Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software and apps
Camera
Audio and video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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Motorola Moto X Play Review

A worthy Moto X series spin-off that comes with a long-lasting build and promises good battery life
By Samir Makwana on 2015-10-14
Key Features
  • 5.5-inch Full HD display
  • 21-megapixel camera
  • 3,630 mAh battery
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset
What we like
  • Impressive build quality
  • Good camera performance
  • Impressive battery life
What we don't like
  • Software stutters and lags
  • Camera struggles in low light
  • Mediocre audio output via loudspeaker
7.6
Our Score
Introduction

Motorola has already established itself in the sub-Rs.15,000 category in India, all thanks to the Moto E and Moto G series of smartphones. Now, the company is all set to step into the mid-range segment with its Moto X series of phones and particularly, the Moto X Play. The Moto X Play is the company’s third device to be introduced this year following the Moto E (2nd Generation) and Moto G (3rd Generation). The third generation of the Moto X series basically comprises of the Moto X Play and the Moto X Style. The Moto X Style launched in India just last week. 

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Intro

The Moto X Play is one of those large screen devices which not only packs competitive hardware inside but also looks good. The Moto X Play comes in two variants - a 16GB variant that costs Rs.18,499 and a 32GB variant which costs Rs.19,999. Both of these are available exclusively on Flipkart. The Moto X Play competes with the likes of Asus Zenfone Selfie, Coolpad Dazen X7, Gionee Elife S7, Infocus 812 and Nubia Z9 Mini. 

We got our hands on the 32GB Moto X Play soon after its launch, and put it to test. Here is our account of the device.

Design
8

Motorola has made subtle changes to the Moto X Play in terms of design which distinguish it from its predecessor. The Moto X Play is a slightly bigger phone and except for minor changes at the back, it bears the same look as the Moto X (2nd Generation). Above the display is an earpiece, a front facing camera and a proximity sensor. The stereo speaker rests at the bottom of the display. Apart from the front facing camera and the proximity sensor, it can get confusing to hold the phone correctly as both the earpiece and the speaker look alike and rest on opposite ends of the screen. 

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Design1

Though there is no LED notification light mentioned officially, the phone has one just above the earpiece. This LED light activates when the phone is extremely low on battery and the phone has been put on charging. The power button and the volume rocker rest on the right side of the device. The device does not have any capacitive buttons under the display, but uses on-screen buttons.

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The removable rear panel has a rubber-like feel to it and comes with a patterned design. However, we found the removable rear panel to be quite redundant since neither is the battery under it removable nor are there any slots. Additionally, every time you remove the back panel make sure to shut it correctly, because there are chances that dust might accumulate inside it. 

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Design3

The SIM tray slot is situated on the top edge and one needs to use the eject tool to pop out the tray. The SIM tray can hold two Nano-SIM cards and one microSD card.

At a weight of 169g, the Moto X Play feels quite heavy to hold. Because of the large display, it can be a bit of a struggle to use the phone single-handedly. An interesting feature of this phone is that it has a “water-repellent coating” as claimed by Motorola, which means that you can easily wipe a couple of splashes or drops of water that may spill on your device, without it getting spoilt. All in all, the Moto X Play’s design is likely to stand out in a crowd.

Display
7.5

Motorola uses a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display panel for the Moto X Play. This display sports a 1080x1920 pixel resolution and thereby offers a pixel density of 403 PPI. Visuals and text on the display are crisp. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 technology. However, it is a fingerprint magnet, and attracts smudges on the screen. This makes it difficult to view text on the screen despite it having great viewing angles. With brightness levels set to maximum, the screen is legible under direct sunlight. 

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Display

The large screen allows you to enjoy watching games and movies on it. However, when compared to Moto X’s AMOLED display, the LCD display screen of the Moto X Play can feel like a bit of a downer. Nonetheless, if the popping colours on the screen don’t particularly bother you, then you might be able to use the display for a prolonged time.

Hardware
7.5

Under the hood, Motorola houses an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset on the X Play. This chipset has been used in a number of devices launched in the past six months. Although it gave decent performance on these devices, the smartphones were reported to get warm quickly. In this case though, the phone does not warm up faster than the usual. The Snapdragon 615 brings eight processing cores clocked at 1.7GHz.

