Microsoft has officially announced the Surface Duo 2, rectifying many of the major complaints that plagued the previous model. Reviewers and early adopters of its predecessor were critical of the software, cameras, and performance, but optimistic about the changes future devices might bring.
Surface Duo 2 features improvements in all those areas and additional features unique to dual-screen cell phones. Now that the launch of this and other devices is official, here is everything you need to know.
Pricing for the Surface Duo 2 starts at $ 1,499 in the US for the base model, which has 128GB of storage. The larger device is not available, perhaps due to a shortage of chips, but the list says it has 512GB of space and costs $ 1,799.
Surface Duo 2 is available for pre-order from now on Microsoft’s page and its launch scheduled for October 20, 2021, just in time for the holiday season.
Design and screens
The Duo 2 looks like its predecessor and offers an additional color option. Instead of a flexible screen like the Z Flip 3, the Duo 2 has two separate screens that are located on the hinge. In terms of dimensions, it is closer in size to the Z Fold 3, but its screens cannot be folded.
You can keep it folded, but the versatile design also allows you to open it like a book to read and hold it like a Nintendo DS to play games, or lay it flat so you can view your calendar on one screen while emailing on the other.
The most exciting design change is actually the gap between the hinge, which is an intentional modification that allows you to see a small, elongated screen. Microsoft calls it a “view bar” and it indicates the battery life and sends notifications while the phone is closed, which are color-coded, so you can see what awaits you and how many there are.
The two main displays are 5.8-inch AMOLED with a resolution of 1,344 x 1,892 pixels. Unfolded, they open up to an 8.3-inch panel that measures 2,688 × 1,892 pixels, but of course, there will be a bezel in the middle.
Pixel density is good at 401 pixels per inch, it supports HDR and hits 800 nits at maximum brightness. The real selling point is the 90Hz refresh rate, which is a nice jump from the 60Hz the first Duo has, though not on par with the 120Hz Galaxy Z Fold 3.
The camera was a major source of complaint for Surface Duo critics. It was a single 11MP front camera, so unless you were taking a selfie, you had to rotate the screen to take a photo.
The above was definitely a design flaw, but the worst part is that the software was sometimes buggy, to the point where the camera or screen wouldn’t wake up and you had to restart it. The Duo 2 has a camera setup that should solve all of these problems.
The 12 MP front camera is capable of capturing 4K video at 60 and 30 FPS, 1080p at 30/60 FPS, and slow motion video at 120/240 FPS. It will be great for selfies and you don’t need to use it for anything else because the Duo 2 has a triple lens rear camera system.
It features a 12 MP main sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), a 16 MP ultra-wide camera with a 110-degree field of view, and a 12 MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and OIS. The real test will be how it fares in low light, but that will have to wait for our full review.
One of the biggest criticisms of the original Surface Duo was the fact that it featured the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor from “last year.” It also lacked many features like NFC, a rear camera, and wireless charging. Almost everything has changed for the better now.
True to rumors that the Surface Duo 2 would come with the best processor of 2021, the device features a Snapdragon 888, which can be found on other phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Z Fold 3. You finally get 5G support for a faster internet connectivity and supports all key 5G bands like mmWave and sub-6.
It will also receive support for NFC, which will allow for contactless payments in the subway, restaurants and other places, a feature that is becoming common to use during the pandemic. Unfortunately, it still lacks wireless charging even though it works with the Surface Slim Pen 2, which charges when in the device.
Surface Duo has 6 GB of RAM, as well as 128 or 256 GB of storage. Everyone was expecting an increase in RAM, and they got it: the new models have 8GB of RAM and the larger model also offers more space. That should make it fast enough to handle most tasks and games, including two apps side by side.
On the plus side, it supports fast charging, but you’ll need to purchase a 23W USB-C adapter separately. Microsoft says the 4,449 mAh battery life should be good with 15.5 hours of local video playback (no streaming) and 28 hours of talk time.
We will have to put it to the test to see how this translates in the real world.
According to the specifications provided by Microsoft, the Duo 2 will ship with Android 11, which comes with enhancements for dual-screen and foldable devices. Other dual-screen phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 have already received Android 11 updates.
Google is already working on beta testing Android 12 on Pixel phones. Android 11 will be one year old when the Duo 2 is released, but Microsoft said that I was engaged with three years of updates to the original Duo, so the Duo 2 will likely have Android 12 as well.
The other big focus is on multitasking, with Microsoft trying to make the Duo 2 seamlessly switch between Book, Compose, and Store modes. This is especially the case for game optimization.
The company claims 150 games are supported, allowing you to use the bottom screen for controls and the top screen for the game itself, reminiscent of a Nintendo handheld. Again, this was the big shortfall in last year’s model, so it will be interesting to see how Microsoft has fixed this in our review.