Moto G Play (2023) Review: Low Price, Lots of Compromises - CNET

5 months ago 4

The Moto G Play for 2023 costs $170 (or even little astatine Amazon), making it 1 of the cheapest caller phones you tin get close now, and without the bloatware oregon wireless bearer restrictions we sometimes spot connected lower-priced devices. With a decent acceptable of specs for the terms -- including a triple camera strategy with a 16-megapixel main camera, a 6.5-inch show with a 90Hz refresh complaint and a 5,000-mAh artillery that provides astir 3 days of artillery beingness -- this should person been an charismatic enactment for anyone looking for a decent, no-frills phone.

However, this telephone has a fig of show issues that marque it frustrating to use. And connected apical of that, Motorola chose to driblet 1 of its champion Moto gestures: twisting the telephone to rapidly unfastened its camera. While immoderate mightiness see these gestures a gimmick, they person been a signature constituent of Motorola's phones for astir a decade. Other gestures similar "chop to crook connected flashlight" are inactive here, making the lack of the camera motion adjacent much glaring.

Despite these important drawbacks, the 2023 Moto G Play does person immoderate affirmative attributes. The artillery beingness is great, the bundle is simply a reasonably cleanable mentation of Android 12 and you'll find uncommon ports similar a headphone jack and microSD paper slot for retention expansion. But the telephone volition lone get 1 large bundle update to Android 13, which is little than I'd similar to spot but emblematic for this terms range, arsenic good arsenic 3 years of information updates. 

Yet each perk I database comes with different problem, which is important to see if you're tempted by the Moto G Play due to the fact that of its debased price. 


  • Long artillery life
  • Clean mentation of Android 12
  • Three years of information updates

Don't Like

  • Frequent lag, issues loading software
  • Questionable refresh rate
  • No "twist to unfastened camera" gesture

Moto G Play plan and performance

The Moto G Play looks bully for a telephone that costs conscionable $170. The Navy Blue colour of its integrative assemblage provides a hint of personality, portion the phone's low-resolution 720p show includes a surface cutout for the 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The fingerprint sensor is located successful my favourite spot connected an Android telephone -- the back. 

But the problems statesman erstwhile you commencement utilizing the phone. The phone's MediaTek Helio G37 processor and 3GB of RAM weren't almighty capable to juggle aggregate apps easily. In immoderate cases, it wouldn't adjacent load definite apps. This was peculiarly bizarre considering it loaded a 3D crippled similar Crazy Taxi (admittedly an oldie but inactive a goodie), but couldn't tally different modern 2D games similar Exploding Kittens. With the phone's tiny 32GB of storage, I'm fortunate to adjacent acceptable a mates games onto the Moto G Play, though determination is simply a microSD paper slot for retention expansion.

Geekbench V.5.0 single-core

Moto G Play


Galaxy A03S


TCL Stylus 5G



Longer bars bespeak amended performance

Geekbench V.5.0 multicore

Moto G Play


Galaxy A03S


TCL Stylus 5G



Longer bars bespeak amended performance

Email, quality and video-streaming apps fared amended successful presumption of performance, but not by much. Even though the Moto G Play touts a 90Hz refresh rate, which should creaseless retired animations, determination is simply a batch of noticeable lag. I couldn't adjacent archer erstwhile the refresh complaint reached 90Hz. The Settings paper lets you take betwixt "Auto" and "60 Hz," with the erstwhile dynamically changing the refresh complaint based connected what you are doing. Having an car mounting does marque sense, but a batch of the cheaper Android phones I've utilized besides see the enactment to acceptable the telephone to a accordant 90Hz, alongside a 60Hz enactment for preserving artillery life.

This brings maine backmost to the phone's 5,000-mAh artillery -- a agleam spot considering it easy lasted 2 days connected a afloat complaint during my testing. I deliberation it's imaginable for the artillery to marque it to a 3rd day, mostly due to the fact that of however underpowered this instrumentality is. I typically got astir 3 hours of surface clip per time connected the instrumentality during my testing, which included streaming, shooting photos and trying to play games for this review.

