Several months after being launched in the United States and signing Microsoft’s return to the smartphone market, the Surface Duo finally arrives in France on February 18. We were able to have a first approach to this device as original in its design as its proposal.
It is finally here ! Almost a year and a half after its official presentation in New York at the end of 2019, several months after a mixed launch in the United States, the Surface Duo is taking on the rest of the world.
Microsoft has formalized its release date. It will be necessary to wait until February 18 to hold in hand the dual-screen smartphone emblazoned with the iconic house logo. Before seeing what it really has under its double hood, we were able to get a first glimpse of the strange device which marks the return of the firm to the smartphone market.
Microsoft Surface Duo datasheet
A thin and light design
In the foldable smartphone category, the Surface Duo is a device apart. First of all because, when it’s folded up, if you don’t know it’s a smartphone, you can’t guess. No external screen, no notification space or even visible camera. The only thing that stands out is the Microsoft logo, a USB-C port on the bottom edge, volume and power buttons on the side. Looking a little more precisely, we distinguish the slot for a SIM card, which could possibly be an additional storage space to the 256 GB onboard.
But it is indeed a device for telephoning running on Android, but with an overlay … Microsoft 365! This is a first originality that deserves our attention on the beast.
First surprise: the Surface Duo is much thinner than you might expect. Microsoft even announces that it is the thinnest smartphone when it is fully open (4.8 mm). Closed, the device is not very thick however (9.9 mm at the hinge). It also has for him to be rather light with a well distributed weight (250 g).
The whole thing makes it quite pleasant to hold in hand, because, moreover, its dimensions are quite compact (folded: 145.2 x 93.3 mm – unfolded: 145.2 x 186.9 mm). For older people, the closed format is reminiscent of the rectangular and wide template of the Palm Pilot of yesteryear. Its thinness allows it to be slipped just as easily into a trouser pocket.
The hinge is solid with two junction points at the top and at the bottom which allow in particular to pass all the cables. Strong point of this hinge: it rotates 360 °. The Surface Duo can also be used in several positions: completely flat, folded back to back, open at 90 ° to be placed, in tent format, etc.
Two screens rather than one folded
There is no exterior or interior screen size here. The Surface Duo is a very special smartphone for this too. When it’s closed it really has a portable pocket mini-PC, Nintendo DS if you prefer. The opening is simple, while being quite resistant and solid. To unlock it, Microsoft has opted for a PIN code, a pattern or a fingerprint reader on the edge, quite discreetly embedded in the design, but very responsive.
We are then facing the two screens. The Surface Duo opted for two 5.6-inch Amoled PixelSense Fusion panels (1800 x 1350p, 401 dpi) joined by a hinge, not a single screen that folds in half. It is a choice as much aesthetic (the groove is clearly seen) as practical. The smartphone is primarily used to display two distinct content, whether or not related to your activity (for example, your Outlook inbox on one side, the read email on the other).
Microsoft has only one word of mouth for its product: productivity. And it’s easy to imagine the permanent dual use, more than the display of a single video-like content on the overall 8.1-inch Gorilla Glass (2700 x 1800p) surface that would be cut in the center by the hinge.
But if there’s one thing that leaves us a little skeptical at first, it’s the borders. They are quite massive at the top and bottom of each screen while much thinner on the sides. On the right screen, the border houses the device’s only photo sensor, an earpiece for calls, and the flash. On the left part, there is a mono speaker at the top, in the edge. Two microphones exist, but we are always looking for them because they are so well hidden.
Surface Duo can be added to an optional Surface Pen (all compatible models) for writing, drawing or interacting. And we must admit that the use makes sense, as is the case on Surface tablets, of which it clearly miniaturizes the use. The smartphone is held like a notebook and we want to write on it. That’s good, he’s made for that! Too bad this is added to the bill. But, unlike a Samsung Galaxy Note, no space has been provided to insert it into the chassis.
The video privileged to the photo
While the Surface Duo looks capable of a lot of things, the photo doesn’t seem to be one of them. There is therefore only one sensor (11 megapixels, f / 2.0), promised adaptive by Microsoft. It will remain to be seen what this really means. Because, to use it in selfie mode or as a classic camera, you will have to show dexterity as the practice is not classic. When folded up with the displays back to back, Surface Duo activates only one of the two sides at a time by double tapping on it. You can then choose to put the photo sensor in front of you or in front of your subject to photograph it, with a field of view far from igniting the crowds (84 ° diagonally – sic), but the support of the AI to optimize the whole thing.
The Surface Duo offers super resolution zoom and super digital zoom x7, HDR and dynamic scene detection even in low light. It is in video that it seems the most promising, capable of recording up to 4K at 60 fps (HDR mode available), in slow-motion in 1080p up to 240 FPS. It is obviously cut to optimize your videoconferences with Microsoft Teams or Skype and to film you in 1080p / 30fps.
Efficiency inside more than power
Inside, the Redmond firm has chosen not to compete in the arms race unlike the main players in the sector. Obviously, with a device unveiled in 2019 and released last year in the United States, we find inside a Snapdragon 855 from Qualcomm, an SoC a little outdated at the moment, but “optimized for the dual screen experienceMicrosoft promises.
It comes with 6 GB of RAM and UFS 3.0 storage of 128 or 256 GB. Side autonomy, the Surface Duo announces up to 15 hours in video playback, up to 27 hours in communication. We will see how long it lasts while working, its main asset. For this, it relies on a dual 3577 mAh battery that is recharged using a supplied 18 W power supply.
It runs on Android 10 with the essential Google applications (Chrome, Maps, YouTube…) and all the integrated Microsoft 365 suite (Office, ToDo, Teams, OneDrive, LinkedIn…) with the Microsoft cloud in support to retrieve bookmarks and documents. Edge is also the default browser in the shortcut bar on the screen. For the rest, it is the automatisms of Android which return to the load, in particular the intuitive gestures to navigate on the screens or your favorite apps via the Play Store.
The Surface Duo can easily connect to a Windows 10 PC via the “Link to Windows” function to retrieve your messages and applications, or to any other product in the Surface line, including headphones. It can also be added to any other device via Bluetooth, even game controllers to enjoy Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and play in cloud gaming.
Surface Duo, what for?
From our first grip, already a certainty: the Surface Duo is presented more as a dual-screen smartphone that can be closed Nintendo DS style than as a foldable smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 or Huawei Mate Xs and others. devices of the same category. You will be able to do a lot of things, from browsing to watching video, including mobile gaming or checking your emails.
It is easy to see its possibilities in terms of productivity, as it is designed for work on the content (the apps) and the form (its design), especially when one of the two screens turns into a keyboard when the second displays a document. An asset for professional life, but what about everyday life? We are going to spend a few days in his company to judge his capacities to become a faithful companion in our lives, whether connected or not.
Microsoft Surface Duo pricing and availability
The Microsoft Surface Duo will be available in France on February 18 at a price of 1,549 euros (6 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage) or 1,649 euros (6 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage). It will be for sale on the Microsoft Store as well as at Fnac-Darty.