The Surface Duo from Microsoft is a tragic beauty. Microsoft’s Surface Duo is designed to be different from any other gadget you have ever used. You could mistake it for a small phone or tablet, but it’s both less and more than that.
The Surface Duo is easily a success when you look at it from that perspective. It has capabilities no other phone can match. Nevertheless, there are some things it fails to do well. A dual-screen design results in glitchy software, and the camera performance is mediocre. It also includes a bunch of outdated hardware. Even if the phone is beautifully crafted, the price tag is still astronomically high.
Overall, the handset is charming, but difficult to recommend. Our Microsoft Surface Duo review shows why this device is one of the most interesting of recent times, even if it’s a little rough around the edges.
- The dual-screen design is gorgeous
- Two apps at once
- The hardware is thin and beautiful
- Consistent software glitches
- The Camera is not that great
- Quite pricey
Surface Duo appears dull in pictures, it must be admitted. It features two discrete, conventional Gorilla Glass-covered 5.6-inch panels with giant bezels in an age where devices have flexible displays. The stainless-steel double-barrel hinge and equivalently mirrored Microsoft logo are all that break up the white-painted glass on the phone’s exterior. Nonetheless, holding the Surface Duo.
Additionally, the Surface Duo has an incredibly symmetrical design. The right side of the device has a USB-C charger, a lock button, the volume rocker, and a fingerprint scanner – but apart from that, both sides of the device are the same thickness. The displays are also the same size and resolution. With all of this, using the Surface Duo feels extremely natural, no matter what orientation you are using it in. Every time we use a device, we shift its orientation depending on what we’re actually doing. By turning the screen horizontally, the second screen can be used as a full-screen keyboard for responding to work emails without having to get up from the couch. Alternately, you can turn the device completely around so that you can use it as a single-screen device to make phone calls or take pictures.
Dual-screen functionality is the whole point of the Surface Duo, and if you’re not totally in need of that, you shouldn’t buy it. It is possible to run two full apps at once while the device is open, or even to extend apps across both screens – although that has limited utility. For media consumption, expanding an app into both displays is the only use that immediately comes to mind. While there is only a small gap between the two displays, it is still noticeable and definitely not ideal for watching movies or anything similar. You might also want to consider the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 if you just want a large screen for watching media.
There is only a single lens 11MP camera on the Surface Duo, which is on the front of the right-hand screen. Flip the device around into single-screen mode and you’ll be able to use it as a selfie cam and the main camera. The device isn’t designed for people who want to take lots of pictures all the time, so it’s easy to overlook if your usage is in line with its design.
The device can still record 4K video, and the portrait mode is decent, but the camera is the weakest part of the device. We probably would not even want a camera on the back of the device based on its symmetrical design, so it’s absolutely something we can live with.
Only 6GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 855 SoC make this a multitasking device that isn’t very suitable for users who like to multitask. It runs smoothly when you are just scrolling through your email and social media, but as soon as heavier apps are installed, things bog down.
There’s no way the device is designed for such a workload – especially since most games’ UIs don’t scale so well with the smaller aspect ratio of both screens – but it’s still disappointing that it’s such a struggle. If all you’re planning is the intended workload, the hardware on offer should be sufficient. This device won’t be able to handle very heavy creative workloads.
We didn’t exactly expect amazing battery life from the Surface Duo, especially since the device has two screens and has a 3,577mAh battery. When the battery eventually dies, the included 18W charger charges the device in a flash, so we’re never out of action for too long. The all-glass chassis of the Surface Duo would have made it nice if Microsoft had provided wireless charging support, but maybe they will add that next time.
Simply looking at this thing is enough to make you fall in love with it at first glance. AMOLED screens are easy on the eyes, and this phone looks so beautiful. Unfortunately, there are some bad points as well, and that has to do with Microsoft’s lack of trustworthiness when it comes to software updates. For clarity, Android 11 is not yet available for the original Surface Duo.
Incredibly well-crafted and thoughtfully designed, the Surface Duo supports its dual-screen ambitions. Neither a smartphone nor a tablet, the Surface Duo sits somewhere in between. Nevertheless, I can see it filling both roles – at least conceptually – which makes the $1,400 price tag a little more tolerable.