The Surface Duo is back, but can Microsoft’s foldable stand apart from Samsung?
Microsoft has unveiled an overstuffed handful of new devices at its annual Surface event. As expected, the key focus this year was mostly surrounding its own-brand Windows 11 laptops. However, towards the tail end of the presentation, Microsoft also announced a sequel to its dual-screen Android phone from last year: the Surface Duo 2.
Microsoft’s much-maligned foldable flagship is back and plenty of stuff has changed this year, mostly for the better. To begin with, while the Surface Duo 2’s hinged, double-screened design remains the same, both of the inner AMOLED PixelSense Fusion displays have slightly increased in size to 5.8in (up from 5.6in) and they now support a boosted adaptive frame rate of 90Hz.
What this means is that navigating the Surface Duo’s UI will feel more responsive, and it opens the door for high-frame-rate gaming in supported titles as well. Both of these new screens are now protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus and Microsoft says they cover 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, with a quoted maximum brightness of 800 nits.
What’s especially interesting this year is that Microsoft has added a third display, which runs along the spine of the Surface Duo 2’s hinge. During the demo, we saw this thin “Glance Bar” screen used to check the time, see the charging status and peek at notifications without having to open the handset. The original Surface Duo lacked an outer screen, of course, and it was a bit of pain having to unfold it whenever it buzzed.
Microsoft has also given the phone’s software a shot in the arm for 2021. The big thing mentioned at the unveiling is dedicated Xbox Game Pass support, and you’re able to use one of the phone’s displays as a makeshift touchscreen controller in certain games. As before, you can choose to run two apps side by side, drag and drop between screens or take notes and sketch across both displays.
As for specs, the Surface Duo 2 now uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 for processing duties, which replaces the ageing Snapdragon 855 of the original. This updated SoC has an embedded 5G modem, which means the Surface Duo can finally connect to the 5G network, and it also has an extra 2GB of RAM (8GB) with three storage choices: 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.
Camera-wise, the Surface Duo’s pitiful 11MP snapper has been replaced with a triple-camera array, consisting of a main 12MP (f/1.7) camera, a 12MP (f/2.4) 2x telephoto unit and a 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide sensor with a 110-degree field of view. Microsoft has finally added a selfie camera, too, although this is a somewhat simple 12MP (f/2.0) affair.
The Surface Duo 2 starts at £1,349 in the UK, is available in two colours – glacier and obsidian black – and launches on 21 October.