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Moto X Play Review

About the Moto X Play

I needed a phone as a platform to test out accessories. Moto X Play seemed a very reasonable on paper and I didn’t anything with a glass or metal surface for the rear panel.

Moto X Play does not seem to have any flashy UI (which is a good thing) and updates seem to come out fairly reasonable compared to Sony even with older Motorola handsets. This handset can only be purchased in India via Flipkart. Not that I am really complaining, but Android smartphone makers really need to be open about selling to multiple e-commerce outlets. In one of the stores, I’ve noticed at least five Yu phones being sold in half-n-hour’s time simply because the interested buyers were able to check out the demo unit. That says a lot!

Recently, the device was updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. After using it for a while and running through the usual battery of tests, I think it’s fair that I publish this review.

Packaging, Accessories and Specifications

Flipkart’s additional packaging is pretty adequate. The phone’s packaging has a single layer of bubble wrap and then kept in one more carton box. It seems reasonable enough to protect the phone. Motorola’s packaging is pretty average, but it did have some information on the packaging.

Moto X Play 18

Distributor’s label

The distributor’s sticker has all the relevant information- country of manufacturing (India) along with address, SAR rating, the colour of the unit and its contents. I chose the white variant. I am not fond of the black colour, mostly because all the PC components and peripherals are of black colour.

The phone’s screen had a protective film (not present in the picture). Once you remove the handset from the box and lift the lid, you’ll get the bare essentials. The charger with two USB ports, a single USB cable, a flat-earphone and the pin needed to eject the nano-SIMs/Micro-SD tray. This is the 32GB, and the phone modeled XT1562 had four reading booklets, two of which are in Hindi.

The manufacturer’s information is not mentioned on the charger (strange!), but it does work between 110v-240v and has two USB charging ports. The charger is labeled as ‘Made in China’.

Operating System Android 5.1.1, Lollipop
System Architecture/Processor Motorola Mobile Computing System including 1.7GHz Qualcomm®Snapdragon 615 Octa-core CPU, Adreno 405 @ 550 MHz GPU, Natural Language Processor, Contextual Computing Processor
Memory (RAM) 2GB
Storage (ROM) 16GB/32GB
Dimensions Height: 148.0mm (5.8 inches)
Width: 75.0mm (2.9 inches)
Curve: 8.9-10.9mm (0.35- 0.43 inches)
Weight 169 grams (5.96oz)
Display 5.5” 1080p Full HD, 403 ppi, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3
Battery 3630 mAh Mixed usage up to 48 hours
Water Repellent Yes
Networks GSM/GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA+, 4G LTE
Bands (by model) XT1562
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100 MHz)
4G LTE (1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 19, 20, 28, 38, 41)
Rear Camera 21 MP
f /2.0 aperture
Quick Launch Instant ON
Closed loop processing
Tap anywhere to capture
Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) flash with dual LEDs
Phase Detect Auto-Focus (PDAF)
1080p HD video (30 fps)
Slow motion video
Video Stabilization
4X digital zoom
Burst mode
Night mode
Auto HDR
Panorama
Drag to focus & exposure
Front Camera 5 MP
SIM Card Dual Nano SIM (DSDS)availability varies by market
Connectivity Micro USB, 3.5mm headset jack
Bluetooth Technology Bluetooth version 4.0 LE
Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/b/n (dual band capable)
Speaker Front-ported
Video Capture 1080p HD, 30fps (MPEG4, H.264)
NFC Yes
Location Services GPS
Base Models Black with Black Back
White with Winter White Back
Availability varies by market

The Moto X Play has a water-repellent coating and a much longer battery lifespan due to the 3630 mAh battery. The phone by default came with Android 5.1.1 but after a couple of updates, the phone now runs Android 6.0. Indian buyers should note that this handset was preinstalled with Flipkart app on the 5.1.1, but after the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update, the app magically disappeared.

