Surface Duo Review

Posted on September 10, 2020 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 32 Comments

Today is the day, if you are looking for a Surface Duo review, you can find my entire writeup on Petri or watch the video below.

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Surface Duo Review”

  1. veroach

    Thx Brad,

    I keep wondering if you ever rotated the device from landscape mode to portrait mode. Seems if you did your complaints about it not working full screen would diminish somewhat as you then do capture much more scrolling real estate. Things you mention like twitter or Instagram I'd like to see in portrait mode. Even for reading things like fox or cnn on the web, I can't imagine it would not be better.

  2. peterc

    Good reviews Brad, read and watched them on Petri and here too, good stuff, thanks. This is my kind of device, what it doesn’t do great really doesn’t bother me that much, what it does do really well I can do on two screens. Ace.

    Let’s see if it will make it to the UK....

  3. crunchyfrog

    I have to agree that this is not a phone and Microsoft has made effort to not compare it to a Smartphone. Problem is, the greater Smartphone using populace will inevitably feel compelled to compare it to a phone because they don't know what a PDA is.

    I think that Microsoft is going to have an impossible time trying to sell this as anything other as a Smartphone which will likely doom the Duo to a short lifespan. It will likely get a refresh next year and then disappear quietly before it can reach a third refresh.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to crunchyfrog: I can tell you Best Buy thinks it is a phone. I had one of those coupons with the short novel of exclusions. One exclusion was Unlocked Phone. Yup, my Duo didn't qualify for the discount.

  4. techreader

    I wonder if they’ll try a slightly narrow and taller version next time which would work one-handed folded back...

  5. navarac

    Excellent review, Brad, but I consider it as "last years" hardware apart from the form factor. No 5G, no wireless charging, mediocre camera. No thanks at $1400.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to navarac: Look at the prices of current folding phones, and non-folding ones with pen support. Now add pen support to those folders, and make those pen-enabled ones fold. You aren't looking at $1400 anymore. $1400 is probably reasonable for what it does, that other's don't, without the bells and whistles making this 1st Gen experiment totally out of reach.

  6. jfgordon

    Wait, I have just had a great idea: if you make a device with three screens you can launch three apps at the same time! How productive would that be! And I am actually thinking: if you had a device with four screens, you could launch... let's see.. working out the math... /s

    Moreover, how long will we wait until all MS apps are updated to be "enlightened"!? (And forget 3rd party: who will code an app for a userbase of, well, not many, users. I guess as many as coded for the "hubs" in WP7 at the time.) How long did I wait for Outlook to be able to _add a new contact_, on Android, for crying out loud. How long did I wait for OneNote to have basic features like lasso, on Android. Chances that this thing and its ecosystem will ever be completed and polished, before it is abandoned like e.g. the Band, based on previous experience, are pretty thin.

    So, nice review! However, the "whyness" ad viability of this device are still in question imho.

  7. ghostrider

    Too big, too think, too clunky, huge bezels, poor software experience, no 5G, begging for a v2 (or v3 device), but based on Microsoft's past devices, they might get it (mostly) right by v5. Too expensive too, and no defined market. Niche of a niche.

  8. buzzmodo

    What's the over/under on time to market for V2? Better processor, better camera, etc? $995 price tag, 6 months?

  9. Belralph

    After giving it some hard thought for a couple weeks I ordered a Duo that arrived yesterday. Not exactly a typical use case but as pointed out the Duo doesn't really fit anything 'typical'. I ordered it to use at work for IT admin duties. The primary genesis that got me going in this direction was I wanted to get all the 2FA and mobile number 'send a code' off my person phone so it's accessible by both people in my department. I could have gotten something inexpensive like an older Moto but I really don't like having things laying around under utilized and I couldn't think of any way this second phone would be useful. I hear the arguments, I could get a Surface or laptop or some kind of soft phone for less. This is true but I decided on the Duo instead for several reasons.

    The only other IT person working with me is 26 and she like many her age is very phone centric. With 26 year old eyesight she is very effective using her phone (Galaxy S8) for work duties. Android apps are very good, in some cases I think better or at least newer than their Windows versions. ToDo, Teams, Office, OneDrive, Dropbox, Remote Desktop, Anydesk, Dashlane, KeePass, JuiceSSH, Pingtools, Unifi Network, Voip Phone link to name a few. The Duo seems perfect for this type of work without being a persons primary phone.

    It's not a phone, Surface or a laptop. This seems obvious but when you are the IT department no device is really 'yours'. I continually order up nice laptops or phones that I catch on sale (HP EliteBook, Moto G7) for IT use. However, any IT person will tell you these devices are really just 'hot spares' that you will issue out to an employee on a moments notice. Even if I have another device I'm at square one setting it up again.

    Size, as this is a Surface device, think of it as their old slogan "the tablet that can replace your laptop". We have a large food processing campus and go on site for a lot of our work. It's very difficult to find a safe place to set anything down where you can view it. We can use a Surface with a hand strap but that gets cumbersome and once you take it off your hand it doesn't lay flat. The Duo fits in a pocket so I take it with me 'just in case' while I carry other stuff. If I'm in the middle of a 160,000 sqft warehouse and need to change the VLAN of a network port, it's great to reach in my pocket instead of a 10 minute round trip to my desk.

