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Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 ships next week and we're buying one. What do you want us to take a closer look at?

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

Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 starts shipping on October 22, 2021. The foldable looks to be a significant upgrade over the original Surface Duo, so there will be plenty of things to test out after its release.

Our senior Windows Editor Zac Bowden pre-ordered his Surface Duo 2 a few weeks ago, putting his money where his mouth is (he also bought Surface Duo 1 last year). He has just been charged by Microsoft, meaning it should be in his hands this Thursday, October 21, when it goes on sale. He's in for the black 128GB model and is already gearing up for an unboxing video when it arrives next week (assuming deliveries hit that Thursday).

When he gets the gadget, he'll run through its specs, design, performance, and other core aspects, but with a device as different as the Surface Duo 2, there are bound to be unique angles worth investigating. A niche piece of hardware calls for special attention, which is where you come in — please let us know in the comments anything specific you'd like to see regarding the Surface Duo 2.

Hardware

Surface Duo 2 Glance Bar Notifs

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Surface Duo 2 has much more powerful specs than its predecessor. Its Snapdragon 888 processor is the same CPU seen in many flagship phones, which should result in dramatically better performance. Are you ever held back by the hardware of the original Surface Duo? Are there combinations of apps you'd like us to try once we have the device in hand?

Moving to the back of the foldable, the triple-camera system of the Surface Duo 2 should be much better than the camera of the original Surface Duo, but judging a camera based solely on its specs is never a great idea. Which scenarios are you most concerned about when it comes to the Surface Duo 2's camera?

Software

Surface Duo 2 Camera Editor Inking

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Arguably the biggest downfall of the original Surface Duo was its software. Strange bugs plagued it at launch and several linger to this day. Some issues only affect certain devices. Other problems are bound to specific situations that most people won't stumble upon. Are there any bugs from the original Surface Duo you're concerned might crop up on the Duo 2?

Comparisons

Surface Duo 2 Hero

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Since the Surface Duo 2 is unique, it can be difficult to judge against popular hardware. Are there specific phones or tablets that you'd like to see the Surface Duo 2 stacked up against?

Many people won't be able to compare a Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 side by side. However, once we have the Duo 2 in hand, we'll be able to compare things down to the pixel. Do you want to know how the middle gaps between the devices compare? Perhaps you're curious about how different apps might look on the two devices. For example, some have complained that the bar in the middle of the original Surface Duo cuts content in certain apps. If you're affected by that issue, you may want to see if it sticks around with the Duo 2.

Great expectations

Surface Duo 2 Hero

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

When Microsoft announced all its new Surface hardware, the Duo 2 drew the most interest from our readers. Compared to its predecessor, the spec sheet is better, and the design looks more refined. Now, it's time to see if the Duo 2 meets expectations.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

