Microsoft Surface Duo review

The Microsoft Surface Duo arrives at an odd moment. A large number of professionals are now working from home on a long-term basis. The concept of constantly being online and working is sadly prevalent throughout several businesses.

And, while phones have always provided some degree of connectivity and availability even when you’re away from one of the finest laptops, they’ve always functioned as a sort of stopgap until you can get back to your primary computer to perform the hard work. The Surface Duo, on the other hand, provides a peek at what a professional phone may look like in the future. even if several flaws prevent it from becoming the ultimate solution right immediately. But, after all, what first-generation solution ever really solves the problem it is attempting to solve?

There will undoubtedly be others who laugh at the price, as Microsoft is charging $1,399 / £1,350 (about AU$1,930) for the Surface Duo. To put that in context, the LG V60, which has a removable second screen, starts at $799 (about £615, AU$1,100). Remember that LG’s gadget features a newer CPU, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, as well as an extra 2GB of RAM.

On paper, this suggests that the Surface Duo is pricey. While that may be true, Microsoft has worked hard to make the real experience of using the phone far superior to what we could have anticipated. The LG V60 hinted at what a dual-screen phone may be like, but the Surface Duo made it feel necessary.

Microsoft Surface Duo pricing and availability

The Surface Duo will be released in the United States on September 10, 2020. The phone was released in the United Kingdom in February 2021, although it has yet to be released in Australia.

It began at $1,399 / £1,350 (about AU$1,930). The base configuration comes with 128GB of internal storage. But you can upgrade to a 256GB model for $1,499 / £1,449 (about AU$2,080).

Since its introduction, the price of this device has dropped dramatically, with the 128GB model going for as little as $700 / £680 and the 256GB model going for as little as $750 / £730. Because all variants are 4G LTE, this is not a 5G phone on any network.

Features of Microsoft Surface Dou:

Design

If we were to characterize the Surface Duo design in one word, it would be sexy.’ Even though it does not enable wireless charging, the dual-screen tablet boasts an all-glass chassis.

The two screens are joined by these tiny yet exquisite hinges, with only a small space between them. And, while the appearance is appealing, it pales in comparison to how the gadget feels to open and close.

Microsoft managed to make a hinged gadget seem extremely robust without making it difficult to maneuver. Even while we’re walking and messaging on the Surface Duo, the screen doesn’t start to waver, which was something we were concerned about when Microsoft initially introduced it in October 2019.

Instead, the hinge has been fine-tuned for both endurance and comfort, resulting in a device that feels extremely stiff without appearing so. We’ve found ourselves opening and shutting the gadget repeatedly since it feels so pleasant.

Surface Duo is also quite symmetrical. There’s a USB-C charger, a lock button, a volume rocker, and a fingerprint sensor on the right side of the device, but other than that, the two sides are the same thickness, with the screens having the same resolution and size.

All of this makes using the Surface Duo in any orientation seem completely natural. We are continually altering the orientation of the gadget based on the work at hand. When we’re reading Twitter and Instagram at the same time, we’ll have it open like a book. Then we flip it horizontally, allowing the second screen to function as a full-screen keyboard when we need to swiftly answer a business email without getting up from our uncomfortable position on the sofa.

You can also spin the gadget all the way around to use it as a single-screen device, allowing you to converse on the phone or take photographs. However, as we’ll see later, the Surface Duo isn’t particularly good at any of these tasks, so we seldom use it as a single-screen tablet.

You may also look at the time by barely opening the gadget. This is useful because there isn’t an outside-facing display, but you can’t see whether you have alerts in this mode, so it’s only useful for checking the time.

And, despite all of this movement, there is just one mark on the back of the phone – a perfectly centered, perfectly square Windows logo on the back, which will appear right no matter what angle or orientation you hold the phone.

Microsoft has shown itself a master of design with its Surface range of laptops and desktops, particularly in recent years, developing computing products that compete with MacBooks. However, Microsoft has outdone them with the Surface Duo, providing the most stunning Surface Device we’ve yet used. We only hope that Microsoft’s design philosophy with this tablet is mirrored throughout the portfolio because the Surface Book 3 seems very old in contrast.

Dual display

The main idea of the Surface Duo is the dual-screen capabilities. So if that’s not required for you, there’s not much incentive to buy it.

When the gadget is open, you can run two complete programs side by side, or you may expand apps across both displays — albeit this is of limited value. The only reason for spreading an app over both screens comes to mind is for media consumption. However, even if the space between the two screens is modest, it is still present and is not ideal for viewing a movie or anything else. However, if you only want a large screen to view media on, you should choose the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Here is where Microsoft’s app library comes in. Microsoft packed the Surface Duo with the whole Office Suite. Once you start using these programs, the value of the second screen becomes evident.

You can run your web browser and email side by side, but the view changes when you open Outlook over both screens by swiping up from the bottom of the display and sliding, then holding the app over the center of the tablet. Now, one display will show a list of your emails, while the other will show the email you’re presently reading.

The finest example, though, is OneNote. The ability to launch this app across both displays felt like we had a little notepad with endless paper. Also if we had to furnish our Surface Pen. Even with its Surface Pro series, where it makes the most sense, Microsoft steadfastly refuses to add a Surface Pen. So it’s not unexpected that it’s not featured here, even though it’s frustrating.

In any case, taking notes on the Surface Duo is a dream comes true, and it may be enough to persuade a lot of people to buy the tablet, especially if they’re already a Microsoft Office fan.

We use this phone most of the time by having Twitter open on one screen and Slack open on the other. We wanted to be able to rush down to the bodega and pick up breakfast while still being able to use the multi-screen configuration to effectively pretend to work. And boy, does it deliver.

Camera

The Surface Duo only includes a single-lens 11MP camera on the right side of the screen. When you turn the smartphone around into single-screen mode, this camera will serve as both a selfie camera and the primary camera.

Because it just has a single lens, it won’t be able to compete with the iPhone 11 Pro or the Google Pixel 4, but it’ll suffice.

This isn’t a gadget made for individuals who take a lot of images all the time. So it’s easy to ignore whether your use case corresponds to what the phone is supposed to accomplish.

Don’t get us wrong: it still has a somewhat good portrait mode and can capture 4K video. But the camera is undoubtedly the device’s weakest feature. However, the phone’s symmetrical design means that we nearly wouldn’t want a camera on the back of the handset anyway. So it’s something we can live with.

If you decide to go with the Surface Duo, just be mindful of the subpar camera experience.

Performance

This smartphone is only powered by last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC and 6GB of RAM. These are hardly top-tier specifications, especially for a device whose sole purpose is multitasking.

When it comes to email and social networking, the specs here are more than enough. But once you start integrating heavier apps, things start to break down.

We had the brilliant notion, at the beginning of our time with the Surface Duo, of wandering about our neighborhood, playing Pokemon Go while having Discord open. Just because it was something we could do. However, the game suddenly became unusable, which caused the chat app to become unavailable as well.

Again, this isn’t a job built for the device. Especially because the reduced aspect ratio of the two screens means most game UIs don’t scale very well. But it’s still depressing that it’s such a hardship.

If the planned workload is all you intend to undertake, the hardware on offer should be enough. Just don’t expect to utilize this device for a lot of intense creative tasks.

Battery With a 3,577mAh battery and the Surface Duo running last year’s top Qualcomm, we weren’t expecting spectacular battery life. Especially given that the gadget needs to power two screens. We had been pleasantly delighted.

Only on the first day did we have poor battery life. With the gadget dying on us before we went to bed, it could easily be attributed to the device going through the first-time setup. 

We used the Surface Duo as our primary device for a little more than two weeks. We found that it generally lasted a little more than a day most of the time. Even when we loaded up Pokemon Go to evaluate how the device handled games or watched a lot of video material, the battery lasted the entire day.

Even if the battery does finally die, the supplied 18W charger charges the smartphone rapidly. So we’re never out of action for long. Given the all-glass design, it would have been good if Microsoft had incorporated wireless charging with the Surface Duo. But perhaps that will be included next time (if there is one)

Is the Microsoft Surface Duo worth it?

Buy it if…

  1. You do a lot of work on the go

If you need quick access to a serious productivity gadget, the Surface Duo’s two panels are great. Multitasking on a phone has never been easier.

  1. You use Microsoft Office

If you spend a lot of time in Microsoft Office, the Surface Duo might be the perfect device for you.

  1. Simple designs appeal to you.

The Surface Duo is one of the most beautiful mobile gadgets we’ve ever seen, and Microsoft outdid them this time.

Don’t buy it if….

  1. A phone with two displays is unnecessary.

For the Surface Duo to be worth the huge amount of money it costs. You have to be all-in on the dual-screen phone thing.

  1. You’re looking for cutting-edge technology.

Because the Surface Duo is powered by last year’s top mobile chipset, it will (slightly) lag behind current phones.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.