Floor Duo 2 evaluate: Microsoft’s folding cellphone is modern, however impractical

Surface Duo 2 review: Microsoft's folding phone is innovative, but impractical

Microsoft’s Floor Duo 2 is sort of a Swiss Military knife. It may well morph right into a digital ebook, a small pill, a display I can prop up nearly wherever or a mini-laptop paying homage to the T-Cellular Sidekick. However it’s not the one factor I would like it to be: a superb cellphone.

The Floor Duo 2 is Microsoft’s second-gen foldable gadget, and it launches on Oct. 21 beginning at $1,500 (£1,349, AU$2,319). The corporate’s first try at a foldable gadget suffered from laggy efficiency and a scarcity of options you’d count on from a high-end cellphone — two criticisms that Microsoft clearly took to coronary heart. The corporate put a extra highly effective Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor within the Floor Duo 2, boosted the screens’ refresh charges and added beforehand lacking tech comparable to a triple-lens digital camera and 5G assist.

Like

  • Eye-catching design
  • Versatile hinge is nice for studying and taking part in video games
  • 90Hz refresh price makes scrolling really feel easy
  • Optimized apps really feel modern and new

Do not Like

  • Not many apps are optimized for each screens
  • Some software program glitches nonetheless exist
  • Dimension makes it really feel cumbersome as an on a regular basis cellphone
  • Digicam may very well be higher

These modifications make the Floor Duo 2 way more succesful as a cellphone than Microsoft’s first foldable. However the issue is {that a} gadget just like the Floor Duo 2 wants extra than simply sooner efficiency and higher cameras to make it well worth the value. 

With its efficiency points (largely) fastened, I am starting to see the enchantment of a tool with two screens that may fold in half. The most important drawback is that the Floor Duo 2’s unconventional measurement requires you to sacrifice a number of the conveniences that right now’s normal-shaped smartphones supply. Plus, most apps aren’t optimized for the two-screen expertise simply but. These are trade-offs I am undecided many individuals are prepared to make for the worth. 

The Floor Duo 2’s limitations make it laborious to suggest. But when this cellphone is for anybody, it is for individuals who prioritize productiveness and leisure above all else. If having extra display area for studying books, working in Microsoft Workplace apps, and taking part in video video games is extra invaluable to you in a cellphone than comfort, you is perhaps pleased with the Floor Duo 2. However I might nonetheless encourage you to attend till the dual-screen expertise feels extra polished. 

A design that shapeshifts into loads of issues, apart from an amazing cellphone

The Floor Duo 2 has two screens identical to its predecessor. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Let’s begin with what places the Duo in Floor Duo 2: its dual-screen design. Like the unique, the Floor Duo 2 consists of two screens joined collectively by a hinge that runs down the middle of the gadget. It jogs my memory of a digital little black ebook, or a Pokedex

There isn’t any denying that Microsoft’s new cellphone is a dialog piece. The primary time I used the Floor Duo 2 in entrance of a bunch of mates, the questions got here rolling inside seconds of me taking it out of my purse. This hasn’t occurred for the reason that early 2000s, once I owned the Samsung Juke

The Floor Duo 2 has the identical total form as its predecessor, however with some upgrades. Every AMOLED display is barely bigger at 5.8 inches in comparison with the 5.6-inch shows on the older mannequin. Mixed, that provides the Floor Duo 2 a complete show space of 8.3 inches versus the unique’s 8.1 inches of display actual property. 

Each screens every have a better 90Hz refresh price, which makes scrolling really feel surprisingly gentle and easy. There are another bodily modifications, too: The Floor Duo 2 is available in a brand new obsidian black colour, and it has a brand new triple-lens digital camera bump on the again (extra on that digital camera later).

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

Microsoft’s Floor Duo 2 can fold in half like a ebook.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

One of many largest updates is the brand new Look Bar, which runs alongside the hinge when the gadget is closed. The concept is to offer a method to see incoming calls, the time and notifications with out having to open the gadget. The Look Bar was useful on just a few events, largely when it alerted me that my cellphone was ringing whereas on silent mode. However it’s tough to see because it’s wedged contained in the hinge, so I do not discover myself utilizing it usually.

That hinge provides the Floor Duo 2 (and first-gen Floor Duo) a superpower not discovered on different telephones: the power to take a number of types. You’ll be able to open it like a ebook, fold one aspect utterly backwards to make use of it extra like an everyday cellphone, bend each shows backwards to prop up the cellphone like a tent or open it midway in panorama mode kind of like a Nintendo 3DS. Snapping the Floor Duo 2 closed while you’re completed with it feels satisfying, identical to closing a flip cellphone to hold up on somebody.

