Surface Duo 2 upgrades just about everything. But what about the software?

The Surface Duo 2 has new rear cameras, 5G and a new processor, arriving this fall.


Microsoft

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2, announced today at the company’s virtual Surface event, looks like it’s addressed a lot of the previous Duo’s shortcomings: sometimes sluggish performance, only one camera and a lack of 5G. Whether it can compete with the Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 remains to be seen, but the Duo finally has 5G, more cameras, a faster processor and even a side display. The Duo 2 starts at $1,499 and is available for preorder, arriving October 5. Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s new Android phone and how it aims to compete. Will its performance finally feel better?

Read here for all the ways it’s improved compared to the first Duo, and more about all the Duo 2 camera upgrades, the new Surface Slim Pen 2, Surface Pro 8, Surface Go 3, Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Adaptive Kit

Surface Duo 2 design: A new Glance Bar on the hinge

The Duo 2 looks the same at first as last year. It’s still like a folding all-glass Moleskine book, with two separate screens connected by a hinge, as opposed to one continuous bendable display like the Galaxy Fold 3 and Z Flip 3. It folds back into a tent mode and can also open up to see both screens at once, or flip back to use just one screen. Glass covers the front and back panels, just like before.

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A new edge display along the hinge shows notifications now.


Microsoft

The dual 5.8-inch AMOLED are a bit larger than the 5.6-inch screens were before. They open up to about 8.3 inches of total space, with 1,892×1,344-pixel resolution per display. The glass covering the displays is now Gorilla Glass Victus, which Microsoft promises will be more durable. Also, the displays are now slightly curved in at the hinge, which looks like it means less of a gap between displays and a more fluid look. The displays are 90Hz this time, too.

There’s one big new feature: a strip running down the side of the Duo 2’s hinge called a Glance Bar that can show battery life and notifications, sort of like edge displays on other phones have had. Considering the folded-up Duo 2 doesn’t have an outer screen on the other side, this could be useful for incoming calls. That Glance Bar looks very useful, though.

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Microsoft beefs up the Surface Duo’s processor and storage

The Duo 2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor this time, just like the Z Fold 3. The step up from the last Duo’s Snapdragon 855 chip should help the phone feel more fluid than the original, which felt laggy. The phone runs Android, similar to before, with Microsoft’s own custom apps and some interface touches in the OS that are optimized for these specific displays and the Pen stylus.

The storage options range from 128GB to 512GB and there’s 8GB of RAM on the new Duo 2.

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Microsoft’s new Pen magnetically charges and has vibrating haptics.


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Microsoft’s new Surface Slim Pen 2 works with the Surface Duo 2

Microsoft’s still-stubby new Slim Pen 2 looks interesting: It has vibrating haptics this time which promise a more tactile feel when writing, and a “Zero-Force inking” feature that will write without needing to press on the display with the Pen tip. The new Pen charges magnetically with the Duo 2 when it’s in a new Duo 2 charge case.

Surface Duo 2 gets triple rear cameras

There’s now an external camera on the Duo 2 — three of them, in fact: a f/1.7 12-megapixel telephoto lens, a f/2.4 12MP wide lens, and a third 16MP ultrawide camera, with optical image stabilization. There’s a night mode, portrait mode, HDR and it can record at 4K up to 60fps plus record slow-mo. It sounds like a pretty complete package, especially considering the last Duo only had a single inner camera. The cameras also have a time of flight sensor for helping with focus. 

The camera package sounds extremely promising, especially compared to the previous Duo’s lack of any rear cameras at all. The camera app Microsoft has on the Duo 2 also lets one display work as a viewfinder while the other can show previous photos for comparison: this could be really helpful for trying to make a shot better.

The Duo 2’s inside camera looks similar to before: it’s 12MP. I’m curious how well it handles Zoom calls this time.

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The dual-screen design is still largely the same, although the displays are slightly bigger.


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5G comes to the Surface Duo, finally (and NFC)

5G is now included in the Surface Duo, unlike last year’s LTE-equipped Duo. The phone supports mmWave and Sub-6 frequencies and also has Wi-Fi 6. The lack of 5G on last year’s Duo was one of its key missing features for a supposedly premium work phone. Also, NFC (not on the first Duo either) is onboard, which should help with a variety of tap-to-connect everyday uses.

Will Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 finally feel good to use?

The last Surface Duo didn’t win me over with its software, or feel easy to multitask on. I love the idea of what it represents, but will Microsoft have the software better polished and optimized this time around? The hardware seems totally refreshed and now very much ready to compete with other premium phones. The next part is nailing the execution of it all and showing us we need a two-screen phone in the first place.



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