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I enjoyed the Surface Duo, but I love the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Galaxy Fold 3 Surface Duo Vs
Galaxy Fold 3 Surface Duo Vs (Image credit: Windows Central)

I am admittedly a phoneaholic. During the Windows Phone days, every upgrade felt significant and palpable. Moving from the HTC 8X to the Lumia 920 to the Lumia 1020 to the Lumia 1520 to the Lumia 950 XL, it was a fun ride. I never really cared much about phones or tech in general until I got on board with Microsoft's Windows 8 vision — a platform where all of your content would move seamlessly between devices, with a single unified design language. Alas, as we all know, 'twas not meant to be.

Like many Windows Phone refugees, I sought the embrace of Android, owing to its increased customizability and its (at least theoretically) more open platform. The ability to customize the hell out of my Samsung devices has kept me locked to their platform ever since, and the deal has only gotten sweeter in recent times, owing to beefy support from Microsoft. The "Your Phone" Windows 10 connection performs incredibly well on the Samsung Galaxy line, thanks to full OS integration. It's easier to swap all the defaults on Android to Microsoft services too, ditching Samsung's launcher for the cleaner Microsoft Launcher, alongside Microsoft Swiftkey, OneDrive for cloud storage, Outlook for email, and so on. Samsung even dabbles with inking support, something I've always enjoyed on Surface.

I've been using Samsung's Galaxy Note line for the past few years, as I found it most closely mimicked my all-time favorite phone, the Lumia 1520. Huge screens, beefy battery life, and powerful cameras, complete with heavy integration with Microsoft's services. I have, however, recently discovered a new love, that will change my phone habits maybe forever.

I dabbled with the Surface Duo this past summer, and I enjoyed my time with it. But it wasn't until I picked up the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 that I truly fell in love with foldables.

Why I love the fold

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I am in some ways still pining for that "One Windows" vision that Microsoft has sought after to mixed success over the years. It's somewhat ironic then that since dropping Windows Phone, we're arguably closer to that vision than ever before. We can play Xbox games on Android using Xbox Game Pass' cloud gaming platform. We have phone calls, SMS, and app streaming on PC thanks to Your Phone. We have the near full-blown Office on mobile devices, too.

As a chronic multitasker, I have been floored by the usability of Samsung's One UI.

Where some of this vision falls apart historically is in the form factor. Microsoft tried to solve this with Continuum, which let you connect a Windows 10 Mobile device to an HDMI monitor, producing a Windows desktop-like environment. Using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or typing up a Word document on a phone is an absolute pain, but if you have the screen real estate for it and the right accessories, it was at least passable. The problem has always been that there simply wasn't a device — until now — that could truly provide this two-in-one experience. I'm not the kind of guy who would carry an external HDMI display around with him simply for Continuum or Samsung DeX's similar desktop-like experience. But thanks to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, I don't need to.

When folded outwards, the Galaxy Fold 3 is an enormous 7.6 inches across. Held in landscape, it truly is like a small laptop display. Disregarding its impressive brightness, colors, and 120Hz refresh rate, it's the size that I love above everything else. Playing games designed for TVs on Xbox Game Pass often sucked on my comparatively small Note 20 Ultra. The UI would be squished, alongside font sizes, making some games simply unplayable. The tablet-like size on the Galaxy Fold 3 eliminates this issue completely, giving you something closer to a Nintendo Switch-style experience, albeit with a far, far superior display.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

As a chronic multitasker, I have been floored by the usability of Samsung's One UI on the Galaxy Fold 3 as well. It's a simple case of dragging and dropping apps where you want them, snapping into place with Windows 8-like intuitiveness. You can run up to three apps side by side on this thing, without any discernible degradation in performance. Although you may find that watching a YouTube video while streaming Xbox Game Pass alongside a web browser may chew through the battery if used with impunity, if I'm traveling for any particularly large length of time I'll most likely grab a power bank anyway. That's not to say the battery life is poor, though — it's anything but.

