Review of an unusual smartphone – Microsoft Surface Duo

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Content

  1. Contents of delivery
  2. TECH SPECS
  3. Positioning and project history
  4. Design, dimensions, controls
  5. Displays
  6. Memory, chipset, performance
  7. Communication capabilities
  8. Battery
  9. Camera
  10. Features of the software
  11. Impressions

Contents of delivery

  • Smartphone
  • Fast charging 18W
  • USB Type C cable
  • Bumper
  • Clip for SIM tray
  • Instructions

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

TECH SPECS
Dimensions and weight 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9 mm closed
145.2 x 186.9 x 4.8 mm open
 250 grams
Body materials Plastic, Corning Gorilla Glass 5 
Display Each of the two displays – 5.6 inches, AMOLED, 1800 × 1350 pixels, 401 ppi, 4: 3
Automatic brightness control, protective glass

Together, two screens – 8.1 inches, geometry 3: 2, a gap between them

Operating system Google Android 10, Microsoft Launcher shell
Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Memory 6 GB RAM, 128 GB ROM (free over 100 GB), UFS 3.0
No memory cards
There is an option 6/256 GB
Wireless Interfaces Wi-Fi a / b / g / n / ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
Сеть 2G / 3G / 4G
nanoSIM (plus eSIM support)

FDD-LTE: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,14,19,20,25,26,28,29,30,66
TD-LTE: 38,39,40,41,46

Navigation GPS / GLONASS / Galileo
Sensors and connectors USB Type C (USB 2.0), OTG
Accelerometer, magnetometer, light sensor, gyroscope (only two in each screen)
Proximity sensor, Hall sensor
Fingerprint sensor built into the side
No face unlock
Main camera, it is also front 11 MP, f / 2.0, PDAF, 84 degrees
4K video recording at 30 and 60 fps
Battery Li-Pol 3577 mAh, mixed mode battery life up to two days
Video playback time up to 15.5 hours, talk time up to 27 hours
Quick charge 18 W
Degree of protection no
Colours Glacier
Sound two microphones, one speaker on the inside
Payment System No
Microsoft Pen support  Surface Slim Pen, Surface Pen, and Surface Hub 2 Pen
US price  $ 1 plus state taxes

Positioning and project history

The Surface Duo project is so unusual that we cannot do without a small digression into the history of how the idea of ​​such a device appeared at Microsoft. In the mid-2000s, Microsoft’s research lab worked on a variety of input technologies, such as a stylus for mobile devices that can recognize handwriting input. This project, on the one hand, was divorced from the models of that time, on the other hand, it needed devices on which this input was carried out. In parallel, another team was creating an interface for controlling devices using a stylus, this project was widely discussed as an alternative interface for tablets, but you have hardly heard of InkSeine. Take a look at the interface of this shell.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

It was possible to use InkSeine in those days on tablets with Windows XP, and it is impossible to call them mobile devices even with the greatest desire. Although then I met fans of Microsoft, who sincerely praised these “tablets” and tried to use them. More than six months, as a rule, they were not enough.

Microsoft has always focused on promoting its key products, so new developments revolved exclusively around how to make Windows available everywhere, as well as other application software. In this concept, a computer or other device is always a Windows carrier, no matter what tasks it is created for. A single interface, a universal operating system and almost no adaptations for specific scenarios of using hardware. The same Windows Mobile in those years was promoted as a small and familiar Windows, the interface was not suitable for mobile devices, but Microsoft persistently promoted it to the market. Then the company made virtually the same mistake with Windows Phone, no conclusions were drawn from the previous experience.

A small group of developers saw the potential of InkSeine and tried to create a device for this kind of task. The project was named Codex, it was developed practically outside the main structure of Microsoft. This made it possible to create a prototype tablet with two screens, it folded into a book and at the same time was quite ugly, it was not created as a commercial device. Both projects were buried, but Microsoft was aware of the prospects for a new form factor and device control with a stylus. So the Courier tablet was born, which was based on the ideas of its predecessors.

