Microsoft's second attempt in the world of dual-screen smartphones, the Surface Duo 2 intends to improve on a failed first model. This does not prevent this new iteration under Android to struggle against the competition...
After a first version that was technically outdated, a Surface Duo without 4G and with a failed photo component, Microsoft is trying again with its Surface Duo 2. This smartphone, with a more comprehensive technical sheet, makes up for some of the shortcomings of its first version, including NFC, 5G and a real photo section. Although its price positioning is still delicate, the American firm intends to make its Duo 2 a serious competitor to folding smartphones on the market.
Ergonomics and design
The first Surface Duo struggled to convince, and it's hard for the second one to really do better. Apart from the appearance of NFC and 5G - which was sorely lacking last year - the defects we noted on the first model are still present on its successor. Ergonomics are still as hazardous as ever, whether you use one or two screens. However, the latter are a little larger this year, bringing the display surface to 77%. As for the new features, the dimensions have been slightly revised. Unfolded, the Surface Duo 2 measures 184.5 x 145.2 x 5.5 mm and, folded, 145.2 x 92.1 x 11 mm. This second version is therefore as wide as the previous one, and a little thicker.
When folded, the Surface Duo 2 allows the reading of notifications. Indeed, the two tiles being slightly curved - they were flat on the first Surface Duo -, they are visible when the smartphone is folded. It is thus possible to see certain animations when receiving calls, notifications or while charging. Notifications for messages and calls appear in a small colored block, without details on their content: you have to open the smartphone to view and respond to them. But the idea is good and reminds a bit what Xiaomi had presented with its Mi Mix Alpha concept.
For the details of the elements explaining the difficulties of this smartphone to offer a pleasant grip, we refer you to our test of the Surface Duo. The overall format of the device being identical, except for its thickness, our comments still hold for this Duo 2... which is also heavier than its elder brother: count 284 grams instead of 250 grams.
With such a thin device, you can imagine that there is no 3.5 mm mini-jack plug. Two speakers are nevertheless present, for a good quality stereo sound. Whether you're playing games or watching a video, they'll be able to accompany you properly. And if you want a little more peace of mind, Microsoft provides a pair of USB-C headphones in the box of its Surface Duo 2.
The screens of the first version of the Surface Duo were very good, but nothing exceptional. This year, Microsoft has improved them and now offers support for a 90 Hz refresh rate. They also gain in size, increasing to 5.8 inches. When the smartphone is unfolded, the display diagonal increases to 8.3 inches - as much as a tablet. They are still Oled panels with a 4:3 ratio.
The two displays of the smartphone are strictly identical, so our measurements are valid for both. A chance, since the calibration is close to perfection, with a color temperature of 6639 Kelvin, very close to the video standard (6500 K). The delta E is also very good (measured at 1.1).
The maximum brightness is 756 cd/m², a comfortable value for reading in daylight, under the sun. Especially since the reflectance was measured at only 41.6%. At its lowest, the brightness can go down to 1.7 cd/m², which is perfect for reading in the dark.
The Oled display has an infinite contrast ratio and no afterglow. The touch delay is 85 ms. In short, Microsoft offers two displays that, while they struggle to form a real 8.3-inch screen, do not skimp on quality.
With its new model, Microsoft is up to date and offers the latest Qualcomm platform. It is the Snapdragon 888 that officiates, coupled with 8 GB of RAM.
The Surface Duo 2 is fast, proof of an elegantly controlled software optimization. On multitasking, it gets a 96 rating, which is quite good, even if slightly behind a majority of high-end smartphones. In use, it offers a smooth experience, with no gross slowdowns to note. However, we did note that, at times, the software could act up - without tarnishing its usability.
It was in games that the Duo 2 surprised us. With a rating of 161, it ranks among the best smartphones for gaming, just behind the Google Pixel 6 Pro. It manages to deliver an average of 90 fps, with a maximum at 93 fps and a minimum at 88 fps. So much for being a very consistent device and video gaming is not a problem for it. This is good news, since the Surface Duo 2 is an excellent ersatz for the Nintendo DS and an ideal companion for xCloud, the Xbox cloud gaming service.
The photo part of this Microsoft Surface Duo 2 was very expected. A single module was placed on the first model and the main improvement of this second part is the addition of two additional modules. Thus, this new Surface Duo 2 embeds a main module of 12 megapixels and is coupled with an ultra wide-angle of 16 megapixels, as well as a telephoto lens associated with a 12 megapixel sensor, offering a 2x optical zoom. A much more muscular configuration, with a largely revised image processing, but which struggles to rise to the level of the folding smartphone of Samsung.
Main module: 12 megapixels, f/1.7, eq. 27 mm
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (12 Mpx, eq. 26 mm, f/1.8, ISO 64, 1/100 s)Microsoft Surface Duo 2 (eq. 27 mm, f/1.7, ISO 38, 1/120 s) In daylight, the smartphone does quite well - and better than the first model - but it is far from what the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can offer. Exposure is very good, but the lack of detail is glaring.
If the night results of the two smartphones seem similar at first glance, a detailed examination of the Surface shot shows that it is sorely lacking in sharpness and that chromatic aberrations are present and detract from the accuracy of the result. It's a pity, because in terms of exposure and color management, Microsoft's model does a little better than Samsung's.
Ultra wide angle module: 16 megapixels, f/2.2, eq. 13 mm
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (12 Mpx, eq. 12 mm, f/2,2, ISO 50, 1/50 s)Microsoft Surface Duo 2 (eq. 13 mm, f/2,2, ISO 40, 1/120 s) On the ultra-wide angle, the observation is identical to that made with the daytime module. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 produces a better, much more detailed image. The software processing of the Duo 2 smoothes the picture too much and the lack of sharpness is clearly visible.