Samsung used new techniques to increase the brightness without impacting power consumption on its Fold 3 devices, and the difference is very noticeable compared to my Note 20 Ultra. I generally use this phone near to the lowest brightness setting while indoors, giving me anywhere up to 10 hours of non-stop screen time, albeit with 120Hz disabled. I found that an average day of use would net me anywhere up to 18+ hours on a single charge, which approaches Lumia 1520 power satisfaction.

Is the Galaxy Fold 3 for everybody, though? Probably not.

The concerns and shortcomings

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Galaxy Fold 3 is not cheap by any stretch. If you'd have told my younger self someday we'd be paying over a thousand dollars for a phone I'd have laughed, let alone $1,500 dollars. Luckily, Samsung offers a pretty generous trade-in program, allowing me to shave a sizeable chunk off the asking price. Even with that discount, though, my wallet wept a bit.

I am the type of person who is glued to their phone almost all the time. I use my phone when I wake up, when I'm relaxing in the evening, and before I go to bed. I use it while traveling. I use it even when I'm at my laptop as a second screen, using apps like spacedesk combined with a desk mount to get some more screen space. Slapping Reddit next to Twitter, or Xbox Game Pass next to a messaging app has been incredibly fun to do, and has ultimately changed the way I consume content. That being said, it's quite apparent that this screen-addicted lifestyle isn't for everyone.

You really, really have to love your mobile life to justify the price tag attached to this thing. You're effectively buying a phone and a tablet in a single package, given the external and internal displays. I suspect for most people, needing a device that can do both at once isn't really necessary. Even beyond that, I have reservations about the longevity of this product.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Fold 1 and even the Fold 2 were notorious for split screens and cracks, even through regular use. The first Fold was particularly hard hit, with screens cracking even before the review embargos had lifted. The Fold 2 and Fold 3 use the same Samsung flexible glass composite, even though Samsung claims the phone is sturdier overall, with new materials across the back and frame.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned that my screen will eventually flex itself broken.

Considering the most ideal type of user for this type of phone is a power user, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned that my screen will eventually flex itself broken. I found myself wondering things like, "Should I take this to the beach?" on the off chance a grain of sand while on vacation might get into the screen protector and ruin the delicate display. I'm generally quite careful with my phones regardless, and have never actually cracked a screen in my life — but that's not to say I never dropped my Lumia devices and Galaxy Notes. Quite the opposite. Despite having a case on the Fold 3, I feel as though I'll handle this one with even more care than my previous devices.

Indeed, in some ways, the form factor on its closest direct competitor, the Surface Duo, makes more sense.

What about the Surface Duo?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I do have a Surface Duo in my possession and couldn't bring myself to make it my daily driver. I very almost did, but the Bluetooth reliability on the Duo ultimately prevented me from doing so. Indeed, as a "power user" of Android, every shortcoming on the Duo, from software glitches to poor antennae betrayed its "power user" form factor and price. I went to the Surface Duo for the innovation, but it's Samsung Galaxy that has executed and produced a product I can actually use.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the device the Surface Duo team should ultimately aspire to beat.

Still, the question of that flexible glass display really does raise concerns. The Surface Duo has a more conventional glass display and is essentially two separate screens connected together, with an incredibly complex hinge mechanism. The hinge eliminates the need for a reverse display as seen on the Galaxy Fold, since you can rotate the Duo 360 degrees. There's a sublime elegance that the Duo enjoys that the Fold simply does not. But I need my phone to be more than just pretty. The Duo cameras, microphones, software, and other features simply aren't up to par, but that may change with the Surface Duo 2.

One thing is certain: The only types of phones I'm interested in now are foldables. Right now, it's the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 that holds the crown in this arena, but I can easily foresee a future where Surface ends up coming out on top if they can solve those screen-wasting bezels and pervasive software glitches that detract from the design intent.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a power-user's dream, for both work and play. And crucially for Microsoft, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the device the Surface Duo team should ultimately aspire to beat.

