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What reviewers are saying about Surface Duo

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

Microsoft's Surface Duo is out today, and that means that there's a tidal wave of reviews to go through. In addition to our review, the review from our friends at Android Central, and MrMobile's review, there are detailed reviews from a wide range of tech experts and enthusiasts.

Here are some snippets of reviews from the biggest names in the mobile industry.

Cherlynn Low writing for Engadget:

The Surface Duo is decent as a phone, quite bad as a tablet, and somewhat functional as everything in between. That is, when the software works as promised. But bugs and app incompatibility plague this $1,399 device, which will need monthly updates from Microsoft to fix its numerous issues.

Dieter Bohn writing for The Verge:

This Surface Duo? It's not really ready. It has a bunch of good ideas, but the execution is bad in places, and a lot of people aren't going to get what Microsoft is going for. There are more than enough problems here to keep me from recommending it.

Marques Brownlee shared his thoughts on his YouTube channel:

Practicality is clearly suffering to achieve this form factor. But in future generations, when this actually improves, and they're able to add back those things, that's when foldables will actually have a convincing future. When it's not like you're sacrificing and sacrificing, but you happen to get it to fold now, when the fold is just another feature, that'll be a sweet feature ... That's what I'm looking forward to.

Brad Sams writing for Petri:

What it boils down to is that the Duo is an excellent PDA, an average phone, an ok camera, and a big display that can fit in your (larger) pockets. The Duo is something that I love to use and at the same time, shy away from too; it really is dependent on the task I am trying to accomplish.When it comes to working and knocking out my tasks for the day, I reach for the Duo first. But when it comes to sitting on the couch and doom-scrolling social media, a traditional smartphone is much better for that experience.

Bill Thomas writing for TechRadar:

Microsoft has put in a ton of work to make the actual experience of using the phone way better than we could have imagined. The LG V60 may have provided a hint of what a dual-screen phone could be like, but the Surface Duo makes it feel necessary.

Adam Ismail writing for Tom's Guide

What surprised me most about the Surface Duo during my time with it is that it proves Microsoft right in a sense. I can recognize now that there's enormous potential in dual-screen devices when done properly, and Microsoft has gotten closer to realizing it than anyone before them. As it stands, though, the Surface Duo's potential is in dire need of refinement, and it's saddled by a few too many headaches to recommend.

The general consensus seems to be that the Surface Duo has good hardware and nice ideas, but is held back by buggy software and other flaws. The majority of reviews either don't recommend buying it or recommend it with caveats.

If you want to grab a Surface Duo, make sure to check out the best Surface Duo cases. The Surface Duo has gorgeous hardware, so it's worth grabbing some added protection.

Microsoft Surface Duo

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Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