Holding the Floor Duo 2 in ebook mode felt most pure, however I discovered myself folding the show all the best way again to make use of it with one hand most frequently. It is bigger than I am used to, however it seems like holding an e-reader or a small pill. The draw back is that the brand new digital camera bump stops you from folding the 2 sides utterly flat in opposition to each other in one-handed mode. A fingerprint sensor is positioned on the fitting aspect identical to final time, nevertheless it lacks facial recognition. 

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Floor Duo 2’s Look Bar might be laborious to see. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

There’s loads to understand relating to the Floor Duo 2’s design, however there’s additionally loads to complain about. I am lastly beginning to perceive why Microsoft did not wish to name it a cellphone: It is best suited to instances while you wish to dive right into a ebook, sport or work, nevertheless it falls quick in portability and practicality.

Fast actions like sending a textual content message whereas strolling down the road or taking a photograph earlier than my cat scurries away simply aren’t sensible on the Floor Duo 2. Which may not sound like a giant deal, however take into consideration what number of instances you are taking out your cellphone every day. Utilizing the Floor Duo 2 has made me really feel like I have been taking my compact iPhone 12 without any consideration. Reaching for my cellphone once I’m on the go ought to be easy, not one thing I ought to have to consider. 

Two screens are (typically) higher than one 

By now you are in all probability questioning: does my cellphone want a second display? That is a query Microsoft is on its method to answering, however hasn’t nailed fairly but. 

There are two predominant methods to make use of the Floor Duo 2’s two screens: Working two apps side-by-side, or extending one app throughout each screens. The primary one is extra simple, and to me it makes extra sense for multitasking than utilizing split-screen mode on different Android telephones with giant screens. It is simply laborious to compete with having a devoted full display for every app. 

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

I usually discovered myself folding the Floor Duo 2’s second display again to make use of it with one hand. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Nonetheless, I will admit that I did not discover myself utilizing this performance fairly often. I’ve used it typically to ship a message in Slack whereas wanting up an electronic mail I wanted to reference, or to discover a login code despatched to my electronic mail whereas signing into an app. Launching my calendar on one display and WhatsApp on the opposite to examine my schedule whereas planning with mates was additionally helpful. You can too select to pin two apps collectively to launch them with a single faucet.

However these situations did not come up as usually as I assumed they’d. I am already used to opening one app at a time, and pondering of apps as pairs requires me to develop new habits round how I exploit my cellphone. That may take time, and I think about most individuals in all probability really feel the identical. 

The opposite approach you may put these two screens to work is through the use of a single app throughout each shows. The catch is that apps should be optimized to really perform throughout two screens. It is an attention-grabbing idea that I hope catches on extra broadly. Slightly than simply making apps bigger, Floor Duo-optimized apps separate sure options between the 2 shows. When it really works, it feels such as you’re utilizing the app in a wholly new approach.

A lot of Microsoft’s personal apps are designed to work properly on the Floor Duo 2. In Outlook, you may view your inbox on one show and a full electronic mail on one other. OneNote shows a pocket book on one display and a single web page on the opposite. The cellphone’s digital camera app turns one display right into a digital camera viewfinder whereas exhibiting your picture gallery on the second show.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Floor Duo 2 virtually seems to be like a mini-laptop when composing a message in Outlook. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

A handful of third-party apps have additionally been tailored for each screens. One in all my favorites is the Amazon Kindle app, which supplies every ebook web page its personal devoted display and even shows a page-turn animation. The Kindle app was one of many first to be up to date for the Floor Duo for the reason that first model of the cellphone launched final 12 months, and it is nonetheless a shining instance of the advantages of getting two screens on a cellphone. TikTok additionally shows the Uncover tab on one display and the For You feed on the opposite. 

Gameloft has tailor-made Asphalt 9 so the racetrack is displayed on the highest display when held in panorama mode whereas the controls and a map are proven on the underside. Sure titles in Microsoft’s Xbox Recreation Go streaming service are additionally optimized for the Floor Duo 2 in an identical approach. The Floor Duo 2’s form makes it virtually really feel virtually like a Nintendo DS, and it is one other nice instance of why I consider the Floor Duo 2 has potential.

I had loads of enjoyable taking part in Yakuza: Like A Dragon as a handheld sport on the Floor Duo 2 via Recreation Go. The underside display turns right into a digital gamepad that even shows the controls for every button — one thing an everyday controller cannot do. For instance, a speech bubble image seems subsequent to the Y button to remind you that pushing it enables you to work together with different characters and sport parts. Nonetheless, utilizing touchscreen controls as a substitute of bodily buttons, in a sport designed for a conventional controller, took some getting used to. 

