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Technology

A sequel that’s better than the original

What a distinction a yr makes.

When Microsoft first unleashed its not-a-smartphone, not-a-tablet Surface Duo into the wild in the fall of 2020, the world was in the midst of a very dark time. The on-the-go productiveness habits which usually noticed enterprise sorts commuting to and from the workplace with quite a lot of units, working lengthy days, taking energy lunches, and Slacking from the health club and airport boarding gate had pivoted sharply to a brand new work-from-home regular.

The Duo as Microsoft had meant it — a multitasking cell workstation — was an alien on this courageous new world.

That’s to not say all of the Duo’s issues have been situational. As with many daring tech experiments, it undoubtedly had its fair proportion of software program hiccups. These points have been largely because of the novelty of the software program powering its two separate however linked shows. Oh, and there was additionally the added one-two sucker punch of its underwhelming digicam and extremely excessive price ticket.

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Quick ahead one yr later, and the Redmond-based firm is again with one other stab at its dual-screen Android foldable, aptly named the Surface Duo 2. And this time round, the working world may be open sufficient to embrace this daring, prosumer system.

With a beginning value of $1,499, nevertheless, it is not solely firmly in bank-breaking territory, it is also $100 costlier than its predecessor was at launch.

So is the Duo 2 a case of classes realized? Let’s discover out.

The identical however totally different

At a look, you would be hard-pressed to inform a lot of a distinction between the original Duo and the new Duo 2. (Properly, that’s as long as you do not take a look at the appreciable digicam module on again.) That signature Moleskine-like pocket book design with its Gorilla Glass-coating, distinguished hinge, and silvery Microsoft brand on entrance remains to be current right here.

The facility button — which now doubles as the fingerprint sensor — and quantity rocker stay on the proper fringe of the system, very similar to earlier than. The USB-C port additionally occupies the similar house at the base of the proper display screen, whereas the SIM tray has been relocated to only under the left-hand display screen.

To be clear, it is a good factor Microsoft principally left the design language intact: The Duo 2 exudes luxurious and seriousness. It virtually screams “executive realness” once you lay your eyes on it. Which is why, along with 128GB and 256GB choices, Microsoft has added a bigger 512GB storage configuration, and bumped the RAM as much as 8GB for all fashions.

It is also why Microsoft is just providing the Duo 2 in two inoffensive, professionally acceptable colorways: The usual Glacier white and a brand new Obsidian black choice.

Appears might be deceiving, nevertheless, as there are many inner and exterior modifications right here to have a good time.

Two screens are better than one.

Two screens are better than one.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

For starters, there is a Snapdragon 888 powering the system and bringing alongside each sub-6Ghz and mmWave 5G to the Duo 2. For reference, that’s the similar processor you’d discover in different main flagship smartphones like the Galaxy S21 series, Galaxy Z Flip 3, and the OnePlus 9.

SEE ALSO:

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not the future of phones

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The twin AMOLED shows have gotten a bump in dimension and smoothness, going from 5.6 inches on the OG mannequin to five.8 inches on the Duo 2, with a corresponding improve in decision to 1344×1892. Consequently, once you unfold the Duo 2, you may now be greeted by an 8.3-inch show. These unfolded shows, by the method, are additionally barely thicker at 5.5 millimeters.

The Duo 2’s shows aren’t the solely factor that’s chunked up — the system itself has packed on some weight because of a significantly beefy 4,449mAh battery. At 284 grams, it is not excessively heavy in the hand, however if you happen to’ve had any expertise with the first Duo, you may for certain discover the new heft right here.

The digicam is nice. I repeat: The digicam is nice.

However maybe the most hanging design departure from the original Duo mannequin is the new and fairly obtrusive triple-lens digicam module on again. Sure, you learn that proper: Three lenses! Microsoft definitely took criticism of the OG Duo’s underwhelming single-lens digicam to coronary heart and responded by beefing up the Duo 2’s imaging prowess.

I've never been so happy to see such a chunky phone camera.

I’ve by no means been so completely happy to see such a chunky telephone digicam.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

So, this is what you get:

Rear

  • 12MP wide-angle lens with f/1.7 aperture

  • 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture and 2x optical zoom

  • 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture and 110-degree area of view

Entrance

Another key issues to notice about that new digicam module: You possibly can shoot as much as 4k60 video, compose Portrait mode photographs with adjustable depth, and even take low-light photographs with a brand new night time mode.

She's got the look.

She’s obtained the look.
Credit score: joseph volpe / mashable

Reality be advised, if you happen to bear in mind the digicam on that first Duo, then you understand there was solely room for enchancment right here. And enhance Microsoft did! The Duo 2’s digicam app has even been redesigned to make the most of its dual-screen nature. Now you may simply preview photographs on the adjoining display screen as you are taking them which, it seems, is an actual crowd-pleaser.

Actually. I introduced the Duo 2 with me to doc my buddy’s participation in the 2021 NYC Scorching Sauce Expo’s cocktail competitors and extra than one nosy onlooker commented on how neat the function was.

That is what winners seem like.

