Microsoft Floor Duo assessment: Cool design, janky efficiency


Phones are like lifeboats, now. iPads ($285 at Back Market) and Chromebooks are school rooms. VR is my escape pod. Each gadget in my home has taken on a particular goal, connecting to varsities, work, and all over the place else in some type of insane clockwork dance. I decide my instruments fastidiously. Experimentation occurs, after all, however issues must work. That is the lifetime of gadgets in our overburdened virtualized world, 2020.

The Microsoft Surface Duo appears at first like the right little gadget for this new work-from-home world. Two screens as an alternative of 1. Additional house, extra apps. A cellphone that turns into a pill. (And sure, it is an actual cellphone with a SIM card and every part.) And it prices $1,400 (about £1,070 or AU$1,960). That is encouraging. Whereas I’ve by no means discovered dual-screen telephones interesting, the Floor Duo arrived promising a well-thought-out argument for being helpful.

From the surface it looked promising. I like the texture, the hinge. But when solely the expertise was nearly as good on the within. My time utilizing the Floor Duo has been a tough journey by way of what looks like not-fully-baked software program, and to date it most undoubtedly has not satisfied me of the worth of twin screens. Particularly, the sense of circulation that the Duo aspires to — that really feel of issues working effectively collectively, the gadget not getting in the way in which — hasn’t been there for me.

There are some issues the Duo does do effectively: Its really feel and form are compelling. It may possibly get up at a number of angles, which regular telephones cannot do. The bonus display can turn out to be useful as an additional assist at instances, though I discovered I wanted it lower than I might anticipated. (Scanning one thing like Twitter or Slack is useful, however multitasking with keyboard enter can get bizarre.) And if the twin display stuff will get irritating, effectively, it may be folded over and used as a single-screen cellphone. It is completely wonderful at that — however that is not why you’d get a Floor Duo, is it?

And, this Duo is arriving alongside the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, a costlier $2,000 (£1,799 or about AU$3,270) cellphone that is thicker, however has an almost seamless folding show (moderately than two hinged shows), a number of cameras, 5G, a greater processor, and extra RAM. I have never used the Z Fold 2, however my colleague Jessica Dolcourt did, and she or he beloved it. I do not know if I might just like the Z Fold 2 any higher than the Floor Duo, however The Z Fold 2 is Samsung’s second-year effort on folding telephones. The Floor Duo finally ends up seeming, by comparability, like an concept that might nonetheless use one other yr of fleshing out. However even when the Z Fold 2 by no means existed, I might nonetheless really feel dissatisfied with elements of the Floor Duo.

Here’s a abstract of my psychological state with this product: the 5 Phases of Duo Acceptance.

Stage 1: What a reasonably design

All glass, steel, a beautiful easy hinge. The Floor Duo’s form received me over and acquired me considering, hey, perhaps this dual-screen-folding-device future might work. It is not essentially futuristic, however oddly sensible? It looks like a e-book, or a mini laptop computer. Or a Nintendo 3DS. The scale appear correct and promising.

The shows are good: 5.6-inch, 1,800×1,350-pixel AMOLED, crisp and well-matched. Collectively they’re 8.1 inches diagonally, like an iPad Mini ($259 at Back Market).

I already surprise how I will maintain this, or shield it. There is a bumper within the field. It is strips of rubber. I do not need to put it on, however I do know I ought to. It’s going to assist with sliding round. I am anxious it’s going to glide proper out of my pocket and crash to the ground. (However as soon as I put that bumper on, it stays on.)

Twin-screen studying through the Floor Duo’s Kindle app is a excessive level, supplied you are not outdoors in vibrant mild (plenty of glare).


Scott Stein/CNET

Stage 2: Whoa, why is nothing working easily?

New units want particular steerage, magical help and superb tutorials. I take into consideration the Nintendo Switch, the original iPhone and the Oculus Quest: These are issues that push you out of your consolation zone, however attain out with magical instruments and software program and lure you in. I loved each step of the journey with these units. I felt like I used to be being transported. And that made me really feel comfy studying the brand new instruments wanted to adapt.

Microsoft’s Floor Duo wants these instruments, that distinctive software program, that particular contact. I do not see it right here but. I get a short tutorial explaining the swipes and gestures to maneuver round, and there are two units of sign-ins: one for my Microsoft app ecosystem, the opposite for Google and Android. This boots up like an Android cellphone, as a result of it’s an Android cellphone. Not the entire Android elements really feel prepared for the Microsoft Floor Duo elements.

