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Microsoft is now rolling out firmware updates for its Surface Book 2 and Surface Pro X to patch security vulnerabilities, improve the overall experience, and resolve issues.
The update for Surface Book 2 is dated August 14, and it improves Windows Hello experience and fixes processor throttling. The firmware for Surface Pro X addresses security, improves system stability, and enables the Eye Contact feature. Both updates are available for devices running Windows 10 version 1903 or higher.
The following improvements are available for Surface Book 2:
Intel AVStream Camera 2500 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Intel Control Logic 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Intel CSI2 Host Controller 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Intel Imaging Signal Processor 2500 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Intel Microsoft Camera Front 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Intel Microsoft Camera IR 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Intel Microsoft Camera Rear 30.18305.6.12414: Improves the Windows Hello camera experience and resolves stability issues.
Surface UEFI Capsule 390.3279.768.0: Resolves an issue where the CPU will throttle down to .4GHz, and improves the Battery Smart Charging reliability.Surface Pro X firmware update
The following improvements are available for Surface Pro X:
Qualcomm System Manager Device 1.0.1080.0000: Addresses security updates and improves system stability.
Surface UEFI 3.517.140.0: Enables the Eye Contact feature, addresses security updates, and addresses display scale issues.
Qualcomm Hexagon 690 DSP 1.0.1130.0000: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Qualcomm Power Management 1.0.0980.0000: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Qualcomm Spectra 390 ISP 1.0.1120.0000: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Qualcomm System Manager Device 1.0.1120.0000: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Surface Camera AVStream Mini Driver 1.0.1120.2: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Surface Camera Front Sensor Driver Extension 1.0.1120.2: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Surface Camera Rear Sensor Driver Extension 1.0.1120.2: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Surface Pro X CDSP Subsystem Bus Device Extension 1.0.1160.0000: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Surface Pro X Power Engine Plug-in Device 1.0.1130.0000: Enables the Eye Contact feature.
Surface Camera Aux Sensor Driver Extension 1.0.1120.2: Enables the Eye Contact feature and resolves the Camera App crash.
Surface Integration Service Device 184.108.40.206: Improves the Power status UI.
Surface SMF 220.127.116.11: Improves device stability and performance.
Qualcomm Hexagon 690 DSP 1.0.1130.0000: Resolves blue screen error state.
Qualcomm Adreno 680 GPU 26.18.1180.0000: Resolves Edge performance scenario.
Surface Pro X Sensors Subsystem Bus Device Extension 1.0.710.2: Detection sensor improvement.Surface Pro 7 firmware update
In addition, the company also recently released a firmware update for its Surface Pro 7. The update is dated July 31, and it includes these changes:
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 160MHz – Network adapters 18.104.22.168: Improves power efficiency when waking from sleep.
Intel Smart Sound Technology (Intel SST) Audio Controller – System devices 10.24.00.3694: Improves power efficiency when waking from sleep and improves the Cortana experience.
Intel Smart Sound Technology (Intel SST) OED – System devices 10.24.00.3694: Improves power efficiency when waking from sleep and improves the Cortana experience.
Intel Wireless Bluetooth – Bluetooth 22.214.171.124: Versioning update to align RF channels.
Surface – Extension – 126.96.36.199: Improves Surface Dock 2 reliability during Wake On LAN scenarios and improves overall stability.
Surface Integration Service Device – System devices 188.8.131.52: Improves Surface Dock 2 reliability during authentication scenarios.
Surface System Aggregator – Firmware 184.108.40.206: Improves device reliability during low battery scenarios.
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Surface Book 3 vs iPad Pro: Which one is superior?
Surface Book 3 is a 2-in-1 device while iPad Pro (2023) is your typical tablet.
Surface Book offers computing power, while iPad Pro brings simplicity.
Our Microsoft Surface page is your go-to resource for everything related to tablets and laptops from Microsoft.
Head over to our Laptop hub for everything to do with buying, reviewing, and comparing the best Windows 10 laptops on the market
Considering the inherent build of Surface Book 3 and iPad Pro (2023), the two devices may seem to be worlds apart. The Surface is the hallmark of Microsoft’s 2-in-1 devices, while the iPad Pro symbolizes Apple’s dominance in game-changing innovation. Both are the most powerful gadgets so far in their respective product lines.
Still, making a Surface Book 3 vs Ipad Pro comparison is not necessarily a stretch, especially if you are considering replacing one with the other.Comparing Surface Book 3 vs iPad Pro
Comes with a 15” or 13.5” touchscreen
10th gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 chip
17.5-hour battery life
Assembly quality could be better
The Surface Book 3 model offers the option of a 15” or 13.5” touchscreen. You can get one with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, or Intel Iris Plus Graphics GPU. The graphics capabilities of the device suits higher-end gaming applications.
