Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 Gets 5G, Serious Performance Upgrades

Microsoft Surface Duo 2
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Microsoft is taking a second swing at its dual-screen smartphone with the Surface Duo 2. The newAndroid device is meant to provide a massive update in performance, functionality and camera quality over the original Duo, which launched just over a year ago.

The new Surface Duo bumps up to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset, 8GB of RAM and a new triple-camera system, making up for two of the original's biggest weaknesses.

The two new displays are also larger, with smaller bezels. Together, they're 8.3 inches diagonally, up from 8.1 inches on the original, and they're both 5.8-inches individually (up from 5.6-inches). Interestingly, both are listed at slightly lower resolutions than the predecessor. That being said, they have the same pixels-per-inch at 401 PPI.

Microsoft claims other updates to the screens, however, that may make up for that, including 800 nits max brightness and a 90 Hz adaptive refresh rate, as well as support for HDR. . The displays are covered in Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.

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CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
StorageUp to 512GB
Displays (combined)Dual PixelSense Fusion, 8.3-inch AMOLED, 2688 x 1892, 90 Hz
Display (single)PixelSense, 5.8-inch AMOLED 1344 x 892, 90 Hz
Cameras12MP wide, 12Mp telephoto, 16MP ultrawide, 12MP front-facing
Network and Connectivity5G mmWave and Sub-6, Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
Battery4,449 mAH
Weight284 grams
Release DateOctober 21, 2021
Starting Price$1,499.99

Additionally, the screens are slightly more curved toward the hinge than the original. That makes them slightly visible when the device is closed, letting you know if you missed a call or a text as soon as you take it out of your pocket (though you can still peek by slightly opening the screens, as well). This is a neat trick that Microsoft calls the Glance Bar, but considering the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a full outer display and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a small screen on the exterior that shows slightly more information, this just doesn't seem as helpful.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The new camera system includes a 12MP wide camera, a 12MP telephoto camera and a 16MP ultra-wide lens. That's far more impressive, at least on paper, than the single 11MP camera on the original Duo.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Microsoft will offer the Duo in two colors: glacier and a new obsidian black, the latter of which looked nice but got covered in fingerprints in my limited time with it. The phone feels far more substantial than the original, perhaps due to the extra weight. At 284 grams, it’s 0.07 pounds (34 grams) heavier than the original. I don't think it's heavy -- it just feels like a premium device.

It will come with Android 11, the latest release of Google's operating system. Microsoft is promising three years of updates and security fixes.

At 5.5 mm thick when it's open, Microsoft says this is the thinnest 5G phone, though it's 11 mm thick when it's closed. And now the cameras jut out, though that's not as big a deal as I expected. They're at a small angle, and yes, there’s a gap when you have the covers back to back. The lenses have a small rubber gasket protecting from damage, and it still felt decent, albeit a bit awkward, in the hand without them flush. 

There are also some serious quality of life improvements, including NFC for payments, Wi-Fi 6, better audio, and the fingerprint reader has moved onto the power button. There's also dual batteries adding up to 4,449 mAH and 23W fast charging.

Microsoft is also pushing this as, effectively, a gaming phone. The boost to 90 Hz displays makes games, whether local mobile games like Asphalt 9, which uses both screens at synced frame rates, or when using xCloud to stream console-grade games to a single display. The company is pushing 5G as a great way to stream movies and games to the Duo 2, though I could see that leading to some serious data overage charges. Microsoft is also listing the device as unlocked for all carriers.

There's also a new case you can use to magnetically attach the Surface Slim Pen or Slim Pen 2. The case also transfers power from the phone to the stylus, keeping it powered (There is no wireless charging for the phone, however.)

Otherwise, you'll still get a ton of Office 365 apps preinstalled, making it an ideal environment for Microsoft power users on the go.

We only had a short amount of time with the Duo 2, but it feels more premium than ever — far more like a premium device than the original did. The question, now, will be how it performs in the long term, and if more apps support a two-screen phone to make it a more useful device. The Surface Duo 2 is available for pre-order today, starting at $1,499.99, and will shop on October 21.

Microsoft's other announcements today include the Surface Laptop Studio, Surface Pro 8, Surface Go 3 and a Wi-Fi only version of the Surface Pro X.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon

  • cknobman
    At $1500 I think this is going to fail spectacularly.

    Microsoft does not have the customer base, popularity, or marketing prowess for pricing high like this similar to Samsung and Apple products.
  • mihen
    I'll buy it if it has Windows 11 on it instead of Android.