Microsoft Surface Duo hands-on: A titillating tech marvel

Microsoft surface duo
(Image credit: Future)

The Microsoft Surface Duo is a smartphone/tablet hybrid hiding in plain sight!

If you didn't know any better and spotted the Surface Duo on a desk, you'd likely assume that it's a tiny white notebook or a miniature white coin purse. I've seen the highly anticipated foldable flaunting its small footprint on leaked images and videos, but when Microsoft sent me a review unit to hold and feel for myself, its thin and slender form factor still amazed me.

Microsoft surface duo

(Image credit: Future)

The Microsoft Surface Duo design

Microsoft's Chief Product Officer Panos Panay was spot on when he said, "make no mistake — this product is a Surface" when the Duo was first unveiled in October of last year.

Microsoft surface duo

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The ivory-colored Surface Duo shares the same design DNA as its older siblings in the Microsoft Surface family, sporting a minimalist, bare-bones chassis. You'll find the familiar Microsoft logo stamped on the center of the device.

The Surface Duo fit snugly inside the back pocket of my jeans, and when I slipped the device inside the smallest compartment of my purse, I was impressed by how incredibly portable and compact the Duo is. It's perfect for mobile, on-the-go professionals.

Microsoft surface duo

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Its dimensions are 5.7 x 7.4 x 0.18 inches when opened and 5.7 x 3.6 x 0.4 inches when closed. The Surface Duo only weighs 0.5 pounds.

Microsoft Surface Duo modes

The Surface Duo is titillating tech titan with transformative talents — how's that for some alliteration! It can open up into book mode, which lets users access two apps simultaneously using the dual 5.6-inch displays.  

Microsoft surface duo book mode

Microsoft surface duo book mode (Image credit: Microsoft)

If you only want to focus on a single app, you can always opt for single-screen mode, which is also the best mode for taking calls.

When you lay the Duo flat on a surface, you'll be wowed by its unbelievably slim form factor, measuring 0.18 inches in thinness. In this orientation, the Duo transforms into an 8.1-inch display. While the chassis is fingerprint-resistant, the display (which is made of Gorilla Glass) is a fingerprint haven. You'll want to clean the display regularly or purchase a Surface Pen.

Microsoft surface duo compose mode

Microsoft surface duo compose mode (Image credit: Future)

Other modes include compose mode and tent mode, which are best for texting and watching media content, respectively.

Interesting tidbits about the Microsoft Surface Duo's hardware

During an August 11 virtual briefing, a Microsoft spokesperson delved into the Surface Duo's sturdy and revolutionary 360-degree hinge. The Surface Duo engineers wanted to develop a hinge that is fluid and effortless to open, but still maintains friction and the stability to stop at the user's desired position.

Microsoft surface duo compose mode

(Image credit: Future)

In order to accomplish this, the Surface Duo creators dialed in the gears with watch-like precision and routed 56 ultra-thin wires that are 0.021mm thick — which, by the way, is thinner than a hair strand — between the two displays. These ultra-thin wires also carry data, power and control signals.

This is the smallest hinge that Microsoft has ever created.

Microsoft also mentioned that they had to split the Surface Duo's motherboard. On top of that, the Surface Duo features a new dual-battery architecture that charges both halves independently, allowing Microsoft to construct the most dynamic mobile device the company has ever launched.

Microsoft Surface Duo

Microsoft Surface Duo (Image credit: Future)

The Microsoft Surface Duo features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of memory, up to 256GB of storage and it runs Android 10. The Redmond-based tech giant claims that the Surface Duo offers up to 15.5 hours of battery life (local video playback), but stay tuned for our upcoming full review of the Surface Duo to get our battery life results, which are closer to real-world usage.

The Surface Duo costs $1,399. It's currently available for pre-order and will hit store shelves on September 10.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!