Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review: Get it now

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review: Get it now
Written by insideindyhomes

It is very rare that the product is actually available better months after his release. But Microsoft often forgets that Surface Duo 2It was launched in October 2021 with a hefty price tag and a long list of bugs and issues that made its use so frustrating that it bucked the trend. In fact, the Duo 2 has improved so much that it’s now one of my go-to wearables, although it’s still weird and unique enough that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it for most people.

In case you forgot, the Surface Duo 2 is a foldable phone with two large screens attached on a hinge. Not like the Samsung Galaxy Z-Fold 3, the Duo 2’s screens, which take a single tablet-sized screen and fold it in half to fit in your pocket, feel like two large phones connected and sharing the same software carry out. You can easily run two apps side by side like you’re holding two phones at once, or you can stretch an app across both screens to mimic a small tablet. Both halves of the phone are thin enough to fold like a book and fit in a pocket relatively easily. Match it to Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2, and you’ve got a portable digital notebook that you can also use to take notes, read an e-book, or compose an email message.

When I reviewed the Surface Duo 2 last year, none of its clever design or book-like features mattered. The device was effectively jailbroken, shut down by software bugs that were infuriating to write, frustrating to use and ultimately disappointing. It was a new $1,500 product that, with its many flaws, only managed to lure Microsoft’s most hard-to-tolerate branded customers into getting their hands on it. The never-before-released Courier device They’ve dreamed of for over a decade.

The Surface Duo 2 doesn’t work well as a phone, but it can be a very useful handheld computer.

But surprisingly, Microsoft Duo 2 hasn’t given up. In fact, the company has always been releasing monthly software updates to address several issues Duo 2 encountered at launch. Some of these updates consisted of minor security patches and small bug fixes, while others, like the last June update, contained more important patches and added new features. Crucially, Microsoft fixed touch latency issues that were prevalent at launch and made it very difficult to type on the Duo 2’s virtual keyboard – or even navigate the UI.

Knowing that Microsoft was addressing many of my original complaints with the Duo 2, I took advantage of the recent price drop (the phone could now be had for $1000, which is still expensive but well below the asking price) and a generous trade-in offer and I bought my own. The goal was to see if I could get a better idea of ​​what Microsoft is trying to achieve with this hardware if display bugs don’t get in the way.

And readers, I can finally say I get it. The Duo 2 is the most unique mobile device I’ve ever used, allowing me to do things I can’t do with a traditional smartphone. It also does certain things, like multitasking and reading e-books, better than the Z Fold 3’s large screen.

Reading Kindle books remains one of the best experiences with Duo 2.

The Pocket Android app displays an article on both screens of the Surface Duo 2 while remaining in portrait mode.

Rotating the Duo 2 to portrait mode with the screens open gives you a large, compact iPad display that’s great for reading vertically scrolling articles or taking handwritten notes.

For the past few months and beyond, I’ve used the Duo 2 to read many books on the Kindle app, which takes advantage of two screens to offer a more book-like experience than any other device. I managed my inbox and my calendar at the same time; I was editing Google Docs while tracking a conversation in Slack. I used the Slim Pen 2 to take handwritten notes in OneNote. I’ve read countless articles in my Pocket Queue with the app spanning both screens and the Duo 2 switched to portrait orientation. I’ve seen so many videos spanning the two screens that I don’t even notice the slightest gap anymore. It’s undeniably satisfying to get a task done on the Duo 2 and then fold and close it like a book and slip it into my bag.

The Duo 2 hasn’t replaced my main smartphone because I use it for other tasks: messaging, calling, photos, smart home control, music and mobile payments on my iPhone; Reading, multitasking, note taking and YouTube on the Duo 2. I haven’t received a call on the Duo 2 yet because it’s too cumbersome to do it unless you’re using wireless earbuds. For the most part, I’ve used the Duo 2 the same way I use an iPad Mini, except it folds in half and fits in my pocket. It’s not even correct to call this device a “phone” depending on how it’s used. (Microsoft tried to position the original Surface Duo as something other than a phone when it launched, but has moved away from that marketing with the Duo 2.)