66 Comments
  • Software, the Surface Duo's software and user experience is still not polished... Significant bugs still exist and it would be good to know if these exist on the Duo 2...
  • Doesn't Google make android?
  • Yes, but they are not responsible for optimisation with respect the hardware, Microsoft are... Microsoft are responsible for software updates not Google... That's why the Duo does not have Android 11... Android is actually open source and OEM's can customise it to suit their use case...
  • Well since it's on ATT we won't be getting updates until they've released them on every other device or there.
  • Not all of the Duo out there are ATT branded, many, as my one, are stock MS devices. Ms is the entity responsible for this situation.
  • i want to see some actual use. what is the actual point of two screens? why would a candy bar user want to switch to this format? make a compelling case if there is one to be had.
  • This has been discussed many times, at least on windows central. Look at old articles/listen to old podcast episodes when they talk about the first duo.
  • No it has not been discussed. There have been sweeping proclamations on productivity but less of practical examples.
  • Answer these questions: Why use dual monitors on a desktop? Why buy a smartphone with a larger display e.g. iPhone Mini vs. iPhone Max Why buy a portable display to use with your laptop when you travel? Why snap apps in Windows side by side? If you answered "duh, because you can see more content and act on it" you get the idea behind Duo. It's literally the same thing.
  • if you have many 2FA accounts having the authenticator open on one screen while logging in on the other is a beneficial use (for me)
  • It is really easy to switch between apps to simply read a number in that situation. Easier than going through the hassle of opening them on both displays. That is a very bad example.
  • "going through the hassle of opening them on both displays" My god, you really will say anything, won't you? Ah, such a hassle! Your staunch refusal to accept that anyone could possibly want to use a device in a manner different to you marks you as either very dishonest or just a little broken.
  • His mission here is literally to convince everyone not to get Duo because he doesn't think it's a good idea. It's a very self-centered approach to technology.
  • I actually don't agree with you here, Daniel.. It's not about him thinking Duo is a bad idea at all. Don't fall for that. He deep down inside knows Duo is a nice device and possibly has a good future. The things he says are pure trolling just to troll. So, the fact that he is here is actually worse than it seems. (or he inadvertently makes it appear)
  • I'd like to see a deep dive Surface Duo 1 to 2 comparison article. I jumped the gun on the Duo 1 as soon as I saw the price of the Duo, so I want to know how many of the 1's quirks have been ironed out to see if it's a worthwhile upgrade from the 1 or should I wait another 1 or 2 revisions. Specifically: Is it more reliable in determining which screen I'm using? Can we configure whether the "invisible pixels" are padded out or the gap doesn't take virtual pixels away anymore? Is switching between orientations more reliable? How much does the battery capacity increase increase battery life (mine sometimes doesn't last a day)? Is Microsoft Launcher different on the Duo 2, especially regarding how I cannot resize icons as I could on a stock Android device? Is there one speaker on each screen, or two on one side? Are the speakers reactive to which screens I'm using, or can I configure them? What gamepads (I guess the Kishi's out) can we use? Can we double tap on the sleeping scrren to switch between them? Off the top of my head :D
  • The Duo 2 assumes that you are using the right screen for phone mode, but it can switch if you open it and then close it into phone mode again, negating the need to switch. There's a demo video on YouTube that shows this occurring. Also they have already discussed on this site how there is a speaker on the top of the left screen and bottom of the right screen.
  • Thanks for the info, good to know! I hope the right-screen-as-primary mode will be enabled via software update for the Duo 1, but I won't hold my breath. It is good to know some of the concerns are getting mitigated one way or another, nonetheless.
  • How likely is it to break when folded towards the camera?
  • I can say with certainty: not at all. The Duo 1's bumpers also leave maybe a millimeter on the longer side, so when open, it's not flush either. Causes no problems whatsoever.
  • How can you say that with certainty? The OG bumpers go all the way around. The camera bump is at the top. Squeezing the bottom, would clearly put some torque on the panel. It would be like stacking a couple of pennies at one outside corner and squeezing the other other corner.
