Microsoft Floor Duo’s dual-screen hinge design is already profitable me over

Product critiques are bizarre in 2020, and no gadget I’ve seen this 12 months has been weirder than the Microsoft Surface Duo. Microsoft’s return to telephones takes the type of a dual-screen, hinged, foldable Android gadget that appears like two tiny iPads bonded collectively. Its two 5.6-inch OLED screens type an 8.1-inch show, certain collectively by a singular hinge that Microsoft says has been in the works for years. It is 9.9 millimeters thick when closed, 4.8mm when open, weighs 8.Eight ounces (250 grams) and prices $1,200 for the beginning configuration, with 128GB of storage. Worldwide costs aren’t but out there, however $1,200 converts to about £920 or AU$1,700.

Learn extra: Unboxing Microsoft’s Surface Duo: Here’s what comes with the dual-screen phone

I have been skeptical about dual-screen units, and I wasn’t positive how I would really feel concerning the Floor Duo. Wannabe model of Samsung’s possibly even more expensive Galaxy Z Fold 2? (Here’s how the Surface Duo compares to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Motorola Razr.) Bizarre tiny dual-screened model of the Microsoft Surface tablet? One thing extra? 

Inside slightly white field in entrance of me is a gadget that appears like slightly e book. The Microsoft Home windows emblem is embossed on high. I open it, bending it a number of occasions. I really feel like I am holding a small Moleskine pocket book, fabricated from glass and steel. Inside? No shows. Simply circuitry by means of glass. This is not a working model of the Microsoft Surface Duo being unveiled right now. It is a particular see-through prototype despatched to me upfront simply so I can see the circuits and really feel how the hinge works. 

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Contained in the Microsoft Floor Duo: We did not use it, however…


I have not had an opportunity to make use of an precise working gadget but. As an alternative, I acquired this specifically made, see-through prototype. Sort of ridiculous. And but, even holding it, I am already falling in love with the texture of the factor. 

This sense is not new.


The see-through Floor Duo subsequent to a Nintendo 3DS XL, a dual-screen gadget my household has used quite a bit.

Scott Stein/CNET

I have been flawed on dual-screen units earlier than

Again in 2004, I keep in mind opening up an absurd two-screen gadget that I felt was positive to fail. It had a stylus. It promised twice the viewing space for entire new experiences. I assumed it was insane. It was the Nintendo DS, and I quickly realized it was much more wonderful than I anticipated.

I take into consideration that Nintendo DS each time I see a product with twin screens or folding screens. However I give it some thought essentially the most when holding a nonworking shell of the Floor Duo for the primary time. I’ve seen the Galaxy Fold, and the Moto Razr, and all the opposite dual-screen laptops and tablets that appear to be sprouting up like weeds. The Duo appears much more like a Nintendo DS or some kind of magic Moleskine. It is tiny. However not that tiny. It is dependent upon whether or not you are perceiving it as a pill, a cellphone or a cool digital e book.

Microsoft promised to reinvent the concept of dual-screen computing with the Surface Duo and Neo a 12 months in the past. The Surface Neo, which is able to boast two 9-inch screens, has been delayed till 2021. However the Duo is arriving in a number of weeks, ahead of anticipated, possibly proper alongside Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold replace, in the course of a pandemic 12 months the place everybody’s price range has collapsed and their want for devices has turn out to be much more sensible.

The Duo is a cellphone, however Microsoft clearly would not wish to name it a cellphone. Perhaps what Panos Panay, head of Microsoft’s units enterprise, instructed me and CNET editor Ian Sherr final week will change into true. Perhaps it truly is a brand new gadget class. 

Skeptical? Heck sure

I instructed my youngsters I used to be going to assessment a dual-screened, phone-slash-tablet factor from Microsoft. My oldest son appeared on the folding nonworking gadget and stated, “That is bizarre.” However my youngest son was completely into it. “Whoa, does that imply you may play two video games on the identical time?”

My oldest son says his youthful brother is an optimist whereas he is extra of a realist. It is also fascinating to listen to how two youngsters who by no means noticed a dual-screen factor moreover the Nintendo 3DS react to the concept within the first place. 

Microsoft’s purpose, right here, is clearly to make the entire concept make sense from a multitasking perspective, serving to to resolve issues on telephones which are already overburdened. I am going to say this a lot: Being stuck at home on infinite Zooms whereas making an attempt to work has made me extra conscious of the necessity for multidisplays than ever earlier than.

Here is what Microsoft’s proposition might imply for remodeling the foldable gadget house — an area that clearly hasn’t taken maintain but, however which Google, Microsoft and lots of different firms are attempting to compete in, utilizing bodily folding units and even wearable digital ones. Will an additional display remedy Microsoft’s cellphone issues, or will it evolve telephones into one thing many individuals may not even want? Or is Microsoft’s work on functioning, sensible dual-screen apps the kind of mandatory work these units wanted within the first place?

Microsoft Surface Duo

The Duo feels nice to carry, even with out screens.

Richard Peterson/CNET

2 screens: Are they higher than 1?

