Last year, Microsoft launched the Surace Duo phone, a unique take on the foldable that felt like putting a laptop in your pocket. But it needed work to fill out missing features and enhance durability. The new Surface Duo 2 promises all that, sometimes with solutions you wouldn’t expect.
Note: Be sure to check out all the products revealed at today’s Surface event, including the new Surface Pro 8, the upgraded Go 3, the more affordable Pro X tablet, and the insane Surface Laptop Studio. Microsoft also announced some cool new accessories that are genuinely worth taking a look at.
At its heart, the Surface Duo 2 is still the same concept as the original: a quasi foldable with two displays joined by a sturdy hinge. In theory, that should make it more durable than true foldables that rely on plastic and semi-glass screens. “In theory” because last year’s Surface Duo broke in other unexpected ways.
The new model picks up where the original left off and strives to address our biggest complaints. The first Surface Duo had terrible cameras, no NFC, no 5G, just six GBs of RAM, an older processor, and no way to check notifications in the closed position. Leaving aside the excellent multitasking capabilities, that’s a lot of misses for a $1,400 phone.
The Surface Duo 2 promises it will fix all that. It comes with 5G, NFC, 8 GBs of RAM, and a Snapdragon 888 processor. And while the original promised to get an Android 11 upgrade but still hasn’t, the Surface Duo 2 will launch with Android 11.
But that’s not all. The new Surface Duo 2 takes a big step forward in cameras. Whereas the original had a singular 11 MP camera, the new Duo 2 houses a tri-lens system. That’s right, on the backside (Outside? Non-display side) sports a Wide 12 MP, f/1.7 aperture lens with OIS, a Telephoto 12 MP lens with OIS, and 2X optical zoom, and an Ultra-Wide 16MP, f/2.2 aperture, lens with distortion correction. And this time around, the Duo 2 also has a 12 MP lens. On paper, that’s a vast improvement, but we’ll need to try it to be sure.
The displays get a size upgrade, from 8.1 inches when fully opened to 8.3 inches. The screens are AMOLED and capable of a 90 Hz refresh rate. On the connectivity side, the Surface Duo 2 can connect over 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1. That’s much more future-proof than the original.
Overall the Surface Duo 2 is thicker than the original, but that means Microsoft managed to slip in a larger battery which should help battery life. You still won’t get wireless charging, alas, but the Surface Duo 2 supports fast charging. Unfortunately, the Surface 23W USB-C Power Supply is sold separately. You just get a USB-C cable in the box. The same goes for the newly announced Slim Pen 2; you’ll have to spring for that. And it still has a fingerprint sensor, just like the original.
With the original Surface Duo, I complained that the only good way to check notifications was to open the phone entirely. You could open it slightly to get “peek” notifications, but at that point, why not open it fully? The peek notifications aren’t all that helpful either. And you couldn’t check the time at all without opening the phone. But Microsoft addressed that issue with a subtle change—a third screen.
But rather than sticking it on the one “backsides,” Microsoft ran it along the spine of the hinge instead. When it’s closed, you can look a the spine, and the “Glance Bar” will show icons for email, text, phone calls, volume, charging, and more. And yes, you can see the time too. And to be perfectly clear, it’s not truly a third screen. Microsoft curved the inner screens and arranged the hinge in such a way that the notifications come from there, but that’s a bonus. A third screen would likely be a bigger hit on battery life.
All that comes at a slight price increase. The Surface Duo 2 comes in 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB storage options, and the price starts at $1,599, which is $100 more than the original. You can pre-order it in two colors, Glacier and Obsidian, starting today from Microsoft. Units ship October 21st.
Surface Duo 2
Now with NFC, 5G, better cameras, a decent processor, and fast charging.