Moto Z Play vs Moto G4 Plus: when buying cheap isn't paying dearly

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It's very common for people to have doubts when they're buying a smartphone, whether it's questions about specs, brands or even the price. The Moto Z Play was released for $500 while the Moto G4 Plus costs about $300 on Motorola's website. If you're doubting whether to buy the device with the modular concept or the mid-range model, keep reading this article. You'll discover for yourself whether it’s worth it to invest in a high-end model or to be economic and buy a more modest one.

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Moto Z Play vs. Moto G4 Plus - Design and Display

The Moto Z is a more advanced and expensive model, therefore, it's normal that it's seen as a more well made device than the Moto G4 Plus. It’s finished with glass on the back and aluminum on the sides, which gives it an interesting feel while you're using it. My personal device has a glass back so I didn't have any issues using the Z Play - even with all the fingerprints.

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Moto Z Play and Moto G4 Plus. / © NextPit

The Moto G4+ has a classic design and a simple finish made with silicone and plastic polycarbonate. By using this type of finish and lines that are less straight, it actually has a more anatomic feel when compared to the Moto Z Play. It's clear that it doesn't have the same precision in its design or the refined elements but it certainly wouldn't be considered a bad finish.

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G4 Plus on top of Z Play. / © NextPit
Moto G4 Plus 153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm
Moto Z Play 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm

The Moto Z Play has a better battery than the Moto G4 Plus. Nevertheless, it's still a thinner device. Motorola considerably optimized the look of the Z series to make them thinner and this is reflected, even more so, in a model with a better battery.

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G4 Plus on top of Z Play. / © NextPit

Both have similar layouts on their front panels: a biometric sensor on the bottom and speakers with sensors on the top. The sizes of the lateral borders, however, are the same. In this sense, the only difference between the two is that the Z Play comes with an LED flash on the front, perfect for selfies.

Both devices have very similar displays. They come with the same Full HD, 1080 x 1920 pixel 5.5-inch displays. The Moto G4+ has an LCD IPS panel while the Z Play comes with a Super AMOLED display.

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Super AMOLED and LCD display / © NextPit

The difference between these two technologies is very small. Since the LCD panel of the cheaper model is still good quality and personally, I don't like Motorola's AMOLED displays very much. In my opinion, Samsung is the only company that packs their devices with high quality Super AMOLED displays. If you like more vivid colors and sharper contrasts than you will certainly prefer the Z Play.

The colors of the Super AMOLED display on the Moto Z Play are much more vivid.

When looking at the sharpness of their displays, they're basically equal. What the vivid colors change is the level of immersion that users of the Moto Z have when watching videos or playing games with more advanced graphics. Something else we prefer on this device is its brightness, which is a bit higher than the Super AMOLED display. This is important for users who normally use their device in strong sunlight.

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LCD display next to the Super AMOLED panel / © NextPit

Moto Z Play vs. Moto G4 Plus - Performance and software

Just like with their displays, the software that comes with these devices is very similar. Both come stock with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and should get Nougat sometime within the year, according to the official list of updates that Motorola released. We're talking about "pure" software here and the new features that will come with the Z line are also available on the G4 plus, such as cameras with advanced manual modes.

You'll find the same options when it comes to their operating systems as well. Without much interference from Motorola, the version of Android that comes on these devices can be customized "to the customers taste", free of bloatware and duplicate Apps. 

Motorola is moving away from voice commands, such as those that were highlighted on devices like the Moto X. Therefore, options to control the display - Moto Display - and movement and gesture operations are the same on both devices.

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Moto Z Play and Moto G4 Plus come with gesture and display commands. / © NextPit

The "almost pure" software makes the performance on both devices identical, right? Yes, but with a few reservations. The Brazilian Moto G4 Plus isn't the same that is sold in other countries; we have 2 GB of RAM in the national model while other countries have 3 or even 4 GB. This 1 GB of difference could make the performance of the G4 plus more like that of the Moto Z Play, which in turn has 3 GB of RAM.

The processors are very similar but we have a model that is a bit newer and stronger in the Moto Z, Snapdragon 625, the same chipset that runs on the Zenfone 3. The CPU of the Moto G4 Plus has eight cores with a max velocity of 1.5 GHz versus the same number of nucleus in the Z Play but which has been clocked at 2 GHz. The memory of each is the same at 32 GB.

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The different packaging / © NextPit

All right, let's get down to it. If you're thinking about buying one of these devices so you can use Facebook, Whatsapp and to casually play Crossy Road than you probably won't see any difference in performance between the two devices over the next few months. The Moto Z has more hardware to handle future system updates and bigger games with higher levels of graphic detail. This device is also capable of running even if you have the multi task full of paused Apps.

All in all, I can say that in terms of hardware, the Moto Z Play has a better performance guarantee in the long run. It's also safe to say that, normally, only more advanced users fully explore the hardware of a device like the Z Play with any consistency. So, if your budget is tight and your demands don't include a device with powerful hardware, the Moto G4 Plus can easily deliver what you need.

Moto Z Play vs. Moto G4 Plus - Technical specifications

Lenovo Moto Z Play vs. Moto G4 Plus technical specifications

  Lenovo Moto Z Play Moto G4 Plus
Dimensions: 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm 153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm
Weight: 165 g 155 g
Battery size: 3510 mAh 3000 mAh
Screen size: 5.5 in 5.5 in
Display technology: AMOLED Sorry, not yet available!
Screen: 1920 x 1080 pixels (403 ppi) 1920 x 1080 pixels (401 ppi)
Front camera: 5 megapixels 5 megapixels
Rear camera: 16 megapixels 16 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED LED
Android version: 6.0.1 - Marshmallow 6.0.1 - Marshmallow
RAM: 3 GB 2 GB
4 GB
Internal storage: 32 GB 32 GB
64 GB
Removable storage: microSD microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Qualcomm Snapdragon 617
Number of cores: 8 8
Max. clock speed: 2 GHz 1.5 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 4.0 HSPA, LTE, Bluetooth 4.1

Moto Z Play vs. Moto G4 Plus - Camera

If anyone has kept track of some of the articles that I've written about the Moto G4 Plus, including its actual review, knows that my opinion about the device's camera is this: the best in its class. As the Moto Z Play isn't in the same class as the G4+, we've got ourselves an interesting clash. I say this because the lens on the Z Play is basically the same as the cheaper model.

