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Review: Moto’s Z2 Play Is A Leaner, Meaner MotoMod Machine

While the original Moto Z saw Motorola succeed with a concept that competitors like LG (and even Google) couldn’t make work, the original Moto Z Play really brought MotoMods to the masses. It landed at just the right price-point with just the right specs – not to mention the almost-category-leading battery life.

The Moto Z2 Play builds on that to some success but doesn’t quite distinguish itself in quite the same fashion. Like a good movie sequel, it’s easy to recommend – even if it doesn’t pack quite the same impact the second time around.

In terms of the design of the device, it’s clear that Motorola are a little limited in what they can do with the Moto Z2 Play. If they want to keep the device compatible with the rest of the MotoMod ecosystem, there’s only so much that can be changed. Still, there are some gains in form-factor.

15% thinner and 12% lighter than its precessor, the Moto Z2 Play features a 5.5-inch FHD Super AMOLED display coated in Gorilla Glass. The handset also boasts a 2.2Ghz Snapdragon 626 chipset alongside 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.

On paper, this amounts to a device that is – on a technical level – a leaner, faster and tougher machine than the first Z Play. In practice, we absolutely found this to, more-or-less, be the case. The above are all undeniably welcome improvements. However, our time with the device did unearth a few key caveats.

Firstly, the battery life. I’ll be the first to admit that the Moto Z Play’s 3510 mAh battery might have spoiled me for a time. I even said as much in my review of the Huawei GR5. Still, it’s hard not the be a little disappoined by Moto’s decision to curb the battery size to 3000mAh.

While the Moto Z2 Play ends up delivering a perfectly respectable 12-15 hours per charge, it falls short of the exceptional performance-per-charge seen in its predecessor. The battery life of the device is fine by most metrics. Unfortunately, it’s only good in much the same way that most mid-to-flagship devices are these days. It’s good, but unexceptionally so.

The other area where I came away a little unsatisfied with the Moto Z2 Play was the camera. Motorola say they’ve swapped out the 16-megapixel rear shooter of the first Moto Z Play for a 12-megapixel camera with a better image sensor.

Regardless of this tinkering, the camera-aspect of the device still feels pretty underwhelming on their own merits. Images taken using the Moto Z2 Plays camera sometimes caught color quite well but often fell short on the details. See a sample below:

Like the first device, the new Moto Z2 Play comes with a sleek faux-wood back cover but that can be swapped out for any of the other available MotoMods – allowing you a degree of customization you won’t find with any other major smartphone brand. We’re not quite at “there’s a MotoMod for that” levels of utility yet, but there’s still a lot on offer here from projectors to powerbanks.

It remains a compelling part of the Moto Z package, even if the limitations on the potential of MotoMods remain the same as they’ve always been: a higher price point and the added hassle of carrying them around. That said, if you can afford them, the case for their value is still quite strong. Especially if you can see yourself upgrading to a new Moto phone in two years, since they’ll all still be compatible.

We tried out the Hasselblad TrueZoom MotoMod to see what a difference the $399 add-on makes. While it does offer clear gains in quality (especially when it it comes to close-ups), it does push the total price-point of the Moto Z2 Play uncomfortably close to flagship phones like the Pixel or HTC U11. You can see a sample image taken using the Hasselblad attachment below:

For better or worse, Motorola seems to have gone all-in on MotoMods. The pros and cons of that strategy are on full display in the Moto Z2 Play. On one hand, the Moto Z2 Play is definitely a marked improvement on the original Moto Z Play. However, it rarely feels like the improvements on offer here quite cover the cost.

At $699, it sits towards the absolute top end of the mid-tier crowd. And of course, when you toss in the additional of MotoMods, this becomes an even harder sell. The device sits in this precarious place where you need those accessories to get the most value out of it. However, doing so pits it (price-wise) against flagship offerings that it clearly can’t match.

Conclusion

If you’ve already bought into MotoMods with last year’s Moto Z or Z Play, there’s probably not enough on the table to justify an upgrade to the Z2 Play. Even if it is technically better than the first, The Moto Z2 Play isn’t quite better in the ways you’ll want it to be. That said, If you’re keen to dive into the modular ecosystem, this is the best device available.

Again, it’s a sequel – and sequels are rarely as good as the original.

Rating: 4/5

The Moto Z2 Play will be available at an RRP of $699 from late July, both in retail through Harvey Norman, Woolworths, Coles, Australia Post and online directly through Motorola Australia.

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