At night, the Microsoft smartphone offers a better picture, showing more details, despite the digital noise present on the whole surface of our scene. With Samsung, this noise is more contained, but the details are much less visible.
Telephoto lens 2x: 12 megapixels, f/2.4, eq. 51 mm
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (12 Mpx, ISO 50, 1/50 s)Microsoft Surface Duo 2 (eq. 51 mm, f/2,4, ISO 28, 1/50 s) On the daytime telephoto lens, both smartphones are equal. The reproduction of details is comparable, but the colorimetry is more accurate with the Samsung model.
At night, there is no match. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is well above the Surface Duo 2, which suffers from a smoothed and noisy image over the whole picture. Let's concede that on some elements, it manages to restore surprising details, such as the colored dots on the bottom left, where the Samsung model goes to monochrome.
Front module, portrait mode and video
Inside the Surface Duo 2 is a 12-megapixel module dedicated to selfies. An evolution compared to last year's model, which was content with its back module. It is therefore possible to make self-portraits of much better quality, but not exceptional. The smartphone struggles a little too easily when a little strong light is in the field.
In portrait mode, the Duo 2 suffers from the same shortcomings as many smartphones on the market. The cropping is quite imperfect, stumbling on the usual details (hair, hair) and sometimes even on parts of the body such as an arm, a hand or even an ear. An uneven result, but not unusable either.
In video, the device can shoot up to 1080p at 30 fps. It is clear that Microsoft is not banking on this feature at all. At the same time, the action of filming requires the opening of the smartphone, which is like filming with a tablet. We have seen more practical.
The first Surface Duo did not really shine by its autonomy, and it is not this second model which will make better. It is equipped with a larger battery (4449 mAh) that gives it 12 h 44 min of endurance when using both screens. A slight improvement over last year's model. When we conducted our tests using a single panel, it gave up after 14 h 32 min. The switch to 90 Hz therefore reduces the autonomy when using the folded Surface Duo 2.
This year, the fast charge evolves a little, going from 18 to 23 W. On the other hand, Microsoft has decided to join Apple, Samsung and Google and therefore does not offer a charging pad in the box of the smartphone. You'll have to make sure you have a block with enough power to give the Duo 2 its autonomy. On our side, with a suitable block, we charged the smartphone in about 2 h 30 min - which is very long. Microsoft still has room for improvement on this point.
The Surface Duo 2 has a reparability index of 3.9/10, a mediocre score mainly due to the low availability of spare parts and their price. It's a pity, since the smartphone scores over 16/20 on the disassemblability section.
Our durability score allows us to determine the sustainability of the smartphone for both the consumer and the environment. It is based on the repairability index, durability criteria (protection index, standard connectors, warranty period and updates...) and an evaluation of CSR policies (Corporate Social Responsibility). You can find all the details of the analysis in our article presenting the sustainability score.
Interface & OS
The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 runs, at its release, under Android 11. Android 12 should normally be deployed in the coming months, according to the American firm. But the first version of the Surface has not been upgraded to Android 11, so don't count on a quick deployment. The last security update dates from September 5.
The few bugs and latency issues we noted in the test of the first model are no longer relevant here. During our tests, however, we encountered a few glitches, such as a photo application suddenly stopping or a complete refusal to operate on the part of the home screen. For example, the home screen froze on one side, leaving only a functional display - fortunately, this did not last long.
The use of a dual screen differs greatly from that of a foldable smartphone or a tablet. Thus, don't count on the Surface Duo 2 to watch videos on the 8.3" the smartphone makes when unfolded. No video content application is suitable for this format and you'll end up with some aberrations, such as the placement of the battery pause button at the hinge. Since the smartphone can look like a paperback book, we were tempted to read on it using our favorite application, Izneo. Unfortunately, the application is - once again - not adapted to the phone and you can only read one page at a time. Worse, when trying to take advantage of both tiles, the application will simply zoom in on the page being read, making it not very pleasant. Of course, it's easy to shoot the ambulance, since this kind of problem is not necessarily the fault of Microsoft as much as it is of the developers of these applications. Nevertheless, we would have liked to be able to force this dual-screen usage, in the same way that Samsung can offer it on its Galaxy Z Fold 3.
We would also have liked these two screens to act independently of each other sometimes - like for the brightness adjustment, for example. Also, it is unfortunate that you cannot display the same application on each screen. An example is Microsoft Edge, which cannot be displayed simultaneously on the left and on the right. If you want to do two Internet searches at the same time, you will have to launch two different browsers. Finally, if playing Gamepass games is a real pleasure with this Surface Duo, it's a pity that we have to make it understand that we will use both screens (by dragging the application to the center of the dual screen) and that the controls must therefore be placed on the lower screen. So much nonsense for a smartphone that intends to make us adopt as much as possible the "dual screen life".
Fortunately, not everything is black for this Surface Duo 2. The in-house applications take full advantage of both panels, offering a display on both left and right. So if you're a seasoned user of the Microsoft suite, you'll have a great time using it on this smartphone. Let's hope that applications outside the Microsoft ecosystem will quickly follow the same path. Note that the social network TikTok (installed by default) uses both screens fully. One side is dedicated to the display of the timeline (or for you page), the other offers the "discover" tab. A successful integration for a pleasant user experience - too bad that this is only true for this non-Microsoft application.
The Surface Duo 2 is undeniably better than its predecessor, but unfortunately it's far from enough. The ergonomics are still poor, the photo part is not up to par, and its autonomy does not allow it to stand out. Two good screens and performance worthy of the top of the range, but unfortunately not enough to fully convince us.