Microsoft made the Duo 2’s camera app faster and more responsive, but I never used it to take pictures. It’s very embarrassing to take photos and that’s what I have my iPhone for anyway. In fact, I’d prefer the awkward rear hump and camera were all but gone and the Duo 2 retained the slimmer lines and ability to fold flat against itself. It was the first duo.

Aside from being a cumbersome camera, there are other things about the Duo 2’s design that make it difficult to use as a primary phone. There’s no quick way to check notifications or do anything with one hand – with you You have To unlock the device to use it. (The recent addition of third-party chat app notifications to “Hinge View” in the June update doesn’t change that fact.) It’s a much more purposeful device than phones with panels that can be easily opened and used with one hand if you want Spending time in line at the grocery store. Samsung Z-Fold 3 It’s a much better device to replace both your phone and tablet just because you can still use it when it’s folded.

Surface Duo 2 black with bumper cover for the Surface Pen.

The form factor of the Duo 2 makes it difficult to protect it from damage. I’ve resorted to using a Surface Pen bumper case and vinyl skin, but I still handle it with baby gloves (not pictured).

The Duo 2 is also far from a solid device. Although I haven’t had a break in a month – and I’m using it again, it lacks water and dust resistance so you don’t want to get wet. Its design makes it extremely difficult to position the holster and maintain the flexibility of the hinge. (I resorted to Microsoft’s Surface Pen charging case and bumper, along with the Dbrand leather.) Although it folds away when I’m not using it, it’s not something I toss in a bag with keys and loose change for fear that something gets stuck in the hinge.

The program also has a lot of room for improvement. Aside from the Kindle app and Google Play Books, the only apps that work well on both screens are from Microsoft, although the Duo 2 has been out for eight months now. There are still times when an app or link opens on the opposite screen, which I expected, or an app fails in full screen mode. Pen input in apps other than Microsoft’s own is still shoddy. I don’t think I’ve actually used the drag-and-drop feature because so few apps support it, it’s not worth remembering it’s there.

Things can get better with the next Android 12L update, which is designed to improve the experience on foldable devices like the Duo 2 and Fold 3. But I suspect that even after this update, I’ll still be using most apps on a single screen.

All of this means that despite updates and bug fixes, the Duo 2 isn’t going to be a phone for everyone, or even most people. It is best suited as a secondary device to perform specific tasks, just like your iPad or tablet alongside your smartphone. Despite the recent price drop, the device is still more expensive than an iPad or any other small tablet. It’s just ideal for those who appreciate being able to carry it to more places on the go, even if they’re already carrying another phone in the other pocket.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 black closed and sitting on a mattress.

After fixing many bugs and issues with the software, Duo 2 is on the verge of realizing the dream of a 2009 Microsoft Courier concept.

Rumor has it that Microsoft Duo 3 won’t be released this year instead of saving it for 2023. This should give it more time to iron out the issues and avoid the buggy launches that plagued both the original Duo and Duo 2. Microsoft could also address aspects of the Duo design that make it difficult to use as the primary phone (an outdoor touchscreen would go a long way here). Maybe he can find a way to attach and charge the pen without resorting to an extra expensive case. a A recent patent from the company Imagine a Duo-like device that uses a single panel that can be folded 360 degrees, rather than two separate screens connected by a hinge. I’m not sure what problem it would solve other than removing the gap between screens when watching a video, but it would certainly look great.

Anyway, if Microsoft stays committed to the Duo form factor and keeps repeating it, I’ll keep an eye on it. The Duo 2 has gone from being one of the most problematic devices I’ve reviewed to one of my favorites, and I’m excited to see where Microsoft will take it next. In the meantime, I have one more book to finish.

Photo by Dan Seifert/The Verge

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