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Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Motorola’s cheap and (almost) cheerful budget smartphone

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
149
inc VAT

The Moto G7 Play launched alongside three other Moto-branded smartphones, and it’s the least impressive of the lot

Pros 
Long battery life
Great camera for the price
Faster performance than competition
Cons 
2GB of RAM is a hindrance
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Of all the brand-new smartphones Motorola decided to launch before MWC, the Moto G7 Play is perhaps the least interesting of the bunch. While the Moto G7 Power will likely draw admiring headlines with its huge 5,000mAh capacity battery, and the G7 Plus is equipped with high-powered internals, the cheaper G7 Play is much of a muchness.

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Motorola Moto G7 Play review: What you need to know

So, what does the Moto G7 Play offer that differs from its siblings? Well, despite being not quite as interesting as the other three phones, the Play’s wallet-friendly price remains its key appeal, and that alone is well worth taking a look at.

The G7 Play’s specifications are actually rather healthy, too. Take a look inside and you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor powering the phone, which provides a significant performance boost when compared with last year’s G6 Play. It does have to make do with a paltry 2GB of RAM, though, which presents a few issues.

Aside from this, a large 5.7in edge-to-edge screen makes its first-ever appearance on a Moto G-branded budget phone, which includes a selfie camera embedded in the top notch. The phone also runs the latest version of Google’s ever-popular mobile operating system, Android 9 Pie, which is as close to a stock Android experience as you can get.

Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Price and competition

What about that price, then? Well, even with the previously mentioned upgrades, Motorola’s new Moto G7 Play will cost exactly the same as last year’s phone when it first shows up on shop shelves at the end of February, priced at a mere £150.

This places the Moto G7 Play directly in the crosshairs of some terrific alternatives. Nokia, for instance, has been making great strides in the budget phone space in recent years, and the Nokia 5.1 remains a lovely-looking phone with a great camera, costing less at £130. The Honor 9 Lite, which adds dual front-facing cameras, has also dropped in price to £140. Samsung’s recently launched Galaxy J6 is also a strong contender at £154.

Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Design and key features

As you may have already guessed, the Moto G7 Play is the cheapest of Motorola’s new smartphone quadruplet. It lacks the fancy internals, high-definition screens and intriguing camera arrangements of the other three, and instead has to make do with a slightly pared-down approach in order to keep costs at a minimum.

What you do get, however, is a 5.7in LTPS screen at a resolution of 1,512 x 720 on the front of the phone, complete with a broad top notch as opposed to the dipped notch sitting on the Moto G7 Plus.

The phone itself is constructed almost entirely from plastic, weighs 149g, is on the market in either “Deep Indigo” or “Fine Gold” finishes. There’s a rear-mounted fingerprint reader on the back, which sits just underneath the camera housing and single LED unit, and the Moto G7’s 3,000mAh battery is topped up via USB Type-C connection at the bottom, supporting charging speeds up to 5W.

There are a few issues with the Moto G7 Play, however. While it lacks IP-rated dust or waterproofing, which is fine for a phone this cheap, what is more inexcusable is that the G7 Play doesn’t have NFC support. This means you won’t be able to use your phone for contactless payments at the shops or at the Oyster card gates on the Tube, which is a real shame.

It also doesn’t support dual-band Wi-Fi, and can only connect to the 2.4GHz bandwidth. This is far from ideal, and you’ll suffer from congestion and sluggish download speeds when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks at your local coffee shop or football stadium, for instance.

Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Display

Onto the Moto G7 Play’s screen, which this time around is a 5.7in LTPS panel at a resolution of 1,512 x 720, complete with a chunky iPhone Xs-style notch jutting in at the top, which can’t be hidden. It’s not quite as borderless as its flagship and mid-range alternatives, though, as there are some rather thick bezels bordering all four sides of the screen.