In Courier, they made support for handwriting, a book of two screens allowed you to work on any of them. It was assumed that there would be a full-fledged Windows inside, but this did not happen in the end. Microsoft did not manage to create a mobile device, since it was impossible to insert the necessary electronics and batteries of sufficient capacity into a small case. And creating a tablet that runs on AC power was foolish. The project was never publicly announced, and therefore it was closed. Some of the developers lost their temper and shared with the press the details of Courier in the vain hope that publicity could save the whole project and it would continue. The company did not comment on this in any way, but we got the opportunity to see drawings of the Courier prototype.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

In 2010, the project ceased to exist, but it was replaced by the Andromeda project, in which they decided to keep the Courier idea. The same tablet with two screens running on Windows. The project was unsuccessful, since it was impossible to develop a version of Windows for such a form factor in a short time. Initially, it was assumed that the company will keep within two years and Andromeda will be on sale in 2018. This did not happen, and the question arose about the further existence of the project as such. Since significant budgets and resources were spent on development, we decided to reorient ourselves to Android, to make a project on this system. In fact, they took the idea and mechanical chassis from the Andromeda project, and then added Android. The advantage of Andromeda was that ARM was chosen as the processor of the system, which made it possible to quickly create a device on a competing solution.

In October 2019, the existence of the Surface Duo was officially announced, as well as that there will be a similar Surface Neo device, which was supposed to appear before New Year 2021. Unlike Duo, the Neo uses Windows 10X, that is, it is a native device from Microsoft with its operating system. The release dates have already been postponed, the model will not appear on sale before the beginning of 2021.

Microsoft boasted that it took about five years and about a billion dollars to develop the Duo. Both look unimaginable, since the story behind the Duo suggests that the model was created in a hurry and in order to release at least something to the market and justify all the costs of the past. The concept of the 2000s was built around the lack of flexible screens, the technology of the time did not allow the creation of devices like the Galaxy Fold. But after almost two decades, everything has changed, and there is no need to go on the same course, since flexible screens are already common. Inside Microsoft, a device like the Surface Duo is needed as a prototype to develop interfaces for devices with flexible screens, and as such a test model, there simply cannot be any questions about the Duo. But for some reason, we decided to show such a prototype as a commercial device, which it is not. It is not clear what made the top management of the company do this, but I think there is exactly one reason – to account for the time and money spent.

It is my deep belief that the Surface Duo is a development prototype, but not a commercial device. And this is supported by the way the device looks, what it can do, and the cost at which it is sold. Microsoft deliberately wants to limit the number of Surface Duo buyers, as they understand that this smartphone is only suitable for fans of the company and no one else. And the price should scare away ordinary buyers, make them look at other solutions. Let’s see why this is so.

Design, dimensions, controls

Before us is a device that is larger than any ordinary smartphone, in some way it reminded me of the Blackberry Passport, but the thickness is noticeably less. With a weight of 250 grams, the smartphone does not feel as heavy as it should, the large area affects.

Perhaps I’ll start with the most important thing – body material and build quality. The model is only available in one color, it is white. The glass is smudged perfectly, but the white color hides this moment.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The Corning Gorilla Glass 5 panels are overlapped, the body protrudes slightly. This creates gaps! Dust will clog in them, and the first thing you want to do is place a leaf in such a gap. In the bright outside sun, you can see the rays penetrate and color the glass in the place where the gap is wider. It looks at least strange.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

On the side surface there is an on / off button, a volume control button, and below – a fingerprint sensor. You can see that it is installed crookedly! Gaps on the sides, offset relative to the body.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The feeling that the sensor was mounted manually, was stuck in as needed. And this, of course, depresses me, since it complements the feeling of a poor assembly of the device. I have never seen such build quality in such a price group. But why engage in self-deception, I have not seen it in inexpensive smartphones from large companies.

It is assumed that you will carry your smartphone when closed. For those who are worried about their purchase, a bumper is included. It can be glued to the body, it is silicone. This reminded me of the first Fold and the fact that it also needed to glue the cover there. This is inconvenient and bad.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The device fits into a pocket of trousers with ease, there are no problems here. But at any event, you will be forced to open your smartphone, since there is absolutely nothing on the outside. At the same time, the call is not too loud, on a noisy street I missed calls. The vibration alert is below average, the body is too thin, there is no massiveness required for a strong vibration. The only way out in order not to miss calls is to connect a smart watch and receive all notifications on it.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

At the bottom there is a USB Type C connector, two microphones are located at the ends. Microsoft claims they deliver the best speech quality in their class. But here again a marketing game, it is not clear what class this device has, it is the only one on the market. And if you look at it that way, then there can be much better, since there is no comparison with anyone. But the connection is worse than that of the flagships, since the microphones do not pull out a noisy environment, for example, a street in Moscow. Extraneous noises are audible and very characteristic. There is no horror-horror, but this is far from the level of the flagships of any company.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The memory card slot assumes the installation of one nanoSIM card, the second you can install only eSIM, which will suit many.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Hinges connect the two halves of the device and contain cables. Look at how Microsoft has gracefully solved the problem of loops, the cables are packed in a braid, unlike a loop, they are difficult to rub. This design came from laptops.

