In this technological age, we are looking at companies coming out with new phones with astounding capabilities. Although there is still a lot of competition in the traditional smartphone market, recently we are seeing a rise in the ‘Foldable smartphone‘ trend. Companies like Samsung, LG, and Huawei have already presented their take on foldable smartphones. Microsoft doesn’t want to be left behind and has jumped on the bandwagon with its Surface Duo.
Microsoft Surface Duo is a wide foldable smartphone which comes with powerful components and is pretty different from the available smartphones on the market. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the phone features two different screens instead of a single one. The phone boasts its own sets of features which set it apart from the competition. With that being said, here is our hands-on review on the foldable marvel.
Surface Duo: Design and Display
The design and display of a phone are among the most important components of the phone as it’s the first thing a user would notice about the device. Microsoft understands this completely and we can see that when hold the device in our hands. The body of the phone is super thin, light and the build quality feels premium. Although Surface Duo seems wider than it’s traditional counterparts, It feels right when held in hands.
The outside of the body is made up of glass, which in our opinion is a great touch as it increases the longevity of the device aesthetics (being more scratch-resistant than a metal) as well as adds the option for wireless charging. The phone features two super thin slabs, having 4.8mm of height as well as curved edges at the open ends.
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When it’s closed the size is 145.2 mm (H) x 93.3 mm (W) x 9.9 mm (T at the hinge), while the dimensions for the open phone are, 145.2 mm (H) x 186.9 mm (W) x 4.8 mm (T). The outside panels are completely smooth with the absence of any camera bumps, or even a camera. There are volume keys, power button, and a fingerprint sensor on the side of one panel and a USB type C port at the bottom.
The phone features two PixelSense™ Amoled screens, each being 5.6”, 1800×1350 (4:3) wide. When the phone is opened, the size increases to 8.1”, 2700×1800 (3:2). The pixel density is 401 PPI which is more than average these days. The screens are made up of Corning® Gorilla® Glass, which increases its durability.
Although the screens look amazing individually, there is a giant gap/bezel in the middle. To me, it decreases the functionality and the overall aesthetics of the phone. However, it does provide a few pros as explained in the software section below.
There is a receiver, camera, and flash on the right slab. The black bezels are huge in my opinion as compared to other devices of this day and age. Apart from the negatives, the availability of two separate screens does increase the phone’s capability to multitask. Also, there isn’t depression in the middle, unlike other foldable devices which are the cause of a huge concern among their users.
Despite the small size, the hinge of the phone works wonders in my opinion. It allows the phone to perform a complete 360° motion. The resistance seems uniform making the flip action feel completely consistent and balanced.
With moving parts such as a hinge, you would expect the phone to cumulate dust over time however Microsoft has taken care of this issue by making Surface Duos hinges dustproof. Overall The experience feels smooth with great ergonomics.
There is only one USB C port at the bottom of the right panel. The absence of a headphone jack comes as no surprise at this point. There is also a sim port on the right side as well which has no rubber gas kit, meaning the phone isn’t waterproof.
This is where my main concern arises. The Surface Duo comes with a single camera on the front, however, the device can be folded in order to turn it into a rear camera. Obviously Microsoft focus isn’t on the camera capabilities of the phone but you still expect something more from an expensive flagship device.
Despite this, Microsoft has claimed that the camera has an 85° diagonal field of view as well as ‘artificial intelligence for the front and rear’. It also supports low-light HDR functionality and a 7x ‘Super Zoom’.
The 11 MP camera with f/2.0, 1.0 µm lens might not be the thing for people who are into photography. The phone can take decent photos although if you are into photography, there might be better alternatives out there. Additionally, the phone is capable of recording 4k and 1080p videos at 30 fps and 60 fps each. Furthermore, the phone supports both HEVC and H.264 video recording formats, and last but not the least, Gyro-based digital video stabilization.
Microsoft has opted for Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855, which has been optimized for the dual-screen experience. Despite not being the fastest, this processor allows the users to keep up with its competitors and for its features to be utilized to the fullest. The phone does not feel laggy and runs almost all apps fluidly. The fast processor enables the dual-screen to be used for multitasking without any hindrance. You can watch a movie or a TV show while playing a game or doing whatever at the same time.
Microsoft is keeping up with the trends when it comes to the storage of the phone. Surface Duo runs with 6 GB DRAM and the option of choosing between 128 or 256 GB UFS 3.0 internal storage.
With dual-screen phones come the concerns regarding the phone eating up too much battery, despite the dual screens, there was no problem in the battery department. Surface Duo rocks 3577mAh dual battery. The ample amount of battery permits users to spend the whole day with regular use. However, if you are into hardcore usage and need fast charging, the phone comes with an 18W charger.
You can take a look at the complete list of specifications here.
Software and Security
Out of the box, Surface Duo runs on Android 10, the latest android software. Being a flagship phone, the device will surely upgrade to the next android version, whenever that comes. The UI is similar to Google’s stock UI, although there are some Microsoft apps preinstalled.
I don’t find that as a problem as I use most of them anyway and would have had to download them otherwise. I wouldn’t consider these apps as bloatware, however, there are a few ones that I don’t use but I can just disable them in the settings.
Diving deeper into the software capabilities of Surface Duo, the phone has a lot to offer. It allows app developers to design their apps for the phone. This would increase the functionality of their app and utilize the bezel/gap ina a more efficient method.
Of course, the dual-screen phone would be useless if it didn’t allow multitasking. But the Surface Duo software is optimized for this purpose. Users can also draw on their screens using a Light Surface Slim Pen.
The phone has a fingerprint sensor on the side. The fingerprint reader is fast and secure. The phone also comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Authenticator for added security purposes.
Surface Duo: Price and Verdict
From its ability to multitask efficiently to premium design, Surface Duo has a lot to offer. However, it comes with some shortcomings as well. The absence of rear cameras, a giant gap between the screens, and no waterproofing are some points that prevent me from calling it a masterpiece.
With that being said, Microsoft Surface Duo won’t be replacing your phone as a daily driver but it surely does have the potential to do so. Of course, this is Microsoft’s first foray into folding phones and hopefully, they take care of these small issues in their future folding phones.
Currently, Surface Duo is available only in the US and the preorders start at $1,399.99 for 128 GB and $1,499.99 for the 256 GB variant.