Floor Duo 2 evaluate: Microsoft’s folding cellphone is progressive, 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 guide, a small pill, a display I can prop up nearly wherever or a mini-laptop harking back to the T-Cellular Sidekick. But it surely’s not the one factor I would like it to be: a wonderful cellphone.

The Floor Duo 2 is Microsoft’s second-gen foldable machine, and it launches on Oct. 21 beginning at $1,500 (£1,349, AU$2,319). The corporate’s first try at a foldable machine suffered from laggy efficiency and an absence of options you’d anticipate 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 similar to a triple-lens digital camera and 5G help.

Like

  • Eye-catching design
  • Versatile hinge is nice for studying and enjoying video games
  • 90Hz refresh fee makes scrolling really feel clean
  • Optimized apps really feel progressive 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 could possibly be higher

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

With its efficiency points (largely) mounted, I am starting to see the enchantment of a tool with two screens that may fold in half. The largest drawback is that the Floor Duo 2’s unconventional measurement requires you to sacrifice a number of the conveniences that at present’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 value. 

The Floor Duo 2’s limitations make it onerous 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 house for studying books, working in Microsoft Workplace apps, and enjoying video video games is extra worthwhile to you in a cellphone than comfort, you may be pleased with the Floor Duo 2. However I would nonetheless encourage you to attend till the dual-screen expertise feels extra polished. 

A design that shapeshifts into loads of issues, apart from an incredible 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 machine. It jogs my memory of a digital little black guide, or a Pokedex

There is no denying that Microsoft’s new cellphone is a dialog piece. The primary time I used the Floor Duo 2 in entrance of a gaggle of associates, the questions got here rolling inside seconds of me taking it out of my purse. This hasn’t occurred because the 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 offers 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 fee, which makes scrolling really feel surprisingly gentle and easy. There are another bodily adjustments, 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 guide.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

One of many greatest updates is the brand new Look Bar, which runs alongside the hinge when the machine is closed. The thought is to supply a technique to see incoming calls, the time and notifications with out having to open the machine. The Look Bar was useful on a number of events, largely when it alerted me that my cellphone was ringing whereas on silent mode. But it surely’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 flexibility to take a number of types. You’ll be able to open it like a guide, fold one aspect utterly backwards to make use of it extra like a daily cellphone, bend each shows backwards to prop up the cellphone like a tent or open it midway in panorama mode form of like a Nintendo 3DS. Snapping the Floor Duo 2 closed once you’re completed with it feels satisfying, identical to closing a flip cellphone to hold up on somebody.

Holding the Floor Duo 2 in guide 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, however it lacks facial recognition. 

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Floor Duo 2’s Look Bar could be onerous to see. 


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

There’s quite a bit to understand with regards to the Floor Duo 2’s design, however there’s additionally quite a bit to complain about. I am lastly beginning to perceive why Microsoft did not wish to name it a cellphone: It is best suited to occasions once you wish to dive right into a guide, sport or work, however it falls brief 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. That may not sound like an enormous deal, however take into consideration what number of occasions 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. 

2 screens are (generally) 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 technique to answering, however hasn’t nailed fairly but. 

There are two foremost methods to make use of the Floor Duo 2’s two screens: Operating 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 massive screens. It is simply onerous 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 generally to ship a message in Slack whereas trying 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 verify my schedule whereas planning with associates was additionally helpful. You can even select to pin two apps collectively to launch them with a single faucet.

However these eventualities did not come up as usually as I assumed they’d. I am already used to opening one app at a time, and considering 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 method you’ll be able to put these two screens to work is by utilizing a single app throughout each shows. The catch is that apps have to be optimized to really perform throughout two screens. It is an attention-grabbing idea that I hope catches on extra broadly. Quite 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 method.

A lot of Microsoft’s personal apps are designed to work properly on the Floor Duo 2. In Outlook, you’ll be able to 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 photograph gallery on the second show.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Floor Duo 2 nearly appears to be like 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. Certainly one of my favorites is the Amazon Kindle app, which supplies every guide 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 because the 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 Sport Go streaming service are additionally optimized for the Floor Duo 2 in an analogous method. The Floor Duo 2’s form makes it nearly really feel nearly 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 enjoying Yakuza: Like A Dragon as a handheld sport on the Floor Duo 2 via Sport Go. The underside display turns right into a digital gamepad that even shows the controls for every button — one thing a daily controller cannot do. For instance, a speech bubble image seems subsequent to the Y button to remind you that pushing it permits you to work together with different characters and sport parts. Nonetheless, utilizing touchscreen controls as an alternative 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 machine.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The issue is that the overwhelming majority of apps I exploit each 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 massive 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 could be helpful generally. 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 unique Floor Duo’s greatest 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 would like. 

First, the {hardware}. The machine 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 similar 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 fee makes scrolling via information feeds and settings menus really feel snappy and clean. I hardly ever discover the distinction when utilizing telephones or tablets with larger 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

In terms of common computing energy, the Floor Duo 2 is on par with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, in accordance with the Geekbench 5 benchmark. That take a look at measures common CPU efficiency for on a regular basis duties similar to checking electronic mail and enjoying 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.

By way of graphics benchmarks, the Floor Duo 2’s outcomes had been inconsistent and different relying on the machine’s temperature. When it ran sizzling, the Floor Duo 2 would rating round 7,178 on common throughout the 3DMark Sling Shot Limitless take a look at. That is only a bit larger 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 varied modes for probably the most half, which is an enchancment on the unique. But it surely wasn’t good on a regular basis. 

There have been nonetheless some cases by which the show lagged when transferring from portrait to panorama mode, which made the machine really feel jumpy and inconsistent in some circumstances. When utilizing the machine in tent mode or one-handed mode, a message seems when transferring between the 2 screens to let you already know which you can 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 generally 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 only 11-megapixel lens on the earlier Floor Duo, however this actually is not a cellphone for photograph fanatics. 

Throughout my checks, 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 trying on the sky within the background throughout out of doors pictures, which was generally a totally totally different colour in comparison with the telephones from Samsung and Apple. Photographs taken with the Floor Duo 2’s zoom lens additionally weren’t sharp or vibrant sufficient, and the identical could be stated for photographs 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 problem, nevertheless, is that Microsoft solved one drawback solely to create one other. Now that the Floor Duo 2 has three rear cameras, you could maintain the cellphone open whereas snapping photographs to be able 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’ll be able to see a picture straight away on the second display after taking an image. When enhancing photographs, you’ll be able to dedicate one total display to the picture itself whereas the assorted 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 not possible 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 thus far, 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 Sport 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 fluctuate relying on how you utilize your machine, so you may in all probability get extra mileage out of it should you’re largely simply checking electronic mail, looking 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 now we have them. 

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

Microsoft Surface Duo 2

For all of its drawbacks, the Floor Duo 2 looks like a step in the fitting course. But it surely’s simply that: one other step, not the vacation spot. 

It is a reflection of how our relationship with cell gadgets 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 looking, photograph enhancing and banking. However I do not suppose the Floor Duo 2 strikes the fitting steadiness 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 at present since there are nonetheless so many widespread apps that are not optimized. The larger problem may be that the Floor Duo 2 nonetheless feels too awkward to make use of as an on a regular basis cellphone, which at greatest ends in a studying curve and at worst feels typically inconvenient. On high 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 enjoying video games and studying. However I felt a point of reduction when switching again to a daily, 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 foremost 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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