The Surface Duo 2 has a lot of room for improvement, with the previous Microsoft Surface Duo leaving a lot to be desired. The book-style folding handset sat somewhere between a tablet and a foldable phone. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, Microsoft's device doesn't use a single foldable display, but instead two that sandwich together.
While there was a lot to like with Microsoft's take on foldable phones, the Surface Duo lacked in a few key areas. The original Surface Duo from 2020 was rocking specs from 2019 while charging $1,400. That price-to-performance delta was too much for many critics and enthusiasts, which led to its less than stellar reviews.
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The Surface Duo 2 looks to be a big improvement in several areas, including a Snapdragon 888 processor and rear cameras. Microsoft didn't elaborate on how it improved the Surface Duo's ergonomics, considering how awkward it was to actually use.
Unfortunately, the Surface Duo 2 won't be cheap, but at least these are 2021 specs instead of being a year old like when the original Surface Duo launched.
We've gathered here all the info we have on the new folding tablet-phone from Microsoft.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2 release date and price
Microsoft announced the Surface Duo 2 at its September 22 Surface event. It's available for pre-order and will cost $1,499 to start, $100 more than the first Surface Duo. That's a steep asking price and one that is sure to raise many eyebrows. The phone launches on October 21.
You can also pre-order the Surface Slim Pen 2, an optional accessory that is meant to enhance productivity similar to Samsung's S Pen. That'll run you a hefty $129.99 in addition to the Surface Duo 2's cost.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2 design
The Surface Duo 2 looks largely similar to its predecessor with the folding displays, but with rear cameras and a new black color. Inside, the front-facing camera looks to be rather large again, meaning that the Surface Duo 2 could potentially excel at video chats and meetings. Microsoft bills it as the perfect mobile Office 365 device after all.
The Surface Duo 2 sports two displays that fold inward, like a book. You won't find an external display like with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. If the second generation is anything like the first, the Surface Duo 2 will not fit in many front pockets — it might be reserved for back pockets or bags.
The Surface Duo was uncomfortable to hold one-handed, even when folded back on itself. Even gaming with the Nintendo DS-like dual screen functionality wasn't a pleasant experience. Microsoft doesn't seem to have resolved that issue this year.
You can get a Surface Duo 2 in Glacier and Obsidian, both of which look very nice in the renders.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2 displays
Like last year's phone, the Surface Duo 2 has a pair of displays — the original Surface Duo featured two 5.6-inch panels with 1800 x 1350 resolution. Microsoft says that the Surface Duo 2 features two 5.8-inch displays (1344 x 1892 each, or 2688 x 1892 together) that measure 8.3 inches when folded out. There's a 90Hz refresh rate, too.
Like with the rest of the phone, there's a lot of room for improvement with the Surface Duo 2's displays. Brightness certainly comes to mind, with the original device averaging only 460 nits in our lab testing, which is pretty poor for such a premium-priced product. Color accuracy could also stand to improve, too. Luckily, Microsoft seems to have gotten the memo on this front, claiming the Surface Duo 2 has a max brightness of 800 nits.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2 specs and features
Here are the Surface Duo 2 specs. A Snapdragon 888 powers the dual-screen device with 8GB of RAM. It supports mmWave and sub-6Ghz 5G. The phone will come in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options. The fingerprint sensor is built into the power button and you'll get stereo speakers.
The Surface Duo 2 also has a triple rear camera setup, meaning you don't have to fold the phone around to use the front-facing camera. There's a 12MP (f/1.7) main with OIS, 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, and 12MP (f/2.4) telephoto with OIS and 2x optical zoom. The front camera is a 12MP (f/2.0). You'll just need to have the device folded out so that you can see the viewfinder and access the shutter controls and camera settings. And for video, the Surface Duo 2 can record at up to 4K 60 fps.
We definitely hope Microsoft took battery life seriously. In the Tom's Guide battery life test, the original Surface Duo barely lasted seven hours, a far cry from what we'd like to see in a modern phone. The Surface Duo 2 has a 4449 mAh battery with 23W charging, which should help compensate for the addition of 5G and the 90Hz displays. The charging brick is not included, just the USB-C cable.
A previous FCC listing for the Surface Duo 2 showed a wireless power transfer feature, and now we know it's for charging the Surface Slim Pen 2.
With the addition of the Surface Slim Pen 2, the Surface Duo 2 could have plenty of productivity features. From marking up documents to writing notes, this phone could be helpful to some professionals.
Like with the Surface Duo, you can split apps between the Surface Duo 2's displays. Some of these include Office 365, Teams, TikTok, Kindle, and Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft says the app pair possibilities are limitless. It also notes that Asphalt 9, a popular racing game, will support the Surface Duo 2's dual-screen capabilities.
Microsoft is also talking up the Surface Duo 2's gaming potential. Late into the first Surface Duo's life, the company added a Nintendo DS-like split screen feature to the Game Pass app. This allowed you to play supported games on the top display and access the controls on the bottom one. It's a neat idea, even if it didn't work very well.
Assuming Microsoft has standardized the touchscreen control layout, the Surface Duo 2 could actually have some gaming potential.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2 outlook
In a world of flat glass slabs, Microsoft's Surface Duo offered a nice change of pace. It brought with it many cool ideas, even if execution wasn't great. Our review unit ran into a few bugs and Microsoft's software support has been middling to put it kindly.
Even then, the concept of a phone that puts multitasking at the forefront is a great idea. And by splitting the device into two screens, it was like having a dual-monitor setup. In theory, the Surface Duo 2 is a great concept. In practice, we'll have to see how it fares when we get our hands on a unit.
The high price point leaves a lot to be desired, so Microsoft better come through this time. If it wants the Surface Duo 2 to succeed, especially when competition from foldables is heating up, it needs to not pull any punches.