At a series of events around the world in late July, Motorola dropped not one, but two versions of its top-end phone, the Moto X.

While the Moto X Style is still a little ways off, the Moto X Play is now on sale in places like the UK and Canada. It's not the highest of the high-end like the Style (or Pure Edition, depending where you are), but instead sits in the middle of Moto's newest range of devices between its bigger brother and the best-selling Moto G.

So, what's it like? Here are our first impressions.

Let's recap first what makes the Moto X Play tick.

Category Features
Display 5.5-inch, 1920x1080 resolution (403 ppi), Corning Gorilla Glass 3
OS Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core @ 1.7GHz
Adreno 405 GPU @ 550MHz
Natural Language Processor, Contextual Computing Processor
Storage 16GB or 32GB, SD card up to 128GB
Rear camera 21MP f/2.0, quick capture, burst mode, night mode, auto HDR
1080p video at 30fps, slow motion video
Front camera 5MP
Battery 3630 mAh non-removable
30 hours mixed usage
Micro USB port
Cellular (XT1562) GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz
HSPA+ 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100MHz
LTE Band 1/3/5/7/8/19/20/28/38/41
Nano SIM
Connectivity 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, GPS
Speakers Front-ported speaker
Dimensions 148 x 75 x 10.9 mm, 169g
Water resistant Water repellent nano-coating
Colors Black with black back
White with winter white back
Choice of 14 different backs, 7 accent colors

On paper, lots of good stuff. The base model carries 16GB of internal storage, and that's the one we have here. Once you actually turn it on you're looking at around 9.5GB of usable storage. So before going any further, we'd certainly recommend you save up a little extra and go for the 32GB model. Even with the inclusion of a microSD card slot, 16GB is becoming increasingly tougher to recommend.

Design-wise the Play has the looks of its smaller, cheaper sibling, the Moto G, in spades. It's just, well, bigger and slimmer. But not actually much bigger physically than the Moto G, with half an inch more display. So Motorola has done a pretty good job on that front, especially when you consider the front facing speaker. There's not a massive amount of top and bottom bezel, and the curvature of the back at least tries to offer some ergonomics. Personally speaking, though, I've had a hard time getting a comfortable grip on the Moto X Play. It's definitely a 'two-hander.'

Moto X Play

The back cover is removable, though it doesn't reveal anything useful inside — it simply comes off so it can be exchanged for a different style or color. It's covered in a rubbery feeling pattern that provides some grip, but not as much as the much cheaper feeling textured plastic on the Moto G. The battery is sealed and the microSD card and nano-SIM card slot is on the top edge of the phones frame. The Moto X Play is available with Moto Maker options to choose from a variety of different colored backs and accents to create the phone of your desires.

Moto X Play

Speaking briefly on the sealed battery as well; it's a monster. At 3630mAh and paired with the hardware on offer here we have strong expectations. But having had the phone for less than 24 hours at the time of writing there's nothing to actually say on its performance yet. Stay tuned for the full review for more on that.

Software-wise it's business as usual for Motorola. Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, virtually as Google intended. In some eyes, better than Google intended, since Motorola's trademark custom bits are here like the voice actions, wrist flicking gesture to launch the camera and of course, their own apps. As with the Moto G, most of the cool features are wrapped up now in the "Moto" app. And anyone concerned that a Snapdragon 615 and 2GB of RAM isn't enough for a super smooth, lag free experience can rest easy. The Moto X Play is as smooth as anything we've used this year. Motorola's approach to software has won a new army of fans and it's no different with the latest generation.

In terms of camera, we're talking about a 21MP rear shooter. The camera has been one of the weaker points of the previous generations of Moto X, but there's a big game being talked this year. We'll be putting it through its paces much more thoroughly as part of the full review, but impressions are mixed. It seems plenty good enough outdoors, but indoors in lower light it's still less than stellar. And that's being polite.

Sure, we've not looked at things like Night Mode, but as the images in the gallery below show, when you just open the camera to take a picture and the light's not good, neither is the photo that comes out the other end. But the Motorola Camera app is still a delight to use. The clean, simple interface, gesture launch and one touch shooting still makes it super speedy to capture those precious moments.

Below you'll find a few very quick sample shots at 21MP in 4:3 aspect ratio, downsized just slightly for uploading to the site (21MP photos are quite large). Everything was left as it is when you set the phone up, with HDR set to auto. So some photos have HDR, some do not. Beside initial issues with low light shots, the other thing that also seems to be an issue is that the phone can just decide not to focus on anything properly, so you end up without any real definition on the subject. See the flowers in the gallery as an example, though there was also a light breeze so the slight movement probably didn't help.

But when it gets it right, it looks like it can deliver some great shots — for example, the green plant with water droplets on it.

Moto X Play

All-in-all, first impressions are good. If you're the smaller handed person (like the author of this post) you may find the combination of size, shape and a not-actually-that-grippy rubber finish on the rear takes some work to get comfortable with. The IPS LCD display is decent, if unremarkable, and the camera isn't half bad in some circumstances. Wrap it all up in a package that starts at £279 in the UK and you're looking at something that's offering very good value for money.

We're not done with the Moto X Play by a long shout, so stay tuned for more coverage including a full review on Android Central in the coming days.