The early software program on the Duo assessment unit I have been utilizing was generally so irritating, I needed to cease utilizing it. A more moderen replace prerelease has mounted a whole lot of the completely damaged points, however there is a persistent lagginess and drawback with display orientation that is throwing off the entire expertise for me. And once more, when all I need to do is open an app, or throw one app to a different display, or shut it up once more and make it single-screen, the Duo cannot sustain with me.

It could possibly be that it is nonetheless evolving to a brand new interface. Or I’m. By attempting to look like an on a regular basis cellphone instances two, the Duo finally ends up ducking among the greater interface questions I nonetheless have, however it does not actually resolve them.

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The tender keyboard shouldn’t be nice. It is usually not within the place I would like it to be.


Scott Stein/CNET

Stage 3: How do you utilize this, precisely?

I get the concept of a much bigger display you’ll be able to unfold or tuck into your pocket: That is the promise of a Galaxy Fold ($1,980 at Best Buy) or Z Flip. Two totally different screens recommend you may discover methods of constructing apps work collectively, and there aren’t many who play properly like this. Actually, it is simply Microsoft’s suite of apps, a few of which want a Microsoft 365 subscription to unlock all of the options.

The laggy really feel of my assessment Duo and its early software program, plus the bizarre interface, make navigation a critical problem. I attempt Slack and Gmail, which work collectively wonderful… till I get hamstrung by popping the keyboard up in a single window or one other and attempting to both thumb-swipe or flip the cellphone and sort.

Zoom works, and Zoom plus a browser or window to learn issues in is OK. However once more, any try to sort makes the keyboard fly up and both take over one app utterly or interrupt the circulation.

I preserve coming again to the keyboard as a result of that is my most important means of being productive: writing and taking notes. It is simply plain bizarre on the Floor Duo for the time being.

Among the multitasking circulation jogs my memory of a number of apps on the iPad, utilizing a little bit deal with on the underside to maneuver an app to 1 display or one other, or holding it over each to develop it out. A fast-launch dock of six apps on the underside of the display is supposed to assist, however I would like greater than six apps on the prepared. Discovering others in Android’s app drawers is not as handy.

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The Floor Duo can play video games throughout each screens, like Minescraft, however they don’t seem to be optimized and might get a little bit bizarre. (Comparability right here subsequent to the Nintendo 3DS XL)


Scott Stein/CNET

New units demand new software program: new video games or apps made particularly for that platform that then allow you to see the way it works and what makes it thrilling. The Floor Duo lacks these system-selling apps. Microsoft’s core apps nonetheless really feel buggy and peculiar on the Duo, and too limiting. I can drag textual content throughout apps, however not photos. I can jot down notes with a Floor Pen (which is not included, however needs to be), however it does not really feel like a common annotation software on Android. Apps do not at all times resize routinely. The shift from single to twin display hasn’t been magical in any respect. It has been a battle.

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The Floor Pen magnetically snaps onto the aspect of the Floor Duo, however does not come included with the cellphone.


Scott Stein/CNET

If the Duo got here with a smaller Floor Pen that slotted in someplace, just like the Notice, it might really feel extra like a little bit pocket book. If it might deal with Google’s core productiveness apps the identical means as Microsoft’s and helped handle each equally, it might really feel like a bridge between Home windows and Android. If it had higher and extra versatile cameras, it could possibly be a next-gen videoconferencing software for work and chat. However the Duo in its present type is none of these items. I additionally assume it is a disgrace it will possibly’t flip into one seamless, huge display. If it did that, I might watch films on it. Video viewing on the Duo means accepting a giant bar within the center, or massive bezels on every half of the glass. That is one space the place a single folding display has a bonus. 

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The digicam app and digicam on the Floor Duo are actually irritating and sluggish, too.


Scott Stein/CNET

Stage 4: I miss my outdated comfortable cellphone

When new units are this powerful to make use of, you cease utilizing them. The primary Apple Watch was so sluggish at opening apps that I simply went again to the iPhone as an alternative. If the Duo makes e-mail and Slack and Zoom weirder, I’d simply attain for a normal-feeling smartphone or pill or laptop computer as an alternative — which is what I have been doing.

Telephones are good at what they do. Most new telephones have superb cameras, optimized apps for practically every part and so they can zip between duties at speeds we take without any consideration. I respect them once more after seeing the hiccups on the Floor Duo. If the Floor Duo labored on the identical pace, I might find it irresistible. Perhaps a few of that’s software program that also wants work. Perhaps it is as a result of Google hasn’t made Android really dual-screen optimized but or Microsoft continues to be determining the way it needs to deal with dual-screen for its ecosystem. I believe it is all of those. I am discovering it exhausting to adapt, and the Duo is not serving to.

