After being initially introduced back in 2019, and following months of teasers from Microsoft executives, the Surface Duo was finally made available for pre-order. With foldable phones gaining traction, such as the upcoming Galaxy Fold 2 and the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, there is definitely a market for smartphones that aren’t just a simple slab of glass anymore.
The Microsoft Surface Duo offers a different take on the foldable smartphone, however, giving us a design closer to that of the ZTE Axon M. That phone never caught on and has become a thing of the past, but this design gives you a general idea of where Microsoft went with its smartphone.e
So while much of the market (outside of Samsung) is shifting to budget-minded devices like the Pixel 4a and OnePlus Nord, Microsoft is coming out of the gates “swinging”. But instead of offering a real home run hitter, the Surface Duo looks just like a ground ball to short.
Surface Duo Specs
- Dual 5.6-inch AMOLED displays; Combined: 8.1-inch
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
- 6GB of RAM
- 128GB / 256GB of storage
- 11MP Primary Camera
- 3,577mAh battery
We can forgive the inclusion of the Snapdragon 855 due to the fact that Microsoft has been working on this device for some time. The final design was already finalized and then it had to be put into production, along with passing the quality checks necessary for a phone as venturous as this.
What is disappointing is the subpar battery size, the inclusion of just 6GB of RAM, and the lack of expandable storage. It’s clear just from the spec sheet that this is more of an enthusiast device, instead of something that could take over the mainstream. Microsoft is hoping that you use the Surface Duo for productivity, but you could run into some bottle-necking with the older CPU and 6GB of RAM.
Just one camera?
It’s not that Microsoft only included a single camera on the Surface Duo. Just look at the iPhone SE 2 or the Pixel 4a, and that can be forgiven, even though the Duo you could buy four Pixel 4a’s and then strap them together for the Ultimate Pixel.
No, the single-camera system is bothersome because the quality won’t come even close to whatever Google, Apple, or Samsung are doing with smartphone cameras. It’s disappointing, to say the least because you’ll likely still want to carry another smartphone around with you to take solid pictures when the opportunities arise.
Lack of future-proofing
So there’s more than one reason why Microsoft opted to stick with the Snapdragon 855, instead of moving to even the 855+ SoC. Starting with the SD865, Qualcomm has mandated that OEM’s using the 865 must also include a separate 5G processor.
The design for the Duo was finalized long before the 865 made its way onto the market, and it would have required Microsoft to go back to the design-board far too late in the process. So that means your brand-new phone won’t be able to take advantage of 5G.
Coming back around to productivity, 6GB of RAM for a flagship-level device won’t stand up against the test of time. It’s fine for now, but it likely won’t hold up over the next few years.
The basics aren’t build-in
So you’re already sacrificing performance and the lack of future-proofing with no 5G on board. But there are a few “basics” that also weren’t included with the Duo. You can, probably, get over the lack of wireless charging for a first-gen device, but in a world where contactless payments are paramount, no NFC is a head-scratcher.
Sure, Microsoft could never anticipate the global climate of 2020, but even still. Not being even being able to tap an NFC tag or use your phone in the checkout line is something that is just frustrating overall. Maybe it doesn’t matter that much because again, this is a first-gen device, but it’s an annoying omission.
Finally, while it’s great that Microsoft is including either 128GB or 256GB of storage, that’s all you get. There’s no built-in microSD card slot, but the Surface Duo did include a dual-SIM system with a Nano-SIM and eSIM, but that “space” could have been used for a microSD card slot.
That price tag
All of this brings us to the price. We had to save the best (worst) for last, right? The Surface Duo will be released on September 10th for an eye-watering $1400. That’s a dual-display device that is featuring two-year-old specs and is missing some key features.
Those wanting to pre-order one can trade in their current device, potentially knocking the price in half. But as we mentioned before, do you really want to give up your current flagship for an experimental first-gen product? Probably not. So if you really want to get your hands on the Duo, it will cost more than the brand-new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and is just $50 less than the new Galaxy Z Flip 5G.