The Microsoft Surface Duo is a tablet/smartphone combination device. If you listen to the marketing, this is the next big thing in the smartphone industry but as far as next-gen gadgets go, it’s in a league of its own. That works for and against the Microsoft Surface Duo.
As companies fall over their own feet to jump on foldable smartphone technology, Microsoft took the easy way out by attaching two screens together with a hinge. It’s a bit lackluster as a smartphone, but there is no denying that this is the next big thing among portable devices.
The only available color for the Microsoft Surface Duo is Glacier. It’s a nice color, although the option for a black or brown would have really highlighted the great design. Bumper colors are a solution, but it still doesn’t excuse the lack of launch designs.
When closed, the Microsoft Surface Duo looks like a classy credit card holder. The Windows symbol on the front is a little off-putting, but takes little away from its fantastic look. Unless you stare directly at it, the hinges on the left are barely noticeable. Once opened, the design of the Microsoft Surface Duo transforms like Sailor Moon. It is flashy, colorful, and will feel magical each time.
The display is concerning if you’ve been paying attention to smartphones from the past six years. Although it is an AMOLED touchscreen, the screen resolution is quite unique. At 1800 x 2700, you get a 3:2 ratio screen unfolded. Folded, you’re looking at 1350 x 1800 for a 4:3 ratio. Point blank, that is awful no matter how much you like the brand. There are several budget smartphones that have a much better display than the Microsoft Surface Duo.
At an abysmal 4:3 ratio, you are dealing with a format that has been used since 1892. For reference, the 2010 Samsung i8910 Omnia HD managed to squeeze in a 16:9 ratio in its minuscule 3.7-inch frame. When folded, the Microsoft Surface Duo is 5.6 inches. Unfolded, you are looking at 8.1 inches. In short, no matter how you use the device (folded or unfolded) it will still be underwhelming for media or games.
As great as everything looks on screen, the resolution of the device is built more for multitasking, utility, eBooks, and web surfing. Reading text-heavy webpages on the 4:3 ratio feels good, and you will scroll less while doing so.
Any device that has a hinge will be at a disadvantage when it comes to durability. Thankfully, Microsoft didn’t skip QA in this department, so users get a surprisingly sturdy phone. Corning Gorilla Glass 5 covers the front and back, and should be more than enough to take a few drops. Case options are already lined up, and it is recommended that users protect their devices ASAP.
The Microsoft Surface Duo suffers from the same design drawbacks of the similarly-made Nintendo DS. Without a physical lock to ‘snap’ both screens in place, you take a big risk whenever the device falls. And since the Microsoft Surface Duo is the size of a tablet, that will happen more often than not.
If you were to split the device into two separate phones, it would be called one of the most durable smartphones in the industry. Microsoft did a great job with the durability of the device, but secured it like it was a regular smartphone.
Inside the Microsoft Surface Duo rests some pretty decent hardware. A powerful octa-core processor is paired with a formidable Adreno 640. Consumers can choose between 128 or 256GB of storage, which seems to be the current industry standard for smartphones. The hardware of the device far exceeds what is needed to run it optimally, so future slowdowns will be nonexistent.
RAM is capped at 6GB, which isn’t bad, but can be considered underwhelming for the price. The battery is good, but lacks a wireless charging option. Support for different stylus choices is a strong selling point that lives up to expectations. Both the size and multitasking ability of the Microsoft Surface Duo makes it ideal for stylus usage.
In a head-to-head comparison with the Huawei Honor View 20, the Honor is a paper tiger. In real-world scenarios, general optimizations and usage will favor the Microsoft Surface Duo.
Do you remember the last time a tablet camera was celebrated? No matter how hard it tries, the Microsoft Surface Duo has more in common with a tablet than a smartphone. The main camera is the same as a selfie camera, so expect a jarringly underpowered 11MP to get the job done. When a powerhouse like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is on the scene, it becomes inexcusable for larger phones to have anything less.
For what’s there, the camera on the Microsoft Surface Duo works well. Going with Android 10 was a smart idea, and it is clear the software helped pushed the camera well beyond its limitations. You can even create steady 4K/30 fps video without stutter. This smartphone camera is the very definition of adequate for modern times, even for a phablet.
Call quality is good, and the design doesn’t get in the way when you use speakerphone. In some ways, speakerphone mode is enhanced when using the phone in its open state. It isn’t uncommon to be on a phone call, doing a sudoku puzzle and using social media all at once. The Microsoft Surface Duo makes it possible, and sounds decent in the process.
Media sounds okay, and has just enough bass to make it respectable. In its default state, the Microsoft Surface Duo has the best implementation of Bluetooth out of any modern smartphone. With future updates, it will further distance itself from the competition.
Similar Challenges to the Samsung Galaxy Note
Even with the negatives, the Microsoft Surface Duo is a notable device. It is too unique to ignore, but faces the same challenges as the original Samsung Galaxy Note. In 2011, a lot of people found it absurd to have a huge phone with a stylus. Now, it is hard to find a normal-sized smartphone without stylus support. With proper support, Microsoft has a chance to turn the Duo line into its biggest brand since Xbox.
|Microsoft Surface Duo||Samsung Galaxy Note|
|CPU||Snapdragon 855 Octa-core||Exynos 4210 Dual-core|
|Battery||Li-Po 3577 mAh non-removeable||Li-Ion 2500 mAh removeable|
|Camera||11MP||2MP Front/8MP Rear|
Did the Microsoft Surface Duo Reinvent the Square Wheel?
No one asked for the Microsoft Surface Duo. The industry was trending towards foldable and flip screens, not two smartphones glued together. But the appeal of the Microsoft Surface Duo is undeniable, and the product is the beginning of something special.
With the Duo, Microsoft has an exciting new product that can only trend upwards. This first version is built for early adopters, but is more than welcome in any curious household.