55 Comments
  • Low and Born are among the last people I'd go to for device reviews ("quite bad as a tablet" sounds like someone missed the point, typical for that reviewer), but MKBHD and Brad Sams are legit, and Sams says a lot in just that one quote. This really is a productivity-first device with first-gen kinks to sort out. Not really surprising.
  • I've added some more review snippets and will continue to do so as they pop up on the web.
  • Thanks Sean - I figured this was a rolling list of review snippets.
  • No offense to any of those who pre-ordered this but I'll keep my $$ and wait and see if future versions are worth the investment in this form factor .
  • If I were in the phone market right now I'd do the same - wait. But two things make me hopeful re: gen 2: The hardware is already amazing, and the software issues (there are many, many bugs - see MrMobile's video review) can be fixed.
  • According to reviews, surface duo reminded me of Windows 8.
    Good concept but little kind tutrials. Forcing user to use unfaimilar way.
    No useful apps ..... It is sad that MS is always ready great hardware which is lack of software. I hope this time MS admit their wrong on duel screen concept and keep other product that they can do better.
  • I think the hardware is a bigger problem than the software. It's a dual screen device, which is not something anyone really asked for in their pocket. "Real" foldables let you have a much larger screen on the go (with no missing bit in between) and that *is* something people want. With no external display to show you notifications, no NFC, no Qi, a lousy camera, massive bezels, and an unwieldy design even when folded fully over, this thing cannot be made right with software.
  • Are you really sure about this "that *is* something people want" (real foldables)? How many of them have Samsung and LG sold?
  • I am 100% sure people like big screens. As to how many "real" foldables have been sold, I think Samsung has sold roughly half a million folds and a similar number of flips, so that's kinda a lot for first generation devices with massive price tags.
  • Too many assumptions there
  • MS should have dropped the price. I don't think this will sell. Hoping we get a v2 because one day I want a more refined duo.
  • No developers will optimise their apps for something that won't sell and following the reviews it isn't going to sell enough... Another poor offering from MS... You will be lucky if they don't drop this like a stone as they did with Surface RT, Band, Zune etc
  • "You will be lucky if they don't drop this like a stone as they did with Surface RT, Band, Zune etc"
    Surface RT was canned because the OS got canned (and Microsoft overstocked on devices). Band and Zune weren't Surface devices. Nothing launched since 2014 by the Surface team has ever been cancelled after v1. They just keep adding things including a new Surface line this fall.
  • Even Band and Zune had a V2.
  • > Surface RT was canned because ... Microsoft overstocked on devices... Did you try to read this sentence yourself before posting it?
  • A full miss on your comment. #1: MS isn't the only foldable device out there running Android. Apps work now on a single screen plus many will get optimized for the dual screen form factors. #2: RT still lives on today. Band saw at least two iterations. #3, name me one company that hasn't retired products. Waiting.
  • You miss the point of developers optimizing their apps.. It's not just for Duo, as you suggest. It's for all dual screen, and foldable, devices.. The more foldables on the market the better chance developers will update their apps to take advantage of them.
  • Somewhat correct. But also somewhat incorrect. There is the general optimization for the app to work well on the bigger screen. I mean not just to work (it does by default), but to work well. And this is very rare in the Android universe. And you are somewhat right regarding this, the more devices the better chances. However it also means that the number of Android foldables should rise to significantly more than the current number of Android tablets to have some effect. And it will take at least 5 years. Maybe 10. And may even never happen. In the smaller market (tablets, smart watches) Apple takes easy win as it is hard to operate on the principles of "free" and advertising" there, and Google can hardly run away from its brand even if it somehow does other things right. Then there is the optimization for the big screen with a hinge in the middle. That it is quite a different story and it has nothing with other devices and their volume. Even if other devices have that hinge, at least at the moment they won't be able to use Microsoft's software for that and thus software optimized for them won't work on Surface Duo. So in that regarding if I say that the general bigger screen optimization of Android apps is 5-10 or even more years away, it is reasonable to say that there aren't any chances to expect any major Duo/hinge specific optimization in the foreseeable future. Obviously Microsoft is a big company and it may bring few more apps to the board, but to expect many thousands of apps - simply no.
  • Per Sams quote above: "But when it comes to sitting on the couch and doom-scrolling social media, a traditional smartphone is much better for that experience." That hardly seems to be possible. If you're scrolling social media on the couch (Hello, Wasted Life), how in the world would a standard single-screen candy bar phone excel over a two-screen device? Me thinks he's looking for a quippy quote to get clicks and views. As for the concerns/complaints regarding the software, sounds like valid arguments about Android and could be a good argument for using Windows instead, but I digress. It will take some time and updates to tweak the experience.