Credit score: joseph volpe / mashable

Strive it, you would possibly prefer it.

Credit score: joseph volpe / mashable

So does this new triple-lens array imply the Duo 2 now has all the picture wizardry of a Pixel or an iPhone? In a phrase: No. However you may a minimum of now comfortably take photographs for the ‘Gram with out anybody throwing some side-eye your method. In actual fact, you could even get some compliments as a result of the images are fairly good.

It was an excellent day…

Credit score: joseph volpe / mashable

… for 2x zoom.

Credit score: joseph volpe / mashable

Some photographs appeared extra washed out than I’d have most well-liked and portrait mode, specifically, appeared to be hit and miss with its background blur. Other than that, nevertheless, I did not actually discover a lot to not like. Evening mode was suitably spectacular, though in very darkish conditions it did produce photographs that appeared extra like a Matisse portray than {a photograph}.

More like a Matisse.

Extra like a Matisse.
Credit score: Joseph volpe / mashable

Now you see it, now you do not

So, that’s one egregious ache level of the original Duo that Microsoft has successfully remedied with the Duo 2. However what about its different pesky Achilles’ heel? You already know what I am speaking about — the lack of an exterior notification panel.

Properly… Microsoft got here up with an answer for that. And it is a intelligent one, too, though I am not fully certain it is a win.

It is referred to as the Look bar and it lives in between the hinge when the Duo 2 is folded. Basically, that is only a “peek view” of one in every of the curved inside screens which may show missed calls, textual content messages, battery charging degree, and quantity degree.

Blink and you'll miss it.

Blink and you may miss it.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

Should you’re questioning whether or not the Look bar performs properly with third-party apps like Gmail, Twitter, Instagram, and Slack, the reply is, sadly, no. No less than, it is a no for proper now. Microsoft did word that third-party app compatibility is on its roadmap for future Duo 2 updates, so maintain these fingers crossed.

For now, it is sadly not all that helpful — a minimum of it wasn’t for me.

To even view these fleeting notifications (which period out after just a few seconds), you first need to place the Duo 2 in order that the hinge is going through you, which isn’t an intuitive option to relaxation the system on a floor. The Look bar’s additionally at a bizarre angle, making it exhausting to learn the variety of calls and texts. And if you happen to’re not paying consideration when these notifications are available, you may have to resort to selecting the Duo 2 up and urgent the energy button to set off the Look bar. At that time, you could as nicely simply open the darned factor up.

An always-on show of some kind would undoubtedly assist the Look bar right here. That stated, I nonetheless consider Microsoft ought to simply flip its brand on entrance into the notification window. However that’s simply me.

Clean crusing

After I examined the Duo final yr, it was instantly obvious that the system’s Android software program was a bit tough round the edges. Multitasking would often trigger one in every of two onscreen apps to freeze up, swapping postures generally had the impact of marring video playback high quality, and a difficult visible distortion would seem infrequently which solely disappeared after I’d energy off the show.

With the Duo 2, I am completely happy to report that every one of the bugginess that accompanied Microsoft’s first foray into the dual-screen Android world is gone. In actual fact, all through my testing, I solely ever encountered one minor situation the place my display screen froze whereas utilizing the digicam and I needed to reboot. That’s it. In any other case, this factor hums alongside at a 90Hz refresh charge because of that Snapdragon 888 inside. You will discover a really slight hesitation once you’re navigating the system’s many postures in addition to app orientations, but it surely’s nothing that’ll have you ever complaining and chucking the Duo 2 at the wall in disgust.

I'll take this over FaceID or an in-display fingerprint sensor.

I will take this over FaceID or an in-display fingerprint sensor.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

Considered one of my largest gripes from final time round was the placement of the fingerprint sensor in a recessed groove just under the Duo’s energy button. This had the unintended impact of changing into my pinky finger’s favored resting place whereas in Compose mode; it additionally had the unintended impact of inflicting stated pinky to by chance set off the energy button and shut off the show. Mercifully, that’s not a difficulty as the sensor’s been moved to the energy button. I’ve by no means had any situation unlocking the Duo 2 — it is quick and responsive — and I sort of want I had this fingerprint sensor on my different telephones.

All-day juice after which some

The wonderful thing about most modern-day, high-end cell units is that we have lastly gotten to some extent the place all-day battery life is not just a few advertising nonsense and is, actually, the fact.

It keeps going and going...

It retains going and going…
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

That’s precisely what you are getting with the Floor Duo 2. I used this factor fairly closely whereas helping my buddy all through the day at the NYC Scorching Sauce Expo. I took nonstop images and movies, frequently browsed Twitter and Chrome, navigated to the venue utilizing Google Maps, and despatched a bunch of emails and messages. By the finish of the day, the Duo 2 was all the way down to 26 p.c from a full cost. Not dangerous.

Assume the place(s)

The Floor Duo 2’s total raison d’être is that it may be folded into quite a lot of what Microsoft calls “postures.” There are 5 of those postures in complete — Ebook, Compose, Single Display, Tent, and Peek — and every has its personal particular use case, although some undoubtedly show far more helpful than others.