During a much progressive league connected the phone, successful which I streamed 22 minutes of a TV amusement astatine 100% brightness and past took a 24-minute video call, the artillery dropped from 59% to 46%. On little progressive days, successful which the telephone was utilized chiefly for listening to euphony portion commuting, speechmaking quality articles and airy texting, I could extremity the time with conscionable implicit 50% remaining.

Charging times for the telephone are mostly little awesome than artillery life. With the included 10-watt charger, it typically took conscionable implicit an hr to complaint from zero to 50%. Getting to 100% would instrumentality conscionable implicit 2 hours, 30 minutes. When I tested charging speeds with my 18-watt charger, the results were somewhat faster. The telephone would get from zero to 66% aft an hr and decorativeness charging conscionable past the two-hour mark.

Moto G Play cameras

The Moto G Play has 3 cameras, anchored by a 16-megapixel main camera.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Moto G Play cameras

The Moto G Play has a triple-camera strategy anchored by a main 16-megapixel camera, which is accompanied by a 2-megapixel macro camera and a 2-megapixel extent sensor. But photos are consistently fuzzy, whether I took them indoors, outdoors, successful agleam environments oregon successful the dark.

Foggy day, outdoor photograph  taken connected  Moto G Play

A foggy time successful New York, taken connected the Moto G Play.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

While it was bully to spot Portrait mode connected a telephone astatine this price, I tin hardly spot overmuch of a bokeh effect successful my photos. This is particularly existent erstwhile utilizing the 5-megapixel front-facing camera, successful which my photos looked consistently muddy.

Portrait mode   photograph  of Mike Sorrentino holding brew  successful  a Taco Bell

My person took a photograph of maine astatine the Taco Bell successful Times Square utilizing Portrait Mode, but it's challenging to spot if it made a difference.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET
Selfie photograph  with brew  taken connected  the Moto G Play

The Moto G Play's front-facing camera had a pugnacious clip keeping maine successful focus, adjacent successful a edifice with decent lighting.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

I took the Moto G Play with maine to Taco Bell -- due to the fact that yes, I'm going to spell devour inexpensive nutrient portion reviewing a inexpensive phone. I had my person instrumentality photos of maine utilizing the phone's Portrait setting. You tin benignant of spot a airy blurring effect successful the background, but it's hard to perceive. 

In different selfie taken astatine a edifice with amended lighting than the Taco Bell, I recovered the selfie camera to person a pugnacious clip keeping maine successful focus.

And erstwhile taking photos of my friend's canine Daisy, the rear cameras struggled to seizure overmuch item of her fur, adjacent erstwhile she sat still. In the champion of conditions, the phone's cameras conflict to instrumentality crisp photos.

Daisy the canine  successful  a wintertime  sweater, photograph  taken connected  Moto G Play

Daisy the canine sat comparatively inactive for this photo, but the Moto G Play's camera captures minimal detail.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

I compared the photos taken connected the Moto G Play against the aforesaid images taken connected the $160 Samsung Galaxy A03S, and recovered the representation prime to beryllium astir comparable for elemental static shots. When shooting a bookshelf astatine CNET's office, the Moto G Play got somewhat much item of the publication covers than the Galaxy A03S, with the second phone's representation appearing a spot darker. 

However, erstwhile it comes to a photograph with tons of item and color, specified arsenic with this works wall, the Moto G Play struggles to discern betwixt the antithetic shades of green. Meanwhile the Galaxy A03S performs overmuch amended with discerning the darker greenish shades from the lighter ones, making for a dramatically antithetic photo.

