Microsoft Surface Duo buyer’s guide: The info you need

Microsoft Surface Duo standing straight up 2

The Microsoft Surface Duo is official! The novel device features two displays that fold in on each other, creating a pseudo-foldable. It’s the first-ever product from Microsoft that runs the Android operating system.

Is it a really big phone? A teeny tiny laptop? Two phones that make a tablet? The jury is still out on how to define the Surface Duo, but it’s real and priced at $1,399 and available to buy today.

Related: Microsoft Surface Duo review: Prototype first, product second

Below, you’ll find everything we know about the Microsoft Surface Duo.

Microsoft Surface Duo: What is this thing?

Microsoft Surface Duo using opened and typing

The Microsoft Surface Duo is a dual-display computing device. It lands under Microsoft’s line of Surface products, which, up until now, featured laptops, tablets, and premium headphones.

Despite the company name attached to this device, this is not a Windows-powered tablet or phone. The Microsoft Surface Duo runs Android, making it the first commercial product from MS running the operating system.

This is the first Android-powered product from Microsoft.

As such, you will have access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store as soon as you power on the Surface Duo. However, most of those apps won’t be optimized for the Duo’s unique dual-screen format. They will all work, though.

Keep in mind that Microsoft won’t commit to calling the Surface Duo a phone. The device will make phone calls and perform most other smartphone functions, but the company would only commit to calling it a “Surface.” The most clarity Microsoft would give is this: it never said it wasn’t a phone. Take that however you feel is best.

Microsoft Surface Duo: Specs

  Microsoft Surface Duo
Displays Single: 5.6-inch AMOLED
1,800 x 1,350 (4:3 aspect ratio)

Dual: 8.1-inch AMOLED
2,700 x 1,800 (3:2 aspect ratio)

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 128GB or 256GB
UFS 3.0
No microSD card slot
Battery 3,577mAh dual battery
18W wired charging
No wireless charging
Camera 11MP sensor on interior (ƒ/2.0, 1.0μm)
84-degree FOV
HDR support
4K and 1080p video (30fps or 60fps)
HEVC and H.264 support
Audio Single speaker
Dual-mic with noise suppression

Supports aptX Adaptive codec

Connectivity Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
LTE: 4×4 MIMO, Cat.18 DL / Cat 5 UL, 5CA, LAA

FDD-LTE: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,14,19 20,25,26,28, 29,30,66
TD-LTE: 38,39,40,41,46,
WCDMA: 1,2,5,8
GSM/GPRS: GSM-850, E-GSM-900, DCS-1800, PCS-1900

SIM Physical Nano-Sim
Support for additional eSIM
(AT&T model only has Nano-SIM)
Security Physical side-mounted fingerprint sensor
No face unlock support
Colors Glacier
Dimensions/weight Open: 145.2 x 186.9 x 4.8mm
Closed: 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9mm

Two screens, many possibilities

Microsoft Surface Duo reading Kindle

Undoubtedly, the most defining characteristic of the Microsoft Surface Duo is its dual-display format. You can close the whole device up like a book which will protect the inner 5.6-inch displays while you carry it around. If you like, you can also swing open the whole thing 360-degrees so each display is back-to-back. You can also put it into a tent mode or just lay it flat.

If you want to run two apps simultaneously on each display, that’s possible. This would allow you to work on a spreadsheet while watching a TV show, for example. You can also fold it out like a little laptop and type on a virtual keyboard while leaving the top display clutter-free.

Related: I’ve been using a dual-screen laptop for months, and I don’t want to go back

There’s also an app continuity feature here. This allows you to push an app from one display to another as if it were one big tablet. Certain apps will also automatically format themselves depending on how you’re using the Surface Duo. As an example, you could be using Google Maps on one panel to find a local restaurant. When you tap to open the restaurant’s website, that will open on the second panel, leaving your viewing of Maps uninterrupted.

Finally, you might be wondering where the camera is. The rear panels of the Surface Duo are bare except for the Microsoft logo. The only camera is the front-facing selfie cam, which is embedded at the top of the interior right panel. This makes it ideal for selfies, obviously, but you can also fold the device so both displays are outward-facing and then spin the whole thing around. The back display will show the camera’s viewfinder, allowing you to operate it as you would a “normal” smartphone.

