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Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Which foldable phone will win?

microsoft surface duo 2 vs samsung galaxy z fold 3 composite image
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In this Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 face-off, we'll break down how these two phone-tablet hybrids compare. Microsoft's newest device features two separate displays, while the Samsung is a true foldable. Both are pretty similar on paper in addition to being quite expensive.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 looks and feels more futuristic, acting as both a phone and tablet thanks to its inner and outer displays. The Surface Duo 2 can only be used when unfolded, making it difficult to handle one-handed.

While we wait to get our hands on a Surface Duo 2 later in October, we wanted to give you a look at how Microsoft's device compares to Samsung's best foldable phone. Both devices have similar specs, which puts Microsoft in a good position to challenge Samsung's foldable device.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Specs

Surface Duo 2Galaxy Z Fold 3
Starting price$1,499$1,799
Displays2x 5.8-inch (1344 x 1892); 8.3 inches (2688 x 1892) combined7.6-inch AMOLED (1768 x 2208) internal; 6.2-inch AMOLED (832 x 2268) cover
Refresh rate90Hz120Hz
CPUSnapdragon 888Snapdragon 888
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB256GB, 512GB
Rear cameras12MP (f/1.7) main, 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 12MP (f/2.4) with 2x optical zoom12MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 12MP (f/2.4) telephoto with 2x optical zoom
Front camera12MP (f/2.0)10MP (f/2.2), 4MP (f/1.8) UDC
Battery4449 mAh4400 mAh

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Price and release date

Microsoft announced the Surface Duo 2 at its Surface event on Sept. 22. The phone is coming on October 21 with a starting price of $1,499 for the 128GB model. There will be 256GB and 512GB options, too. You can pre-order the Surface Duo 2 right now from the Microsoft store.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 came out at the end of August with a starting price of $1,799 for the 256GB variant. The 512GB model costs $1,899. Check out our best Galaxy Z Fold 3 deals page to make sure you get the best offer.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Design

The Surface Duo 2 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 share some similarities in that they both fold closed, but that's about where things end. The biggest design differences come down to how the internal displays are laid out, and the fact that Microsoft's phone doesn't have an external cover display like Fold 3.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 in hand

(Image credit: Coupang)

The Surface Duo 2 is a folding phone like the first Duo, where the displays are separated by a bezel. It can open different apps on each screen, or expand one across the two panels. Close up the phone when you're done.

The lack of a cover display on the Surface Duo 2 requires you to open the phone to use it. This means no one-handing the phone, since the two 5.8-inch displays measure 8.3 inches together. If the Surface Duo 2 is anything like its predecessor, it won't be comfortable to use in most circumstances.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 can act like a phone when closed, even if it is thicker and heavier than a traditional smartphone.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Displays

With these phones, the true appeal — or gimmick, depending on your perspective — is the dual displays. The Surface Duo 2 features two separate 5.8-inch panels with a resolution of 1344 x 1892 each, or 2688 x 1892 together. Microsoft said both screens have 90Hz refresh rates, which means smoother scrolling and higher frame rates in supported games. That could also come in handy when scrolling through documents, presentations, or spreadsheets.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 multi-active window

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 unfolds into a 7.6-inch display with a 2208 x 1768 resolution and adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. It also has a 6.2-inch (2268 x 832) 120Hz cover display, which makes the Fold 3 a phone and a tablet.

microsoft surface duo 2 texting

(Image credit: Microsoft)

We don't know much else about the Surface Duo 2's displays, like its color saturation or accuracy. Microsoft doesn't have a steep hill to climb to improve the new phone's screens — the original Surface Duo had a disappointing max brightness of 460 nits in our testing. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 also disappointed, with 422 nits in our lab. Microsoft says its new device has a max brightness of 800 nits.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 laying on notebook face down

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both the Surface Duo 2 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 feature triple rear cameras in a wide-angle, ultrawide and telephoto layout. Microsoft's new phone has a 12MP main camera, a 16MP ultrawide, and a 12MP telephoto with 2x optical zoom. Inside, there's a 12MP front-facing camera.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a similar lineup, with a 12MP main, 12MP ultrawide, and 12MP telephoto with 2x optical zoom. But where it leaps ahead of the Surface Duo 2 is that it has two front-facing cameras: a 10MP on the cover display and a 4MP under-display camera on the inside.

