. / © AndroidPIT

Lenovo Moto Z Play technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Phone
    • Model:
    • Sorry, not yet available!
    • Manufacturer:
    • Lenovo
    • Dimensions:
    • 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm
    • Weight:
    • 165 g
    • Battery size:
    • 3510 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.5 in
    • Display technology:
    • AMOLED
    • Screen:
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels (403 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 5 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 16 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • Dual-LED
    • Android version:
    • 6.0.1 - Marshmallow
    • RAM:
    • 3 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 32 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
    • Number of cores:
    • 8
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 4.0

Early Verdict

Prior to this, I had not had the chance to test any of the new Moto devices or modules. Having now had access to both, the feeling I have is that big changes are afoot. It has been a long time since smartphones have undergone a large-scale evolution, and I am not talking about innovation so much as their function. Thinking from this perspective, Lenovo is showing us an exit from the stagnation: modules.

The Moto Z Play will reach the market at a more affordable price than many high-end smartphones. But what makes the difference is that if you're prepared to invest you can get better audio quality or a camera with 10x optical zoom. Just use the modules. That is to say, to have a super camera on a smartphone, it is no longer necessary to have a super smartphone.

Lenovo has a chance here to change the status quo of the mobile market and I don’t see where it could go wrong, do you?


Write new comment:
  • are u a spastic? why do u want more usb type c ports when there has never been a phone before with more than 2 of the same ports u retard


  • storm 1 month ago Link to comment

    Keeping the headphone port is a wise idea at this point in the market. The Z is not a full on flagship play.

    There are far too many out of spec USB C products on the market. USB C products are still way overpriced. Most people don't have a USB C port on their computer yet.

    You need adapters to operate your current gear--clunky. You need a clunky hub for connecting multiple things simultaneously.

    USB C will be great when they realize they need to give me at least two and preferably three USB C ports on my phone so I can really use my phone like I want to and do now with multiple ports available. One port is a bad move in the market and not a move for any phone poweruser.

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