Microsoft Surface Duo 3.6.21
The Microsoft Surface Duo was released on September 10, 2020, and was rumored to have been in development for the past 5 years at Microsoft. The Duo is a smartphone with two screens which fold down the middle, almost like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and I purchased the Duo shortly after it was released. I’ve been using the Duo as my ‘main phone’ since then, so this review sums up my experiences after using the Duo for the past 6 months.
First Impressions of the Duo.
My first impressions of the Duo was that it is definitely a unique device. In my whole life, I never imagined that you could have a phone like this that folds down the middle and allows for multi-tasking on a whole other level. On the Duo, you can have one app open on one screen, like Mail, and another app open on the opposite screen, such as Spotify or Microsoft Edge. The phone uses Android 10 as its OS rather than Windows. I love how the device can be folded to look like a ‘mini pc’, with the device sitting in a ‘tent mode’ or any other mode you wish. The Duo can be folded when a call is received, or left unfolded, too, the speaker function can be utilized. The device can be held up to your ear like a traditional smartphone, but it’s a little cumbersome to use this way as the device is rather wide. Within the first few weeks of the Duo’s release, there were some definite software glitches which I’ll cover in more detail throughout. The device receives ‘monthly updates’ via Microsoft and thus far, everything has been working more or less wonderfully, with a few hiccups here and there that a first gen device can be expected to have. As I spent more time with the device, I noticed some things that I’ll discuss throughout that probably won’t change – such as the lackluster camera – or the wonderful way that the device can truly change your productivity level.
More about the Duo.
The Microsoft Surface Duo is a gen one device, so some issues here and there are to be expected. The device initially cost around $1500, which is a high price, for sure, but for what you get, I feel the price is somewhat justified since it is such a ‘niche’, high-end device. The Surface Duo specs are below:
Operating System Android 10
|Display||Single: 5.6 inch (1800×1350), 401 ppi, 4:3 aspect ratio|
Opened: 8.1 inch (2700×1800), 401 ppi, 3:2 aspect ratio
Wide color gamut: 100% SRGB and 100% DCI-P3
Corning Gorilla Glass
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855|
|Network||WiFi-5 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz)|
LTE: 4×4 MIMO, Cat.18 DL / Cat 5 UL
|SIM||Nano SIM + eSIM (no eSIM on AT&T model)|
|Network Bands||FDD-LTE: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,14,19 20,25,26,28,29,30,66|
GSM/GPRS: GSM-850, E-GSM-900, DCS-1800, PCS-1900
|Storage||128GB or 256GB UFS 3.0|
|Camera||11MP, ƒ/2.0 1.0um, PDAF, 84.0° diagonal FOV|
Optimized with AI for front and rear
Dual mic with noise suppression and echo cancellation
Qualcomm aptX Adaptive
|Ports||1x USB-C 3.1|
Up to 15.5 hours of Local Video Playback
Up to 10 days of Standby Time
Up to 27 hours of Talk Time
Fast Charging using 18W in-box power supply
|Pen||Surface Pen (not included)|
|Dimensions||Open: 145.2mm (H) x 186.9mm x 4.8mm (T)|
Closed: 145.2mm (H) x 93.3mm x 9.9mm (T at hinge)
Real-Life Use of the Surface Duo.
In my real life use of the Surface Duo, I can say with conviction that the camera on this phone is NOT meant for anything other than quick ‘snaps’ or shots of documents you may wish to save or to be used for video-conferencing or ‘Zoom-ing’. The hardware on this phone in regard to the camera cannot be upgraded, and is left to the idiosyncrasies within the software to be ironed out. After a few software updates that focused on the camera, I can say that very miniscule changes have occured, but overall, the camera is NOT what you would call an ‘iPhone’ quality camera, or to be used for anything to extensive. If you go into using this device knowing that, you’ll be much better off. Call quality has been excellent, but there are a few odd behaviors here and there with screen rotations and the like which could definitely be polished via further software updates. I have had no complaints about using this device, and it truly has changed the way I ‘multi-task’. You can set up ‘app pairs’ such as having Spotify and Edge open side by side by the click of one button, in different orientations or sides of the device. Sound on the device seems mediocre; it could definitely benefit from having 2 speakers and have stereo sound – as it is, the Duo has a very small single speaker and the sound is adequate, but you won’t blow the roof off of the house or anything. The Duo also has GREAT battery life. I can easily get a day and a half out of this thing with regular use, or one full day (15+ hours) with heavy use. It’s a beast on battery, and the speed of the OS seems adequate, although some more tweaks wouldn’t go amiss here. For instance, sometimes my screen seems to get ‘stuck’ a little, and a few times, even after attempting to hit the power button and log back in with the finger sensor, it still seems messed up. I have to restart the device completely at least a few times a week, it seems, and that probably isn’t kosher for most. Again, it’s an ‘experimental’ first gen device, so keep your expectations at bay. If you do decide to use the Duo, now that you are in a special class of people who are using this hardware and software for the first time. Microsoft pushes out monthly updates to ‘enhance’ the device, but we haven’t seen major strides there, or even for Android 11 upgrades. Apparently, Android 11 is coming by the end of 2021, which is good news.
Who is the Duo for?
Great question. I would have to surmise that the Surface Duo is for either business professionals or those who like to multi-task. You don’t have to be a ‘business professional’ to use the Duo, of course, but it helps. For instance, I’m a grad student and I also have a side gig on eBay, so I use my Duo to listen to music on one screen and check my eBay listings on the other, or I just use the device folded with one device. You can also use the device unfolded with one app, but you see the home screen on the other. To save battery, I often just use one screen. The Duo is for anyone who wants to utilize two screens for different situations, and the ‘app pair’ situation is great. You can make your own ‘app pairs’ for any two Play Store apps that you want, or Microsoft Office suite apps.
Overall, I would give the Surface Duo a score of 7 out of 10, for GOOD, and Buy at your own risk. It’s a great device, but be prepared for some lag issues and realize you are more or less paying for the luxury of using a first gen device unlike the world has ever seen. Microsoft has done a great job here and I applaud Panos Panay and his Surface team for bringing us such as groundbreaking vision of mobile computing!