    The dual screen works very well for IT tasks. I was watching my co-worker setting up the device. She was running two apps side by side ALL the time. Remoted into her computer on one screen while setting up phone apps on the other. Getting IP addresses out of Teams while being connected and configuring the devices. I chuckled as much as the next person about Panos's enthusiasm talking about productivity with dual screen. In my case, this turned out to be absolutely true.

    I just ordered a Mint plan yesterday so I don't have a SIM in the unit yet but extending the Duo's usefulness outside of the Wi-Fi coverage should just be a bonus. I carry a Note 9 as my personal phone. Comparing it with the Duo I don't immediately get the sense that I want to carry the Duo instead. That being said, all the reviews are accurate about how solid and perfect the Duo feels and unfortunately how average the camera is. If Microsoft really sticks with the Duo (looking in my mental junk bin with the Zune, Surface RT, Lumina Phone, Band and Band 2) and it improves I may be tempted when my Note is another year older.

  10. jesam

    I really don't get what a Windows logo does on an Android phone...

  11. scovious

    I want them to make a Duo Pro. I would take a heavier, pricier, thicker phone for a bit more camera and specs. Would you?

    • SvenJ

      In reply to scovious: No. I don't know if the paradigm of the dual screen is going to be useful, beneficial, functional yet. The current size makes it very appealing. If it were heavier, thicker, more expensive, I likely wouldn't consider giving it a shot. If on the other hand, I see the value in the form factor with this thing, I would spring for a more expensive V2.

  12. nbplopes

    It’s kind of like:

    If you can only take a device on your pocket on a daily basis what would you take? I guess in the the device that helps you getting what you want to do done In the scenarios a pocket computer sinuses today ... will win.

    Time will tell once the novelty wares out.

    Does this support Android Auto?

  13. craigsn

    Well, I would agree there are big limitations because only a few apps take advantage of the features. However, IF (big if), developers decide to update their software to embrace this device, then many of your complaints will be addressed. But with MSs track record, I'm not holding my breath that the major apps will adapt.

    Also, what about the MS Buds (or whatever they are called), how are they, not as an accessory to the Duo, but as their own device?

    • rob_segal

      In reply to craigsn:

      Android developers haven't embraced tablets, much less dual-screen devices. It's not a Microsoft track record issue. It's a Google issue.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to craigsn: All the apps already take advantage of the ability to run two at a time, visibly and accessibly. Just the function of cutting from one app and pasting to another is so much more efficient that it matters. There are apps that will/would benefit from some clever dual screen UI options, but in many cases a bigger or wider version of the current phone app wouldn't add much.

  14. iantrem

    It'll be interesting to see if 3rd party apps (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIN et al) bring in support for dual-screen devices to make the experience for them as good as you say it is for Teams/Outlook. It will also be interesting to see who quickly Chrome/Edge can implement the Javascript updates that Microsoft was discussing earlier in the year to make web pages support dual screens better.

    While it's only great for Teams and Outlook, it's going to be a pretty niche device - especially at that price.

  15. millerkl61

    Brad, when you said, "If you live in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem... This is the Surface PDA." that instantly put this device in context for me. Well put. Thanks for your review!

      • SvenJ

        In reply to brad-sams: Read and watched. Snickered at the comment about the flashlight. Did that once. Just once. Took a while for my eyes to get back to where I could see to turn it off. You can open two instances of Edge BTW. Just tap and hold a link, and select open in other window and it will launch on the other screen. You've likely found this by now.

  16. anthonyfear

    I sooo wanted this device to be a hit (full disclosure: I wanted Windows Phone to be successful too) unfortunately reality has kicked in.

    It's a niche device for niche user groups and that means, for me, probably not worth the investment right now.

    It's interesting though, very interesting. Keep hitting those moon shots Panos.

    Thanks for the review Brad, I'll wait to see what do for Gen 2 or 3.

  17. glenn8878

    You reviewed it as a phone and not as a productivity device despite saying you will. You need to review Office on the Duo.

  18. brettscoast

    Hey Brad a refreshingly honest review of the Surface Duo. Well done the video hands on review is a great idea. I can see how this device would be be useful for a lot of folks running certain built in apps the performance seems acceptably good. They've definitely mailed the hinge on this device.

  19. JH_Radio

    So android 11 supports folding screnes. Its not as if MS is the only phone player in the folding space, so if other apps can get on board, it'll be good for all folding phones, right?

    • SvenJ

      In reply to JH_Radio: Not exactly. Filling a very wide screen, or a more tablet-like screen, is different than spanning across two screens. I do think, the more Android apps that understand resizing to varied screen sizes and aspects, the better it will be for DUO. That's as long as MS fixes the missing info in the gap. An application spanned across two monitors on a Windows desktop doesn't lose data between the screens. The Duo does, at this point, hopefully. Cleverly using two screens, like Mail/Outlook having the list on one screen and the selected e-mail on the other is a different function that probably does need to be aware of two screens, as opposed to a folded one.

  20. tdsmith

    Am I the only one that looks at this and think "its a paperback book". Why isn't this the "Surface Book"?

    • lowellp

      In reply to tdsmith:

      Well aside from the fact that there is already a Surface Book... Duo is a fine name. I almost wish it was called the Surface Courier as it hearkens back to the Courier concept device. But "Courier" doesn't really describe anything about the actual device like "Duo" does.