“Because it seems, it’d really feel acquainted, as a result of there’s this factor, it is known as Home windows,” Panay says about utilizing the two-screened Duo. “The thought the place I can now formally put two home windows subsequent to one another.” That is what the Duo expertise must be, in accordance with Panay: acquainted, not unusual. Or that is the hope.

In fact, the Floor Duo is operating Google’s Android software program, not Home windows. 

I hearken to this over a Microsoft Groups interview accomplished remotely, the place I additionally get a tour of a showroom inside Microsoft’s Constructing 87 — the identical constructing the place the Microsoft HoloLens was developed, and which I visited in particular person a 12 months in the past.

Microsoft’s Duo staff operates from analysis that claims two screens are extra productive than one, so Microsoft treats the twin screens like a conveyable pair of screens. However that is been the pitch we have heard from each different dual-screen phone- and tablet-maker. Microsoft’s angle is aiming to get these screens wanting as work-friendly as potential, and make the entire thing really feel straightforward and cozy to make use of. The shows are separate reasonably than folding. That is to permit for extra sturdy glass and to work with Microsoft Pen with out denting the display, in accordance with Microsoft Technical Fellow Steven Bathiche.


The 2 4:Three shows have some important high and backside bezels.


The 4:Three side ratio on the 2 5.6-inch OLED shows is supposed to deal with the work-friendly half. The thought is to make net pages and paperwork look readable with out bizarre reformatting, and evaluate to the identical work being accomplished on a laptop computer or pill. 

The 2 5.6-inch shows mix for an efficient 8.1 inches — I say efficient as a result of these two shows are nonetheless break up by slightly seam within the center. Panay says that dimension is wonderful for net shopping, however the clear seam within the center means it will not be excellent for large movies, essentially. For that motive, viewing massive films is not a part of Microsoft’s Duo pitch, though taking a look at movies on one display whereas doing one thing on the opposite undoubtedly is. 

One factor I discover fascinating about Duo is that it may possibly rise up simply at a ton of angles: At the least, the nonworking mannequin I held in my palms does. It appears like a tool I’d use to look at one thing on in a single display and take notes on in one other. Once more, form of 3DS-like. However that basically relies upon whether or not the ultimate product feels helpful or awkward.

Microsoft Surface Duo

Every half of the Duo has an accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor to sense place and hand apps off from display to display.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Apps will work, however not all be dual-screen optimized

Microsoft’s core productiveness apps — together with Outlook, Phrase and OneNote — work in dual-display modes and might acknowledge one another to permit info to be simply thrown between apps. That is much like the kind of drag-and-drop concepts which are being labored into the iPad’s dual-app multitasking modes. However different Android apps will not instantly get that additional stage of element.

Google’s core apps, which embody Gmail and Drive, will hopefully be optimized for the Duo quickly, however it’s unclear when. A couple of different third occasion apps are being courted to make Duo-optimized dual-screen Android variations, most notably Amazon’s Kindle app, which could have two-page studying. “The studying expertise is loopy,” Panay boasts. “It is like choosing up a e book — you flip a web page, it goes from the correct to the left, and also you simply fall into it. You fall in love.”

What number of others app-makers will come aboard? That is the problem with a brand new type and an working system Microsoft did not even create. The Duo, operating Android 10, is a kind of residing idea automotive for future dual-screen apps and units.


It is unclear what number of apps will optimize to make use of each shows (seen right here).


The twin-screen concepts and the way in which Microsoft handles them in apps will affect the place the Floor Neo goes subsequent 12 months. And it might have an effect on what future units select to give attention to, too. “Once we assemble these [dual-screen] APIs for builders, we do not simply need them on Duo,” Panay says. “When twin screens come, even on folding screens, we wish these APIs to circulate into Android so builders can construct for each dual-screen cellphone.” 

It is unclear, although, whether or not Google’s plans for dual-screened units will probably be in sync with Microsoft’s, or if this can be a momentary marriage of comfort earlier than the comparatively small group of dual-screened and folding phones possibly expands to a bigger scale subsequent 12 months.

“I am unable to let you know what Google’s engaged on,” Panay provides, “However I do consider that if firms wish to decide up dual-screen or transfer ahead, we’re setting groundwork foundationally for functions to develop, to rotate the correct manner, to span these screens to make use of each screens.”

Microsoft Surface Duo

There’s lots of stuff underneath the hood in a extremely skinny design on the Floor Duo. There is a break up battery and customized processors, however no 5G.

Scott Stein/CNET

No 5G, massive bezels: Sacrifices to get to dimension

I additionally get a transparent message from Microsoft that dimension, for the Floor Duo, has been all the things. Getting the Duo to a comfortable and compact type has meant leaving some options off. There is no 5G or Wi-Fi 6, as a result of in accordance with Pavan Davaluri, a 16-year Microsoft veteran and Floor engineer we spoke to, the battery efficiency is not at the moment there for the dimensions of the Duo. “There’s some basic issues in 5G that must come to life to have the ability to match right into a 4.8mm design,” Davaluri says. “That form of tech isn’t there but. It is one thing we’re actively engaged on.” 