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Floor Duo 2 excels as a gaming gadget.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The issue is that the overwhelming majority of apps I exploit every day aren’t optimized for the Floor Duo 2’s screens. These apps, which embody Fb, WhatsApp, Seamless, Google Drive, Instagram, Adobe Lightroom, Slack, Netflix and YouTube, simply look unusual when spanned throughout each shows due to the hinge that joins each screens collectively. The crease on foldables just like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 appear practically invisible by comparability.

That is the large benefit Samsung’s folding cellphone has over the Floor Duo 2. It primarily serves as a pill when open and a cellphone when closed. There is not as a lot optimization that has to occur behind the scenes to speak the advantage of merely having a bigger display.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

Apps that are not optimized for the Floor Duo 2 have a crease operating down the center. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

I really loved the Floor Duo 2’s versatile design greater than its second display. More often than not, I watched movies in tent mode and used the second display as an costly built-in kickstand.

The underside line: Having two screens might be helpful typically. However on a tool like this, it ought to be helpful on a regular basis. 

Higher efficiency, however nonetheless some software program hiccups

Efficiency was one of many authentic Floor Duo’s largest shortcomings. Fortunately, the Floor Duo 2 has gotten some essential {hardware} upgrades on this space, however software program efficiency nonetheless feels extra jittery than I might like. 

First, the {hardware}. The gadget runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor with 8GB of RAM, whereas the older Floor Duo cellphone ran on a weaker Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. The Floor Duo 2’s chip is identical one present in different high-end telephones just like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and OnePlus 9 Professional, however Samsung’s foldable comes with 12GB of RAM. 

This upgraded processor mixed with the Floor Duo 2’s 90Hz refresh price makes scrolling via information feeds and settings menus really feel snappy and easy. I hardly ever discover the distinction when utilizing telephones or tablets with greater refresh charges, however the Floor Duo 2’s interface feels noticeably slick. 

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Floor Duo 2 nonetheless has some software program efficiency points. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Relating to normal computing energy, the Floor Duo 2 is on par with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, in keeping with the Geekbench 5 benchmark. That take a look at measures normal CPU efficiency for on a regular basis duties comparable to checking electronic mail and taking part in music. The Floor Duo 2 scored a mean of 1,101 on the single-core processing take a look at and three,420 on the multicore processing take a look at. Samsung’s premium foldable, by comparability, scored 1,097 and three,399 on the identical take a look at. The $1,099 iPhone 13 Professional Max, then again, outperformed each telephones considerably with a rating of 1,741 and 4,856.

When it comes to graphics benchmarks, the Floor Duo 2’s outcomes had been inconsistent and diversified relying on the gadget’s temperature. When it ran sizzling, the Floor Duo 2 would rating round 7,178 on common through the 3DMark Sling Shot Limitless take a look at. That is only a bit greater than the iPhone 13 and Motorola Edge 5G UW, which scored 6,653 and 6,428 respectively. However once I positioned the Floor Duo 2 within the fridge to chill down earlier than operating the benchmark, it scored a mean of 10,640, which is on par with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Extremely. 

Now for the software program. The Floor Duo 2 was in a position to sustain with my actions as I switched between its numerous modes for essentially the most half, which is an enchancment on the unique. However it wasn’t excellent on a regular basis. 

There have been nonetheless some cases through which the show lagged when transferring from portrait to panorama mode, which made the gadget really feel jumpy and inconsistent in some circumstances. When utilizing the gadget in tent mode or one-handed mode, a message seems when transferring between the 2 screens to let you understand that you would be able to double faucet the opposite show to change to it. However this did not at all times work. And when it did, the Floor Duo 2 would typically shut the app I used to be utilizing or show it within the unsuitable orientation. Whereas it is nice that Microsoft has made some progress, it is nonetheless disappointing to see efficiency points like this on the second-generation mannequin.

A greater digital camera that is nonetheless removed from the perfect

The Floor Duo 2 has a brand new triple-camera system with three lenses: a 12-megapixel vast lens, 12-megapixel telephoto lens and a 16-megapixel ultrawide lens. It is a huge improve from the one 11-megapixel lens on the earlier Floor Duo, however this definitely is not a cellphone for picture fanatics. 

Throughout my exams, the Floor Duo 2 produced photographs that had been clear and crisp, however in lots of instances weren’t as well-lit and colourful as these taken on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and iPhone 13 Professional Max. That is often most noticeable when wanting on the sky within the background throughout out of doors pictures, which was typically a totally totally different colour in comparison with the telephones from Samsung and Apple. Pictures taken with the Floor Duo 2’s zoom lens additionally weren’t sharp or vibrant sufficient, and the identical might be mentioned for pictures taken with its 12-megapixel selfie digital camera. 