Competition and alternatives

Microsoft Surface Duo laying down

There hasn’t ever been something quite like the Microsoft Surface Duo. That being said, the product isn’t altogether revolutionary; there are other comparable devices on the market.

The phones that are most like the Surface Duo are the latest dual-screen devices from LG. The LG Velvet and the LG V60 both have optional secondary displays. However, this is obviously very different from the Surface Duo as you can still use the Velvet and the V60 as standalone normal phones. The dual-display abilities of those phones, though, are very similar to what the Surface Duo can do.

The Surface Duo isn’t a ‘true’ foldable phone, but that’s the market at which it appears to be aiming.

The recent spate of foldable phones — most notably from Samsung — are also similar to the Microsoft Surface Duo. The Surface Duo doesn’t feature foldable ultra-thin glass on the interior like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, but the concept of a phone-sized display that can swing out to become a tablet is the same across both lines.

Time will tell if LG’s approach, Samsung’s approach, or Microsoft’s approach is the winning formula for our post-smartphone future. For now, all we can do is commend Microsoft for trying something bold and fresh with the Surface Duo.

Where to buy the Microsoft Surface Duo

Microsoft Surface Duo closed in hand against backdrop

The Microsoft Surface Duo is available to buy today. It will cost $1,399 for the 128GB variant or you can grab the 256GB storage variant for an extra $100.

You can buy the Duo unlocked directly from or from a few third-party retail partners, such as Best Buy. The device will also eventually be available from AT&T in a locked state. AT&T appears to be the only carrier supporting the Surface Duo at the moment. If you are not an AT&T customer, you’ll need to get the unlocked version, which will work on all US-based networks.

Microsoft Duo Only for enthusiasts

Microsoft’s Surface Duo tries to take the road less traveled for foldable devices, but its buggy software and niche use cases mean it’s not yet ready for the mainstream.

Top Microsoft Surface Duo questions and answers

Q: Does the Microsoft Surface Duo support 5G?
A: No. The processor and modem inside the Duo do not allow for 5G connections. This is not something Microsoft could “turn on” with a later update, either. The Duo will be locked to 4G connections only.

Q: Does the Microsoft Surface Duo have a headphone jack?
A: No, there is no headphone jack on the Surface Duo. You will need to use Bluetooth headphones or USB-C wired headphones with the Duo.

Q: Does the Microsoft Surface Duo support wireless charging?
A: No, it doesn’t. It charges at a speed of 18W using a USB-C cable and the in-box power supply.

Q: Does the Microsoft Surface Duo have dual-SIM capabilities?
A: Technically, no. The unlocked variant of the Surface Duo supports both a physical Nano-SIM and a separate eSIM, but not two physical SIM cards. The AT&T variant of the Duo will not support eSIM.

Q: Does the Microsoft Surface Duo have a microSD card slot?
A: Unfortunately, the phone does not support expandable storage.

Q: What storage variants is the phone available in?
A: The phone comes in 128GB and 256GB variants. The storage is UFS 3.0, a faster type of storage.

Q: Does the device have stereo speakers?
A: No, the Microsoft Surface Duo has a single bottom-firing speaker.

Q: Can I use a stylus with the Microsoft Surface Duo?
A: Yes. The Surface Duo will support all in-market generations of Surface Slim Pen, Surface Pen, and Surface Hub 2 Pen. The Duo does not come with one of these devices, though.

Q: What colors is the Microsoft Surface Duo available in?
A: As of now, there appears to be only one color for the Duo: Glacier. It’s a grayish-white we’ve seen on other Surface products.

Q: Will there be protective cases for the Surface Duo?
A: The device will come with a “bumper” case that wraps around its edges. It will not protect the back panels. Third-party manufacturers could come up with better protective solutions soon, though.

Q: What’s in the box with the Microsoft Surface Duo?
A: When you open the box, you’ll find a Surface Duo, a bumper case, an 18W power supply, a USB-C cable, a SIM tool, and various pamphlets and paperwork.

Editor’s note: This Microsoft Surface Duo buyer’s guide is current as of September 2020. We will update it with new content regularly.

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