I have been using Microsoft’s Surface Duo here in the UK for a couple of weeks so I thought I would give a progress report on how I have been getting on with it so far.
Surface Duo progress report
Last week I swapped my SIM over from the Samsung Galaxy Note 20, not just because I needed to test the Duo but because it was the device I wanted to use all the time. Despite the flaws with the Duo (camera and lack of NFC are my key issues) I would rather use this device over other devices like the Galaxy Note 20. To be honest I was surprised, I thought I was going to use the Duo as a 2nd device but there is something about the form factor that makes you want to pick it up and use it.
If you have ever used a dual screen PC or a laptop with a 2nd monitor you will understand how more productive you can be with the additional screen. Going back to a single screen always feels restrictive on a PC and a dual screen phone brings the same productivity improvements. You can have Edge and To-Do open at the same time or Outlook in spanned mode with the mails on the left and a message on the right, just as I do on a PC. You can create logical groupings of apps like the Samsung Wearable’s app paired with Samsung Health, or Edge and the authenticator app.
Even with the Surface Duo folded into single screen mode the wider screen is much better to use than a long tall phone screen like the Note 20. The composition posture having the virtual keyboard on the bottom screen and the app in the top screen works great for replying to emails, texts, even entering passwords.
I haven’t had any significant issues with the Surface Duo so far other than the slow camera app. An update last week improved the touch responsiveness and the UI bugs, I haven’t had a any problems with it locking up or crashing. So far, the only issue I have had is when in a cradle in the car the touch screen didn’t always work. It seems to be related to with something pressing the rear screen as I use it in single screen mode, hopefully I will be able to get that sorted. The Duo now supports the beta version of the Microsoft Launcher so we should see new features soon.
The phone is fast and responsive, and I haven’t seen any slowdowns or crashes.
Battery life is good, as good or if not better than the Note 20. I get a full day out of it with plenty of battery remaining. It has been around 40-50% when I put it on charge at the end of the day.
I have also tried using the Duo with a USB C dock and had no issues driving a monitor and using a USB keyboard and mouse.
The biggest drawback of the device isn’t any surprise, it’s the camera. There is a single camera that works ok for outdoor shots or using with Microsoft Teams but for fast moving pictures using it as a traditional camera I found the lag between pressing the shutter button and the picture taking to be frustrating. Microsoft could improve the responsiveness of the camera but 11MP sensor is never going to beat something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20.
This is from the Surface Duo and the Galaxy Note 20 taken at the same time, same distance, and default settings:
Having said that about the camera, unless photos are critical for you can get by with the Duo. I tend to carry the Note with me for photos when going out to take pictures.
NFC and Wireless Charging
The other missing feature is NFC. Contact-less payment is everywhere and having a phone without that feature is problem, I don’t really want to be getting out a card when paying but I have a Android Wear watch which supports Google Pay so have been using without any issues.
The final missing feature is wireless charging. It’s not the end of the word having to plug it in, but it is inconvenient.
Would you recommend a Surface Duo?
I have to say I love the Surface Duo; dual screens are a better way to work, and I love the design of the device. This is very much a first-generation device, showing what can be done in the future. So I can’t recommend it for a “normal users” but for tech enthusiasts willing to spend about the same price as a top of the range iPhone or one of Samsung’s dual screen devices you are going to love the device. It is such a refreshing change from the normal slab phones.
Version 2 may just be the device you will want.
Here are my impressions of the device: