Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 goes up against Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 on UK's The Gadget Show

Surface Duo 2 Hero
Surface Duo 2 Hero (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • British TV series The Gadget Show recently looked at the Surface Duo 2 and Galaxy Fold 3.
  • The hosts were given three tests to see which folding phone was better.
  • While Surface Duo 2 won for multitasking, the Galaxy Fold 3 won for camera and watching videos.

Let's be honest: Modern smartphones are only interesting these days when discussing the increasing variety of form factors, specifically around folding ones. But which style is better — dual-screens (Surface Duo 2) or folding vertically (Galaxy Fold 3)?

In reality, the answer is whatever works for you, but comparing the pros and cons of each design is still an important topic, especially for people plonking down large sums of money. That's why The Gadget Show, which airs on Channel 5 in the UK (and spotted on Reddit) recently looked at both phones.

In the video, which is both clever and entertaining, the presenters (Jon Bentley and Ortis Deley) go over the phone's features and specs, as one typically does. However, they were quickly given some challenges to see which phone was better.

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

It's no surprise that Surface Duo 2 wins out on multitasking for the first test. Most people find manipulating two apps on two screens more effortless and natural than the software divide found on Samsung's Galaxy Fold 3. This conclusion is reached even though Fold 3 can show three apps at once, which Duo 2 cannot do.

But where the Surface Duo 2 falls behind is also predictable. The second challenge shows that Duo 2's cameras are not as proficient as Samsung's, with the latter known for overly contrasty (but user-preferred) photos. Interestingly, both phones had a bit of shutter lag. Cameras on folding devices are a generation behind current flagship models, just one of the tradeoffs with the form factor.

The final test is relevant and the easiest to foresee the outcome: Watching a high-resolution video. With Surface Duo 2, the split-screen interferes with the experience, whereas Fold 3's "gutter" never hinders it (even if it's slightly visible).

Of course, the point can also be made with dual-screen PC setups, where no one ever runs video across both displays, which is weird.

So, which phone does The Gadget Show recommend in the end? Neither. The presenters felt that tradeoffs are still too high (along with the price) to justify them. Early adopters, however, are likely to feel differently. It's not uncommon to see people in forums and comments say that they can never return to a single-screen slab phone after adopting a folding one.

The good news is we'll have a few years for this technology to evolve. A recent report by Omdia noted that by 2026, foldables would only account for 3.6 percent of the total smartphone market, growing from the current 14 million units to 61 million. That's a lot of phones, most of which are likely to be sold by Samsung, but it's still a long way to go before these things are the new normal.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Actually, the Surface Duo CAN display three applications simultaneously with Floating App.
  • Well, that's certainly interesting, but, TBF, they're talking about natively supporting the feature here. Even I didn't know about that app.
  • Duo must support pip for video apps, right? Thats a sort of triple app setup.
  • Not optimized to work on both screens. While kind of cool, I just prefer the two apps at once. If you absolutely need to use more than on app, you can still open another app and switch between apps on one screen, while keeping another app open on the other. Quicker and easier to do, IMO.
  • Thanks for flagging this up Dan. V entertaining but also fair comments. Illustrates the importance of thinking about one's own use case for a phone. For me productivity is waaay more important than watching videos across 2 screens (favouring the Duo), but appreciate that may differ for others.
  • The reviews were totally inappropriate. Let's take two business phones and create 3 consumer phone challenges. Surprise, neither came out great ! What about testing the phones for what they were designed for ?
    I have worked for over 20 years having to give "demonstrations on the road" for our software products. This has always meant bringing two devices a smartphone and a laptop, despite praying for just one device. For the first time ever, the Surface Duo 2 has got me to 1 device and this more than justifies the price tag several times over. Also the ability to run apps in native mode like opening Outlook and having left hand screen with messages and right hand screen with the message highlighted displayed, gives for the first time ever, Laptop/Tablet functionality on a phone. Yeah to add to the "usefulness" of that review, don't buy either phone if you want to use it for Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube etc, (of course not that you ever would). Why not test a budget phone with Office 365 next time and conclude that doesn't cut the mustard !!! Totally useless article.
  • "The reviews were totally inappropriate. Let's take two business phones and create 3 consumer phone challenges. "
    I thought the first test showed exactly why people who like Duo like the Duo. It is about multi-tasking. While the camera and video tests were predictable, I'm not sure whatever "challenge" they could have done that would have made either phone look better as a choice. That said, I think they could have focused more on the Duo 2's different postures for typing (one screen mode, landscape typing), watching videos (tent mode), playing games (on-screen controls), reading in Kindle, etc.
  • Interesting comparison. Despite the gap in the. Middle, the Duo is in its element for multitasking. The individual screens are more than large enough to view videos or watch movies. The camera is more than good enough for most people, in my opinion. If you are photographer, I can maybe see knitpicking over pixels and quality.
  • "the answer is whatever works for you". But bleached told me that there's zero reason to like, want our use a Duo. Surely you're not suggesting that bleached is full of it.
  • Lol no comment
  • Come back in a year when the Duo line has been killed and folding screens continue to sell in the millions.
  • As a Duo 2 user, I have some of my own feelings about watching videos due to my usage scenarios. When watching videos, I am less likely to watch them on full screen because I am used to reading comments and browsing related videos. So, I tend to let the small video window take up the top half while watching the video and reading the content below. Duo 2 does a good job of fulfilling my needs. When using Duo vertically, the video pane is similar in size to a traditional candy bar phone, while I can simultaneously view the stream below without interruption. The gap between the dual screens is not a problem for browsing this type of content.
  • My only complaint about this is the "pill bar" on the side of the screen, which takes up a lot of screen space and makes the video window noticeably smaller. Many Android UI's, including Samsung's One UI, allow it to be hidden. Hopefully the Duo team will fix this sooner rather than later. For the next generation Duo 3, I expect it to further reduce the gap between the two screens. Right now, while the internal screen is slightly curved, it doesn't cover the entire visible half-circle angle. This also makes the "glance bar" feature a bit difficult to use in practice: the display area on the back is very small, and a specific angle is needed to see the information on it, such as the time. On the Duo 2, there is a physical gap of less than a millimeter between the two screens. Is it likely that this gap will continue to be reduced on the next generation Duo? Does it exist to increase the yield rate? I would like to know Daniel's opinion.
  • "On the Duo 2, there is a physical gap of less than a millimeter between the two screens. Is it likely that this gap will continue to be reduced on the next generation Duo? "
    Good question. I assume it's for clearance/manufacturing tolerances, but I don't know for sure. Next time I speak to someone on the engineering team I'll try to ask.
  • Nice to know that! I was also thinking of manufacturing tolerance, but after looking closely at these gaps, I found that it was fairly uniform in width, or at least my naked eye could not make out any unevenness. At least on my device, they don't need so much tolerance. I don't know if this is a common situation.
  • On my Dv1, I occasionally get dirt or sand in the hinge creating an audible crunch when closing the phone. Decreasing that gap would increase the frequency of this happening. I think the current gap is fine. I just want more apps that take advantage of the form factor. (looking at you Windows Central)
  • Good point. I think another reason might be to reduce the impact of the camera bump when folding the phone backwards. Personally, though, I still wish they would make the two screens look as much like one as possible.
  • Engineering wise, the only way the gap will be reduced is to remove the camera bumb. Even then, it will only be marginally.
  • Not only that, but the current camera bump does seriously affect the experience when using Duo in single screen mode. I use the pen cover, which makes things even worse by making the side incredibly thick when folded.
    I don't want to give up decent cameras either, so the only solution I can think of right now is to put a corresponding notch in the body on the other side of the bump.
  • That in essence would require them to make the Duo substantially thicker and heavier, unless they decided to use different materials. There is a better solution for the camera bump. Either put one or two cameras on the left screen or create a cover for the camera bump side. They are already half way there with the pen cover. Just a bit of modification and instant solution to the wobble and added protection. Yes, it can be done.
  • The good news is we'll have a few years for this technology to evolve....2026, foldables would only account for 3.6 percent of the total smartphone market, growing from the current 14 million units to 61 million. That's a lot of phones, most of which are likely to be sold by Samsung... " ... Or Apple once they decide to copy the technology to the cheering adoration of their fan base who will be under the delusional impression Apple invented flip phones.
  • Ironically the only people I hear talking about Apple "inventing" anything are people who don't use Apple, I've never heard an Apple user claim anything of the sort.
  • Your statement doesn't make my statement less true. In fact, the basis of your statement is the basis of my statement; personal experience. This of course means there is no irony and the use of word does not apply.
  • On a slab phone in portrait orientation, a YouTube video is barely viewable because most phones are long and narrow. Much easier to have the video on top and comments on the bottom on a foldable phone in Psion mode.
  • YouTube works great on my iPhone. Are you serious? The terrible aspect ratio of the Duo is one of its biggest issues. There is a reason every other phone is tall and narrow. It makes them much less awkward to use and carry. That is the biggest problem Microsoft needs to fix if they ever release a Duo 3.
  • I think the true problem is only the price.