  • Software glitches abound. Erratic slow scrolling in apps, not the fault of hardware or Android 10, though that was never designed with Duo or even Galaxy Fold. I hope Android 12.1 arrives before this time next year. By not having Android 11 already, for all I know some issues with software and integration could save my $$. Not including 11 until 2022, are they afraid they'll lose potential customers? Hit or miss dropping a window in middle to trigger dual screen mode. How about specifying Edge should launch in Dual mode. Put a button to fill both like in Windows full screen mode. 3rd party apps that put a login caught in the crease. Or you are in settings of an app and there is no back gesture or button. Scrolling using a pen. Page jumps or fast forward. I have Surface Slim Pen 2 but no way to charge, and 2.months before the charger ships. Won't chrge from Go2 or Laptop 2. Edge tab previews, and apps, don't show current content, is it lack of storing and reading from cache or memory? I'd have liked to see 12GB, same as Fold3 or S21 Ultra. January is when they "could" ship 12. For both units. Reward your customers that invested in your dream. I prefer the Duo over my S21U. Great for Kindle with its clear text AND width - using both screens (if you can nudge to open on both). MS Launcher should just open that way or have a option in View settings, if Amazon put the effort in it.
    Or having my password Manger and an app side by side. Twitter on one and Edge article. Or viewing Edge in "full screen."
  • Just curious. Why would you have (or buy) a Slim Pen 2 when you seem to have nothing that supports it. Right now that would be Surface 8 and Laptop Studio. The Duo 2 with charge case won't even support its signature feature, the haptics. Would seem the original Slim Pen would be appropriate for what you have. That one came with a charger, or at least mine did.
    Guess that brings up a question I have for WC. Does the original Slim Pen stick to DUO 2 without the new case, and does the new case charge it, when that is available. If it doesn't, it seems MS went out of their way to make it not happen. It's just inductive charging and the magnets help with coil alignment. The Slim Pen Charger is supposed to charge both pens, so it would make sense the DUO case would.
  • I honestly don't know what to add. Between Zac and Daniel, they are already going to do a thorough look at the hardware, software, and camera. That's basically all the important aspects of a smartphone. So maybe WC can do a deep dive into game streaming (xCloud) and emulation? How the Duo 2 handles an actual vacation? Using the camera to record a short, 3-5 minute movie? That would actually be pretty cool as it would involve how the Duo 2 handles 4K, what it's like transferring large videos to a PC, and is the image quality good.
  • I would like to ser a hardware demo with a full spanned video to see how much it rips out of the middle compared to the duo 1. I really wish they could have found a way for the middle to not take away from the image on Duo 1. I don't see why the couldn't properly split the image between the two displays
  • Is One Note on Duo an OLED black like Samsung Notes or is it still more of a Grey? I want to see the MS Feed, not very impressed with Start but I'm hoping the stock widget gets added, and it becomes more similar to the widgets on Windows 10/11
  • I'd like to see what apps support the Duo and how well they function. I know some apps supported the Duo at launch and Google was adding more APIs for dual screens so I'd like to see how that's progressing in terms of the ecosystem evolving. And not just focusing primarily on the popular apps. How do apps like password managers work? What about photography apps? Productivity apps like Trello or Service Now? They're just some examples. How well do apps take advantage of both screens?
  • I am so torn between this and the Z-Fold 3. I just can't decide. I think the biggest decision is MS vs. Samsung. Samsung is so established and has never let me down in the mobile device arena. MS is just the opposite. I love Microsoft but they have screwed over mobile device User's so many times I'm not sure if I should let myself be lured back in.
  • I have both and love both (Fold and Duo not Duo2) but if I had to keep one it would be the Fold 3... Useable in one hand when closed, beautiful tablet sized screen when open and easier to use when in a hurry... The Surface Duo has glitched too many times just when I needed it to work... This has never happened with the Fold 3... Duo hardware is amazing though, it is a marvel of engineering and incredibly thin...
  • At the price of the Duo 2, that isn’t a hard decision to me. The Fold 3 does split screen just fine for the rare times you need two apps at once on your phone. Having the giant screen is a huge advantage. Microsoft needs to compete on price, they certainly can’t compete on innovation in this segment.
  • I'd like to see some sustained mobile gaming benchmarks (or other intense usage scenarios). The 888 is supposed to be a really hot chip, and I'm curious how the Duo implements throttling, especially with the limited device dimensions for heat dissipation.
  • Software then everything else. How it folds with the camera bump. How the camera works. How the thinner bottom and top bezels feel and how the new internal hardware feels and runs things compared to v1, but mostly the software