Equally, the bigger bezels on the highest and backside of the Floor Duo shows, which clearly aren’t as edge-to-edge as different telephones, do not appear excellent both. It is much less display actual property for the dimensions. Davaluri admits this was a part of a compromise to suit the Duo’s battery and elements into such a skinny design. Microsoft targeted on show high quality, hinge mechanisms, gadget dimension and battery life over bezels and 5G. “Bezel optimization and 5G, for instance, within the grand scheme, I feel are solvable issues,” Davaluri provides.

Microsoft Surface Duo

Thinnest dual-screen folding gadget we have seen? Perhaps.

Richard Peterson/CNET

The Floor Duo actually does really feel skinny. The nonworking gadget I held is thinner, when opened, than an iPhone 11 Pro, which is 0.32 inches (8.1mm). Closed, it is thicker, however it would not really feel practically as cumbersome as a folded-up Samsung Galaxy Fold, which is 17.1mm thick when closed. And it would not really feel like two telephones glued collectively, both. It is extra book-like in its dimensions.

The all-glass back and front of the Duo look sharp, however the design was chosen to enhance antenna reception. Will the Duo be sturdy sufficient? The gadget makes use of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 throughout, however Microsoft would not give any claims on drop take a look at reliability. And as for the graceful, sturdy-feeling twin hinges, we’re instructed to count on “years” of use, however not a selected variety of folds it may possibly survive. “The Floor Duo hinge is designed and examined to operate nicely past the lifespan of the product,” Microsoft guarantees us.

It higher be good, and it higher final, as a result of a tool like this is not low-cost. Beginning at $1,399, it isn’t far off from different premium telephones — and extra approachable than the Galaxy Fold was at $2,000. But it surely’s some huge cash in a world the place you could possibly additionally purchase a cellphone and laptop computer mixed for significantly much less.

Microsoft Surface Duo

There are lots of wires operating by means of these hinges.

Scott Stein/CNET

2 screens, however simply 1 digicam

The Floor Duo would not appear to be about its digicam, which is a shock when nearly each different cellphone has many of them. There is a single 11-megapixel digicam on the within, which might turn out to be an exterior digicam if the Duo shows are flipped round. The digicam has some AI and a portrait mode, and might shoot 4K video at 30 and 60fps with HDR and slow-motion video. It would not have optical picture stabilization or any of the opposite step-up zoom and focus options you discover in different telephones. 

I do not know what the digicam will probably be like, however Microsoft is clearly downplaying it as a core function on the Floor Duo. And in a world that is extra camera-focused than ever, that looks like bizarre timing.


A selected instrument within the toolbox

Microsoft is not going for a one-gadget-that-does-everything method right here. As an alternative it means that this can be a gadget that may go well with some, however it’s not essentially for everybody. The thought of specialised devices is not new: Our lives are already flooded with sensible audio system, smartwatches, modular recreation consoles and tablets that always slide someplace between telephones and laptops. 

Panay appeared hesitant to name the Duo a brand new gadget class, as a result of it actually is not. It is an Android cellphone. Or, a pill. “It truly is 5 years of invention … we simply have a perception that there is a new class right here,” Panay provides. 

Microsoft’s argument is sensible, although, particularly as a software program developer who lives amongst units starting from iPads to recreation consoles to VR headsets. I am reminded, holding the Floor Duo, of the primary wearables earlier than smartwatches grew to become a factor, or the primary smartphones earlier than the iPhone, or early VR headsets earlier than Oculus. Twin display units have to nail down their id, nonetheless.

Microsoft Surface Duo

Pocket book, recreation console, cellphone, PC: how will the Duo be perceived and used?

Scott Stein/CNET

I additionally surprise: In a world the place screens could also be in all places and more and more digital by means of VR and AR headsets and glasses (or TVs and shows that may sync seamlessly together with your cellphone), what’s the objective of a dual-screen pocket gadget?

Steven Bathiche, a Microsoft Technical Fellow who heads the Utilized Sciences Group, has a farther-ranging view of the place units like Floor Duo match. “Every little thing is the very best for one thing and the worst for one thing else,” he instructed me from an area that appeared like his residence.

“I see a world the place we’ll simply have an increasing number of essentially specialised instruments that will help you get stuff accomplished,” Bathiche says. “However they will be linked by software program and thru the cloud to make them really feel like they work as one.”

For a corporation that additionally pushes into costly skilled instruments comparable to Microsoft’s $3,500 HoloLens mixed reality headset, it is unclear which prospects will probably be first to choose up a Floor Duo. However as an idea automotive to test-drive apps and construct out a street the place different units will comply with, it makes good sense. I simply do not know, but, if I’ll wish to hop aboard.

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Anil Kumar

Anil Kumar Gadgets writes for Review Tech smartphones, wearables, headphones and speakers based in Delhi for 360 Tech News. Anil Gadgets is a reviewer for 360 Tech News and has written in detail about smartphones, software updates and upcoming devices.

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