Jez Corden
Jez Corden

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

58 Comments
  • Love your thoughts on this. I love the Fold 3, I would love to see the Duo 2 fix a few things but I still don't see it dethroning the Fold 3 this time around. Foldable phones are only going to get better which is good for us.
  • Yeah, I'm keeping an eye out for the Duo 3. I want them to reduce those bezels, so much screen real estate gets wasted in 16:9 on one screen.
  • I have the Duo & just ordered the Fold 3. For me, being to use the phone on the go (via the front screen) is what may elevate the Fold over the Duo, for me. We'll see.
  • Duo (version 1 at least), already has that, but better: just close the phone with the screens on the outside. Full screen without the gimped width of the Fold's outer screen. This is one of my concerns with the Duo 2. Because of the camera bump, this probably won't be possible any longer.
  • This comment is an all out assault on Microsoft!! You're clearly trying to bypass Microsoft's idea of its foldable implementation by thinking about Samsung's foldable implementation!
  • :-) Mister Burns, is this related to our exchange on Windows vs. PC games and the Steam Deck? Hey, I have opinions on every subject, what can I say. ;-) Competition is a good thing. Samsung clearly is the leader in the Android phone space. Good on them. I still like my Duo better, but the biggest profits go to whomever appeals to more people, not just what appeals to me. Capitalism and freedom of choice, FTW!
  • Lol your last paragraph... How ironic Funny how you fix your fingers too type that after Microsoft cosigned the steam deck.
  • Keep dreaming.
    Microsoft mobile hardware business is dead. No one cares about it, except the 7 people here.
    People will never take anything Microsoft seriously regarding smartphones any time soon. Surface Duo was epic fail. Duo2 will join
  • @Hassan00 Surface is a billion dollar business ( has been for a long while pre-covid 19) and Xbox X | S consoles are effectively sold out everywhere - sure there is crazy demand due the pandemic but that's across the board. That doesn't detract from the fact people actually want to get their hands on the next gen xbox consoles.
  • You should go on Reddit and meet those seven people. https://www.reddit.com/r/surfaceduo/
  • What are you going on about? Me and the person I responded to aren't talking about Samsung nor Microsoft's mobile devices. Carry on elsewhere where you're qualified to share your opinions with someone who cares about them.
  • But the "gimped width" of the Fold 3 is what makes it usable with one hand!?!
  • Even if Microsoft fixes the bezels, dual screen is never going to be as good as a larger single screen. They need to fix the shortcomings, and then drop the price because it is the old school, budget form factor when compared to a single folding screen.
  • I'd say preference of form factor is heavily reliant on use case. I do little media consumption, beyond reading. The large screen doesn't do much of anything to improve my user experience, since I don't watch videos but once in a while (like, possibly fewer than 5 times/year). With that said, I do multi-task quite a bit, using multiple apps to get things done. Sure, you can still do this on the Z Fold, but the form factor has a larger footprint that some would notice in their hands, pockets, or cup holders (though the width of the Duo can cause similar difficulties). My "power user" endeavors typically involve multiple apps. In that regard, I think the Duo presents things in a better fashion. I'd prefer the dual-screen solution to one larger display, same as I have chosen two 27" desktop monitors over single one of 42" or 49".
  • I agree that the Duo is better at side-by-side. Just tap and drag the apps around is a bit quicker than the Fold's taskbar system, but it's not worth losing the massive landscape single screen experience for me. I guess it's about pros and cons.
  • Keith, I agree and that is my sense too. Plus a few related advantages to the Duo form factor:
    1. It's thinner.
    2. Single screen is a much more usable 3:2 aspect ratio than absurdly thin single-screen form factor on Fold.
    3. folds around your hand when using, so it holds on to you -- virtually undroppable in single-screen landscape mode, which is GREAT for gaming
  • The duo's single screen is NOT 3:2
  • Yeah its 4:3, which is much more usable than 16:9 or narrower.
  • Exactly. I just like "all out assault[ING]" Colin for acting wild until he admits he was tripping before with Microsoft secretion supersaturating his drool.
