Microsoft Surface Duo 2: Here’s everything you need to know about Microsoft’s latest foldable
Microsoft made an attempt to re-enter the smartphone world with the Surface Duo. It was a foldable phone with two displays attached by a hinge, a product that greatly intrigued tech enthusiasts. While the device was unveiled two years ago (yes, it was unveiled in 2019), it went on sale almost a year after the official announcement. As a result, the internals were dated and the hefty launch price didn’t really justify what you were getting. The hardware execution on the Surface Duo was supreme, but the software execution seemed unfinished which added to the misery. Now, they’re back at it for a second attempt with the Surface Duo 2.
The Surface Duo 2 comes with a host of improvements like a dedicated camera array, a bigger battery, and most importantly — top-of-the-line internals. Here’s everything you need to know about the all-new Microsoft Surface Duo 2 to help you decide whether you should get the phone or not and how it compares against other foldables in the market.
Navigate this page:
- Price and Availability
- SoC, RAM, and Storage
- Battery and Charging
- Security and Extras
- Our Recommendations and Suggested Readings
Microsoft Surface Duo 2: Price and Availability
Unlike last year when the Surface Duo was delayed by almost a year post-launch, the Surface Duo 2 will be available to purchase just a month later with pre-orders going live soon after the launch. You can pre-order the Surface Duo 2 in the US and Canada starting September 22, 2021 and it will start shipping on October 21, 2021. The Surface Duo 2 will be available to purchase in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, and Australia.
|1||Surface Duo 2 — 128GB||$1,499|
|2||Surface Duo 2 — 256GB||$1,599|
|3||Surface Duo 2 — 512GB||$1,799|
Microsoft Surface Duo 2: Colors
The original Surface Duo was available in just a single color — white. This time, Microsoft has given users one extra option in the form of a black variant. You can pick the one that appeals to you the most. The black looks sleek and stealthy, but the white variant surely looks classier and more elegant.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2: Specifications
|Specification||Surface Duo 2|
|Build||Corning Gorilla Glass on both sides|
|Dimensions & Weight||Open|
Both screens open:
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Front Camera||12MP, f/2.0|
|Ports||USB-C 3.2 Gen 2|
The Surface Duo had a unique form factor and design that received a lot of appreciation from tech enthusiasts. While the concept of folding phones wasn’t new, the Surface Duo had a different take on the form factor compared to its competition. It was similar to what LG did with an additional dual-screen attachment with a few of its phones, except this was integrated and executed in a much better manner. However, it still wasn’t as seamless as a folding display from Samsung or Huawei.
The Surface Duo 2 retains a similar form factor and design language as the Surface Duo but with some much-needed changes and improvements. The phone still has two separate screens separated by a hinge instead of an actually folding display. The predecessor had one of the best executions of a hinge in a foldable device, and the Surface Duo 2 does not attempt to fix what was not broken. This means you get a very solid hinge, one that is capable of holding the two displays in whatever degree you need to fix it at. The Surface Duo was one of the thinnest phones when unfolded and Microsoft has stuck to that sort of form factor even with the second iteration. The Surface Duo 2 measures just 5.5mm in thickness when unfolded which is indeed extremely thin.
The major change in design comes in the form of an actual camera module on the rear of the phone. This was absent on the original Surface Duo since Microsoft relied on the camera on the display side to take pictures. The camera was sub-par and especially when you factored in the asking price, it came nowhere close to what other OEMs were offering at the time. In a world where a triple or a quad-camera rear setup is the norm, a poor-quality single camera just didn’t make the cut. Hence, there’s now an actual camera module just like on normal phones.
The added camera module means the phone can no longer be shut flat on its back like last year. This can hinder the experience when you want to use just a single screen by folding the other half back. But this is something we’ll only know more about once we get our hands on the device. The Surface Duo 2 is quite heavy, weighing in at 284g. When you couple the weight and the fact that the phone is wider than usual, it’s not going to be one of the most comfortable phones to carry in your pocket.