I really like the way the mechanics work in the Duo, the hinges have a confident movement, the device is easy to open, and at the same time you can open it 360 degrees or any other angle.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

With an incoming call, you open the halves, you see who is calling you.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

By fully opening the phone, you can answer the call automatically, you can also close it and the call will end. At the end of the conversation, the smartphone can also be closed, the result will be exactly the same.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The ergonomics of the device is such that it can be held in one hand, but nothing more. You won’t be able to do something meaningful, of course, acrobats don’t count. You always need two hands to work with Surface Duo, just like in the Fold. Using an external screen to answer on the go and talk will not work. And this is inconvenient. It is clear that the name Duo arose from two screens, but it is right to assume that this is so due to the need to use two hands.

The next moment, which is puzzling, is the location of the camera. Since the engineers wanted to create a slim device, the camera is located inside above the right screen. Now is the time to ask how you can take pictures. The answer is obvious – you need to open the device, preferably folded completely. Then call the camera and shoot. If you turn the camera towards yourself, then this is a selfie, if from yourself (it does not always work, which infuriates), then you are shooting the world around you.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

We will return to the camera later, but for now I can say that the ergonomics are surprisingly inconvenient, it is almost impossible to work with the camera. This is always a test.

The device is surprising in another aspect, besides the two screens separated by a hinge. Each half has its own gyroscope, motion sensor, light sensor, magnetometer. The doubling of the sensors is due to the fact that the screens are formally independent. The software unites them into one whole, but even here flaws in the engineering solution appear. For example, on a Galaxy Fold of any generation, the inner screen is a single space, using one set of sensors. You rotate the device and the screen automatically rotates to the correct orientation. In Duo, at first glance, exactly the same thing happens, but in fact the eye notices a slight delay in the right or left screens. The turn is almost synchronous, but slightly different.

I showed the device to different people, someone paid attention to it, someone saw this behavior of screens when you point to it, but many did not consider it a problem at all – so, a trifle.

There is only one speaker in the device, above the left screen in the form of a slot. Not the loudest, the sound is peculiar. In a word, I didn’t like it. And this is not a matter of habit or lack of it, the device itself was designed as if for aliens, and other smartphones, for example, simply did not exist. Finding your own identity is good, but why make it different for the sake of difference and forget about ergonomics?

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Displays

Each of the two displays with a diagonal of 5.6 inches, AMOLED, 1800 × 1350 pixels, 401 ppi, 4: 3. When you look at an open apparatus, the geometry becomes 3 by 2, but there is a gap between the halves. This device does not stand up to any comparison with smartphones with flexible screens, since there are two separate displays and that says it all. There is no single space, it is impossible to watch the same film with a strip in the middle.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The matrices themselves are not bad, good color rendering, brightness is not maximum and is inferior to the flagships from Samsung / Apple, but it is quite acceptable. The nice thing is that the displays are covered with a protective glass. The oleophobic coating is nominal, the screen gets dirty instantly and looks smudged.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

The algorithms for the operation of the two screens are such that they need to set the same backlight level. Therefore, a trick was applied here, the screens are synchronized, but the backlight changes slowly. But when turned on, the backlight rises to the maximum, and then decreases to the desired level. This is due to the fact that it is impossible to set independently the brightness on each separate display, it will be different. Someone will consider this a bug, but in fact, this is how the work of two screens is implemented. And there are more than enough minuses from the presence of two screens.

In the sun, the screens remain readable, although they glare due to their size.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

There is no AoD mode here, but it probably is not needed. All the same, most of the time the device will be closed.

Microsoft has added a separate layer to the displays for the Microsoft Pen, and supports different pens. But there is no need for them, only if you sign something. By the way, you can magnetise the handle on your smartphone.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Memory, chipset, performance

In 2020, the flagships come out on Snapdragon 865, support 5G. But since we have a long-term construction, which was clearly not planned to be mass-produced, the Snapdragon 855 is inside. This is an indirect sign that they decided to launch the device on the market at the last moment, it is not so difficult to change the platform, it takes up to one month. And if Microsoft did not have this month, it means that the decision was made quickly.