  • You haven't used for typical Enterprise (non - IT) use cases, then. Fold's thin screens with dual apps make it nearly unusable relative to a wider aspect ratio of the Duo for dual app use cases, which is a key workflow in a corp environment
  • There are 0 enterprises using the Duo. That is funny.
  • With many workplaces adopting a byod scheme I can safely say many people use Duo for their work. I am one of those people.
    Additionally it is sold exclusively to businesses in most countries, Sweden one of them.
  • Not many people own a Duo.
  • Thats your opinion yeah, in my opinion dual screen is always going to be superior to foldable larger screen until actual hard screen glass can be folded. I dont need one large screen, I need to be able to multitask so there is no benefit of removing the gap, the benefits of not having the soft and fragile screen outweighs the small downsides.
    But hey its all down to user preference, I dont understand how obsessed you are with a phone you do not like. There is literally hundreds of phones I dislike, its easier just not to bother with them I have no issue with their existance just because they do not cater to my needs.
  • Yes, you post this in every single Duo article. We know how you feel. Some of us vastly prefer the two screen form factor.
  • But blanched told you not to. Do you mean that we're allowed to make up our own minds?
  • The front screen and more reliable bug free software are the biggest plus points for me... If the transition from two screens to one screen on the Duo could work better I would be happy but right now the Duo is a frustrating device to use when in a hurry... Still love my Duo though and am hoping that future updates might improve things...
  • Hopefully they are readying a big Android update to coincide with work on the second-gen, I agree. I skipped the initial Duo because it did too many things wrong (price, camera, SoC, general feature set). I really want the second-gen to clean up much of the original's mistakes. I want to buy it, and I'll accept imperfections, but I don't want something struggling to meet the feature set of devices multiple years older.
  • If you have that money, just get the Fold. The Duo won’t be a long term product. There is no market for dual screen devices, Microsoft won’t make another.
  • Even if there never is a Duo 3, that's not a reason not to get the Duo 2 anyway. It's not like the release of a Duo 3 would improve existing Duo 2 devices. You'd still have to buy a new phone. If you want a Duo 2 then get a Duo 2. If there is no Duo 3 then get a Fold or something else when the time to upgrade comes around. It's almost like you don't know what you're talking about and will just say any old rubbish to disparage the Duo. Seems pathological.
  • I do see that if you prefer or would take advantage of the tablet form factor option in the Fold, then it's going to be a better match for you. However, in single screen mode, the Duo is the clear winner. I don't even see that as a matter of opinion: it folds open and is like a full single screen phone, but without being overly narrow and adding huge extra thickness to the device like the Fold's external screen does. The Fold needs an external screen, because it can't fold around all the way. That's a design limitation that they solved with an extra screen. The Duo doesn't suffer that problem so doesn't need the kludge solution of shoehorning in an extra screen, adding weight, cost, and thickness.
  • That doesn’t matter when you open up to the giant screen on the Fold. The Duo is a dead product. Unless they can price it extremely low, sales will be tiny and the form factor will be abandoned, just like every other manufacturer who tried dual screens.
  • The Samsung folds havent done great in terms of sales either but its good for consumers that there are more options available. Both foldables and dual screens are new and niche at this point, with different people opting for one or the other.
    The majority of people never touches anything other than mid range spec phones.
  • Since Zac the trip down memory lane with Windows Phone, I thought I would pass this along here. The ability to use the 950XL is FINALLY coming to an end and ironically it is not Window 10 mobile per se that will be the end of it. The wireless carriers are moving on from 3G and as part of that devices need to support VoLTE (Voice over LTE). The 950XL does not have this feature, so it is officially the end for us stubborn diehards. Looks to be the same on the other major carries. My wireless carrier (Cricket), says Feb 2020 is it. See Below. “Cricket Free Msg: Hello, faster network. Goodbye, 3G. In Feb 2022, Cricket is making improvements to our network. This means your phone won't work after February 2022 and you'll need to change it. Starting September 21st, 2021, we may re-direct your call to customer service to help you upgrade your phone. To learn more about special upgrade offers, go to https://www.cricketwireless.com/3Gshutdown or ask your Cricket store rep for details.” Looks like Duo 2 or an iPhone for me. Still undecided. I wish there were an 3rd option this is both Open and Private. End of an era.
