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 applying the Microsoft Area Duo, the firm’s


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

For nearly a month, I’ve been applying the Microsoft Area Duo, the firm’s initially Android-powered cellphone. We have by now lined the Duo in excellent detail, including a non-reviewers overview, from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley and another review from ZDNet’s Matthew Miller. 

I’ve attempted, numerous periods, now to do the job the Duo into my every day workflow. I’ve used it as my key cellphone for a few times, I’ve used it as a secondary unit for jotting notes with a Slim Area Pen, and ultimately, I’ve used it to keep track of Twitter or my inbox even though seeing Twitch or YouTube films. 

With the Duo, Microsoft took a novel technique to reimagine the smartphone. As a substitute of a black rectangular unit, like nearly each individual cellphone launched in the past 5 many years, Microsoft took two displays, place a hinge in between them, and lined the outdoors in glass. The Duo opens like a reserve, without an external screen to permit you know if you have ready messages, warn you when you might be having a call or even supply a glanceable clock to check out the time. 

You either open up the Duo and connect to the digital entire world, or you might be entirely cut off from the seemingly continual stream of info that pings typical phones in the course of the working day. 

I realized almost right away the Duo would not really do the job as a cellphone in the traditional sense. There are just far too numerous concessions — no entrance screen, the digital camera is mediocre at best, and the over-all sort aspect just feels awkward when applying it as a solitary monitor unit. 

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

I know, I know.
Microsoft by now announced the Neo

, a unit that appears to be like almost just like the Duo, only larger, and it operates Windows 10X. But past week, Microsoft removed the Neo’s solution page from its site altogether. We by now understood it was delayed, and that Microsoft was likely to concentrate its Windows 10X attempts on solitary monitor equipment before relocating on to the Neo, but getting rid of the listing completely would not bode nicely for an eventual launch. 

But again to the Duo. 


Wherever the Duo reveals the most likely is with multitasking and applying more than 1 application at a time. The truth that there’s a actual physical divide in between the two screens, as opposed to a foldable screen like the Galaxy Z Fold 2, forces you to be deliberate with what application or apps you have open up, and on which monitor, but the determination earning stops there. 

For case in point, on the iPad, it usually feels like an either-or unit. Both you might be applying 1 application at a time, in the default whole-monitor placing, or you use a shrunk-down variation of the application in slide in excess of, or you can use a break up-monitor perspective, which can then by itself be altered to several measurements. In flip, you might be compelled to make a ton of aware decisions about which application goes exactly where, and how a great deal monitor genuine estate does it warrant, or is it improved if this application is used in slide in excess of? Never get me incorrect, I like performing on the iPad, but its present-day multitasking set up wants to be refined. 

The Duo gets rid of some of those decisions and leaves you with a more organic experience of applying more than 1 application a time, with the versatility of folding the second screen again and applying a solitary application in a more compact set up. 

I was let down with the Area Pen encounter on the Duo, while. I really wished to use it to just take notes for the duration of meetings, but found myself having difficulties with errant scribbles thanks to palm rejection challenges. 


The software program, as a whole, is in need to have of quite a few enhancements. Even while the Duo reveals the likely for twin-monitor equipment and multitasking, it really is whole of bugs and usability challenges. Dragging apps from 1 monitor to the other, or attempting to develop it to just take in excess of both of those screens is not usually a smooth course of action. And Android’s gestures compete with Microsoft’s multitasking gestures at periods, this means you never really know if you might be likely to go again a monitor or open up the application switcher perspective. 

As I box up the Duo and wait to get my $1,five hundred again, I am remaining experience hopeful about the second or third era Duo. Microsoft has found a way to deliver the ease of pairing equipment like a Area Pen, and a seamless audio encounter with the Area Earbuds to a non-Windows unit, and it really is carrying out so with a entirely novel design. 

Ideally, we see a Duo+ in the near long term. Or, you know, that Neo unit we at the time read about.