Surface Duo 2 review: Microsoft's refined dual-screen phone


Polish and refinement — the 2 phrases to sum up Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2. After a number of days with this dual-screen phone, it’s clear that Microsoft corrected errors and listened to suggestions with the Duo 2.

The authentic Duo was a super-unique system that paired two screens with a hinge and ran a custom-made model of Android. It wasn’t good, and was introduced down by a whole lot of bugs and a extremely dangerous digicam.

The Duo 2 boasts all the most recent buzzword options you’d anticipate — the most recent processor from Qualcomm, marginally greater screens, 5G help, a triple-camera array and higher battery life. At its present worth level, although, it’s nonetheless a tool for a selected consumer whose focus is on productiveness — with some room for enjoyable.

Let’s fold open the Duo 2 and dive proper in.

A refined and refined twin display screen phone

The Duo 2 boasts all the most recent buzzword options you’d anticipate housed in a singular high-end construct. At its present worth level, although, it is nonetheless a tool for a selected consumer whose focus is on productiveness — with some room for enjoyable.

Who that is for: The Surface Duo 2 is for somebody who desires the final word system for productiveness and work, with the distinctive means to give attention to two apps in quite a lot of modes — and for somebody who’s keen to drop a hefty sum for all that versatility.

What you’ll want to know: Unlike different foldables, the Duo 2 has two separate screens and the flexibility to group apps aspect by aspect, permitting you to simply work between two packages directly. In our testing, lots of the bugs and slowdowns have been ironed out within the second era. The Duo 2 additionally meets the mark with a zippy processor, sharp screens and lengthy battery life, although the cameras aren’t stupendous.

How this compares: The Surface Duo 2 actually focuses on being a workhorse and destined for productiveness duties. And it actually shines with Microsoft’s apps and doing two issues directly with one system — these are referred to as app Groups on units. The Duo 2 is greatest for somebody who desires a tool that excels in work and multitasking. Those who need a foldable that higher handles leisure and video games ought to take a look at the Galaxy Z Fold 3. And in the event you’re all proper with a normal smartphone, the Galaxy S21 or Pixel 6 provide related quick efficiency in a design that may allow you to split-screen two apps.

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Our favourite factor concerning the Duo 2 is the design — it’s like a modern-day mini Moleskine pocket book that’s extraordinarily skinny (simply 5.5 millimeters) and boasts a largely glass construct. The body, which retains all of it collectively, is aluminum with two chrome steel bars that act because the hinge — which feels clean to function.

Duo 2 makes use of the identical two hinges arrange within the center between the 2 shows — one on the high and one on the backside — seen as two rounded rectangular items of chrome steel.

They function very easily and make it straightforward to fold open the Duo 2 and work together with the 2 shows. Like on the original Duo, you’ll be able to flip the left aspect below the proper or the proper aspect below the left — it’s a full 360-degree rotation. And you’ll be able to cease or pause alongside the best way with ease.

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The Surface Duo 2 options two distinct 5.8-inch PixelSense shows, that are primarily based on AMOLED panels. When viewing emails in Outlook or textual content on a Google Doc, we had been offered with clear inky blacks that by no means look pixelated. Similarly, when enjoying MLB The Show over Xbox Game Pass or watching “Loki” on Disney+, we had been offered with correct colours that would pop when crucial and sufficient particulars to be immersed into the content material. Here’s an necessary be aware, although — these shows aren’t a full 120Hz refresh fee, which suggests they’re not as clean as equally priced telephones for high-frame-rate content material. They are available at 90Hz, which isn’t a slouch, however for its worth, 120Hz would have been a pleasant addition.

These shows come collectively for an 8.3-inch display screen with a slight hole within the center. The hole is noticeable, particularly in the event you’re utilizing an app spanned throughout each shows. But it really works fairly properly for utilizing two apps directly, which actually is what Microsoft is pushing for right here.

The fingerprint sensor is now baked into the facility button and could be very fast to scan. This lives under the amount rocker on the right-hand aspect of the system. The USB-C port lives on the underside of the proper aspect as effectively.

Unlike the unique Duo, which may very well be laid absolutely flat, the Duo 2 contains a triple-camera array in a large rectangular housing on the again. The result’s a hefty digicam bump for 3 lenses which might be solely common.

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Right now the sloping of the shows solely serves just a few functions. When Duo 2 is closed, there is no such thing as a technique to work together with it. On the unique Duo, you would barely open the system to disclose the time, however now Microsoft goals to make higher use of house.

Since the shows slope down, the guide bind of the Duo 2 can show visuals when it’s closed. Both screens mirror the identical picture in an effort to see the time on the high of the backbone. When a phone name comes by way of, a coloured bar will glow from small to massive, and notifications will stack as small bricks. It’s simply not very straightforward to see and it looks like Microsoft may do extra with this function.

Our favourite use case is for phone calls, however wouldn’t it’s helpful if it had a ticker impact to show the phone quantity or contact identify? It appears nearly half thought out — and that isn’t nice.

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Android with a Microsoft interface on Duo 2 feels way more refined and polished. The phone has an upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with 8GB of RAM inside, which effortlessly powers a dual-display system. It’s the most recent in cell processing from Qualcomm and in addition powers different higher-end units just like the S21 series, Z Flip and Z Fold.

You’ll shortly discover that the Duo 2 presents a pairing of Microsoft and core Google apps. OneDrive, the Microsoft Office suite and GamePass are centered together with the entire basic Google apps. You get a Google search and Assistant bar as a component on the highest left, with a Microsoft time and climate widget under it.

