First impressions of the Surface Duo 2 v Surface Duo

First impressions of the Surface Duo 2 v Surface Duo

I have been using a Surface Duo for over a year and today got my hands on a Surface Duo 2, I have just set it up today so here are my first impressions of Microsoft’s latest device compared to the original Surface Duo.

UPDATE: I have recorded a hands-on video with the Surface Duo 2!

Design

There are a lot of change to the design of the Surface Duo 2 compared to the original Surface Duo. The edges of the device are smoother and not as sharp as the original Duo, this makes feel much better in the hand. The next thing you notice is the camera bump. The original surface 11MP front facing camera only whereas the Duo 2 has a large camera bump on the rear. I will talk about this more later when I look at the camera in a little more detail. The addition of the camera bump makes the device feel heaver and a bit more top heavy than the original device but it well worth the addition, and it’s only a few grams heaver (284 grams up from 250). The camera bump still enables folding the phone back into single screen mode.

Straight away I can feel the hinge feels smoother than the original Duo, I know some people had issues with the hinges on the first gen device, but I haven’t had any issues, but the Duo 2 feels like an improvement. Overall, the Surface Duo 2 feels more substantial than the original Duo, its slightly thicker (5.5mm v 4.8mm) and heaver and it doesn’t feel as fragile. Hopefully, the USB C port is stronger to avoid the cracking issue of the first gen.

Screen

The screens are bigger on the Duo 2. Each single screen is 5.8″ with a combined diagonal size of 8.3″ (2688×1892), the original Duo is 8.1″. The actual size of the Duo 2 is the same as the Duo 1, Microsoft have managed his by reducing the bezel size. The scree has 90Hz adaptive refresh rate, so it looks smoother when scrolling and animation effects look more polished.

I must say the screen looks sharp, great colour and great contrast.

The way that the screens curve on the inside edge means Microsoft have been able to make the edges of the screen visible when closed, so it can act as a visual notification bar when closed, Microsoft call this the glance bar. You get a visual notification when you get a call, message, or put the device on charge. It’s only a small thing but it is ready handy. Tapping the power button when closed shows the glance bar.

OS

The Surface Duo 2 comes with Android 11, currently the original Duo has Android 10. I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Duo 2 so far but I can see its more responsive, smoother and less error prone. The original versions of the Duo was prone to the odd screen glitch or incorrect action when using gestures and so far, I have found gestures work much more predictably, the animations look smoother which could also be down to the 90hz display. Task switching is quicker, and the touch screen seems a lot more responsive. A nice new feature is the ability to have apps automatically span both screens. You can pick it on an app by app basis, so you can have an apps like Outlook and OneNote always open on both screens (if the other screen is not in use).

Swiping in from the left brings up the Feed area which is like Widgets in Windows 11. You can customise the feed and include Android widgets. The notification and controls areas have been changed with larger controls for volume and brightness.

Camera

One massive improvement is the camera. The Surface Duo has a single 11MP front facing camera, it is slow and has the picture quality is poor (especially in low light levels). I found by the time I have the phone in the right posture and the camara app loaded I had missed the shot I wanted to take. That is not the case with the Duo 2.

The Surface Duo 2 retains the front facing 12MP camera but adds a triple rear camara:

Wide: 12MP, f/1.7 aperture, 27 mm, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF and OIS

Telephoto: 12MP, f/2.4 aperture, 51 mm, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS and 2X optical zoom

Ultra-Wide: 16MP, f/2.2 aperture, 13 mm, 1.0µm, 110° diagonal field of view with distortion correction

Having the rear camera means the phone is in the right posture when you want to take a picture and it takes great photos. This combined with the dual screen version of the new camera app makes it much better for taking photos. The camera is fast to load and ready to take pictures straight away, double tapping the power button loads the photo app. As you take a photo the preview is shown on the left-hand screen, so you can instantly tell if you have a good shot. The photos app has a new editor screen which works on the left screen while you get a preview of the image on the right screen. There are slow-motion, photo, video, portrait, and landscape modes. Video recording supports 4k at 60fps.

I need to do more testing with the camera, but I can see immediately the camera is vast improvement over the original Duo. I normally carried another phone with me if I am expecting to take photos but it looks like that will not be the case anymore. Look out for ather post with some photo comparisons, for now here are pictures of a my laptop taken with the Duo 2 (top) and Duo(below):

NFC

Lack of contactless payment was one of the biggest drawbacks of day-to-day usage with the original Duo. Contactless payments are everywhere, and it meant either carrying a card or another phone with me. NFC with Google Pay works great with the Duo 2.

In the box

With the Surface Duo you received a Surface Bumper, with the Surface Duo 2 the bumper is now £32 but you do get a USB headset and USB C-C cable.

Conclusion

Other improvements include 5G support, improved Bluetooth and Wifi 6 support. There are also some minor changes like the fingerprint reader is built into the power button. I found the sound to be better with two speakers rather than the single one of the original device. The faster process is noticeable, everything feels snappier and smoother and there are no little freezes that the Duo occasionally suffered from.

There are a few issues I have come across so far. Android Auto wouldn’t work with my car, with the first gen Duo I got it working by enabling development mode in the Android Auto settings on the phone, but this solution didn’t work so far, a quick search hinted this may be an Android 11 issue.

Microsoft’s Your Phone app doesn’t support running apps from Windows as was shown by Microsoft at the launch event, hopefully Microsoft can enable this soon. Some apps sign in screens span three quarters of the screen (Hive, MiPemit), but once signed in they work ok. There is still a work to do for Microsoft with their own apps. Many apps don’t have dual screen support eg Authenticator, and most of Google’s apps are not dual screen aware.

There is no wireless charging, and the support of the Surface Pen is basic and only a few apps support it. Also, the Microsoft Launcher has no new features or noticeable improvements over the gen one device which is disappointing. The battery has been improved from 3577mAh to 4449mAh but how much of an improvement that is I will find out as I start using it.

The Surface Duo 2 is a significant improvement over the Surface Duo. I shouldn’t have to carry another device for taking photos or using NFC and the device feels like it is built to last longer. Even with the original Surface Duo’s shortcomings I loved the device, so I think I am going to love the Duo 2. It is certainly not a device for everyone, its expensive and not everybody wants a dual screen device but for me it could be the perfect device.

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