Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Moto Z3 Play hits a home run on band 41, swings big and misses on low band

The Moto Z3 Play (model variant XT1929-4, FCC ID IHDT56XE1) is sold directly by Motorola and via other third parties as an unlocked handset compatible with all North American cellular operators.  As such, it must support a wide swath of LTE bands.  And, indeed, the Moto Z3 Play is one of the first and only handsets thus far to support two nascent 600/700 MHz bands -- band 14, which AT&T is deploying for public-private FirstNet, and band 71, which T-Mobile and other smaller operators are deploying in more recently vacated UHF TV spectrum.  Somewhat unfortunately, though, that low band inclusion on the Moto Z3 Play seems largely nominal, since low band RF output across the board is rather meager.

Where the Moto Z3 Play shines is in its band 41 HPUE output.  Not only bumping up conducted power to better than 400 mW (26 dBm) as expected from HPUE Power Class 2 but also adding +2.0 dBi antenna gain makes a potent combination that peaks at over 700 mW EIRP on band 41.  This level of band 41 power and positive antenna gain is basically unprecedented and ostensibly should make the Moto Z3 Play a stellar performer on Sprint.  Almost all other antenna gain, however, is negative, even exceedingly negative -- all low band antenna gains run below -5.0 dBi.  High band antenna design, in this case, may have come at the cost of low band antenna optimization.  Questions arise how well the Moto Z3 Play will respond in low signal rural areas where low band or "Extended Range" LTE is supposed to be the coverage saving grace.

Before moving on to the graphs, let us run down the standard boilerplate.  RF power figures below represent best averaged and rounded estimates of maximum uplink EIRP test results provided to the FCC OET in individual device authorization filings.  Or in the case of ERP low band test measurements submitted in the filings, that ERP has been converted manually to EIRP for level comparison purposes.   Caveats about lab testing versus real world capability and uplink versus downlink always apply.   And for better visual comparison purposes, the vertical scale heightened to 800 mW needed to display Moto Z3 Play EIRP remains consistent across follow up EIRP graphs, too.


We would be remiss not to include at least a cursory juxtaposition with the VZW exclusive Moto Z3 (model variant XT1929-17, FCC ID IHDT56XJ1), which shares the very same external design with the unlocked Moto Z3 Play.  Note even the same basic model number between the two.  But, internally, the Moto Z3 carries a higher end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with X16 LTE modem chipset, and as the FCC OET lab testing figures show, it also offers more mundane yet consistent RF output across its disclosed bands.  Clearly, some internal RF hardware has been changed and/or radio software tweaked in the transition from the Moto Z3 Play to the Moto Z3.  This is corroborated by the many additional LTE bands that the Moto Z3 supports but are not similarly present in the Moto Z3 Play nor disclosed in the FCC OET documents -- because those bands are downlink (i.e. reception) only or software disabled for US operation on VZW.  Absent from the Moto Z3, though, is band 71 capability, and perhaps its inclusion in the Moto Z3 Play antenna design is at least partly responsible for that model's low band challenges.


For additional comparisons, look at two of my favorite Motorola handsets of the past year, both with which I have had ample user experience and both of which are compatible with MVNO Project Fi, the Moto X4 (model variant XT1900-1, FCC ID IHDT56WK1) and Moto G6 (model variant XT1925-6, FCC ID IHDT56XD1).  Neither has HPUE, yet each still manages to pump out some solid band 41 EIRP by way of positive antenna gain.  The Moto X4 provides superb +2.80 dBi antenna gain on band 7/38/41.  And my experience has been similarly positive -- the Moto X4 has an above average affinity for band 41.  Beyond that, the Moto X4 is about average.


On the flip side, the Moto G6 offers above average EIRP across most other bands, too.  And that is achieved not through conducted power inflated above 200 mW (23 dBm) but mostly good old fashioned positive antenna gain.  In particular, the low band antenna gain of +1.36 dBi for band 12/17 is impressive.


That covers the lab tested RF figures for the Moto Z3 Play along with several related or recent handsets from Motorola.  If you have requests for analysis of other devices, feel free to submit them in the comments.

Source: FCC OET

7 comments:

  1. Brand new to this field of information, and found you via source link in other articles discussing the iPhone XS issues.

    How about a Note 9 review? People might be interested in comparing flagship to flagship.

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  2. By the way, forgot to say thanks for your efforts at writing these blogs!

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  3. Moto G6 user here. In the real world, I found reception performance on T-Mobile to be significantly worse than my prior exProject Fi Nexus 6. And by real world, I mean the Nexus 6 worked in my bathroom while the G6 had no signal. Crude but directly comparable! Ended up taking the G6 over to Verizon, where it works just fine. Except not as well as the Nexus 6 in weak areas like under my building at work. Too many variables there make a judgement but all in all, the G6 abjectly feels less sensitive. What, if any, were your thoughts on the Nexus 6?

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    1. While I still own the Nexus 5 and Nexus 5X, I passed on the Nexus 6, which I found ridiculously oversized at the time. That impression has tempered over the years. And the Nexus 6 was a good RF performer, both on paper and per anecdote. The Nexus 6 also was around the time when Motorola really was hitting a stride with the 2014 Moto X, which was an RF star on some bands and variants.

      I did include some Nexus 6 lab tested figures in an FCC OET analysis article about what would become Pixel and Pixel XL.

      https://s4gru.com/entry/412-the-rf-evolutionrevolution-of-the-htc-2016-nexus/

      Some of the figures are not directly comparable to recently posted figures, as I was not normalizing ERP to EIRP several years ago. But the chart in the article will get you in the ballpark.

      AJ

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  4. Do the Moto G6 and G6 play have a similar antenna design? Just curious as I'm on AT&T and so the G6 play was the only way to get VoLTE/WiFI calling etc seeing as I needed a phone on the spot and none of the flagship phones at the time were quite what I wanted.

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    1. I checked my FCC OET notes for Motorola, but sorry, I have no recorded data for the Moto G6 Play. Though I may have glanced at its FCC OET authorization docs, I did not do any analysis of its lab test results.

      For VoIP calling via LTE or Wi-Fi on any handset -- no wireless operator certification necessary -- Google Voice is a good option. VoLTE does come with a network QoS layer, but that is overkill in many instances.

      AJ

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    2. Thanks for the response. The main thing for me was the sound quality with HD voice over AT&T's LTE network which is good for my hearing. I don't really use WiFi calling much. As for signal it certainly seems to do better than my Galaxy Note 4 on Verizon did, but there's a lot else going on besides the device in that comparison--Verizon vs AT&T tower placement in my neighborhood, the Note 4 only supporting Verizon's first two LTE bands (13 and 4) while the G6 play supports all of AT&T's including FirstNet and bands 29 and 30, and so on.

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