  • The 950 series have VoLTE. If the.US variants don't have VoLTE that's on the US carriers.
  • Comparing a first gen device from a primarily software making entity whose mission for the device changed at the last moment...
    ... to a third gen device made by the king of smartphone making entities made me laugh really hard. Is there any question which one would be the more refined choice? That being said, while these are both technically foldables, they are targeting different use cases. I suspect they can both survive alongside each other at least until folding screen tech can become both less fragile, and less costly. I'm certain that folding screens will eventually win out, but we're not there yet.
  • Duo can’t survive. It isn’t a desirable form factor, so only fanboys will buy it, like the last one. Sales will be tiny, reviews will be bad, and Microsoft will give up within 3 months of release.
  • Wouldnt they already given up by that logic? Wouldnt they also have given up on the surface line after the first 2 versions?
  • I was thinking the same thing - it's not exactly fair to compare a first gen device with a third gen device to begin with but particularly given the circumstances around the Duo. That said, if that's what's available at the moment then that's all you can compare. It will be a fairer comparison when the Duo 2 is released but we can't really complain that the Fold is a more mature product because that will always be the case. The Duo 2 will obviously be a significantly better product than the original but the software experience will need to be significantly improved too. I still have my reservations about the usability of that camera too. Assuming that Microsoft do keep the Duo going, I imagine that it will eventually move to a single, foldable screen, once the technology matures sufficiently.
  • Fold is really about media consumption and gaming with light multitasking. Android needs to further develop ease for the large screen the Fold provides. Until then, having 2 wider screens that fit the current app optumization gives you more real estate to truly multitask. I think those who aren't in an Enterprise environment may think otherwise, but if you are Duo is better for such things.
  • It is funny you think businesses are using the Duo. It has been a joke.
  • I love these comparisons, because I like the Duo's slim form factor better, and the aspect ratio.. And, these comparisons, and the success of the Fold line, will ultimately make Duo better.. I don't care which is actually better, rather the fact that Duo could turn into the device I really want and need it to be, with the help of competition. 👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾
  • Competition is going to bury the Duo, not make it better. There is no way it sells even remotely well if they launch at $1,400 again. That will guarantee that reviews are bad, sales are low, and fire sales are coming. I bet Microsoft abandons the form factor within 3 months of release.
  • Are you going to come back and acknowledge that you were wrong - have been wrong all along - if that doesn't happen?
  • The elephant in the room: the stylus. I loved the idea of the duo but the implementation was lacking, particularly the fact that none of my favorite mobile games ran on it properly, the camera was too finicky and the screens were still too damn small. Microsoft could fix these things, but until there is an ONBOARD STYLUS both the fold and the duo are dead to me. Samsung let a lot of people down by not re-engineering the fold to incorporate a proper hide-it-in-the-chassis stylus; adding it via a bulky case is total BS. Tacking the slim pen on the back of the duo is BS+++. Stylus support is what defines surface devices for me (and I have had them all); while I appreciate that a pen with n-trig tech would be extremely difficult to incorporate into the duo as it is, but I damn well want them to try. Samsung should have and didn't, probably so they can dangle it in front of us next year. Well I'm not buying it. Bah humbug
