Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 phone tries to fix the original's problems

The ongoing support will be a crucial factor, however.

Credit: Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft’s original Surface Duo folding phone designed in some serious flaws. The Surface Duo 2, to its credit, appears to have at least addressed them.

When Microsoft launched the Surface Duo folding phone a year ago, Microsoft executives preceded it with a gauzy veil of hype that concealed the many flaws reviewers noted: a poor camera, a lack of NFC and 5G, a subsequently poor track record of patches and updates, and an interface whose bugs made the dual-screen interface painful to use.

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 will cost US$1,499.99 / AU$2,319 on up, with shipments starting October 21. The price is comparable to Microsoft’s earlier Surface Duo. Can the new phone fix the flaws of the first? On paper, it takes a good first step.

Microsoft surface duo 2 folded on desk Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 phone, perched on a desk.

For one, Microsoft now offers a three-camera bump on the back of the Surface Duo 2: a 12 megapixel f/1.7 wide angle camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), a 12Mpixel f/2.4 telephoto OIS lens, and a 16Mpixel, f/2.2 ultrawide. Digital zoom will go up to 10X, Microsoft says, and video can be recorded at up to 4K/60. The selfie camera—the only camera on the original Surface Duo—shoots 12Mpixel photos at f/2.0.

Microsoft has a fantastic legacy of cameras on its Lumia lineup, but it’s likely at least some of the talent left when Microsoft killed off Windows Phones. A few test shots when we got a brief hands-on with the Surface Duo didn’t tell us much. On paper, at least, there’s a dedicated night mode, which will have to go a long way to keep up with AI photography in cameras like the Google Pixel lineup and others.

The Surface Duo 2 also launches with 5G capabilities and NFC. The latter may have been a curiosity pre-pandemic, but early concerns about the transmissibility of the coronavirus via touch made hands-free everything, including payments, a must-have. Bluetooth 5.1 and 802.11ax appear here, too.

Microsoft surface duo 2 glance screen Mark Hachman / IDG

There’s a new “glance screen” on the Surface Duo 2 that uses the curved edge to display information about calls and messages.

The questions here will be in what we don’t see on paper. Yes, the Surface Duo 2 ships with Android 11, a noted omission in the Surface Duo. (Reports say that the original Surface Duo will be upgraded to Android 11 this fall.) But the real problems with the Surface Duo 2 were in how apps flowed from screen to screen, how they correctly oriented, how apps spanned screens, and so on. We had about two minutes to play with the Surface Duo 2, and that’s not nearly enough to tell.

The fundamental advantages of the Surface Duo 2 haven’t gone away. The ability to interact with one app on one screen (the Duo 2 has larger 5.8-inch AMOLED screens at 1344x1892, or 401 PPI) and a second app on another is a key advantage that the Surface Duo 1 and 2 offers compared to most phones. There’s even a new glance screen feature, which uses the curved edge of the glass on the edge of the device to signal an incoming call, with a glowing colored bar that signals new messages await.

Surface Duo 2 configurations will include 128GB (US$1,499 / AU$2.319), 256GB (US$1,599 / AU$TBA) and 512GB (US$1,799 / AU$TBA) price points. Interestingly, while every other Surface Microsoft announced (the Surface Laptop Studio, the Surface Pro 8, and others) lists a ship date of October 5, Microsoft is launching the Surface Duo 2 on Oct. 21 in the US and UK and Australia. Apparently Microsoft is building in some extra time to get it right.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?