I don’t like Microsoft’s Surface Duo as a phone, but would love it as a tablet


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

For nearly a month, I’ve been using the Microsoft Surface Duo, the company’s first Android-driven cell phone. We’ve now coated the Duo in wonderful detail, including a non-reviewers overview, from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley and another review from ZDNet’s Matthew Miller. 

I’ve tried, several occasions, now to perform the Duo into my everyday workflow. I’ve made use of it as my key cell phone for a couple of times, I’ve made use of it as a secondary product for jotting notes with a Slender Surface Pen, and eventually, I’ve made use of it to keep track of Twitter or my inbox although watching Twitch or YouTube videos. 

With the Duo, Microsoft took a novel technique to reimagine the smartphone. Instead of a black rectangular product, like nearly each individual cell phone launched in the previous five decades, Microsoft took two displays, place a hinge between them, and coated the exterior in glass. The Duo opens like a e-book, devoid of an exterior display screen to allow you know if you have ready messages, warn you when you might be finding a get in touch with or even offer you a glanceable clock to look at the time. 

You both open the Duo and join to the electronic environment, or you might be fully slash off from the seemingly continuous stream of information and facts that pings ordinary phones in the course of the day. 

I understood just about instantly the Duo will not really perform as a cell phone in the regular perception. There are just as well several concessions — no front display screen, the digital camera is mediocre at very best, and the overall variety variable just feels uncomfortable when using it as a one display screen product. 

But soon after a few of weeks, I arrived to the realization that a even larger edition of the Duo would make for a fantastic tablet. 

I know, I know.
Microsoft now introduced the Neo

, a product that appears to be just about particularly like the Duo, only even larger, and it operates Home windows 10X. But previous week, Microsoft removed the Neo’s item web site from its site altogether. We now knew it was delayed, and that Microsoft was likely to aim its Home windows 10X attempts on one display screen equipment prior to moving on to the Neo, but eradicating the listing entirely will not bode very well for an eventual launch. 

But back again to the Duo. 


Exactly where the Duo demonstrates the most opportunity is with multitasking and using more than a person application at a time. The actuality that there is a actual physical divide between the two screens, as opposed to a foldable display screen like the Galaxy Z Fold two, forces you to be deliberate with what application or applications you have open, and on which display screen, but the determination building stops there. 

For example, on the iPad, it generally feels like an both-or product. Possibly you might be using a person application at a time, in the default whole-display screen location, or you use a shrunk-down edition of the application in slide above, or you can use a break up-display screen perspective, which can then itself be altered to various dimensions. In turn, you might be forced to make a lot of mindful selections about which application goes in which, and how considerably display screen serious estate does it warrant, or is it improved if this application is made use of in slide above? Will not get me incorrect, I like performing on the iPad, but its recent multitasking setup wants to be refined. 

The Duo gets rid of some of those people selections and leaves you with a more organic emotion of using more than a person application a time, with the flexibility of folding the 2nd display screen back again and using a one application in a more compact setup. 

I was upset with the Surface Pen practical experience on the Duo, though. I really wanted to use it to consider notes throughout conferences, but uncovered myself battling with errant scribbles thanks to palm rejection challenges. 


The computer software, as a complete, is in have to have of various advancements. Even though the Duo demonstrates the opportunity for twin-display screen equipment and multitasking, it can be whole of bugs and usability challenges. Dragging applications from a person display screen to the other, or making an attempt to develop it to consider above both screens is just not always a easy process. And Android’s gestures compete with Microsoft’s multitasking gestures at occasions, indicating you never really know if you might be likely to go back again a display screen or open the application switcher perspective. 

As I box up the Duo and hold out to get my $one,500 back again, I’m still left emotion hopeful about the 2nd or 3rd generation Duo. Microsoft has uncovered a way to deliver the ease of pairing equipment like a Surface Pen, and a seamless audio practical experience with the Surface Earbuds to a non-Home windows product, and it can be doing so with a fully novel style and design. 

Ideally, we see a Duo+ in the in close proximity to long term. Or, you know, that Neo product we once heard about.