Also, just like last year, Microsoft has decided not to add a display to the front of the phone, so you will have to open up the two displays every time you want to use the phone. There is a “Glance” feature that uses the inner edge of the twin displays to display limited information while the phone is in its closed state. The entire exterior is constructed out of glass, so the phone still remains quite fragile. There is a metallic border running along the edges of the device.
The Surface Duo 2 has the same two-display design with both halves separated by a hinge. This design isn’t as polished as what you get with a true foldable like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 since there’s no real obstruction in the view with a foldable display (although there is a display crease). A foldable display provides a much more seamless experience, especially while viewing content on the display. Nevertheless, the two 5.8 inch AMOLED displays combine to give you a canvas of 8.3-inches and the quality of the panel is excellent. You get HDR support with a peak brightness of up to 800 nits, so you’re not going to have any issues viewing the display outdoors either.
There’s also a 90Hz refresh rate this time around which just improves the overall experience of using the display on the device. The only downside of this sort of design is that you can’t enjoy the large real estate while consuming content. The Surface Duo 2 isn’t specifically meant for content consumption though and is primarily aimed at folks who multi-task a lot on their devices and perform productivity tasks like editing documents, browsing the web while taking notes, going through a presentation while on a video call, etc. For these sorts of use cases, the dual-display implementation on the Surface Duo 2 might just make sense.
The original Surface Duo had pretty thick bezels which made the phone look dated and didn’t seem to be in line with the bezel-less design most phones are going for recently. The Surface Duo 2 also has pretty thick bezels on the front especially when you compare it with other modern phones. An edge-to-edge display would have made the phone look more modern as well as helped Microsoft shave off a few millimeters from the width and height of the device. What is different here is that the inner edges of the twin displays are slightly curved, to enable the Glance feature and allow for a smoother transition between the two sides of the display.
The Surface Duo 2’s displays also support pen input via the Surface Pen. There’s a new Surface Slim Pen 2 that has also been launched with the device.
SoC, RAM, and Storage
The Surface Duo 2 is Microsoft’s flagship phone for the year, so the internals are thankfully both up-to-date and flagship-grade this time. The Snapdragon 888 handles CPU duties which put the Surface Duo 2 right up there with any other flagship phone from 2021 in terms of raw performance. This wasn’t really the case with the Duo last year, since the release schedule meant the phone came with the previous year’s specifications. Thankfully, Microsoft has fixed that issue.
The Snapdragon 888 SoC also brings 5G capabilities to the Surface Duo 2. However, do note that mmWave 5G is limited to the US only and the rest of the world gets only sub-6GHz 5G. The Surface Duo 2 has 8GB of RAM as a standard across all variants which should work just fine. Given that the device is mainly meant for multitasking and productivity, we can’t help but wish Microsoft bumped up the RAM to 12GB to allow seamless switching between several more apps and the ability to run multiple apps together.
There are three storage variants in which the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 will be available to purchase — 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. The 128GB and 256GB models will be available to purchase across various retailers while the 512GB version is exclusive to the Microsoft store.
The original Surface Duo was a major letdown in the camera department and thankfully, the Surface Duo 2 makes up for it this time. This is one of the areas where the Surface Duo 2 has seen the biggest improvement and we’re glad that’s the case. Unlike the original Surface Duo that only had a single camera above one of the displays and was used for both main photos as well as selfies, the Surface Duo 2 gets an actual stack of cameras on the rear, just like you would expect from a smartphone in 2021.
The primary camera is a 12MP shooter with an aperture of f/1.7 which seems to be in line with what some other brands use too. This is accompanied by a 12MP telephoto lens with up to 2X optical zoom and an aperture of f/2.4. Both the primary camera and the telephoto camera have PDAF and OIS. It’s nice to see Microsoft focus on the camera hardware this year and also include some vital features like OIS. The third camera sensor is paired with an ultra-wide lens and shoots 16MP photos. While the quality of photos is what will tell us the actual performance of the camera, it’s safe to say that Microsoft has put in some work in the camera department and made sure you get a functional set of cameras. There’s also an additional Time of Flight (ToF) camera for depth mapping.