  • Since the Surface Duo 2 is an unwieldly phone, almost as much as Galaxy Fold 3, I would be interested to know how easily someone can fill in user experience gaps by using a solid pair of wireless headphones and a smartwatch to have a faster way of doing certain things. Is there an easier way to take phone calls if someone wanted to keep the Surface Duo in their pocket? Can I get notifications and make quick replies to texts or messages through a smartwatch, and not open the phone? A phone like this seems like it craves to be used deliberately and not casually/intermittently, so to convince me this future won't be annoying I need to understand how I can do simple things on a companion device instead of making those occasions have a few extra steps.
  • Agree! I think this is a HUGE! factor and should not be overlooked. We decided on the Duo 2 and plan to use our next smart watches as the "notification display" for alerts, quick glance, mobile payments etc. So much so, waiting for the next release of Android smart watches before upgrading our aging Galaxy Watch 3's.
  • I use a smartwatch with my Duo and it does help to fill in some of the gaps, especially with notifications. I can just look on my wrist to see if a notification or call is worth responding to. And with voice to text, sometimes I just respond straight from my watch. I've taken the occasional call, too. So having a smartwatch helps a ton with the Duo.
  • Thanks for sharing your experience. I have the original Duo. Love the form factor & the vision, but in actual day-to-day use, I hate the fact that it doesn't have a notification/cover screen on the front of the device. I feel like it reduces productivity by introducing additional steps to check messages/calls. It feels like I'm willfully spending time working around limitations because of how awesome I think it could be. I know they've (somewhat) addressed that concern with Duo 2, so that's what I'd like to see reviewed.
  • Launcher
    Spanned apps
    Battery life
    Bugs fixed
    New features
  • Would love to see software comparisons to the OG surface duo too various pain points have been addressed in the software.
  • Plz unbox Surface go 3 and duo 2
  • 1) Review it purely as dual screen product & provide nuanced take on how useful or useless dual screen is in tasks range from casual usecases to heavy multitasking. Future possibilities & predictions with this formfactor & current situation of app ui/ux and how it needs to evolve to keep dual screen concept alive. 2) Review it purely as a single screen device for casual users who are more interested in it due to it's design quirks such as wider aspect ratio , flashy reading device & tiny laptop like use case, ability to close the device etc. 3) Also review surface duo 2 as tablet. Find out how handy it is as tablet, in which tasks hinge gap is not much a problem & in which it ruins expierince etc.
    Also commenty on value of buying surface duo 2 over phone+small tablet combo.
  • Me and my brother last night on a telephone conversation.
    B : I want one of them foldable phone thingies.
    Me : What do you think about the surface duo?
    B : The what now?
    Me : explaining all the benefits; pros and cons, cost ratio, viability, complete with graphs
    B : erhm... That samsung ad looks so bright and cheery! So cool! Reason is dead. Investing money in innovating products is dead. Throwing your entire budget in ads and Innovating in market speak is so much easier, cheaper and in the age of social media, effective! Microsoft has bowed down to market demands and has embraced the new paradigm shown by the innovative and era-inducing Windows 11! Why can't you? Embrace the suck! So if you're open to requests for your coverage. Add more drama! More explosions! More pretentiousness! I want JonyIvesque levels of voice overs! I want you to coin hyper-futuristic yet oddly enough obscure slogans and jargon! I want you to redefine the volume rocker as a differential audio amplitude adjuster and what a superlative tactile experience it is! Don't minimize or explain how reasonable the slight screen gap is. Reason is for suckers! It's not a bug, it's a feature! It's there to let you see a sliver of the future. It's also an air vent to cool the thing. Blow the presentation up! Being adult is out... adulting is in! I want gradeschool level heights of juvenile social media marketing! Onenote is an example of this missed opportunity. It has had the ability to transcribe photos to txt for such a long time, you probably haven't been born yet when it came out... and the business-like and reasonable marketing for it came out as meh. Here comes apple's live text and last week's viral videos of it being used to surreptitiously copy your classmate's laboriously written notes is hailed as sheer unadulterated genius. Work smarter, not harder the netizens exclaim. Yep, the times have changed. So my advice would be go over the top! Make something up! Lie even! Nobody cares anymore. You just have to be aspirational. Ass peer ratio NUL. So disregard all the reasonable advice on how to properly present the product with well thought out use cases, and such. You just have to explain how the surface duo makes you look as if you have so much disposable income when you whip it out. How special, unique, and one of a kind you are along with all the many other foldable phone buyers out there. You're both unique and at the same time commonplace. You are an enigma my friend. Don't point out how productive you can be with two screens, show them how productive you would look like to other people when you whip this bad boy out! You'll be so darn cool with this thing, unicorns and angels will genuflect at your magnificence. I wish you coverage great success.