The performance of the Snapdragon 855 is good and the device cannot be complained about. With one exception, the interface from Microsoft differs in that it slows down, it is full of bugs. This is imperceptible at first acquaintance, but with constant use of the device, it comes out in the form of slow-down menus, applications that do not always open quickly.

The amount of RAM is 6 GB, the built-in memory is 128 GB (there is an option for 256 GB). Rather modest characteristics for this kind of device, it simply does not stand up to any comparison with analogs.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Communication capabilities

The fact that they used the old platform did not allow us to put Wi-Fi 6 here, this is the biggest omission (I will not attribute the lack of 5G to those). But the fact that NFC was not delivered is easy to explain – this is a prototype that no one planned to release into a series. And, accordingly, there are no payment services in Duo. Alas and ah.

Therefore, from the point of view of communication capabilities, this device is much inferior to the current models from any manufacturer.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Battery

The built-in battery has a relatively small capacity – 3577 mAh. Microsoft claims video playback up to 15.5 hours, talk time up to 27 hours. In my case, the device worked all day with the screen time (“screens”, probably, it would be more correct to write, since there are two of them), about 4 hours.

Fast charging 18 W, full charging time is about 90 minutes. No wireless charging.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Camera

The above describes how to use the camera, but I will dwell on the impressions.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a wretched camera in such an expensive smartphone. The level of Chinese smartphones at a hundred dollars or so, to flagships like walking to the moon. This device does not provide anything either in photography or in video. We can assume that there is no camera here, it is a shame to show such a thing in 2020.

Sample video (MP4, 33 MB) >>>

Features of the software

Despite the fact that Android is standard here, there is nothing standard in the Microsoft launcher, it is rather crooked. Microsoft’s page states that all Android languages ​​are supported, but in reality this is a small subset of those that Microsoft itself supports. The problem is old, Nokia faced it in due time when it started to release Lumia. And then nothing has changed.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Russian input can be customized, no problem with that. Let’s dwell on the features of working with two screens, which in theory means multitasking in a new quality.

Any application can be stretched over two screens. But there are practically no applications that support two screens, these are standard applications from Microsoft, for example, Outlook or News. In News, you can see a list of articles on the left screen, on the right, a specific article opens. This may distort the photos.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Most of the scenarios for using the second screen are very far-fetched, Microsoft has mechanically approached this issue. Moreover, it is almost impossible to share files from one screen to another. For example, you launch a gallery and want to drag a photo to GMail, it doesn’t work! And this happens all the time, the use of the second screen is interesting only in order to launch the second application (similar to the split screen on tablets or Fold).

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

And if you need two applications at the same time on two screens, then this smartphone can give you that. But it’s not worth looking for anything else here, he simply doesn’t know how to do it. The Amazon Kindle app can display books by page – is it a reader? But if the picture is stretched to the full screen, then in the middle all information is lost where the sash goes.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

Moreover, Microsoft itself got confused in the screens. For example, if you type an SMS message by turning the device vertically, you will get a keyboard on the lower screen. But just try to get into the settings, change the keyboard type, and everything will jump between screens, there is no logic in this.

Someone says that this is an ideal device for working in office applications from Microsoft, but these are reviews of those who have not tried it in practice. There is no benefit from the second screen, and standard operations turn into pain. The experience of using this device is purely negative, there is no logic in it.


Impressions

There is no doubt that Microsoft has released a prototype to the market that was created for internal testing. It is impossible to call Surface Duo a commercial device, it has raw software, the build quality leaves much to be desired, and the iron filling is last year. And that immediately puts an end to the $ 1 model. On the other hand, there is a small group of those who want an unusual device, an expensive smartphone that no one else has. And for them, it’s the perfect smartphone.

Not a single person who looked at my Surface Duo and spent at least five minutes with it could understand what its beauty is and why it was created. I, too, did not have anything to say about this, alas, this is so. The Surface Duo story is madness brought to life. There was no reason other than to justify the cost and development time for bringing this device to market. And we cannot say that it opens some new chapter for mobile devices.

We thank surface-pro.ru for the provided device.

Review of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface DuoReview of an unusual smartphone - Microsoft Surface Duo

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