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  • (upbeat music)

  • - The Surface Duo.

  • Four years after Microsoft gave up entirely

  • on making its own Windows Phones,

  • it is back with this Android phone,

  • only this is trying to be a different kind of thing,

  • an entirely new kind of thing, not just a phone or a tablet.

  • See, Microsoft has a very, very big idea

  • it is trying to pull off

  • with this dual screen Android device,

  • this $1,400 Android device.

  • That is ultra flagship territory.

  • That is a big idea with a very big price tag,

  • which means that this is the big time Microsoft.

  • I hope you brought your A game.

  • (upbeat music)

  • All right. So what's this big idea?

  • "What's the big idea, Microsoft?"

  • Sorry.

  • The big idea is that Microsoft knows a thing or two

  • about how people use computers to be productive.

  • They've got that whole Office and Outlook and Windows thing,

  • but the insight that they have

  • is that the way we use our phones to be productive

  • has stagnated.

  • The thing that makes you productive at your desktop

  • is windows.

  • I mean the moveable boxes your apps go in,

  • not necessarily the operating system.

  • With windows, you could have

  • multiple things going on at once.

  • You can cross reference stuff and you can drag stuff

  • between your different apps.

  • But every attempt so far to make

  • something like that productivity system for phones

  • has been pretty bad.

  • So the Surface Duo tries to recreate

  • that sense of productivity through multitasking

  • by having two screens.

  • It's not a tablet, it's two phone apps side by side.

  • And instead of split screen,

  • like you might get on other phones or tablets,

  • the idea of side-by-side apps is built into this thing

  • at the core.

  • And it's a pretty good idea.

  • Microsoft just has to execute on it well

  • in both the hardware and the software.

  • Let's do the hardware first.

  • I'm not gonna say that Microsoft nailed it

  • with the execution,

  • but they came damn close.

  • Let's talk about the choices that Microsoft made

  • with the Surface Duo.

  • We can make it a game.

  • Good choice. Not so good choice.

  • It's a duo duel.

  • Good choice.

  • Make it thin, aggressively obsessively thin.

  • It's around 10 millimeters when it's closed.

  • And it is less than five millimeters thick when it's open.

  • Compare that to the chonk that is the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

  • I know they're different devices,

  • but still thin matters because it makes the Surface Duo

  • pocketable, light and something that's just a joy

  • to pick up and use.

  • Also, there's nothing on the outside when it's closed.

  • No camera, no screen, no little baby status screen, nothing.

  • And I dig that.

  • It shows intention and focus.

  • That's actually two things.

  • That's not how we play this game, but whatever.

  • Not so good choice.

  • These bezels around the screen.

  • They are huge and blah-blah-blah,

  • there's something to hold on to, blah.

  • But look, they're too big.

  • They should be smaller.

  • Now, I admit I'm not really that annoyed by them.

  • It's totally a fair 1st gen mulligan,

  • but they're dopey.

  • Good choice.

  • Can I just say that the Surface team at Microsoft

  • knows how to make a hinge.

  • It feels great.

  • It's firm throughout the full 360 degrees of motion,

  • it's solid without being stiff

  • and the gap between the two screens is there,

  • but it's not gigantic.

  • I mean, it's too gigantic to have one app

  • span across both screens without being dumb,

  • but that's not really what the Surface Duo is for.

  • Not so good thing, actually, terrible thing,

  • the camera.

  • It is 11 megapixels and it's awful.

  • Everything is muddy and lifeless and just bad bad bad.

  • Low light is bad, portrait is bad.

  • You should only use this camera for video conferencing,

  • which is actually super great

  • 'cause you could set the Duo up right here

  • and get this two screen setup,

  • but look, I get why the camera is so bad.

  • Microsoft had to keep the sensor small

  • to keep the device thin.

  • And you know what?

  • Camera hardware isn't everything,

  • but (exhales loudly)

  • Microsoft has a ton of catching up to do

  • when it comes to image processing.

  • Good choice, obsessing over materials and build quality.

  • It is glass front and back and inside with metal rails.

  • The fit and finish is just really good

  • though I can find a couple little uneven spots

  • to quibble with

  • if I look really closely.

  • Like for example, the white points on the screens

  • are just a little bit different.

  • The left one is a tiny bit pinker.

  • Now, this is really hard to show on video or photos,

  • but trust me, it's there.

  • Anyway, whatever.

  • Honestly, the screens do look good.

  • And they also will take input from a Surface Pen

  • if you've got one of those lying around.

  • Wait a minute, aren't you the good choice guy?

  • Why are you nitpicking the white point?

  • You know what?

  • Shut up. We don't have much practice with this thing.

  • (upbeat music)

  • Right. So really the truth here

  • is a lot of these choices are nuanced.

  • It's not just good or bad.

  • Take waiting so long to release it

  • that the specs ended up being out of date.

  • I'm actually not that mad about it.

  • I'm mostly fine with the specs.

  • Yes, it's last year's processor,

  • but it still feels fast.

  • Plus all that extra time that Microsoft spent

  • with a Snapdragon 855

  • meant that it could optimize some things like battery life.

  • The battery on this device

  • is a tiny little 3577 milliamp cells

  • split between two,

  • but I've been getting to the end of the day anyway

  • even when I'm using both screens.

  • I also don't care that it doesn't have 5G.

  • I think that by the time that missing 5G

  • is gonna give you a sad,

  • you'll probably be thinking about upgrading anyway.

  • Another mixed decision,

  • it is super wide even especially when it's folded in half.

  • This is a sign that Microsoft is trying to make

  • a new kind of thing and not just a phone.

  • You get more text

  • and it feels more like a window

  • you might see in your computer,

  • just a little tiny bit,

  • but it is awkward to hold in one hand.

  • You can't really use this thing with one hand,

  • but there is one just unforced hardware error in this thing.

  • It's the RAM.

  • There's 6 gigs, which is enough for Android,

  • but not quite enough to be doing two things at once

  • in a rock solid, reliable, zero freezy freezes kind of way.

  • And the whole point of the Surface Duo

  • is doing two things at once.

  • And again, this is the $1,400 Duo,

  • which has the same amount of RAM as a $350 Pixel 4A.

  • So from a spec perspective,

  • not a good value for the money this phone, like at all.

  • But at the end of the day,

  • I have to admit I'm really impressed

  • with the design and the quality of this hardware,

  • which brings us to software.

  • (upbeat music)

  • Okay. Here's the deal.

  • The Surface Duo is trying to be that new kind of device.

  • One that is built with multitasking in mind from the jump.

  • But most of the time you just have this simple system

  • where there is an app on each screen.

  • And just by itself,

  • that's useful and it's simpler than split-screen

  • on other phones.

  • There's also different postures

  • like I dunno, tent mode or whatever.

  • You can turn it vertically to get this

  • really gigantic keyboard, which is nice,

  • but spanning screens is mostly awkward.

  • Only a few apps are good when they're spanned

  • across both screens at once.

  • Microsoft's own apps or other apps like the Kindle app,

  • they're aware of that gap

  • and they do interesting things to work around it.

  • But really, the key thing to know here

  • is how multitasking works.

  • Microsoft's idea was to take Android

  • and make it natively feel like

  • it has a real multitasking system.

  • That's instead of what Samsung does with the Fold

  • where it has this extra multitasking layer on top of it.

  • The Surface Duo system feels more like an integrated whole.

  • That's both good and bad though.

  • See, everything is driven by swiping up,

  • but now swiping up does a lot of different things

  • depending on your context.

  • Sometimes it brings up the multitasking view.

  • Sometimes it goes home.

  • Sometimes it launches the app drawer.

  • Sometimes it flings the app over to the other screen

  • if you happen to swipe up at a certain angle.

  • Oh, and by the way, if you turn it vertically,

  • all of those up swipes are now sideswipes

  • because the little bar's over on this side now.

  • It takes some getting used to,

  • but when it works,

  • it does the thing, hassle-free multitasking

  • that makes you feel way more productive.

  • But also sometimes the software just freezes up for a second

  • or it lags when you're trying to input something.

  • So I just have to tell you that the original version

  • of the software that Microsoft shipped to reviewers

  • was so buggy and bad that it was unusable.

  • It was crashy and laggy and...

  • (exhales loudly)

  • But then Microsoft shipped an update to reviewers

  • that's also gonna come to all devices on launch day.

  • And it didn't fix all of the lags and the bugs,

  • but it did tamp them down enough

  • to finally make this thing really usable.

  • It helped, but the software, it still needs work.

  • So for example, take the camera.

  • If you wanna take a picture that isn't a selfie,

  • you need to switch the screen out to here,

  • which means you need to do a flip

  • and then maybe a double tap,

  • which only sometimes works.

  • Honestly, I missed more shots than I took

  • because I was faffing around trying to get the screen

  • to the other side.

  • Now, a lot of this is just that Android isn't designed

  • to work this way originally.

  • A lot of apps aren't designed to understand

  • that there could be a second screen

  • and the multitasking is something that Microsoft

  • had to build on its own.

  • So honestly, Google could do some work

  • to make this easier for Microsoft,

  • but you know what?

  • It's not Google's logo on the outside of the Surface Duo,

  • it's Microsoft's.