Both are 16 MP, come with Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF), Dual flash LED, HDR and an aperture of f/2.0. This is based on the more basic elements. Even if we took it to a more technical level, we'd still find many similarities between the two lenses. It's clear that the sensor on the Moto Z, manufactured by Sony, is a bit more up-to-date but in practical results, the photos turned out the same.

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The cameras are very similar. / © NextPit

The Moto G4 Plus produces colors that are a bit softer while the Z Play's shades are a bit more real and the hues bluer (which ensures richer whites) Anyone that is looking to take videos in 4K should pay attention, the Moto G4+ does not come with this feature.

All in all, if you want to use social media or even if you have a more professional purpose, both cameras are good quality. Below, you can see a few photos taken by both cameras:

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Moto G4 Plus (left) Moto Z Play (right): ambient light / © NextPit
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Moto G4 Plus (left) Moto Z Play (right): low light with flash / © NextPit
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Moto G4 Plus (left) Moto Z Play (right): natural light / © NextPit
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Moto G4 Plus (left) Moto Z Play (right): strong natural light / © NextPit
moto z play vs Moto g4 plus camera test
© NextPit
moto z play vs Moto g4 plus camera test 2
 © NextPit
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© NextPit

Moto Z Play vs. Moto G4 Plus - Which would I choose?

Honestly, this comparison was done to help answer doubts for those who are indecisive about investing in a high-end device with an innovative concept or to bet on a more traditional model. Both have good cameras, display, battery and performance. Where it varies, is how you're going to use it.

It's clear that the Moto Z Play is a unique model with a more refined design and it’s packed with up-to-date technologies and concepts such as the Moto Snaps modules and USB Type-C. If you're looking to use these types of technologies, this model could be one of the best options out there. It’s even better if you can afford to buy a module as well because without a doubt, you'll have a much more complete user experience.

If, right now, you don't want to invest in a Moto Z Play, you can go with the Moto G4 without any problem. As I've mentioned, it's not about choosing between the best or the worst, but more about understanding the differences and similarities between the two devices and making a conscious decision.

Today, if I needed a device, I would choose the Z Play. But I confess that my experience would be restricted to the device. I wouldn't buy any modules, either in the short or the long run. They still haven't totally won me over.

Which device is your favorite? Would you buy any other device for $680?

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  • Harvinder Singh Mar 14, 2017 Link to comment

    I think one should go for moto z play if the budget is not so tight because it has an amazing battery life (best in its class), powerful performance (i play NOVA 3 very smoothly on it), flawless design and more importantly the moto mods which take the possibility to the next level.
    I mean who knows what motorola will be giving in the upcoming mods. May be a powerful processor or a wireless charger or it could be anything else.
    This could be a real suspense😉

  • Mati Lavagnino Feb 12, 2017 Link to comment

    Moto G4 plus 64gb ROM 4gb RAM ($300 on amazon) or Moto Z play ($400 on amazon)

    Opinions? I cant decide

  • Jasss Dec 24, 2016 Link to comment

    wrong information moto g4 plus has 3gb ram

  • Rohit Dash Nov 8, 2016 Link to comment

    both phone are good but the best among them is moto z play if you want to buy a phone and you are thinking to buy a motorola g4 plus you must check moto z play

  • Dean L. Nov 7, 2016 Link to comment

    The G4 plus is on my list, but now I'll have to reconsider the Z play because I honestly haven't heard that much about it.

  • Neil Evans Nov 7, 2016 Link to comment

    I'm interested in both, but the G4 doesn't have an internal compass while the Play no FM radio. Hmm . . .

  • Parvind Chahal Nov 5, 2016 Link to comment

    moto did nt produce the charm had last years......mis hit in contries like india

  • Eddie B (Nevr) Nov 5, 2016 Link to comment

    I went for the g4 plus. A good price, 4gb RAM and 64gb ROM and the turbo charger works great. Plus if something happens to it I haven't spent as much. Android N is working well.

    • Achu Menon Nov 18, 2016 Link to comment

      Which Country is it available in 4GB RAM & 64GB In-built Memory and what is the estimated price...?
      Thanks in advance....

  • Laser Waves Nov 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Dear Author, With all due respect, I beg to differ with you on the point of no voice commands and touchless control on Moto Z Play. It does support touchless voice commands even when the screen is off similar to Moto X. PLEASE get your facts right before posting any informative article. Thanks.

  • Siddharth Kumar Sahoo Nov 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Although the Z Play is a bit on the expensive side it's a deal breaker solely because of Snapdragon 625! It seems as if a true battery saver formula is found. Built on a 14nm process snapdragon 625 has become the prodigal son of battery life champions.
    Next year chipsets built on 10nm should be interesting! Snapdragon 830😜,is it..?

    • Patrick Tam Nov 7, 2016 Link to comment

      A deal breaker? 10 hours SOT seems like a feature to me. All the reviewers said the phone never lagged and you won't notice a difference unless you play high intensive games. Meanwhile my s7 edge with snapdragon 820 lags

  • Rajasekar Nov 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Awesome article but the AMOLED display and the better battery are the deciding factors for choosing the Z Play over G4+ according to me.

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