  • You think scrolling social media on a couch is a sign of a wasted life?
  • We're all doooooomed!
  • A wasted life is sitting on the couch doom scrolling Reddit after a 16 mile mountain bike ride?
  • Nah, sites and apps that are designed for infinite one direction scrolling and relatively narrow layouts are definitely easier to manage on a narrower one handed device then they would be on the Duo. You don't gain much from the extra screen or screen real estate and it's more awkward to hold.
  • You can hold the Duo with one hand, where did you get the idea that it is not possible?
  • You can, but at that width it must be hard to use one handed.
  • Oh yeah, endless scrolling on a 19:9 or 21:9 display is a hoot. I'm looking forward to a "work wide" experience again - something that's been missing since my days on a BlackBerry Passport.
  • Yeah, for me using social media on dual screens is awesome. I have Instagram + Twitter pair launch, which is fun. Holding the device is actually more comfortable for me than candy bar phone.
  • @techiedude007 Simple, two reasons - Familiarity and Muscle Memory. If Foldables were the norm and candy bar phones the niche, it would be the opposite of the current situation with the addition of lament for the lack of additional screen space.
  • The next couple of months will be absolutely critical, and hopefully Microsoft will be able to iron out most of the bugs by then. The software experience has to be smooth and delightful. I though they had more than enough time to iron out the bugs. I will wait a moth or two to see if they fix the issues and if they do then I will buy it.
  • The CNET review I watched was brutal. Totally killed all enthusiasm I had for the phone.
  • I tend to stay away from CNET reviews in gender, they're usually not good IMO.
  • Oh well...! Back to the drawing board for another Four years...!
  • Also from The Verge: "Microsoft is charging a starting price of $1,399 for the Surface Duo. Given its capabilities relative to other phones, it is absolutely not worth that price. And even after a couple of weeks, I’m not entirely convinced that the Surface Duo actually makes me more productive than any standard single-screen phone."
  • The bugs on this device are horrible and inexcusable, but I heavily discount Dieter Born's take on mobile productivity. His product reviews are useless. Other, better reviews, who also don't soft-pedal the bugs, can see the potential.
  • This phone is not for the mass market YET. Even Microsoft says this. This is for people that understand the limitations and are patient enough to wait for the software fixes. Never is a V1 product that is charting new territory flawless.
    Honestly I have a Note10 and the amount of bugs and annoying things with that phone drive me nuts. I think people have grown so used to the bugs that they stop noticing. As someone that uses multiple monitors daily, this form factor is perfect for me. If someone wants to use this as a tablet replacement then you are not understanding the concept. This is not a tablet.
  • What I can never understand is how MSFT excitedly releases devices that they've been using internally, only for these devices to be, initially, sub-par in the wild. Is it that they pretend to use these devices (which I don't believe is the case) or there is something else going on in their machinations?
  • That's a tough one. I've watched the press event many times and never noticed any of the issues that reviewers are saying. I wonder if the release version of the software had something break that was fine on the internal version.
  • Same thoughts I had. I distinctly remember Panos's presentation, and with the exception of a couple of app launching issues, everything seemed to work smoothly. I've seen a number of YouTube videos of demos of the product on display in BestBuy but thought the hiccups were probably due to no Internet access or first time launching of apps, and configurations thereof, that were causing the problems. Reviews are certainly proving that wrong. The good thing is these aren't problems or issues that cannot be resolved with OS or firmware updates
  • Was thinking the same. No way people at MS were dogfooding the device and then it comes out with so many showstopper bugs (some fixed only on Sept 5th).
  • I really don't get it, my duo has been buttery smooth these past few days... maybe the day-one update? The issues I have noticed are just standard android stuff.
  • time will tell, if MS can not fix the bug issues everyone is stating then this device will be dead. lets be clear as a another commenter noted no entirely new thing (anything) that never been done before ever comes out flawless. if could afford it and wife approved i would've purchased and patiently wait for updates. unless someone can tell that MS is notoriously bad with updated their software, we have to remember its running an Android OS not MS owns so give it time. my 2 cents
  • I was hoping from Surface phone that other companies would make their versions, so we have cheaper options. But I want Windows on it. What now, even if someone make similar product, it will be another Android. Why I would want that?
  • I don't see C-Net's review in this list, and that might be intentional. Man, I thought Stein had some issues when watching his review. It sounded personal. I felt like he was trying to send Panos and the dev team a message.
  • Most tech reviewers are fanboys who never grew up and don't care about how a device matches a target audience or not. They're not serious journalists. They're just salespeople. These days it's even worse as they live in the Twitter echo chamber. The same hermetically-sealed-informational-universe dynamics that gave us QAnon.