The Adreno 405 GPU, which takes care of the graphics, is clocked at 550MHz. Apart from the CPU and GPU components, Motorola packs a Natural Language Processor which enables the Touchless Control feature. With this feature enabled through the Moto Voice app, the phone allows faster, intuitive, and more personal interaction via voice, all without touching the device. 

Mototola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Hardware1

That apart, there is also a Contextual Computing Processor which basically takes charge of the display, touch interface and the sensors. When the phone is in standby mode, the Contextual Computing Processor, that has been used only in the Moto X series so far, jumps into action and displays the notifications as well as other information on the screen. 

Furthermore, Motorola packs an older generation 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, which has relatively narrow memory bandwidth to handle data compared to the LPDD4 that is found in phones such as OnePlus 2, that has 4GB of RAM. We believe that a faster and greater amount of RAM provides more headroom for better performance, especially with respect to future updates. By default, the phone comes in two versions: 16GB and 32GB of on-board storage option. Ours was a 32GB unit that had 25GB of available storage. Thankfully, the microSD card slot can hold a microSD card of up to 128GB of storage space, and we recommend that you use a Class 10 standard card. 

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Hardware2

While, the dual-band capable Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) support ensures faster app and file download, the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy option lets you transfer files between devices and connect them with compatible accessories. It also comes with NFC support that allows you to connect the device to supporting gadgets and cameras. The GPS chip along with A-GPS, helps get accurate location positioning on the Google Maps. 

While the Moto G (3rd Generation) drew everyone’s attention away from its specifications and more to its other aspects, there are similar expectations with the Moto X Play. Although the Moto X Play is indeed a good package, it is quite likely that people are going to think about other options like OnePlus 2 and the Gionee Elife S7.

Software and apps
7

Motorola has stopped using a skin on top of the Android interface since the past couple of years. The Moto X Play boots Android 5.1.1 Lollipop along with a few Moto apps. By default, the interface looks quite similar to stock Android that is seen on Nexus devices. Functions such as Voice Control and Active Display notifications are what make it stand out from amongst the crowd. Although the close to stock Android experience caught our attention, on closer look we found a couple of key issues. The unpredictable animation speed and a very evident lag put us off. The Flipkart app is preloaded on the phone by default. The Migrate app helps in importing data from your previous smartphone (Android or iOS) to Moto X Play. 

Moto_X_software

Those of you looking for a leaner and a bloatware-free Android experience will certainly like this phone. For the rest of you, we hope Motorola releases an update soon to fix the animations and transition lags.

Camera
7.5

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Camera1

Sporting a 21-megapixel camera at the back, the Moto X Play offers a F2.0 aperture that ensures wider angles. The dual LEDs at the back feature a Colour Correlated Temperature flash, which basically uses white light to determine the most dominant colour tone in the view and adjusts it between warm (red or yellow) and cold (blue). 

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The camera lacks a shoot/capture button in the interface, which surprised us quite a bit. However, you can tap anywhere on the screen in order to take pictures. We found the autofocus to be quite erratic while taking closeup shots. We recommend that you tap on the particular screen area to define the focus point and drag around the circle to focus and set the exposure. 

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The focus point selection also comes with an exposure value adjustment dial, which we found cumbersome to use at times, for we often ended up taking images while trying to use the dial. With a simple swipe to the left, you get an arched dial which shows you minimalistic camera app options such as auto-HDR and Timer. That apart, you can also choose to shoot in Night mode, Burst mode or Panorama mode. 

While by default, the camera shoots 21-megapixel images in 4:3 aspect ratio, it also gives you the option to shoot 16-megapixel images in 16:9 aspect ratio.

In low light conditions, the phone captures images that have some amount of noise in them, but this is something to be expected. What basically happens here is that, shooting in low light pushes the ISO sensitivity higher in order to capture brighter images, which results in noise also seeping in. When using the front facing camera in low light though, the phone lights up the screen to act as a flash to allow you to take decent selfies. 