The key to the Duo 2 expertise is that you could save app pairings. And these work with any app by default. You can set Twitter on the proper and Outlook on the left as a gaggle, which we gravitate towards each morning as we shortly triage what emails have come in a single day, get a style of what’s happening on the planet with Twitter and see what lies for the day forward.

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And for when you’ll want to go laborious on reaching inbox zero, you’ll be able to maintain the Duo 2 nearly like a mini laptop computer; with Outlook spanning each home windows, you’ll be able to even use it horizontally and have your foremost message on the proper with a menu on the left. It’s fairly helpful, however we like holding it vertically with a contemporary e mail on the highest and a digital keyboard on the underside. It’s a pleasant system for productivity-centric duties. The means to multitask right here is on the identical stage because the Z Fold 3 almost, besides you’ll be able to’t open greater than two apps directly.

The digicam bump on the again makes the Slim Pen 2 or one other Surface Pen much less of a perfect companion right here, because the Duo 2 can’t lie flat. We beloved utilizing the unique Duo as a mini pocket book for conferences, however the digicam bump is a drag on this use case. Yes, you’ll be able to nonetheless write on it, however you’re going to finish up rocking the boat — effectively, phone.

And actually any software ran swimmingly on the Duo 2 — shortly after setup, we skilled the launcher, which powers the system, crash, however that solely occurred as soon as. A restart shortly mounted that, and the Duo 2 has been clean crusing.

While the unique Duo wasn’t nice for gaming, we’ve been having fun with Xbox Game Pass on the Duo 2. Setting it up like a tent permits one display screen to face you at almost any angle and makes it act like a mini TV. We paired an Xbox Wireless Controller with ease and will fireplace up any title, like MLB The Show, for some on-the-go gaming. The show was nice for moments like these, and because it’s cloud gaming, it doesn’t actually tax the system or considerably drop the battery life.

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For the occasions while you don’t have a controller with you, choose video games are optimized to have the sport on the highest and a digital controller on the underside. This is simply while you’re holding the Duo 2 vertically, nevertheless it labored effectively in our testing for Asphalt 9. As it’s with most new software program tips, builders might want to replace apps to utilize this. It additionally stretches the Duo 2 past simply work and play, however it’s also possible to do that with a normal smartphone, and it’s not sufficient to essentially splurge the $1,499.

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We’re completely satisfied that Microsoft determined to swap one digicam for 4 lenses, however we’d say that these aren’t of the identical high quality as an iPhone 13 or a Pixel. These are common cameras that supply versatility in favor of sheer high quality. But as we said final 12 months, don’t purchase this for pictures — you’ll be able to spend much less and get extra mileage elsewhere.

That massive digicam bump on the rear accommodates three foremost shooters:

  • A 12-megapixel huge: As the primary digicam on the Duo 2, this lens is pretty fast to focus and takes fairly good photographs. It additionally helps modes like Portrait, however don’t anticipate wild ranges of element or hyperaccurate colours.
  • A 16-megapixel ultrawide: The ultrawide lens on Duo 2 enables you to seize much more in a shot without having to bodily transfer. In our assessments, it allow us to body some close to photographs, however these do function a fish-eye impact within the corners.
  • A 12-megapixel telephoto: The telephoto is simply 2x optically right here, nevertheless it does allow you to zoom in from afar whereas holding a stable quantity of element intact.

You can see the standard in our check photographs under, however they’re all fairly common. Lighting is mostly appropriate however skew a bit to the cooler aspect. It’s a superb picture, however zooming in does reveal some artifacts and blur right here. Additionally, photographs in a vibrant house with synthetic gentle end in some blown-out or overexposed elements. The front-facing 12-megapixel lens is fairly darn good for selfies (providing fairly a little bit of element) and very best for video calls.

Microsoft additionally packed a much bigger battery contained in the Duo 2 — a 4449mAh dual-cell setup versus a 3577mAh twin battery within the authentic. While it’s a much bigger set of batteries, Microsoft didn’t make a thicker phone both, which is fairly spectacular. Battery life was fairly robust, with the flexibility for the Duo 2 to make it by way of a full day with between six and eight hours of on-screen time.

Unlike the power-hungry Z Fold 3, the Duo 2 is a little more timid by way of draining battery. In our testing, the Glance Bar didn’t draw a big quantity of energy both. Microsoft doesn’t embody an influence adapter within the field, however you do get a USB-C to USB-C cable.

As we do with each system we check at NCS Underscored, we ran the Duo 2 by way of our battery check gauntlet. In it we play a 4K video on loop with the brightness set to 50% and quantity at 30% with the system in airplane mode. We additionally be sure that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned off and play the video on a loop till the system dies. We monitor the check with two cameras for redundancy. The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 lasted for 9 hours and 35 minutes.

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At $1,499, the Duo 2 succeeds as a high-end dual-screen phone with options and {hardware} to match the worth tag. It’s nonetheless destined for a extra area of interest shopper who desires a give attention to doing extra directly. With the upgraded {hardware} and anticipated 2021 flagship options, it’s extra so a productiveness czar phone with plenty of methods to deal with leisure and gaming. Duo 2 is in the end greatest for somebody who desires to give attention to two apps directly and seeks a tool that places productiveness on the very heart.

It’s actually for customers who need a dual-screen setup in a really distinctive construct. And whereas $1,499 is quite a bit, it does undercut the $1,799 Galaxy Z Fold 3. Those who need a folding phone ought to contemplate the $999 Z Flip 3 because it presents efficiency that’s in line — to not point out a greater set of cameras. And in the event you’re cool with ditching a number of screens, the Galaxy S21 or S21+ aren’t slouches, and the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are poised to be champs, a minimum of on paper.

With information from