Compose

By far, my favourite of those postures is Compose mode which orients the Duo 2 very similar to a laptop computer. It is completely suited to endlessly scrolling by means of an app like Twitter (which simply so occurs to be my private tech dependancy).

Simply open the Duo 2 up, flip it on its facet, and luxuriate in that fullscreen scrolling expertise. You possibly can even kind on the decrease display screen on this mode to compose tweets, DMs, or emails.

The best way to bang out a tweet.

The easiest way to bang out a tweet.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

There’s one different fairly improbable factor that you are able to do in Compose mode and that’s gaming.

This being a Microsoft system, there was sure to be some synergy with the Xbox model and that is available in the type of the Xbox Video games Cross app. Due to the 5G modem in the Duo 2, you may get pleasure from streaming video games from the cloud on the high display screen whereas utilizing touch-based controls on the decrease display screen.

Is that this an ideal substitute for moveable console gaming? No, you may need to maintain onto your Swap. However, I am not mad about it, both! I performed Streets of Rage 4 and Nier Automata on the Duo 2, and managed simply advantageous. Whether or not you are commuting or bored at Grandma’s and even simply ready at the boarding gate, the Duo 2 and Sport Cross will certainly assist to go the time.

Ebook

Ebook mode is what you may seemingly use the most, although. And it is fairly self-explanatory. That is the place you get to essentially flex your multitasking muscle by dedicating one display screen to at least one app, like Twitter and Pocket, or Authenticator and any app with 2FA enabled. Should you’ve obtained an app combo you actually dig, you may even create an app pair shortcut to auto launch them from the homescreen.

This mode additionally occurs to supply up my favourite typing expertise as the keyboard is break up throughout the two screens. I will not lie — typing in ebook mode offers me robust BlackBerry-keyboard vibes as a result of I can truly message on a cell system with out typos. I miss that.

Tent

Look how far we've come.

Look how far we have come.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

As was the case final yr, Tent mode is actually the similar, trusty eat-chips-in-bed-with-the-Duo-2-propped-up-on-my-belly-or-pillow-while-watching-Netflix mode.

It is made expressly for these lazy mornings and moments simply earlier than mattress once you need to absorb some Squid Game (or, in my case, The Great British Baking Show) earlier than drifting off to sleep. No complaints there. Oh, and certain, possibly you may additionally need to plop this in your tray desk whereas in flight.

Single Display

Ah, one-handed mode which, erm, truly seems to be one thing you want two palms to make use of.

Critically, do not trouble. The only display screen is simply too huge to be helpful with out two palms. You’d actually solely use this posture to make calls and, let’s be actual, it is not like anybody ever actually places a telephone as much as their head to speak anymore anyway.

Moreover, if you happen to’re making an attempt to make use of the Duo 2 like a candybar telephone then you need to in all probability not purchase the Duo 2 and simply get a candybar telephone.

Subsequent!

Peek

I actually had forgotten this was even a factor. And now that I am remembering it, I actively hate it.

Basically, its operate is to indicate you the time and no matter pending notifications you’ve got once you open the Duo 2 simply so. Nevertheless, I virtually at all times open the Duo 2 too far to set off peek mode which successfully renders the posture moot.

Microsoft, might I counsel you dispose of this one fully for the eventual Duo 3?

“We’ll make it better the second time round”

(Sure, I actually did simply reference the theme music to that outdated TGIF mainstay Step by Step to shut out this overview, however that’s as a result of it is true.)

Microsoft took a danger a yr in the past. It bucked the bendable display screen development and made a tool — an Android system, ffs — with two linked screens and a 360-degree hinge in the hopes that our digital ADHD (together with our workaholism) would discover favor with it and its many use circumstances. The Duo wasn’t essentially a fail however extra so a fumble.

That’s not the case with the Duo 2. This factor is fancy. It is an app multitasker’s dream. It is obtained sufficient battery to energy you thru your power-brokering day. It is obtained all the Google and Microsoft apps you seemingly subsist on already for work and play. And it is obtained a fairly good digicam. Minus that Look bar (and a few questionable postures), what’s to not love?

A multitasker's dream device.

A multitasker’s dream system.
Credit score: molly flores / mashable

OK, the value.

Look, $1,499 is a steep barrier to entry. And similar to final time, it is quite a bit to ask. However this is the factor: This can be a cell workstation — it is not a cell phone. I totally get that now. I wrote a part of this overview on the Duo 2 whereas commuting to Mashable’s workplace and I used to be pleasantly stunned by the expertise.

In order for you an iPhone, go get an iPhone — however do not whine to me about pricing as a result of those things are crazy expensive, too. It is oK if this is not for you. It is seemingly not match for lots of people.

SEE ALSO:

What is the newest iPhone?

For the those that the Duo 2 does attraction to (and I am taking a look at you Kind A personalities), the value and type issue make numerous sense. So if you happen to’re an formidable skilled who’s in the marketplace for this sort of multi-use system, then I am fairly certain the price ticket will not make you flinch.

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