Videos can be captured in 1080p HD resolution with optical image stabilisation. The Slow Motion video, on the other hand, gets captured in 540p resolution. We found this to be rather odd because the front facing 5-megapixel camera shoots Slow Motion videos in 720p resolution. While the video quality is just about average, the audio is quite crisp. One can also take images while recording a video, but these are of very poor quality, so we’d  suggest that you avoid doing this, unless absolutely necessary. 

In the price segment that the Moto X Play falls in, the camera performs impressively and a few tweaks to the apps would definitely be a boost for the imaging department.

Audio and video
7

In terms of audio, Google Music app comes in handy when playing .mp3 (lossy) and .flac (lossless) audio files. You can plug in your favourite pair of earphones to the device for a solid performance. The output on the front-ported stereo speakers, though, is not loud enough. 

By default, the Gallery app does not play the Full HD files with .mp4 format. So, we used VLC player which was able to play most of the files out of the box, except for 4k resolution videos. The LCD display though, doesn’t make the visuals appear as punchy as on a Super AMOLED display. Considering the fact that the phone doesn’t allow you to play many of the audio and video files, you can download your favourite multimedia playback apps for a hassle-free multimedia watching experience. We found the multimedia options on this device to be only average.

Performance
7.5

Despite using compelling hardware, Moto X Play’s software fails to keep up. It is the exact opposite of the Moto G (3rd Generation) in terms of expectations as opposed to performance. The only app that would crash at times was Flipkart, but after an update, that too was fixed. The powerful octa-core Snapdragon 615 might be the real muscle but it needs to work well with the 2GB of RAM in order to be able to deliver good experience. When we ran the AnTuTu benchmark test, the Moto X Play scored 31,507 in the 32-bit mode, which was about 11,000 points behind its rival Gionee Elife S7 that has a score of 42,041. To check its graphic muscle, we put the Adreno 405 chipset to test with the 3DMark benchmark. The Moto X Play scored 7535 in the Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark test.

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_Performance

In terms of its performance in synthetic benchmarks, it isn’t anything out of the ordinary. We didn’t have any trouble when using resource heavy applications. In fact, games such as Angry Birds 2 and Asphalt 8:Airborne (at medium settings), ran just fine on our unit. 

In terms of video playback, the phone could not play our stock 4K resolution video test file, but ran the Big Buck Bunny test video with 1080p resolution at 60fps without any issues.

The Moto X Play sports a decent quality earpiece and the voice calls are loud enough on it to be clearly audible. The dedicated microphone ensures that the voice is captured without much ambient noise. We faced no trouble during calls. Location based services though, take a couple of seconds to pin the phone’s location on the map. 

In short, the phone delivers an average performance and can do better with a software update.

Battery life
8.5

The 3,630mAh Li-Ion battery on the Moto X Play impresses us. Thanks to the QuickCharge 2.0 support, the phone takes about two hours to charge from zero to full. On full charge, we made a couple of calls that lasted almost 45 minutes, played games for about 30 minutes, listened to music for about an hour, used social media apps intermittently. On such usage, the phone’s battery lasted us almost two days. When we added video streaming and watching movies to this usage, the phone lasted for a day and a half. The battery on the Moto X Play is certainly impressive.

Motorola_Moto_X_Play_Review_battery

Conclusion

The 16GB model of the Moto X Play is currently sold for Rs.18,499, whereas the 32GB model is priced at Rs.19,999. For its price point, the X Play is a phone that has good built and a fantastic battery life. It competes closely with the Gionee Elife S7. Motorola is not exactly known for picking the latest trends in terms of mobile hardware, and therefore, one has to live with certain trade-offs. 

The previous generation Moto X models were highly acclaimed for its features, except for the camera, and therefore, the Moto X Play comes with huge expectations. While it is being sold for the same price as the Moto X (2nd Generation), the X Play is a decent upgrade for those of you looking for a better camera and battery life. In terms of overall performance, the newly launched InFocus M812 does look like a strong device capable of giving the X Play some serious competition. 

Overall, the Moto X Play delivers great battery life and its software has some decent room for improvement. Its camera is the best so far from the Moto X family of devices. While the software still requires some tweaks and attention from Motorola’s development team, it does not give the kind of smooth performance as found in the Moto G (3rd Generation).

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