The internal camera which was used on the first-gen Duo to take all pictures will still be used for selfies as well as video calls. It shoots 12MP pictures. A proper camera setup just like other phones will ensure the Surface Duo 2 appeals to the average consumer for whom even the cameras play an important role, other than just being able to multitask on a device with two screens. The added camera bump, however, means that you cannot fold the device completely flat on its back, unlike last year. You win some, and you lose some.
Battery and Charging
This is another department where the Surface Duo 2 has improved substantially, at least on paper. The Surface Duo last year had a battery that was around the 3,500mAh mark. This time, Microsoft has bumped up the size of the battery by almost 1,000mAh, bringing it up to 4,449mAh. The larger battery will surely help with endurance given that there are two large displays to be driven and the Snapdragon 888 is a power-hungry chip. It’s commendable that Microsoft managed to fit in a large cell in a form factor that’s as thin as 5.5mm when unfolded.
Apart from the capacity of the battery, Microsoft has also bumped up the charging speed slightly on the Surface Duo 2. The original Surface Duo could only charge at 18W whereas the Surface Duo 2 can now charge at up to 23W. While this isn’t as fast as some other fast charging standards in the industry, it’s still an improvement. What might disappoint a lot of people though, is that the Surface Duo 2 does not come with a charger in the box. You will have to purchase an adaptor separately similar to some other flagship phones recently.
The Microsoft Surface Duo runs on Android 11 with Microsoft’s customizations on top. The UI has been tweaked to suit the dual-screen interface of the Surface Duo 2. You can run two different apps simultaneously on each screen which is a huge boon while you’re multitasking. Running two apps side by side also means you get the ability to drag and drop multiple elements from one app to the other across screens. You can create app groups and combos to launch at the same time and do things like taking notes while in a meeting.
Microsoft has added some features to the UI like dual-screen windowing, dynamic dock, Microsoft 365 feed, glance bar, universal search, etc. that improve the user experience. There are a bunch of Microsoft apps that also come pre-installed with the device like Linkedin, Edge, OneDrive, Office, Outlook, OneNote, Teams, etc. Given that it’s a device from Microsoft, they want to make sure you use their apps by default.
Security and Extras
The Surface Duo 2 has a fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication. It also comes pre-installed with the Microsoft Authenticator app. The phone has stereo speakers which when coupled with the large display(s) makes it a good entertainment machine. There’s no headphone jack on the Surface Duo 2 which is understandable given how thin it is. You get a dual-mic setup that uses AI algorithms to cancel out background noise when you’re on a call.
Another nice feature of the Surface Duo 2 is the ability to output up to a 4K stream via the USB-C port on the device. A lot of Android devices skimp out on video-out via HDMI through the USB-C port, but the Surface Duo 2 has this feature. You can also use a Surface Pen with the Surface Duo 2 to take notes or scribble while you’re in a meeting.
Our Recommendations and Suggested Readings
While this page should give you an extensive idea about the Surface Duo 2 and all its new features, there will be certain specific topics you may be interested in, like how the phone compares to another phone in this price range, or how the Surface Duo 2 fares compared to its predecessor, etc.
While we work on our review of the Surface Duo 2, we suggest you take a look at some of the other articles around the device that would help you to make a wise decision.
We’ll add more articles to this section once we have the device in hand, and compare it to other popular devices.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about the Microsoft Surface Duo 2. While it isn’t a radical upgrade from last year’s phone, it addresses some of the major concerns by adding a dedicated set of cameras and a larger battery. Not to forget, the internals are updated too this year and you won’t have to wait for more than a year to actually be able to purchase the phone.
If you have further questions about the Surface Duo 2, let us know in the comments below and we’ll answer them. Are you happy with the improvements Microsoft has made with the Surface Duo 2? Are you considering picking one up for yourself?