Microsoft is talking up the Surface Duo 2's camera, but then again, almost every phone maker does for its phones — we'd advise some skepticism here. Microsoft does have the size and technical know-how to pull off something good in terms of computational photography, so we'll just have to see.

Surface Duo 2 vs.  Galaxy Z Fold 3: Performance and 5G

Both the Surface Duo 2 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 use the Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip, which is Qualcomm's best. It powers many of the best Android phones and best gaming phones. In the Galaxy Z Fold 3's case, it handles the multiple displays, high refresh rate, and gaming applications very well.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 standing on table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When Microsoft launched the Surface Duo last year, it chose to use 2019 hardware, namely the Snapdragon 855. While not a bad chip, it wasn't as good as the Snapdragon 865,. as many were disappointed to see a $1,400 phone use a year-old processor. So at least the Surface Duo 2 boasts current specs.

Microsoft opted for 8GB of RAM for its new phone, while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has 12GB. Considering that one of the hallmark features of the Surface Duo 2 is that it can run two apps side-by-side, we expected more RAM, especially in a device that starts at $1,499. 8GB is probably fine, though.

Microsoft added 5G to the Surface Duo 2, bringing it in line with other 2021 flagships, including the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The Surface Duo 2 also has NFC, unlike its predecessor.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Battery life and charging

Foldables have a notable weakness: battery life. The cost of having devices that fold in half is reduced space for power packs. This has harmed the viability of some phones, including the Galaxy Z Flip 3 (which we otherwise liked).

Galaxy Z Fold 3 closed and S Pen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The first Surface Duo had a paltry 3,577 mAh battery, which led to an underwhelming result in the Tom's Guide battery test. At less than 7 hours, the Surface Duo left much to be desired in this regard.

The Surface Duo 2 looks to have addressed this, with Microsoft increasing the battery capacity to 4,499 mAh. That's larger than the Galaxy Z Fold 3's 4,400 mAh. Samsung's best foldable yet also turned in a lackluster result in our battery test: 7 hours and 52 minutes in the 60Hz mode and 6 hours and 35 minutes with the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate enabled.

For charging, the Surface Duo 2 supports up to 23W (up from 18W on the Surface Duo), while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 goes up to 25W.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3: Software and special features

While Microsoft continues to delay the software update for the Surface Duo, the Surface Duo 2 will come with Android 11 out of the box. If and when it ever gets Android 12 is anyone's guess, given Microsoft's track record in keeping its phones update. The Duo 2 will come packed with pre-installed Microsoft bloatware and an upgraded Microsoft launcher.

surface duo 2 editing features with slim pen 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

A highlight feature of the Surface Duo 2 is the ability to run two apps side-by-side or have one that expands across both displays. With the new Surface Slim Pen 2, the Surface Duo 2 is set to have similar productivity features that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 enjoys.

Since Android 12 isn't out yet, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs Android 11. Samsung has gotten better about Android updates in recent years, so we'd hope that the foldable will see the latest Android version by year's end or shortly after the Galaxy S22 launch early next year.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 and S Pen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a smorgasbord of features, like the incredibly useful taskbar, DeX mode (which is a desktop UI when you connect the phone to a monitor), drag and split, Flex mode, and App Pair. That's not to mention that the Z Fold 3 supports the fan favorite S Pen, allowing for precise note taking, document markup, and several artistic possibilities.

Samsung put serious thought into taking full advantage of the folding display on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. We're not sure of all the features that Microsoft plans for the Surface Duo 2 just yet.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Outlook

We don't how Microsoft's new folding phone will fare against Samsung's foldable, but our interest is certainly piqued. Microsoft left itself a lot of room for improvement with the original Surface Duo and the successor looks to have addressed several pain points, like specs and 5G.

Battery life will be a major hurdle for the Surface Duo 2 to overcome, even if the Galaxy Z Fold 3 didn't do too well, either. Battery tech just hasn't caught up with foldable/folding phones yet.

The Surface Duo 2 is available on October 21, so stay tuned for our review.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. It's hard to nail down one thing that Jordan is passionate about, since his attention span for a single given topic or activity doesn't last long. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter.