Surface Duo 2 vs. Surface Duo: Which is better?

Microsoft’s Surface Duo was an interesting product. We find out whether its sequel can be even better in this guide. …

The Surface Duo 2 is one of the most interesting phones to launch this year. It’s Microsoft’s unique take on the foldable genre of smartphones, and it advances the concept rather than collapsing into the more consumer-friendly style we see in the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip-series of foldables. Instead of a single, folding screen, the Surface Duo-range uses two separate displays side-by-side.

While it might be the newest, sometimes the latest isn’t always the greatest. We’re trotting out the Surface Duo to see if it’s a viable alternative to the Surface Duo 2 by looking at their specs, designs, and overall capabilities. You want a foldable phone from Microsoft? Let’s see which one of these two is the best.

Specs

Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Microsoft Surface Duo
Size Open: 145.2 x 184.5 x 5.5mm (5.71 x 7.26 x 0.22 inches)

Closed: 145.2 x 92.1 x 11.0mm (5.71 x 3.62 x 0.43 inches)

Open: 186.9 x 145.2 x 4.8mm (5.71 x 3.67 x 0.19 inches)

Closed: 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9mm (5.71 x 3.67 x 0.39 inches)

Weight 284 grams (10 ounces) 250 grams (8.87 ounces)
Screen size Open: 8.1-inch Dual PixelSense Fusion Display AMOLED (90Hz)

Closed: 5.8-inch PixelSense Display AMOLED

Open: 8.1-inch Dual PixelSense Fusion Display AMOLED

Closed: 5.6-inch PixelSense Display AMOLED

Screen resolution Open: 2688 x 1892

Closed: 1344 x 1892 (401 pixels per inch)

Open: 2700 x 1800

Closed: 1350 x 1800 (401 ppi)

Operating system Android 11 Android 10
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay N/A
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM 8GB 6GB
Camera 16-megapixel ultrawide, 12MP wide-angle, 12MP telephoto rear, 12MP front-facing camera 11MP front-facing camera
Video 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, slow motion at 240 fps, HDR 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 60 fps
Bluetooth version 5.1 5.0
Ports USB 3.1, USB-C USB 3.1, USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, side-mounted Yes, side-mounted
Water resistance No No
Battery 4,449mAh

Fast charging (23W, charger sold separately)

 

3,577 mAh

Fast charging (18W)

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All carriers All carriers
Colors Obsidian Black, Glacier Glacier
Price $1,499 $699
Buy from Microsoft Microsoft, AT&T
Review score News 3 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Person browsing Pinterest on the Surface Duo 2.

The Surface Duo 2 is a clear evolution of the Surface Duo design-wise. There are a few changes to it that scream 2021 — hello camera bump — but you won’t confuse it for any other foldable. Now, while it does look similar, there are many small changes that make it a better overall device.

The screen is bigger, going from 8.1 inches to 8.3 inches while unfolded and 5.6 inches to 5.8 inches while folded. The display is now covered in Gorilla Glass Victus, making it more durable than the previous Gorilla Glass 5. The screen is still a PixelSense AMOLED display that’s 2688 x 1892 while open and 1344 x 1892 while closed. Microsoft makes very good displays, and the Duo 2 will not disappoint with its 100% sRGB coverage. The display has also been bumped to a 90Hz smooth display, and there’s a small gap when you close the Duo that gives you a strip for notifications.

You can get the Duo 2 in silver — Glacier, as Microsoft calls it. On the other hand, a new Obsidian black finish is here, and nominative redundancy aside, it does look pretty good. New colors are one way that phone makers set aside newer products from older ones, and Microsoft isn’t one to buck tradition.

When it comes to regressions and stagnation, there’s no IP rating on the Duo with this generation, like you’ll find on the Fold 3. The Duo got a little bit heavier at 284 grams, and that camera bump might get in the way when using it on the go.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Duo 2

Performance, battery life, and charging

Surface Duo 2 components.

