A new class of devices is growing — a type of device that wants to be both a phone and a tablet. The Surface Duo is one of the most exciting attempts to bridge this gap. Instead of opting for a foldable display like Samsung, Motorola or Huawei, Microsoft simply connected two screens together. Given the company’s experience with Surface shelves and their hinges, this makes sense. Since the Duo can rotate 360 degrees, it offers other alignments or what Microsoft likes to call “postures”, like the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
But software has always been Microsoft’s Achilles heel on the mobile front. For the Surface duo, it has partnered with Google to offer a Version Of Android 10. These two giants working together could succeed where other dual-screen phones have already failed, and the initial results look promising.
Whether open or closed, the Surface Duo is remarkably thin, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 2 or older dual-screen phones like the ZTE Axon M. It measures 9.9 mm, or about 0.38 inches thick in the closed state and 4.8 mm in the open state, while the Z Fold 2 is almost twice as large. At 250 grams (or 8.8 ounces), the Duo is also light enough for long play or reading sessions and a hair lighter than the 282-gram Z Fold 2.
On the right edge of the duo are power and volume buttons as well as a fingerprint sensor. And just outside the bottom center is the USB-C powered port.
When they’re closed, you’ll see the silver Microsoft Logo on one side of the duo’s glossy white cover that pairs well with the silver hinge. I like the clean and minimal aesthetics, even if the device is quite lightly coated. Fortunately, the Gorilla glass coating is more scratch resistant than fingerprints and survived a few drops from my sofa without leaving a trace.
The duo’s hinge is sturdy, but moves effortlessly — like a knife through soft butter. It also rotates a Full 360 degrees, while Samsung foldable, for obvious reasons, can only open flat up to 180 degrees.
This freedom to fully open allows the Surface Duo to settle in a variety of modes such as tent and laptop. But you can also flip it so that both screens are facing outward, so that you basically have a fairly wide phone.
The Surface Duo experience is very different in all its “postures”.”As a Smartphone, that’s it… decent. Each of its 5.6-inch AMOLED screens has a 4:3 aspect ratio and requires two hands to maneuver. The Full HD resolution provided crisp lyrics and images, and I was impressed with the sharpness and liveliness of the clip for Blackpinks How You Like That.
I didn’t know if the 11 megapixel solo camera above the right screen was going to take great pictures. The pictures were slightly cloudy when I framed them. But when I saw the recordings afterwards, they were surprisingly clear and rich. The Duo lagged behind most flagship phones in low-light conditions, but provided respectable colors and clarity. Sometimes I could hardly distinguish the Surface Duo photos from those of the Pixel 4A, but if I could, it was because Microsoft’s photos were slightly green and Google’s portrait mode was superior.
While the image quality is similar to most Smartphones, the duo’s unique camera setup takes time to get used to. Since this sensor serves as both a normal Selfie marksman and a Selfie marksman, Microsoft had to develop software that detects the direction in which you are pointing the phone. The corresponding screen is then activated. When I started using the Duo, it was incredibly tricky — my Selfie attempts were foiled because I was never able to make the screen stay with the camera facing me. After a software update on the 5th. In September, this has become more reliable, but it is still quite slow and requires a very conscious turnaround.
Honestly, if you try to capture fleeting moments, you may miss most with the Duo. First you need to take out the Duo and turn on the camera, which can take some time if you do not point the screens outward yet. Then you have to wait for the software to find out which screen to Activate and hope that it is correct. I always had to grope for at least five seconds before I could take a picture, by which time your smiling baby or dancing puppy may have already stopped being cute.
This is one of the things about the Duo that requires a little learning and a lot of patience. For those with smaller hands like me, you should activate the one-handed keyboard that moves to the edge of the screen to make it easier to access letters. I generally prefer Google’s GBoard for its better typing and predictions, but only Microsoft’s Swiftkey fits the different postures.
I understand why Microsoft is hesitant to call the Duo a phone because it doesn’t feel like it’s really designed that way. However, if desired, you can still make and receive calls. It sounds a little strange, but the Duo is not so wide that I can’t hold it with one hand to my ear and it’s just a little wider than the Galaxy Mega from 2013.