Neither phone's camera performs particularly well, which is simply a communal taxable among phones that outgo nether $200. For me, this places the Moto G Play's camera photos squarely into the class of being acceptable for radical chats, but not overmuch else. It's going to instrumentality a batch of truly bully lighting and dependable hands successful bid to marque the astir of these cameras, and that's much effort than astir radical are going to privation to make.

There are amended options, adjacent erstwhile you privation to prevention money

Even erstwhile you're looking for the cheapest imaginable phone, your instrumentality inactive needs to tally astir apps without contented and instrumentality decent-looking photos. I wouldn't expect a telephone that costs little than $200 to tally Fortnite astatine the highest graphics settings, but I americium expecting to usage apps with minimal lag. While phones astatine this terms are besides typically lighter connected features, the perks that are disposable should bring noticeable worth to the experience. The Moto G Play's Portrait mode and precocious refresh complaint don't win successful this regard.  

Instead of buying the Moto G Play astatine $170, you're astir apt amended disconnected redeeming $10 and getting the $160 Samsung Galaxy A03S. While that telephone besides has unimpressive cameras, it was astatine slightest capable to multitask much easily.

Although I haven't reviewed it yet, you mightiness besides see the $199 Samsung Galaxy A14 5G, since it has 64GB of retention and 5G connectivity. Later this year, a fig of TCL 40 phones volition get successful the US, which volition see 5G and 128GB of retention for nether $200. Those devices mightiness beryllium worthy waiting for if you aren't successful dire request of a inexpensive telephone close now.

Moto G Play (2023) vs. Samsung Galaxy A03S, TCL Stylus 5G, OnePlus Nord N300 5G

Moto G Play (2023) Samsung Galaxy A03S TCL Stylus 5G OnePlus Nord N300 5G Display size, benignant resolution, refresh rate Pixel density Dimensions (inches) Dimensions (millimeters) Weight (ounces, grams) Mobile software Camera Front-facing camera Video capture Processor RAM, storage Expandable storage Battery, charger Fingerprint sensor Connector Headphone jack Special features Price off-contract (USD)
6.5-inch IPS TFT LCD; 1,600x720 pixels; 90Hz refresh rate 6.5-inch LCD; 1,600x720 pixels 6.81-inch; 2,400x1,080 pixels 6.56-inch IPS LCD display; 720p resolution; 90Hz refresh rate
269ppi 269ppi 395ppi 269ppi
6.58 x 2.95 x 0.36 in 6.5 x 2.9 x 0.3 in 6.67 x 3.01 x 0.35 in 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.3 in
167 x 77 x 9.4 mm 165.8 x 75.9 x 9.1 mm 169.6 x 76.5 x 8.9 mm 163.8 x 75.1 x 7.99 mm
203 g (7.16 oz) 202g (7.13 oz) 213g (7.51 oz) 190g (6.7 oz)
Android 12 Android 11 Android 12 Android 12
16-megapixel (main), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (depth sensor) 13-megapixel (main), 2-megapixel (depth), 2-megapixel (macro) 50-megapixel (main), 5-megapixel (wide), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (depth sensor) 48-megapixel (main), 2-megapixel (depth lens)
5-megapixel 5-megapixel 13-megapixel 16-megapixel
720p astatine 30 fps 1080p astatine 30fps 1080p astatine 30fps 1080p astatine 30fps
MediaTek Helio G37 Octa-core processor MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G MediaTek Dimensity 810
3GB + 32GB 3GB/32GB 4GB/128GB 4GB/64GB
Up to 512GB Up to 1TB Up to 2TB Up to 1TB
5,000 mAh; 10W charging 5,000mAh; charger not included, does not enactment wireless charging 4,000mAh; 18W charging 5,000mAh; 33W charging
Rear Side Side Side
Yes Yes Yes Yes
3-day artillery life, Moto Gestures, Auto Smile Capture, Portait Mode
Stylus with built-in storage, producitivity software, NxtVision HDR mode Dual speakers, NFC, Face Unlock, HDR, Portrait, Face retouching
$170 $160 $258 $228
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