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From Nexus 5X to Moto Z Play

Posted on  by Tommy Ku

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Despite inflamous bootloop issue, Nexus 5X is still the best phone I have ever used. I had to replace it because bootloop happened the second time last month. My choice of replacement was Moto Play Z, a well-built phone balancing battery life, performance and screen quality.

In this post I am going to describe my experience with Nexus 5X and compare it with Moto Play Z.

Farewell to Nexus 5X

I purchased a Nexus 5X from Google Store Hong Kong on Novemeber 2015. At that time, my 2-year old Nexus 4 has been suffering from low battery life and excessive heat during casual web browsing. Google Store shipment’s prompt shipment amazed me as I received the phone with a phone case and USB cable the next day I pressed the buy button.

Fast forward to April 2016, I had been using the phone for about half a year. The Nexus 5X had never failed me with its excellent camera, bright and sharp screen (423 ppi). The battery life was fine, I could use it for a whole day during travel before recharging. Best of all, it supports all 4G LTE bands everywhere I go (China, Taiwan, Japan, United States, and Hong Kong).

The experience was stellar until it breaks all of a sudden on August 2016, it rebooted into bootloop. Google store wasn’t helpful at the time and they advised me to talk to LG. Of course LG fixed it, by replacing the motherboard. Then on May 2017, bootloop happened again and it has long passed the warranty period.

Google Store was willing to replace the unit this time. My friend got a replacement unit just one month before mine breaking down. But Google ran out of replacement unit so I got a refund instead. That’s better than getting a replacement that nobody knows when it’s gonna break down again.

Shipping the unit back to Google in its original box, with all included accessories

Hello to Moto Play Z

After returning my Nexus 5X to Google, I had to decide which phone to use next. I couldn’t get a new Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P because Google Store no longer sell them and I have had enough of bootloop. Pixel hasn’t been officially available in Hong Kong either.

In an attempt to look for a phone with similar qualities as Nexus 5X, and most importantly similar 4G LTE network support. Not many phones in Hong Kong support bands at the US. Most of them were sold to accomondate people in Hong Kong and China. I needed a phone that supports band 2, 4 mainly used in the USA; band 1, 3, 7 in Hong Kong; and band 38, 40, 41 in China.

Samsung phones are all out of the question except for the flagship model Samsung Galaxy S8, a bit too pricey for me. LG V20 does support everything I need, with a big 5.7 inches screen, but it’s LG and I’ve had enought of that. That brought me to Motorola, a usually overlooked brand. At the time the specification stated that both Moto Z and Moto Z Play supported all the bands I needed and each has its individual merits.

I ended up getting Moto Z Play. It was a difficult choice until I learned that Moto Z comes with less battery capacity and no 3.5mm headphone jack.

Moto Z Play comes with a wood case that adds more grip to the rather thin phone (7mm thick). The case attaches to the back of the phone with 4 magnetic points, Moto Mod attachments could be attached the same way.

The screen size of Moto Z Play is 5.5 inches, slightly bigger than the 5.2 inches screen of Nexus 5X. After a couple weeks of usage I have grown used to the bigger screen and phone size. In comparison to Nexus 5X, Moto Z Play has comparable 403 PPI at full HD. On enhanced color mode, the colors on screen look more vibrant and attractive than Nexus 5X.

For battery life, I could use the phone on Wifi and 4G for two days without charging and still have 30% battery left. This is a big improvement over the Nexus 5X, which requires charging every day, on both Wifi and 4G. Quick Charge 3.0 wouldn’t work on both Nexus 5X and Moto Play Z as they have their own variant of quick charging - the so called ‘quick charge’ on Nexus 5X and ‘turbocharge’ on Moto Z Play. I have never gotten the Moto Z Play turbocharge to work on any other chargers and cables except for the one that came in the box.

The Moto Z Play comes with a very stock-like ROM, only with an additional File Manager, Moto app and a convenient Device Help app. They are all helpful for managing the phone and tweaking the settings, and even testing each individual hardware component. So I’d say Moto Z Play comes with no bloatware and the experience is very stock Android-like. No lag on the phone during daily use despite I couldn’t say the same for people who run lots of background apps and demanding games.

I would say one of Moto Z Play’s selling points (despite not emphasized) is gesture support. Chop twice to turn on the flash light, or twist twice to open the camera app, and some more gestures worked as intended every single time. Generally there was no mis-firing except for approaching to turn on display during sleep can be annoying. Gestures can be enabled or disabled individually from the built-in Moto app.

The only shortcoming of Moto Z Play is its camera. Internet reviews said it’s fine but to me it’s unacceptable when compared to Nexus 5X. Nexus 5X’s camera app works like a charm all the time, capturing both the details and color contrast without extra tinkering while that of Moto Z Play always tends to sacrifice one to achieve another. Sometimes the color was right but it looks blurry, other times it gets all the details but the white balance was focusing at the wrong spot, resulting in a photo too dark.

The photos below were taken with Moto Z Play and Nexus 5X respectively. I did tamper with it using GIMP to blur out people’s faces and resized them to 25% of their original sizes. The point to be made is, if it looks super bad after resizing, it looks at least quite bad before resizing. Nexus 5X captures all the details both from afar and near even in low light. Moto Z Play failed to capture much of the details, say the text and the branches and leaves on the trees. I know this is not an apple-to-apple comparison, but as far as I can tell from using them, Nexus 5X seems to have a superior camera (or image processing software, or both).

Photo taken outdoor with Moto Z Play
Photo taken outdoor with Nexus 5X at night

I am too poor to care about Moto Mods. The 16-pin connector at the back of the phone is both visually distracting and useless to me.

Closing words

Overall I am happy to have Moto Z Play as a replacement for Nexus 5X, it is more performant with longer battery life and better screen. The camera is a big disappointment considering Motorola has got everything just right on the phone. Should Moto Z Play had a camera as good as that of Nexus 5X, it’d have been a perfect phone. Still, if you are looking for an alternative or replacement to Nexus 5X, I’d say Moto Z Play is the closest alternative at the price range of HKD$3,000 ~ HKD$4,000 price range (I got mine at HKD$2,870).

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About the author

Profile pic of Tommy Ku

Tommy Ku, a Hong Kong-based Software Engineer experienced developing PHP and Java-based web solutions and passionate in Web technology.

Also a hobbyist digital and film photographer.