Despite being 720p in resolution, we’re staring at a rather good-looking display. The contrast ratio is very good, according to our X-Rite display colourimeter, at a pin-sharp 1,724:1. Likewise, colour reproduction looks decent across the palette, with only a few exceptions with slightly oversaturated red, green and purple tones. The phone is also capable of reaching a sunlight-friendly peak brightness of 465cd/m2.

There are three colour modes to choose from in the phone’s settings – Boosted, Saturated and Natural – although strangely they all delivered identical results in testing. It’s unclear whether this is a bug, or simply an oversight from Motorola, but what you see is what you get with this phone’s screen.

Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Performance, battery life and software

Powering the Moto G7 Play, as well as the Power variant and regular G7, is Qualcomm’s latest budget chipset, the Snapdragon 632 processor. This 14nm architecture chip is clocked at 1.8GHz and improves on the Moto G6 Play’s performance by up to 78%, according to Geekbench 4’s single- and multi-core CPU benchmark.

This clearly represents a significant bump in performance over last year’s phone, but the measly 2GB of RAM inside the Moto G7 Play is a major hindrance. This year’s budget smartphone doesn’t feel quite as rapid in operation, and does slow down noticeably when juggling multiple operations.

This is strange, because most low-powered Android smartphones are now powered by a tailor-made version of Google’s mobile operating system called Android Go. This uses smaller, lighter “Go” versions of a core selection of apps to allow cheap smartphones to run more smoothly than they would with regular Android. The Moto G7 Play doesn’t benefit from this, instead running full-fat Android 9 Pie.

Back to the phone’s benchmarks, though, and it’s a much better story when it comes to the Moto G7 Play’s stamina. In fact, this is one of the best results we’ve seen in quite some time, only slightly surpassed by the Play’s bigger-batteried brother, the Moto G7 Power. The G7 Play lasted for a total of 20hrs 19mins in our video-rundown test, which equates to a 29% improvement over last year’s phone.

Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Camera

Rather than following the dual-camera trend, the rear of the Moto G7 Play incorporates a single 13-megapixel camera unit, complete with a rather-narrow f/2.0 aperture. That might not sound very impressive, but the camera does at least benefit from phase-detection autofocus for super-snappy captures and is capable of shooting 30fps footage at a maximum Full HD resolution. An 8-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera sits on the front of the phone.

The quality of the images is actually rather impressive. In fact, despite costing less, the Moto G7 Play held up just as well under scrutiny. Placed side by side with pictures captured on last year’s Moto G6, the quality is just as good: there’s plenty of detail, the colour palette is nice and neutral, and the HDR mode does an effective job at lifting up dark, shadowy areas of an image.

It’s not quite the same story when used indoors in low-light conditions, however. There simply isn’t the same level of detail in pictures snapped with the Moto G7 Play’s camera, and the resulting image is filled with visual noise. Of course, the actual outcome is still rather good considering its budget-friendly competition.

Motorola Moto G7 Play review: Verdict

If funds are running low in the Christmas spending aftermath, and you’re in dire need of a smartphone upgrade as 2019 finds its footing, then the Moto G7 Play is a solid choice. Its specifications aren’t nearly as intriguing as the rest of the lineup, and there are some similarly priced phones that are doing things slightly better in some areas, but the Moto G7 Play still offers up an attractive proposition for the budget buyer.

Motorola Moto G7 Play specifications
ProcessorOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 (4x1.8GHz, 4x1.8GHz)
RAM2GB
Screen size5.7in
Screen resolution1512 x 720
Pixel density294ppi
Screen typeIPS
Front camera8-megapixel f/2.2
Rear camera13-megapixel f/2.0
FlashSingle LED
Dust and water resistanceN/A
3.5mm headphone jackYes
Wireless chargingNo
USB connection typeUSB Type-C
Storage options32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD (512GB)
Wi-FiSingle band 2.4GHz Wi-Fi 802.11
Bluetooth4.2
NFCNo
Cellular data4G
Dual SIMYes
Dimensions (WDH)147 x 72 x 8 mm
Weight149g
Operating systemAndroid 9
Battery size3,000mAh

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