  • Any reviewer who daily drive iPhone and uses Mac as computer isn't going to like it. Period. Let's be honest most "popular" tech YT reviewers fall into that category. The work they do is too complex to take advantage of dual screen or phone. Their main work is video editing which is done on. Computer exclusively not to mention if you use mac there is absolutely no cohesiveness with duo that they get to take advantage of in daily like. I bet normal people will like it much more than YT.
  • They're mostly overgrown kids whose only discipline is hits and views from fellow fanboys.
  • Mr. Mobile's reviews are always spot on. He says to quote "in its current state the Duo hurts my productivity rather than helping it." Eek. And one of his roommates, David Imel, at Android Authority has a great take on Duo too, saying it would "take an entire other video to list all the bugs". Imel has one of the most entertaining intros with shots of Tron and Star Trek too boot.
  • "Mr. Mobile's reviews are always spot on. He says to quote "in its current state the Duo hurts my productivity rather than helping it." Eek." Yes but that was because of a specific bug: the touchscreen experience was really poor (particularly with a software keyboard), and taps were interpreted as long presses.
  • It's unwise to buy a device (especially one priced at $1400) based on what it could be. You buy it based on what the device is when you spend the money. I believe that's how Mr. Mobile ended his review. If it wasn't him it was Marques Brownlee, The Verge, Engadget or one of the many other reviewers who basically said the same thing over and over.
  • Hopefully no one expected this device to not have kinks to be worked out. It's a first-gen device so of course that's the case. The reviews that I've read seem to be fairly realistic, in that they can see that this is generally a good idea but the execution needs some work. That's why I've been planning on getting onboard come the second or third generation. I think that it will be a long time before devices like the Fold or the Duo are the norm - it may never happen - so high price and lack of app optimisation may be a problem for a good while. I can live with that if they add a few key upgrades and continue to polish the overall experience though.
  • I mean how are you gonna sell this for $1,400 and the New XBox for $450? I mean if you want to get some market penetration then $1,400 is not going to do it. Give one of these away with every XBox purchase. Why aren't Microsoft products more integrated? XBox is going to be popular, make this a must have device for those people who will then start using it for other stuff and so on. As it stands who needs a Surface Duo beyond those who are curious and still trust Microsoft?
  • “ The general consensus seems to be that the Surface Duo has good hardware and nice ideas, but is held back by buggy software and other flaws.” I’m a big fan but, having owned a number surfaces now (2 Surface Pro generations and surface book 1 & 2) this unfortunately seems to be the situation with a lot of Microsoft’s products. Great hardware let down by poor software. Which is sort of insane coming from a software company. There seems to be a disconnect somewhere. Still considering next gen of surface pro and studio though.
  • Sigh.... Microsoft needs to rehire QA team as these issues are inexcusable especially on a $1,400 device and after the launch fiasco of the 950 series after the mobile division was axed. Personally, I feel that the device would had more polish if it was launched with 10X instead of Android. Giving the team to completely make sure the had the time to iron out of all the small things. Not to mention, they are now more reliant on Google as well to optimise the o/s top down for dual screen devices as well as developers to implement / update their apps. Which is the irony of this entire Android o/s debacle, they went to Android for the apps but the apps are not optimised for the form factor.... *facepalm*... They should have focused on nurturing the Windows ecosystem as opposed to just pushing their services on the competitions platforms. Which would have also enabled them to grow Microsoft pay, thus enabling another revenue stream... but foresight ain't Microsoft's strong suite. Always with the knee jerk reactions. I hope Gen 2 has a Windows 10 on ARM variant along with wireless charging, a msd card slot and NFC for tap to pay. As the duo has insane amount of potential; especially given how well UWP apps scale to smaller screens.
  • Could there be a worse experience than WoA on a 5" screen? Reviews would slaughter that device.
  • Gosh they are as slow as hell on the mobile sector, and it seems they never learn. Panay kept back the device for years for his obsession about thickness and the "perfect experience", and even after this long time we get more mess than the early lumia 950. He didn't really consider how much hardware components would have suffered from the thin shape, neither how developing on Android from scratch would have slowed down the whole process. He prioritizes beauty and fashion I guess.
    Imagine to go back to 2015 and imagine that Microsoft told us the truth:
    - we want to totally kill our mobile app store because it's growing too slowly: we are giving away to android all our apps and services
    - we are going to dismiss our long refined mobile system for the benefit of android, where we have nearly zero experience by the way
    - our faster mobile strategy is leading us to cancel every phone of ours until late 2020, when we will release a double screen phone with android, full of bugs and drawbacks and extremely overpriced. But stay tuned it'll be so thin ;)