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Motorola Moto X Play review: Still a solid choice

Katharine Byrne
18 Aug 2016
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Moto X Play hero shot
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
270
inc VAT SIM-free

The Moto X Play is an excellent mid-range smartphone with a camera and battery life that can still compete alongside this year's flagships

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Specifications

Processor: Octa-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, Screen Size: 5.5in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 21 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (11GB) / 32GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 148x75x8.9mm, Weight: 169g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1

See all of the best Motorola Moto X Play deals on uSwitch

There've been plenty of Moto X regenerations in recent years ever since it first graced our store shelves way back in 2013. The first Moto X was a wonderfully priced compact handheld, with the second generation morphing into a significantly more premium device worthy of the flagship title. Motorola seems to have reverted back to the original design, bringing a budget-friendly smartphone to the masses with their Moto X Play.

At just £280 (and now at a lower price of just £220), it sits itself in the comfortable mid-range price bracket; it isn't bargain basement cheap but isn't so expensive you need to take out a mortgage either. Strangely, it's not the only Moto model we were treated to in 2015, with the plus-sized Moto X Style and the hazards-tackling Moto X Force too. Almost a year on then, we'll take a look back at the Moto X Play and see if it still sets itself apart as a necessary purchase in the 2016 world of smartphones.

Design and Storage 

That doesn't mean the Moto X Play is any less of a great handset, though. While not the slimmest of phones, measuring 8.9mm at its thinnest point and curving out to 10.9mm, the Moto X Play is very comfortable to hold thanks to its rubberised rear panel. The rounded edges can be a tad slippy at times, but I was easily able grasp it in one hand and reach across to the other side of the screen without any fear of dropping it.

Moto X Play rear panel

Unlike the 3rd Gen Moto G, the Moto X Play isn't completely waterproof. Instead, it's merely water resistant, so it will survive the odd splash or accidental spill as well as a light rain shower, but it won't fare so well if you drop it down the loo. This is a shame, but it's the exactly the same situation with the Moto X Style, so it's not like you're missing out by opting for the Play.

Ironically, it's the Moto X Play which has the more flexible design, as its removable back cover means you can customise it with as many different coloured inlays or Flip Shell cases as you like. Admittedly, a rubber back is never going to match up to the Style's real leather or wood panel textures (both of which add a bit more to the Style's overall price), but it does mean you can always change the colour later on if you get tired of the one you bought originally. The design of the Style, on the other hand, remains fixed for the life of the handset.

There's a range of different colours to choose from using Motorola's Moto Maker service, and you can even customise the colour of the metallic accent that runs down the back around the camera. Prices here start at £280, which is only £10 more than the standard black or white model available from other retailers, allowing you to find your perfect personalised colour combo without compromising your wallet.

The only option which does increase the phone's price is the amount of storage. The phone has 16GB by default (around 11GB of which is available to the user), but you can get 32GB for another £40, taking the total cost up to £319. However, the microSD card slot accepts cards up to 128GB, so this seems like a bit of waste of money – you could buy a 128GB microSD card for the same amount of money.

Moto X Play in hand

Performance and Battery Life

The Moto X Play may not be quite as fast as its big brothers, but its octa-core, 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor is certainly no slouch. Paired with 2GB of RAM, Android 5.1.1 runs beautifully, with super smooth menu animations and lightning fast loading times. Likewise, its performance in Geekbench 3 is actually on par with the Snapdragon 808-based LG G4 with scores of 708 and 2,567 in the single and multicore tests respectively. This also outstrips many of its Snapdragon 615-based rivals, such as the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 and Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, giving the Moto X Play an extra speed boost worthy of its slightly higher price.

The Moto X Play drops the ball slightly when it comes to browsing the web, though, as its Peacekeeper score of 828 is decidedly average compared to other 615-based handsets. Scrolling down The Guardian's home page, for instance, was still quite jerky even once it had loaded, but the Moto X Play coped much better with other sites such as the BBC and Expert Reviews.  

Moto X Play rear camera detail

Thankfully, its graphics capabilities are far more in keeping with a sub £300 smartphone. While it may only have scored 361 in GFX Bench GL's offscreen Manhattan test, equating to roughly 5.8fps, the Moto X play was equally capable of playing demanding games such as Blizzard's Hearthstone and 2D puzzlers like Threes were super smooth, so you should be able to play any game on the Google Play Store without any trouble.

Battery life was good, too, as its large 3,630mAh battery lasted 13h 08m in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to half brightness. This is just 30 minutes behind the Samsung Galaxy S6, so the Moto X Play certainly has the stamina to match this year's top flagships despite being a fraction of the price. Continues on Page 2

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