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Motorola Moto X Play review: Still a solid choice

Moto X Play hero shot
Our Rating :
£199.95 from
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


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

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This is fantastic considering it has to power a large 5.5in, 1,920×1,080 resolution display, but you’re unlikely to get similar figures if you keep the screen’s brightness levels turned up to max. Our colour calibrator measured a massive 613.23cd/m2 on its highest brightness setting, pushing it even higher than Sony’s ultra-bright Xperia Z3. Still, at least it makes the phone easy to use outside.

I was also impressed by its relatively low black level of 0.36cd/m2. Black levels often suffer the most when the screen is this bright, as I’ve seen plenty of equally-bright Xperia phones reach black levels as high as 0.72cd/m2, giving dark areas a distinctly grey-ish undertone. Luckily, the Moto X Play averts this problem, ensuring text is deep and inky and images aren’t bleached out by its high white levels.

Admittedly, I’m slightly disappointed that Motorola has opted for an IPS display this time round, as all previous Moto X handsets have used AMOLED panels. However, an sRGB coverage of 91.0% is still very respectable for a £280 phone, and colours were very evenly balanced across the entire gamut. Greens and yellows were very slightly short, but skin tones still had a warm, natural appearance, and all of my test images looked bright, rich and vibrant. Likewise, a contrast ratio of 1,670:1 ensured there was plenty of detail on show, and the screen’s viewing angles superb.

Moto X Play display


All this makes for an excellent viewfinder for the Moto X Play’s 21-megapixel rear camera, and the quality of my initial test shots was excellent. Despite the cloudy weather, colours were rich and vibrant and there was plenty of fine detail present. Some photos were perhaps a touch dark in places, but this was quickly remedied by switching on HDR mode, which helped illuminate images without making them appear too harsh or unnatural.

Moto X Play camera test ^ While there’s plenty of rich colours on show here, the overall composition is quite dark

Moto X Play camera test HDR mode^ Thankfully, you can help eliminate shadows by switching on HDR mode

Indoors, the camera performed equally well, as colours maintained their vibrancy while keeping noise to a relative minimum. There was still some grain present when we zoomed in to rach photo’s native resolution, but it’s no worse than what I saw on the LG G4, for example. The Galaxy S6‘s camera still pulls ahead thanks to its fantastic noise reduction, but the Moto X Play certainly gives it a run for its money.

Moto X Play camera test indoors^ There’s a fair amount of grain present when viewed at full resolution, but overall the camera copes very well in low lighting conditions

To help improve your photos even further, there’s also a dedicated night mode and manual focus and exposure controls. This is particularly useful in low lighting conditions, as both really helped open up the lens to let more light in, reducing the amount of overall noise. While it didn’t get rid of the noise completely, the grain I could see was significantly softer than photos I took with these settings turned off, so they’re well worth experimenting with if you’re shooting at night or indoors.

Moto apps

My favourite part of the Moto X Play, though, is Motorola’s clever Moto app, which has various settings to help make the phone feel that much smarter than your average Android handset. For instance, a quick twist of your wrist will automatically open the camera, while Moto Display shows the clock and any notification icons you have when you pick it up without having to turn the screen on.

This is particularly useful if all you want to do is quickly glance at the time, and swiping upwards on a notification button will automatically open up its respective app. You can also dismiss an app by swiping the button to the side. Admittedly, Android 5.0 lets you do all this from the lock screen anyway, but there’s something extremely convenient about having all that information present without having to press a button when you simply pick it up off the table.

Moto X Play rear

I’m also a big fan of the Moto app’s quiet hours settings, as this automatically puts the phone into silent mode while I’m asleep, meaning I’ll never be disturbed in the middle of the night unless someone from my priority contacts lists tries to get in touch. The Moto app can interact with your calendar as well to automatically silence itself during meetings, sending auto-reply texts saying you’re busy to anyone who tries to get hold of you, as well as read text messages aloud while you’re driving.


It’s these small touches that elevate the Moto X Play above the rest of the competition and make it a much better buy than other £200-300 phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy A5, Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, EE Harrier and HTC Desire 820. It’s also great value on contract, as prices now start from as little as £19.50-per-month. I also think it’s a much better buy than the Moto X Style, as the Play has an infinitely superior battery life, and a much more accurate, if slightly lower res, display. With its excellent screen, camera and battery life, the Moto X Play is a great value handset in its own right and punches well above its weight. It wins a Best Buy award.

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ProcessorOcta-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
Screen size5.5in
Screen resolution1,920×1,080
Screen typeIPS
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera21 megapixels
FlashDual LED
Storage (free)16GB (11GB) / 32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.1.1
Battery size3,630mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£280
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £22-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
Part codeXT1562

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