I ponder what the Duo would have been like with extra RAM or a sooner processor. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and 6GB of RAM appears underpowered for twin high-res shows, and it reveals. I additionally surprise about 5G, particularly in a yr the place most main flagship telephones are going that means. It is unclear how the Duo is usually a future cellphone when it leaves out the long run’s community.

However bleeding-edge tech is not at all times the trail to consolation. I take advantage of the units I take advantage of as a result of they work and I perceive them. Or, as a result of they’re so superb at what they do (just like the Oculus Quest) that I need to dive in and use them again and again.

The digicam on the Floor Duo (and there is just one) is okay. Positively not nice. It has been serviceable for Zoom, and has created some pictures and video clips that are not nearly as good as what I’ve come to anticipate. Picture stabilization for video appears notably jittery. Additionally, the corner-oriented digicam, whereas attempting to serve all Duo positions, is just too off-center for comfy Zooming whereas it is propped up — I at all times appear to be I am staring off to the aspect. 

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I would like the Floor Duo to be extra like a magic e-book. It is not there but.


Scott Stein/CNET

Stage 5: Accepting a sluggish highway to the long run

Telephones are clearly evolving. They’re already overpowered-everything machines which have outstripped their dimension. However rebuilding the cellphone is not straightforward. I see some logic to the book-tablet design Microsoft goes for right here. The shape and form make sense, however the pace and implementation and options do not. Yeah, that is $600 lower than a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, however it’s additionally left elements off that most likely ought to have been right here.

The right folding and dual-screen units could also be coming later. Google hasn’t solved for all of this in Android. Microsoft’s going to take one other shot at figuring it out on the Home windows-based Floor Neo subsequent yr. The thought is not going away, and identical to the primary large wave of smartphones, there shall be a lot extra experiments.

Microsoft is striving for one thing that simply hasn’t come collectively on this primary Duo. Perhaps it should with the subsequent one. Or perhaps, like experimental wearables which have fallen by the wayside, this shall be a second in time as effectively. I really like the concept of experimentation, however I do not like utilizing experiments that do not really feel good. And proper now, I do not see who the Duo is for. However in a yr, it would effectively be a greater resolution. I used to be satisfied by my conversations with Microsoft and it will be good if that ended up taking place. But it surely’s not but right here on the Floor Duo.

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btw, Microsoft’s Solitaire app appears to do effectively with dual-screen.


Scott Stein/CNET

Different notes

Yeah, it is also a cellphone

I did not even get into cellphone testing right here as a result of… effectively, I am at residence on a regular basis. Seeing how the Duo makes cellphone calls is not my focus once I’m already combating the interface. Calls appeared wonderful, however I can not but touch upon mobile energy and lack of 5G, since I am at residence. There’s 4×4 MIMO for larger energy, plus a bodily SIM and eSIM. I’ve a take a look at AT&T SIM I am utilizing.

Battery life appears to final for the day

The three,577-mAh twin battery is rated for 15.5 hours of video playback, and an 18-watt USB-C quick charger comes within the field. To date, it appears to hold in there for my wants. I am unsure what a full commuting practice journey away from residence could be like, as a result of I am at all times at residence now.

It does not have Wi-Fi 6

So, it does not have next-gen mobile or Wi-Fi. Nonetheless, the Wi-Fi appeared OK however generally fell out of my residence’s vary sooner than my iPhone or laptop computer did. I acquired speeds that match my 100-megabit price range FiOS connection.

It is available in 2 storage configurtions 

One at $1,400 with 128GB, and one at $1,500 with 256GB. There isn’t any expandable storage.

Some apps appear to hold, perhaps as a result of apps must be up to date 

Most Android apps functioned, however sometimes Minecraft, Netflix, and some others had points that both prompted playback weirdness or a scenario the place I could not swipe out of apps. Generally it looks like app contact zones and the OS’ swipe-away navigation prompted battle.

I just like the rubber bumper

It is ugly, however I might need to use it to guard the Duo. It provides grippiness and prevents it from sliding round.


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Hey, I'm Sunil Kumar professional blogger and Affiliate marketing. I like to gain every type of knowledge that's why I have done many courses in different fields like News, Business and Technology. I love thrills and travelling to new places and hills. My Favourite Tourist Place is Sikkim, India.

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