Microsoft has decided that a premium-priced device is worthy of premium specs, and the Surface Duo 2 is equipped with the current Snapdragon 888 processor that powers the best Android phones out this year. The Duo came with an outdated 855, an odd choice for its time. The RAM is going up from 6GB to 8GB, and you’ll be able to stack your device with up to 512GB of storage. Enough to hold all your documents forever.

Microsoft says that the Duo will offer “all-day battery life” with up to 15.5 hours of local video (not streaming) playback and up to 28 hours of talk time. The original Duo offered 27 hours, and we were able to keep it going for a day in our review. In terms of physical size, the battery of the Duo 2 is 4,449mAh to the 3,577mAh of the original. The Duo 2 should be quite a bit better, at least on paper.

Winner: Surface Duo 2

Camera

The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 has a triple camera setup.
Microsoft

Going from no camera to three cameras makes this a slam dunk. Microsoft shipped the original Surface Duo with a single front-facing camera that did not perform very well at all. With the Duo 2, all of that is getting fixed.

There’s a small camera bump at the front, housing a triple set of cameras, as is the norm in 2021. There’s a 16-megapixel ultrawide, a 12MP wide-angle, and a 12MP telephoto lens. You can capture portrait photos, and Microsoft is adding a dedicated night mode.

Video is also getting a big boost here with support for both 4K and slow motion. As we said at the outset, you needn’t compare the Duo to the Duo 2 in hand to know who wins because the Duo simply cannot do what the Duo 2 can do camera-wise.

Winner: Surface Duo 2

Software and updates

A person using a Microsoft Surface Duo 2.
Microsoft

It’s a tough one to grade. The Duo and Duo 2 both ship with Microsoft’s version of Android, albeit the Duo 2 comes with the more modern Android 11. The Duo 2 comes with improved multitasking and a mature Android exosystem that takes multi-screen experiences into account, while the original Duo did not have that luxury.

Where it’s hard is on the update scale. While Microsoft promises fast and speedy updates, in practice, the Duo has received fewer updates than your average $1,000 Android phone. This is to say … none. A year after Android 11’s release and a few weeks before Android 12, there’s no Android 11 to be found for the Surface Duo.

Will Microsoft be better at this now that it’s spent some time building for Android? That remains to be seen.

Winner: Surface Duo 2

Special features

Two people viewing something on the Surface Duo 2.

Two things: NFC and 5G. The lack of 5G could be overlooked, as the standard was yet to fully proliferate when the original Duo was released. The lack of NFC? Not so much. You simply won’t be using Google Pay on the original Duo, a standard that has only grown more widespread as contactless payments have been encouraged.

Sure, you could always buy a secondary phone — but you’re not spending $1,000 on a phone to discard it after a year or supplement it with another; you’re making an investment. The Surface Duo 2 fixes these two really silly omissions, and it’s a no-brainer which to pick.

Winner: Surface Duo 2

Price and availability

The Surface Duo held open with the pen in use showing both Microsoft Teams and the OneNote app at the same time.
Microsoft

The Surface Duo is all but sold out worldwide. That said, it’s not worth paying for at this time. Though you will undoubtedly get deep discounts on it — Woot sells it for $400 at times — the compromises are just not worth it. Whether it’s the lack of a proper camera or the old software, it’s not worth its asking price. If you want to give Microsoft’s software a fair shake, the newer Duo 2, while far more expensive, will be the better buy.

Microsoft is making this available unlocked for all carriers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.

Winner: Surface Duo 2

Overall winner: Microsoft Surface Duo 2

If there was any phone that had an easier time to do a much better job with its sequel, it was the Surface Duo 2. Microsoft’s first Surface Duo was very flawed. Odd ommissions such as 5G and NFC made the device hard to recommend for casual users, and its form factor stood at odds with what we would normally expect from foldables.

The Surface Duo 2 stands out from other foldables, but it mixes its bold choices with sensible ones. We’ll have to dive into a full review to see if these pay off. In the meantime, you can read our take on the first Surface Duo — but you probably shouldn’t buy it.

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