Though the official spec lists this phone as 1.7GHz, CPU-Z identifies the Moto X Play as an octa-core Qualcomm 615 CPU with maximum clock speed of 1.65GHz. The screen is a 5.5” display with 1080 x 1920 resolution with 400 dpi. The phone has 2GB and as mentioned earlier, this is a 32GB variant. You do get a 16GB storage ROM variant for a little lesser price. The battery is a Li-on based. The phone has many sensors reflecting in CPU-Z.

Overall Design

The phone doesn’t have any unique designs. Some will call it as a ‘minimalist’ design, others will call it boring. The Moto X Play might look boring and ‘dull’ to some people, but it does have pretty good function and the handset is well-built. The corning gorilla glass 3 covers the front section all the way, and the rear is plastic. The side borders are a silver highlight along with the area covering the camera and the light. The main buttons (back, Home and tab) are on the screen itself. No chrome anywhere, thankfully!!!

The top part has a notification LED and the secondary (front-facing) 5-megapixel camera. The lower section looks like a wide microphone array. It also hides left and right channel speakers.

The rear has the primary 21-megapixel camera along with a LED flash below it on the upper section. The lower section has a pinhole mic. The battery is inbuilt. The rear white textured plastic cover can be detached.

The back panel is matte finish with wavy textured lines. The Motorola’s logo is recessed in a way that you can rest your index finger on it.

The left side has no buttons while the right has the power button followed by the volume buttons. I wish Motorola kept more distance between these buttons as one may confuse the power button for volume up- or vice versa. It shouldn’t be a problem when/if I get used to it. But the textured grip on the power button should help.

The top section is where the Nano-SIM/Micro-SD tray is present, along with the earphone jack. The base is where the mini USB port is placed.

The phone is 5.83” tall and 2.95” in width. But if you consider the curved width as actual measurement, it comes to 3” due to the curve on the rear. The edges are rounded. Though this design will make it look like certain other phones, smooth edges are easier to hold.

Once you put the ejection key through the hole in the tray, you can remove it. On one end, you can place two nano-SIM, and have a single Micro-SD card on the other. You can easily remove the nano-sims through the hole from the memory card area.

Viewing Angles and Display Impressions

Moto X Play uses a 5.5″ full HD IPS panel with 403 ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 provides resistance to damage, especially against scratch and sharp contact damage (such as the corner of a table). As per the manufacturer, this is an alkali-aluminosilicate thin sheet of glass which keeps the screen from being damaged in real-world accidents.

With 100% brightness and natural sunlight reflecting on the screen, the left and right angle seem just fine with a little bit of shadow towards its angled edges. A horizontal tilt, however, makes the screen barely viewable. Direct viewing as expected does a good job.

During night time…

With 50% brightness, the screen looks pretty good to view from multiple angles. While the pictures don’t exactly do any justice, the display looks great up front. But it does look as if a shadow is over the screen when you look at the display at an angle. With 100% brightness, most of the problems are negligible.

Camera Impressions

  • Primary (Rear-Facing) Camera Impressions

Accessing options are pretty easy. All you need to do is swipe right which brings the on-screen jog-dial. There’s no ISO setting option on the camera. But to be fair, the smartphone cameras which were tested so far didn’t really provide good results beyond ISO 200, at best. The primary camera is a 21 megapixel camera with dual LED flash, f /2.0 aperture and has 4x digital zoom. The Moto X Play provides ‘Burst Mode’, ‘Night Mode’, ‘Auto HDR’, panorama and the ‘drag to focus & exposure’. Notice that you can create SloMo videos but on 540p resolution.

Moto X Play primary cam 06

The Quick Capture is a pretty neat feature implemented on the Moto X Play. Twisting the handset in both directions twice quickly activates the camera. This also works when the display is switched off, and, therefore, is a very useful feature considering it quickly allows you to be ready to take photos at a moment’s notice.

During daytime, the primary camera takes pretty good pictures without the zoom. With the optical 4.4x optical zoom, the end result is pretty decent. What’s annoying is that I couldn’t find any option to enable volume buttons to double-up as zoom in and zoom out option. Instead, volume up button takes photos in burst mode, while volume down takes a single snap. Zooming in and out via pinching is very frustrating as it triggers live images’ brightness bar too.

And alas, no dedicated camera button.

During night time, the image quality with a low-light option enabled develops more noise on the image compared to night-time image without the low-light option. It overexposes the street and you can also see an artificially bright tint on the car’s C-pillar. In both situations, you can see flare coming from a direct light source.

The primary camera does a good job with video recording as well!

  • Secondary (Front-Facing) Camera Impressions

Moto X Play Secondary cam 01

The front-facing camera is a 5mega pixel. The options it has are similar to that of its primary camera, with the exception of SloMo limited to 720p.

In natural light, the secondary camera takes mediocre images. The low-light option makes the image quality worse by increasing the digital noise significantly.

Audio Quality Impressions

  • https://soundcloud.com/user-890197084/moto-x-play-with-background-noise

  • https://soundcloud.com/user-890197084/moto-x-play-with-no-background-noise

The sound quality is great as long as there’s minimum noise in the background. The Moto X Play doesn’t have any option which can try to suppress background noise as much as possible, like how Sony Xperia has.

Bundled Earphone Impressions

Moto X Play 20

Bundled earphone

The bundled earphone is generously long and has a flat-end earphones. Few people prefer this over the in-ear alternatives that are usually pre-bundled. Other than wishing for a right-angled connector, these are pretty good earphones. These are pretty good, as good as the one bundled with Acer Z530. It would have been nice if they were labeled ‘L’ and ‘R’.

The handsfree recordings are as follows:

  • https://soundcloud.com/user-890197084/moto-x-play-hands-free-with-no-background-noise

  • https://soundcloud.com/user-890197084/moto-x-play-hands-free-with-background-noise

SAR Rating

As per Indian government’s DoT (Department of Telecom), a handset manufacturer is required to disclose the SAR rating during the point of sale- such as on the product page, e-commerce site and/or on the packaging. DoT (and US-based FCC) made it mandatory that all devices should have a SAR rating up to 1.60 W/Kg, measured over 1 gram of tissue.

Motorola has its phone’s SAR rating mentioned on the manufacturer’s information label. But on the phone its a lot more detailed, mentioning its ratings for WCDMA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and body worn as well. It also has regulatory information for Europe, Japan and even Australia.

Battery Life

The battery’s lifespan lasts me more than 1 1/2 days time, and still 20% battery to spare. With over 15 minutes of 1080p recording from the 21 MP primary camera, the Moto X Play loses only 2% of the battery power. Well done!

Initial Setup

The initial setup was easy to follow and didn’t have anything annoying like requiring to register to Motorola-centric sign up for its apps. Nothing really special to add.

Pre-Bundled Software

The phone has the least amount of Motorola-bundled software, and that’s a great thing. But it does have a couple of apps out of which one of them seems useful.

Motorola Alert allows you to notify your close friend or loved ones if you need any help. It also sends ‘Location alerts’ as well. I know there are some apps provided by certain brands have this, out of which few of them marketed/ labeled the app for women. Point to note- anyone can need help due to anything.

There are other apps, such as Motorola Connect and “Moto” app. The functions are self-explanatory. No bloatware whatsoever. Acer, take note!

Interface Impressions

There’s really special to say about the UI either. It doesn’t have any fancy skins like Sony or any other company. But its a much better experience and easier to use. Android 6.0 UI has a vertical navigation for its menu, a much better and clear option for me. Many might just find the user interface as boring as the phone looks itself. But its functional and clutter-free, mostly because I couldn’t find any bloatware (Android 5.1.1 did come with a Flipkart app, which conveniently disappeared after Android 6.0 installation).

Moto X Play has a User function where you can create profiles, including a guest profile. The guest profile also has an option to turn on/off phone calls. Non-native apps are hidden in guest profile as well. Contact history and numbers are hidden. The phone’s guest mode doesn’t allow you to send any messages either. All Motorola needs to do- is to enable password protection for the main profile. It’s strange to see Motorola didn’t notice this. This way, anyone on the guest profile can access any other profiles. Note that the main profile does have a password enabled for unlocking the phone.

