Microsoft Surface Duo 2: my first experiences

This week I got a wonderful package delivered to home as I got Surface Duo 2 for testing to few weeks. Unfortunately holiday season cuts the real testing time shorter than I hoped, so I thought I write my first experiences already out – and keep on using it after holidays. As tempting as it would be to use and experiment during holidays, it is the fact that I also really need to take a break. I will continue using, testing and experimenting with Duo 2after holidays until I have to send it back.. And it looks like I did write this as my 101th blog post for 2021.

This is not a tech review. There were big time improvements to Duo 2 since Duo 1 (read here my thoughts about Duo 1), like 5G, NFC, better camera, better hinge and many others. For someone looking for tech specs I recommend to take a look at the product site.

Yes, the Surface Duo 2 still looks cool and futuristic. I like the hinge-approach, despite it can cause some issues when utilizing both screens for videos or Whiteboarding. It is clear that you need to

  • Use two applications, powering productivity when you can simultaneously add notes or tasks while – for example – reading a document.
  • Use applications that understand that they run on a dual-screen device and can utilize it
  • Think new ways of working with the device and keep also the pen in mind

What I already found out very useful is to use the Duo 2 for reading. attending meetings and watching videos in landscape mode. In the reading you can use both screens to flow the text and read the content, and when watching videos or attending Teams meeting you can set the device on table and folding screen to good viewing angle – just like a mini laptop.

Or you can save space by folding the other screen below the device.

Of course you can view videos expanded to both screens, but in this case the hinge can cause issues – unless video has been (accidentally?) created to work on dual-screen device with hinge. This one was not.

But actually portions of this presentation video worked really well.

Attending Teams meeting worked a lot better, because Surface Duo 2 and Microsoft Teams are a very good match: spanning other attendee videos to multiple screens in both portrait and landscape mode. I did miss the ability to change my background though. Audio was spot on.

The slim pen is mighty

If you have a chance to try out Surface Duo 2 make sure you have Slim Pen 2 also in the use. It is a great pair and together help to take more out of mobile work. The pen works really nice with, for example Whiteboard application and you can use it like a real pen: you get thicker ink when pressing more and pen’s other end can be used as an eraser. Too bad the Whiteboard app doesn’t understand landscape mode on Duo 2, except when expanded to both screens, – it insists sticking to the portrait mode and it, frankly, makes the Whiteboard unusable if you use Duo 2 in landscape with two apps. The irony with the Whiteboard app is that if you expand it to both screens it forces itself to landscape mode – where it would be great to have tools on the left and more space to ink on the right. The experience is not any better on OnePlus 9 Pro either: turning phone to landscape doesn’t change Whiteboard orientation. This is something to keep in mind and hope that the Whiteboard app gets some updates to fix it.

There are other applications, for example OneNote, you can – and should – also use the pen with, but I didn’t experiment with them much yet. Using pen to write on OneNote is easy and you can either use the other end of the pen to erase text, or press down the button on pen side to erase without even taking your pen much off the screen.

I didn’t get pen cover to Surface Duo 2, but then pen came with a charging holder. Both pen and Duo 2 are USB-C charged, like all modern devices should.

Experimenting continues

Yes, the device is larger than my OnePlus 9 pro. It is notably wider, but a bit shorter. I don’t know how well you would go along with carrying this one in your pocket all the time – but it should be ok. Since the front cover screen

While most of my calls at work are Teams calls I am ancient enough to use phone also for calling now and then. It is also possible with Surface Duo 2, if you have a Sim (or eSim) installed. Microsoft has even a support page for that. It has more to it than just mere answer and decline buttons.

Thinking my usual scenario would be that the Duo 2 would be in my pocket and when I pick the call up I would have to use my both hands to open Duo slightly to see who is calling and if I want to talk I would open it fully. This is both cool and bad. Usability is much more complex and it takes more action to answer it. If the device is open or folded to screens visible it is just like on any other phone – but I would not keep Duo in my pocket screens folder to outside.

Usability changes thee instant if you use a Smart Watch to see who is calling without even taking the device out of pocket – and especially if you have a headset or earbuds on. Just like with all phones.

But since I didn’t put Sim to Duo yet, this is just me thinking how it would be used as the main phone.

Some things I noticed at this point: touch sensitivity isn’t as good as I have gotten used to. It feels like there is sometimes a bit of delay. This doesn’t happen always – not even nearly – but now and then. Typing in the virtual keyboard takes more time to be attuned to it than I had so far. Teams wasn’t as lightning fast to update as I recall it was with Duo 1. And yes, this device collects fingerprints like no other. The futuristic look lacks the fingerprint repellant feature. The “hinge-screen” is cool to look, but it doesn’t really provide me any value except as a futuristic cool touch.

I still see Duo as a great productivity device. With recent improvements on many areas I have to consider would my next mobile phone be actually Duo 2 (or 3, because most likely I won’t be getting a new mobile phone during 2022). I especially enjoy the large screen area when reading and reviewing documents. Teams meetings can be more fun to do on mobile with Duo 2 as well, because of the screen area. Watching videos / movies could be much more easier than using one-screen device, but hinge might be occasionally annoying. I would definitely do more and easily with Duo 2 than I do now with my single-screen phone. Using Teams on both screens is easier, going through mails and documents also would take a good benefit. Some of clumsiness might reduce my often occurring need to take out phone to check on something – and that would be a good thing in many ways. In this loan-timeframe I can not get full experience with it thought – I am not installing much personal apps there or even using my real Google account for syncing my information. My experiences on Duo 2 are focused purely on collaboration and ways of working.

I think Surface Duo 2 will be one of first devices that will run Mesh for Teams on mobile, bringing Metaverse everywhere. There are lots of games that could use Surface’s dual screen capability so immersive Metaverse meeting would surely follow that path.

I will be continuing my experimentation with Surface Duo 2 after the season’s break. Then I will have more meetings to attend, documents to review and tasks to complete. Meanwhile have a superb holidays and relaxing season’s time!

3 thoughts on “Microsoft Surface Duo 2: my first experiences

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