Moto Z3 Play Review: Have Mods, Will Travel

Introducing the Moto Z3 Play And A Side Of Power Pack Moto To Go

The original Motorola Z Play made a name for itself among users who champion smartphone battery life above all other features. It was not uncommon to hear of Moto Z Play users getting multiple days of power out of a single charge. In our review, Its battery life trounced every other phone we have ever tested by a wide margin.

So, when the Moto Z2 Play was introduced last year, many lamented Motorola’s decision to slim the phone down and ultimately reduce battery capacity. While battery life was still exceptional, it fell far from eclipsing its processor. It is no surprise then that demands were high for the new Moto Z3 Play’s battery life to improve over the Z2 Play’s minor step-back.

moto z3 play flowers

The Moto Z Play line of phones have fully embraced their mid-range position in the market. This can be a difficult segment to differentiate from the competition, where the razor thin margins of budget handhelds are pitted against consumer demand for more premium materials and refinement. Typically, Z Play users seek a phone that manages essential tasks – texting, email, and web browsing – well enough to feel fluid and responsive with everyday tasks. For all-day-long smartphone users, immersive 3D gaming, ultra-high-resolution displays, and ever-thinner profiles only serve to detract from precious untethered uptime.

moto z3 play box

Interestingly, these are the exact areas where Moto has focused their refinements. The Moto Z3 Play brings a noticeably more capable processor, larger 6-inch 18:9 display, and dual depth sensing rear cameras.

The Z3 Play now packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC with a Kyro 260 CPU complex and Adreno 509 GPU for improved all-around performance. The Kyro 260 is an eight-core processor complex built from four semi-custom ARM A73 high performance cores and four semi-custom A53 high efficiency cores in a big.LITTLE configuration. The Kyro 260 is also found in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 SoC, but the SD636 variant uses lower clockspeeds in a bid for increased efficiency. The Snapdragon 625 and 626 found in the first two generations are built from eight A53 cores, so we can expect the Z3 Play to have a little more headroom when taken to task.

moto z3 play screen angle

The Moto Z3 specs are rounded out by 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of flash storage. Battery capacity is unchanged from the Z2 Play at 3000mAh, which is unfortunate as the Z3 is slightly thicker at 6.8mm to the Z2 Play’s 6mm profile. The Z3 Play also eliminates the headphone jack, with Moto instead opting to provide a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box. At the very least, we can confirm the adapter works with TRRS-style microphones and headsets.

moto z3 play accessories
Moto Z3 Play
Specifications & Features
Model Name Moto Z3 Play
Display 6.01-inch Super AMOLED Display (2160 x 1080 Resolution, 402 ppi pixel density)
Processor Qualcomm SDM636 Snapdragon 636, Octo-Core Kryo 260 Processor @ 1.8GHz
156.5 x 76.5 x 6.8mm, 156g
SIM Single SIM (nano) or Dual SIM (nano)/SD Card Slot
Protection IP52 Water-repellent nano-coating
GPU Adreno 509
OS Android v8.1.0 (Oreo)
Storage 32 or 64 GB
Micro SD up to 512 GB
Camera 12 MP f/1.7 rear camera, dual pixel PDAF, dual-tone LED flash, Video 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps
5MP, depth sensor
8 MP f/2.0 front facing camera, Video 1080p
Networking GSM / HSPA / LTE support
v4.2 LE Bluetooth, NFC, USB Type-C, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, A-GPS
Sensors Accelerometer, Fingerprint, Gyro, Compass, Proximity
Battery 3000 mAh Non-Removable Li-Ion Battery
Colors Deep Indigo
Included 2220 mAh Power Pack Moto Mod
Moto Mods Version 2.5 Full Support
Price  Approximately $449 Unlocked (Prime Exclusive)

The overall shape of the Z3 Play is unchanged to remain compatible with the Moto Mod family of accessories. Instead, the Z3 Play is visually distinguished with a new 6” display, which is a welcome improvement. It is still a 1080p-class panel, but the 18:9 (or 2:1) ratio is elongated to a 2160x1080 resolution with rounded corners. The top and bottom bezels are shrunken as a result but thankfully the Z3 Play eschews a notch. The display quality is every bit as impressive as prior generations with vibrant colors and wide viewing angles, which would be at-home on a flagship phone. We will note the low contrast appearance of the display in the photos below is a result of the angle of flash used and is not reflective of real-world off-axis viewing.
moto z3 play volume and fingerprint reader
To accommodate the screen, the fingerprint reader has been relocated to the right edge where the power button used to be. The power button in turn is now located on the left side. This arrangement makes the phone effortless to unlock – maybe too effortless. We often found ourselves accidentally unlocking the phone while trying to pocket it due to the fingerprint reader’s position. It also can get in the way when locking the screen, seeing as it is directly opposed to the power button. Still, we found the fingerprint sensor location to be so convenient that we can overlook the occasional accidental unlocks.
moto z3 play top and power button
The Moto Z3’s build quality is excellent, which is no surprise given the solid construction of its predecessors. The new model returns to the glass back of the first generation but takes on more of a mirrored finish. It is a nice premium touch even if it will be covered by a style plate or Moto Mod most of the time.
moto z3 play rear
Not much else has changed visually as the Moto Z Family’s design language runs as strong as ever, so let’s turn our focus to the software and camera.

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