Performance Benchmark

  • 3DMark for Android

3DMark includes multiple benchmark tests, each one designed for a specific class of hardware. 3DMark recommends the best test for your device, and you can choose to install only the tests you need to save storage space.

Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark for smartphones and tablets running Android 5.0 or later that support OpenGL ES 3.1 or ES 3.0. Run Sling Shot in OpenGL ES 3.1 mode to compare flagship Android devices from HTC, LG, OnePlus, Samsung, Sony, Xiaomi, and other leading manufacturers. Or choose OpenGL ES 3.0 mode to compare high-end Android devices with the latest iPhone and iPad models.

Why Moto X Play’s physics score stands head-to-head against Note 3, it dominates the graphics score.

  • PCMark for Android
[toggler title=”About PCMark for Android” ]PCMark for Android introduces a fresh approach to benchmarking smartphones and tablets. It measures the performance and battery life of the device as a complete unit rather than a set of isolated components. And its tests are based on common, everyday tasks instead of abstract algorithms.

PCMark for Android is protected by rules for manufacturers and supported by a detailed technical guide that explains exactly what’s being measured and how the scores are calculated.[/toggler]

PCM8

Intensive workloads reap the benefit of the Moto X Play, especially for photo editing.

  • GFXBench OpenGL Benchmark
[toggler title=”About GFXBench” ]GFXBench is a free, cross-platform and cross-API 3D graphics benchmark that measures graphics performance, long-term performance stability, render quality and power consumption with a single, easy-to-use application.

GFXBench 4.0 enables measuring mobile and desktop performance with advanced graphics effects and increased workloads.[/toggler]

On all counts, the Moto X Play’s 1080p test passes all the way through.

  • MobileXPRT 2015
[toggler title=”About MobileXPRT 2015″ ]MobileXPRT 2015 is a benchmark for evaluating the capabilities of Android devices. MobileXPRT runs five performance scenarios (Apply Photo Effects, Create Photo Collages, Create Slideshow, Encrypt Personal Content, and Detect Faces to Organize Photos). It also gives you an overall measure by generating a single performance score.[/toggler]
  • WebXPRT 2015
[toggler title=”About WebXPRT 2015″ ]WebXPRT 2015 uses scenarios created to mirror the tasks you do every day to compare the performance of almost any Web-enabled device. It contains six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing.

WebXPRT runs on a wide variety of devices and operating systems—from iPad tablets to Android phones to Windows computers. WebXPRT is available to the public and runs right from your browser.[/toggler]

When it comes to creating photo collages and creating slideshows, the Moto X Play takes the least amount of time. The same with encrypting personal content. In some workloads, however, Moto X Play doesn’t stand out for the same reason.

Note that Acer Z530 uses quad ARM Cortex A53 clocked at 1.30GHz while Coolpad Note 3 uses an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 clocked at 1.30GHz. Moto X Play has 4 Cortex A53 clocked at 1.65, and four others clocked at 1.11GHz. Sure! Moto X Play has 2GB RAM while Note 3 has 3GB. But would existing workloads on the smartphone take advantage of 3GB?

Conclusion

This handset might be few months old, but it’s a good phone. Sure it doesn’t look anything out of the ordinary from the outside and its UI. But the built quality, its functions and battery life make it a good phone- for starters.

The primary camera produces good images and videos during natural daylight. During night time, the video recording is good enough as long as there is some light reflecting from a surface. The low-light mode, however, increases the noise to undesirable levels. The video recording using the secondary camera is pretty decent though I wish I could say the same for the images. Motorola should reconsider remapping the volume buttons for zoom in & out. ‘Pinching’ the screen to do that is simply frustrating. I couldn’t help but wonder if manual ISO settings would help to make the noise from the secondary camera. We’ll not know about it, would we?

The Moto X Play does have OTG compatible, as with SanDisk USB 3.0 16GB OTG drive. It also works with wireless add-ons, such as the Fitbit Flex tracker.

 

India

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UK

About Roshan Ashraf Shaikh

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