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Motorola Moto X Play review

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Motorola Moto X Play review

Last year, we were bowled over by the Moto X. The handset offered unparalleled voice control and a very handy Active Display for showing notifications.

In fact, this reviewer has been using it as his handset of choice for the last few months. High praise indeed.

Now comes not one, but two sequels: the Moto X Style and Moto X Play.

The Style is the higher-end of the two, with the Play being more affordable – it sits somewhere between the wallet-friendly Moto G and Moto X Style.

motorola moto x play angled back

Both offer boosted specs, a much-improved camera and that winning Moto Maker customisation options. We've taken the Moto X Play for a spin to see if it can mix it with the likes of the OnePlus 2 and Honor 6 Plus.

PROS AND CONS

Pros

  • Great voice recognition features even when phone is locked
  • Bigger screen
  • Much better camera

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Too big for some
  • Not as fast as the Moto X Style

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This year's Moto X is noticeably bigger and fatter than last year's model, but not annoyingly so.

It feels well built, and ours came with a rubberised back, which feels hardwearing enough to survive a few drops. On the whole, our first impressions were positive.

AT A GLANCE

  • Bit fat
  • Nice big screen
  • Speakers above and below screen liable to attract dust

DESIGN

motorola moto x play side

From the front, the Moto X Play looks almost identical to last year's Moto X. But turn it around and it's all change.

It now has a removable back – just like the Moto G – so you can swap it as many times as you like.

The Moto Maker website – which lets you personalise the Moto X Play before you buy – offers a choice of 14 colours for the back, including raspberry, tangerine and dark teal.

You can buy extra ones, though at time of writing none were listed on the Motorola site. You can also personalise the front and accent, and engrave the handset using Moto Maker.

AT A GLANCE

  • Removable back
  • Lots of colours
  • Smaller dimple on back makes it slightly less comfortable to hold
  • Build: Glass and plastic
  • Weight: 169g
  • Dimensions: 148x75x8.9-10.9mm

SCREEN

motorola moto x play detail

A 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels is impressive for a phone at this price.

But since the OnePlus 2 raised the bar for what's possible with a mid-range phone, we've come to expect specs like these.

It's bright enough to read in direct sunlight, and the bigger size is perfect for playing games and watching videos.

It's not QHD (quad-HD, with a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels) like the screen on the Moto X Style, but it more than does the job.

AT A GLANCE

  • Impressively responsive
  • Screen is ideal size for media
  • Accurate colours
  • Size: 5.5 inches
  • Resolution: 1,920x1,080 pixels
  • Technology: IPS LCD

CAMERA

motorola moto x play screen

As much as we liked the previous Moto X, the camera was a let-down. And the same was true of the original Moto X.

But with the Moto X Play, Motorola has pulled out all the stops for its snapper.

It sports a 21-megapixel rear camera with extras like burst mode, night mode, auto HDR (high dynamic range – a feature that takes the same snap at different exposures and blends them to make one photo with the best parts of each) and panorama.

You can also jump straight to the camera by holding the phone and twisting your wrist twice – it's much quicker than unlocking the handset and then opening the camera app.

Picture quality is much better than on previous models of Moto X. Colours really pop in HDR mode, and photos are packed with detail.

However, low-light snaps are still prone to a bit of noise – i.e. graininess – which is a shame.

But it's worth remembering this is a mid-range model, so we can't expect it to match the Samsung Galaxy S6 in terms of photos.

AT A GLANCE

  • Much more detailed shots than with previous Moto X models
  • Still no optical image stabilisation, so you'll need a steady hand
  • Manual exposure controls come in handy for more advanced photographers
  • Camera: 21MP
  • Optical image stabilisation: No
  • Unique features: Quick Capture

PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE

motorola moto x play battery

While the Moto X Play's 2GB of RAM might be half that of high-end handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, you'll only really notice if you're streaming HD video, playing processor-intensive games and running multiple apps at the same time.

The X Play is more than adept at handling everyday tasks like browsing, emailing and games. It flies through menus and apps open without any delay.

Active Display wakes the screen when you move your hand over it, but only shows the time and notifications to save battery.

You can then open the notification or dismiss it. It's a great addition, and saves you pressing the power button every time you want to check the time.

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop comes as standard. Because there's minimal extra software pre-loaded, it should be one of the first handsets to be updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow when it arrives in October or November. Which is reason to celebrate.

And while it might not be as quick as the Moto X Style, the X Play actually has a bigger battery.

With average use, we got a day and a half out of it, though the days we really hammered it, the Moto X had given up the ghost by bedtime. Take it easy, though, and it'll last two days before needing a recharge.

You can also charge it in double-quick time using the Motorola Turbo Charger, though it'll cost you £25 extra.

AT A GLANCE

  • Active Display saves battery and is very convenient
  • Runs well, though not as quick as the Moto X Style
  • Epic battery life
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Battery capacity: 3,630mAh
  • Storage: 16GB or 32GB
  • OS and version: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

VALUE FOR MONEY

motorola moto x play duo

Starting at £279 for the 16GB model, and £319 for the 32GB, the Moto X Play is an absolute steal.

It's bigger than the Moto G, with a better camera, and the ideal handset if you want to take up a step up from budget territory.

VERDICT

  • Much better camera, though lacks some options of the Moto X Style
  • No image stabilisation
  • NFC for touch-to-pair with speakers and other accessories
  • Huge battery
  • Removable back
  • Not as slim as previous models
  • Big, clear screen
  • Handy software additions

It costs £120 more than the Moto G, but that gets you a bigger screen, bigger battery and much better camera. If you're ready to take the step up, but don't want to spend too much, it's ideal.

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