Phone Comparisons: Lenovo Moto Z Play vs Huawei Mate 9

Cory Comp Feb 6th


Do we have a good one for you today – The Moto Z Play goes up against the Huawei Mate 9. The all-new glass-backed Moto Z Play with its Moto Mods goes up against the Mate 9 with its large display and all-metal backing. The Moto Z Play is the first device in a series of three, which include the Moto Z and the flagship Moto Z Force. The Huawei Mate 9 is their latest in phablet devices. Both the Moto Z Play and Mate 9 are receiving some very favorable reviews. Let’s look at just what these two devices have in common, if anything, and then we will take a closer look at each one in hopes that we can determine a winner of this comparison.

These two devices do have a few things in common, including their physical size even though their screen sizes are almost one-half inches apart. Their displays use different technologies – the Z Play an AMOLED and the Mate 9 an IPS LCD – but do use the same Full HD resolution. They both use different processors and GPUs made by different manufacturers. Both devices allow for memory expansion via a microSD card. The camera areas are both excellent, but they achieve that excellence with different sized lens and electronics. They both use larger, non-removable batteries and offer rapid charge capabilities. They both pack a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device as well as authorizing mobile payments. They have the usual suspects – WiFi, Bluetooth (v4.0 on the Z Play and v4.2 on the Mate 9), GPS, NFC, and the reversible Type-C port for charging and data transfer.


Please take a thoughtful look at the detailed Specifications Comparison chart below, and here you will see just how these two great devices stack up against one another – click on the “View Full Comparison” link at the end of the chart to expand the details. After that, we will look at each device in greater depth and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information, we will try to determine the winner based on specs and execution of design and functions.


Lenovo Moto Z Play


Lenovo and Motorola made three Moto Z models – the Moto Z Force, the Moto Z, and the Moto Z Play. The Moto Z Play is a metal trimmed device with a glass backing rather than a metal one like the Moto Z, and Moto Z Force. We are comparing the most affordable Moto Z Play, but that does not mean that you are getting some entry-level phone. It has an FHD Super AMOLED display, an excellent 16MP camera, and comes with a large battery, Moto’s Turbo Charger, and the ability to use Moto Mods. It has a solid build with a 7mm thickness and is the only one of the Moto Z family that still retained the 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Moto Z Play uses a 5.5-inch AMOLED Full HD display, and that means a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with 403 pixels-per-inch (PPI). Lenovo grabbed the Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor clocked at 2.0GHz and coupled with an Adreno 506 GPU to handle the graphics. The Moto Z Play is packing 3GB of DDR3 RAM (a limitation of the processor), and it offers 32GB of the faster UFS 2.0 internal memory that is expandable via a microSD card.

The main camera uses a 16MP sensor with a large aperture of f/2.0, both Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and laser autofocus, and dual-tone flash. For its front-facing camera (FFC), it uses a 5MP lens with a f/2.2 aperture along with its own LED flash for selfies and video chatting. The Moto Z Play uses a large 3510mAh non-removable battery and comes with Moto’s Turbo Charger that can charge the Moto Z Play battery up to 50-percent in only 20 minutes. Like the other Z series, there is an $89 Moto Mod that will increase the battery capacity by another 2200mAh and even adds wireless charging capabilities to the device.


The Moto Z Play is the only one of the new Z series that keeps the convenient 3.5mm earphone jack. It also allows you to utilize the Moto Mods that add features to your device but one can also use customized covers on the back to help personalize its looks. The Z Play started out as part of the Droid series that is exclusive to Verizon, but an unlocked Moto Z Play is available for everybody to use. It has a nano-coating for water resistance, measures in at 155.9 x 75.8 x 7mm, and weighs in at 163 grams. It comes in two colors – Black or White with pricing at $408 on Verizon’s website and the unlocked version is about $450. According to Moto, the Z Play should receive its Android Nougat upgrade in March.

Huawei Mate 9

The new Huawei Mate 9 follows Huawei’s formula of a large display with an FHD resolution to the letter with its nearly tablet-sized 5.9-inch display. While the display is large, Huawei was able to keep the Mate 9 relatively compact by using small bezels and placing the fingerprint sensor on the back of the device – making it about the same size as the 5.5-inch Moto Z Play. We are looking forward to the official US version on its way later this year that will work on all the major US carriers. It has a very solid, all-metal build to it and its slightly curved edges make it comfortable to hold for long periods. Let’s see just how it stacks up to the Moto Z Play.


The Huawei Mate 9 sports a phablet-size 5.9-inch IPS LCD FHD display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and only 373 PPI due to its large screen. For the processor they chose their powerful 64-bit Hisilicon Kirin 960 octa-core model with four cores running at 1.8GHz and four cores running at 2.4GHz and to provide the graphics, Huawei included their Mail-G71 MP8 GPU to handle heavy duty graphics. The Mate 9 packs 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 64GB of expandable internal memory via a microSD card.

Huawei takes the cameras on their smartphones very seriously, and they did a great job with the Mate 9. Huawei uses the infamous Leica brand for a dual primary camera with a 20MP sensor for colored photos and a 12MP sensor that shoots strictly monochrome (B&W) photos. It was a surprise to see that Huawei used such a small aperture of f/2.2, but with its added OIS, 2X zoom, both PDAF and laser autofocus, and a dual-tone LED flash the resulting photos are more than the sum of its parts. Those that are into black and white photos can take advantage of the secondary lens and with its software will have the ability to experiment with some great B&W shots. The Mate 9 uses an 8MP sensor on its FFC with a larger f/1.9 aperture and 26mm wide-angle lens for great selfies and video chatting. The Mate 9 packs a large 4000mAh non-removable battery along with Huawei’s own SuperCharge to charge your battery from 0-100-percent in only 90 minutes.

It would have been nice with a 5.9-inch display to use a QHD resolution, but Huawei is more interested in saving battery life. The Mate 9 incorporates dual speakers, but Huawei did not include any Hi-Fi circuitry to enhance their sound. The Mate 9 has a rear-facing fingerprint sensor to unlock the device or authorize mobile payments, including Android Pay. The Mate 9 is running Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, so there is no waiting for that update. The Mate 9 measures 156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9mm, weighs in at 190 grams and comes in Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Ceramic White, and Black. Its pricing is about $600.


…And The Winner Is…

The Final Word


This decision is a pick based on value for your dollar and the Moto Z Play comes out on top and will save you $200 in the process. Yes, the Huawei Mate 9 does have a larger display, but the 5.5-inch AMOLED display on the Z Play is certainly adequate and will give you better contrasts. The Mate 9’s processor is more powerful, but the way Moto optimizes their software and hardware makes the Z Play a fast and smooth device. The dual camera in the Mate 9 offers more options, but the Z Play takes excellent pictures. The Turbo Charger and splash and dust resistance are both nice features. You also get the added luxury of using Moto Mods or customizing the back of your device.

The Huawei Mate 9 is an excellent device and if you are not interested in the Moto Mods or if you like to experiment with photography, then spend the extra $200 and purchase one – I doubt that you will be disappointed.

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