  • This is the best post here.
  • Quite debatable, to say the least...
  • Most delusional post here, maybe. He is totally wrong. Marketing is nice, but only gets your foot in the door. Once the consumer brings it home, it actually has to perform. That is where Microsoft struggles, not in the marketing.
  • The Duo isn’t innovative, you are mistaken and that is why you are confused. Dual screen has been done a few times before. It didn’t work then and nothing has changed. Just like the Kyocera didn’t work, or the Axon M, the Duo has the exact same issues. The rare times you really want a second screen on your phone, aren’t worth all the trade-offs. I have recently tried using One Note, as I have heard people talking about it and my new work computer is very locked down. It is horrendously bad. It hides everything, isn’t easy to use at all. I haven’t use Apple’s feature you describe, but I bet it is easy and works. Can’t say the same for Microsoft’s implementation, which is likely built around keeping IT people employed by being convoluted and complicated.
  • Are you talking about One Note on Duo, or in general? Because I've used ON for years and so if Duo 2 has a decent implementation of it and other Office apps it's already primed for me to make decent use of it.
  • You Sir, have a future in marketing.
  • I'm probably going to buy one I'm just waiting on your guys's review to pull the trigger.
  • Did they make the SIM and eSIM functional at the same time yet? Drawback if Duo 1 for those needing dual SIM capabilities.
  • You could set your coverage apart by doing a deep dive into customization. Because of the Duo's form factor, third party customization solutions often work very poorly. Even the inbuilt Microsoft Launcher is lacking features its standard single-screen counterpart has. I'd love to see a breakdown of what third party customization options work and how well they work.
  • All kinds of side by side comparisons will be interesting, although I personally will carry them out myself.
  • 1. Viewing angles and usability of the new glance spine feature. Is it customizable? Is it easy to see if it's sitting on a desk, or do you have to look at it just right, meaning you need to pick it up to hold it at the right angle? 2. Is there any equivalent to Glance where some small amount of info can remain on the screen and touch to wake, like we had on some of the Lumia phones? Still my most missed feature from older Lumia days. 3. How has the gap changed with those added pixels? Is it physically narrower? Does it appear narrower with the wrapped screen? Show examples. 4. Camera speed. Zac has said it's faster. Camera speed was one of my two biggest complaint with the Duo's camera too (even more than the quality of the photos, and on par with the horrible UX of using the internal camera -- it was always trying to take a selfie when I wanted to shoot something else and vice versa). How fast is the new camera? 5. Camera zooming. Does it zoom smoothly between lenses (moving from one to the next as needed), or do you need to select a specific lens before setting your zoom level? 6. Any apps you've seen that still run full screen and break or become awkward because of the gap? RoboForm password manager does this sometimes on the original Duo (not enough to cause me to abandon RoboForm or the Duo, but still frustrating when it happens). 7. From the spec data shown, the aspect ratio has changed from the Duo. It's no longer 3:2 per screen or 3:4 for the tablet mode. Looks like the new screens are slightly taller relative to the width (a bit more like a conventional candy bar phone). Is this a perceptible change as a user? If so, is it better or worse?
  • Pen. Pen. Pen. After leaving univsersity years ago, I've rediscovered 'taking notes'. I love the idea of walking down the hall at the office, being pulled in for an ad-hoc meeting, and having my notes in my pocket. I love the idea of watching a history video on one screen, and taking notes on the other. I love the idea of taking pictures of a job site, and marking it up to send on Microsoft Teams. The dual screen and pen are my most anticipated features!
  • Stop writing about have good it is for productivity. Start i stead to write on practicsl examples, how the formatadds and howvit gives advantages. What apps works well with the format and how utelize them tovthe best. Less buzzwords and more practical usage.
  • That is hard to do when practical uses are few and far between.
  • I also have the Surface Duo 2 preordered for delivery on the 21st. I'm most curious about any improvements Android 11 might bring. I have the Duo 1 and will using Microsoft's trade-in program to recover a bit of that investment.
    I'm also wondering if you've heard any update as to when the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover preorders will go live.
  • My question is more for Microsoft. I'd like to know more about their plans for Android. Will they start building their own apps for the device basics (phone, text, photo, etc.)? Beyond that, does Microsoft have long term plans for the device? Will this get Android 12? Is it going to be a year plus until they update it to Android 1