  • “When folded outwards, the Galaxy Fold 3 is an enormous 7.6 inches across” Enormous? That’s smaller than an iPad mini. At 4 times the price of the iPad mini. “My favorite phone since the Nokia Lumia 1520” That’s not saying much. I still have a 1520. And a 920. And an Icon. They all sucked. The hardware was all OK (and great cameras for the time), but they were crippled by the horrible Windows “mobile” software. Not to mention no apps.
  • A person opinion's is not fact lol. The Windows Mobile O/S was not horrible - yes the early iterations after WM 6.x did have shortcomings. It was by no means horrible. Also there were plenty of apps, it's just due to constant mismanagement the o/s got apps later and later. Then there's the bias and misleading statements from many sales reps.
  • It was certainly horrible. You don’t fail that hard with a good product.
  • It wasn't and you certainly can. With two established competitors already in the market, Windows Phone had to be better than them to do as well. Almost as good wasn't going to cut it. In that environment, Windows Phone only had to be a little behind iOS and Android to fail that hard.
  • Huawei mate x2 got the outer screen right. Galaxy fold's narrow outer screen spoils the experience. Overall both ideas have their pros and cons. I think the duo or any other dual screen product will always remain niche or way less successful than foldable phones that folds into a small tablet. From the user pov unlike Galaxy fold's single big display, the duo demands or forces user to think about using split screen multitasking all the time. So unless there is significant development in app ui designs to smartly incorporate ui elements on both the screens for all the apps like it does right now in the reading apps which displays a page each on both screens or browser that displays a tab each on both the screens etc . Otherwise It's difficult for the formfactor to get success in masses who are not really that crazy about split screen multitasking.
  • I couldn't enjoy the Fold or Fold 2 because each screen is way too long and narrow. You essentially have to use the phone in tablet mode. Otherwise, you have a crazy 24.5:9 screen. It's also too heavy and thick. Almost literally the thickness of 2 phones held together. And they still haven't solved the problem of the soft screen. I do a lot of art on my Surface Pro 7 and to get the pressure feel right, it has to have the whole gamut of feather light to hard pressure. And even on the SP7, I have ruined the tip by hard pressure (keep in mind, I use a pen far more than the common user). The pen on the new Fold is just too soft. If you press hard, it actually retracts. I can't imagine an artist who goes through life never pressing hard. And this is coming from a Samsung S20, S10+, S9, and S8 user. Something who really liked the OneUI GUI (I'm not one of those zealots who want stock Android at all cost). The Surface Duo is far from perfect, but I love it and will never go back to a single screen again.
  • Too narrow is all
  • I think that foldables are still a very, very big experiment at this point and one that costs consumers a massive chunk of disposable income for a device that has a screen that cracks through use.
  • This article is very poorly timed... what is the point to released this a couple of weeks before the duo 2 release? It would far more useful to know how these two compare as opposed to the duo one... I´m surprised that you say that the battery life is good, although you do say that you don´t use it in 120 Hertz mode. Anyway I will see how the duo 2 compares to this and then make a choice on which one to get. Since this device is cheaper . thab the previous Fold im hopefull that the duo 2 will also be at least 100 usd cheaper than the duo 1, to make it a compeling device otherwise I don´t really see many people getting it instead of the fold 3.
  • I can agree on timing except in one case which seems the most likely: Surface Duo 2 is canceled at last minute. And after a home run that Galaxy Flip 3 had on the market this is pretty much written on the wall. In that case this is the perfect timing to introduce to that event.
  • I don't think that the Duo 2 will be cancelled. If there are problems with the fold, the Duo 2 will take the prize home. I do not believe that this fold 3 will be able to last 2 years without issues.
  • To each their own, I guess. I have zero interest in a fat brick with a crease down the center of its screen, and I hate the candy bar screen dimensions Samsung switched to in recent years with all their phones.
  • I was a Note 20 Ultra 5g and Duo 1 user. Traded in the Note for the Fold 3. This thing is amazing! The only thing that can (somewhat) save the Duo 2 is price. IT CAN NOW NOT BE OVER $1200, especially with only 8 gigs of RAM!