Check out the pictures under.

surface-duo-2-vs-iphone-13-vs-galaxy-z-fold-photo-2-new-2021

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET
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Lisa Eadicicco/CNET
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Lisa Eadicicco/CNET
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Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The larger concern, nevertheless, is that Microsoft solved one drawback solely to create one other. Now that the Floor Duo 2 has three rear cameras, you have to preserve the cellphone open whereas snapping photographs so as to really see what you are taking pictures. On the earlier mannequin, you would fold the display all the best way again in order that you would extra simply shoot with one hand. The entire expertise simply feels awkward and cumbersome.

But there are upsides to having two screens. For one, you may see a picture instantly on the second display after taking an image. When enhancing photographs, you may dedicate one complete display to the picture itself whereas the varied sliders and toggles are positioned on the second display. 

Nonetheless, I think about most individuals would favor a cellphone that is extra compact and simpler to control. It feels practically inconceivable to seize a photograph with one hand utilizing the Floor Duo 2. Mix that with the time it takes to unfold the cellphone, unlock it and launch the digital camera app, and you have in all probability missed the second.

Strong battery life

The Floor Duo 2 is designed with multitasking in thoughts, and it wants nice battery life to match. In my expertise up to now, the Floor Duo 2’s battery life has been dependable however not mind-blowing. After a full day of heavy use, which included about 45 minutes of streaming video games by way of Recreation Go and a half hour of taking photographs along with different every day duties, the Floor Duo 2 nonetheless had 33% of its battery left by the point I went to mattress. 

That implies it ought to final a bit longer than a day even when performing taxing duties like sport streaming. However battery life will at all times range relying on how you utilize your gadget, so you will in all probability get extra mileage out of it in the event you’re largely simply checking electronic mail, shopping social media feeds and studying. 

We’ve not had the possibility to run CNET’s official battery take a look at but, however we’ll replace this evaluate with these outcomes as soon as we have now them. 

A promising gadget that is not sensible as an on a regular basis cellphone 

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

For all of its drawbacks, the Floor Duo 2 seems like a step in the fitting route. However it’s simply that: one other step, not the vacation spot. 

It is a reflection of how our relationship with cellular units has modified over the past decade as we have come to depend on them for every thing from electronic mail, productiveness, gaming, video chatting, social media shopping, picture enhancing and banking. However I do not assume the Floor Duo 2 strikes the fitting stability of portability, performance and practicality that most individuals need from their smartphone simply but. 

For a tool just like the Floor Duo 2 to be price it, the two-screened app expertise must be materially higher than the single-screen app expertise. That is simply not true right now since there are nonetheless so many widespread apps that are not optimized. The larger concern is perhaps that the Floor Duo 2 nonetheless feels too awkward to make use of as an on a regular basis cellphone, which at finest leads to a studying curve and at worst feels usually inconvenient. On prime of all that, some software program efficiency hiccups nonetheless exist.

I can not say I did not take pleasure in utilizing the Floor Duo 2, particularly for taking part in video games and studying. However I felt some extent of aid when switching again to an everyday, nonfolding, single-screen cellphone.

Microsoft Floor Duo 2 vs. Floor Duo

Microsoft Floor Duo 2 Microsoft Floor Duo
Show measurement, decision, Twin 5.8-inch AMOLED; 1,344×1,892 pixels / Mixed: 8.3-inch AMOLED; 2,688×1,892 pixels Twin 5.6-inch AMOLED; 1,800×1,350 pixels / Mixed: 8.1-inch AMOLED; 2,700×1,800 pixels
Pixel density 401ppi 401ppi
Dimensions (Inches) Folded: 5.72 x 3.63 x 0.43 in / Unfolded: 5.72 x 7.26 x 0.22 in Folded: 5.72 x 3.67 x 0.399 in / Unfolded: 5.72 x 7.36 x 0.19 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) Folded: 145.2 x 92.1 x 11 mm / Unfolded: 145.2 x 184.5 x 5.5 mm Folded: 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9 mm / Unfolded: 145.2 x 186.9 x 4.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 10 oz; 284g 8.8 oz; 250g
Cellular software program Android 11 Android 10
Digicam Triple lens with 12-megapixel vast, 12MP telephoto, and 16-megapixel ultrawide lenses 11-megapixel
Entrance-facing digital camera 12-megapixel Makes use of predominant digital camera
Video seize 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB
RAM 8GB 6GB
Expandable storage None None
Battery 4,449 mAh 3,577 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Proper aspect Proper aspect
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No
Particular options Twin-screen show; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) Twin-screen show; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)
Value off-contract (USD) $1,499 $1,400
Value (GBP) £1,349 Converts to £1,020
Value (AUD) AU$2,319 Converts to AU$1,880
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