As far as processing speed is concerned, the device supports multiple options. The 15-inch version has a 10th gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 chip.
The 13-inch version offers a choice of a 10th gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 or a 10th gen Intel Core i5-1035G7 processor. Surface Book 3 15” has 17.5-hour battery life, while its smaller counterpart supports up to 15.5 hours of usage.
The device gives you the option of up to 2TB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. Regarding screen resolution, you can go with the 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI) or 3240 x 2160, (260 PPI) model. You also have multiple choices for RAM, including the version supporting up to 32GB of random access memory.
Also, Surface Book 3 can detach from the keyboard to function as a tablet.
A storage capacity of up to 1TB
6GB RAM, and it is powered by an A12Z Bionic chip
LED-backlit multi-touch tech
The speaker could be better
There are two variants of this gadget: iPad Pro 11-inch and iPad Pro 12.9-inch. They are similar in many ways, including storage capacity of up to 1TB. The device has a 6GB RAM, and its powered by an A12Z Bionic chip that boasts 64-bit architecture.
Resolution-wise, iPad Pro 12.9 offers 2732 x 2048 (264 PPI). The display utilizes LED-backlit multi-touch tech. It also uses oleophobic coating as an anti-fingerprint feature.Comparisons
Surface Book 3 has a bigger display than iPad pro (2023). It also has a superior resolution, which would be ideal for gaming or other scenarios that demand high levels of picture clarity.
The gadget has a longer battery life, compared to its rival, which supports up to 10 hours of typical usage.
Nonetheless, iPad Pro (2023) would be perfect for users who prefer the simplicity of a tablet. It also has superior cameras 12MP (wide) and 10MP (ultra wide). Surface Book 3 cameras have a lower resolution—5MP (front-facing) and 8MP (rear cam).
Of course, nothing beats the iPad when it comes to features like biometric scanning and facial recognition.
SpecsSurface Book 3 15″iPad Pro (2023) 12.9″
LED-backlit Multi‑Touch with IPS
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
ProcessorQuad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 A12Z Bionic chip
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-QN/A
The Surface Book 3 vs iPad Pro comparison is not easy to make since the two devices are somewhat different form factors. But if price and simplicity of use are important to you, the iPad would be ideal.
On the other hand, the Surface Book is an excellent option for tasks that demand higher computing power.
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If you want to set up and use Surface Dial, here is how you can do that. It lets you control Windows 11 and Windows 10 without any lag or hang. Here is everything you need to know about Surface Dial and how it works.
If you’re not familiar with Surface Dial – it’s a tool for the creative process that can be used to control Windows 11/10. It can be used to navigate menus, control volume, and other similar tasks. In this post, we will show you how to set up and use the device.
To use Surface Dial, your PC needs to have Bluetooth 4.0 LE. Surface Dial works on-screen with Surface Studio (1st Gen), Surface Studio 2, Surface Book 2, Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro (5th Gen), and Surface Pro 6. If you’re using another type of PC, use Surface Dial on a desk or other flat surface.How to set up and use Surface Dial
Do the following to set up Surface Dial-
Turn on Bluetooth.
Pull the bottom off your Surface Dial to open the battery compartment. Make sure there are two AAA batteries inside.
Remove the battery tab from the underside of your Surface Dial.
Press and hold the button by the batteries for 5-7 seconds, then let the button go. The Bluetooth light will flash – it’s opposite the button on the other side of the batteries.
Choose Surface Dial from the list of devices. Follow additional instructions if they appear, then select Done.
Remove the protective film from your Surface Dial.
You have now successfully set up Surface Dial and it’s ready for use!
How to use Surface Dial
Surface Dial helps you create in a way that’s natural and ergonomic, and, when you use Surface Pen with it, Surface Dial keeps you in the creative flow.
1) You can use it in the Windows Ink Workspace.
Do the following:
Open Sketchpad, and the Pens tool is automatically selected.
Rotate your Surface Dial to switch between pen, pencil, highlighter, and eraser.
Press and hold your Surface Dial to see other tools in the wheel menu.
Turn the dial left or right to highlight the tool you want to use.
To select it, press down and release, and then start drawing.
2) You can also use Surface Dial with apps.
Surface Dial works with apps that come with Windows 10, like Paint 3D, Groove Music, Microsoft Edge, and Maps. It also works with professional-grade software, like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
Here are just a few things of the things you can do with Surface Dial:
Scroll: Rotate left to scroll up, or right to scroll down.
Brightness: Rotate left to make the display less bright, or right to make it brighter.
Some other recommended apps that work great with Surface Dial and available on Microsoft Store are:
StaffPad.How do I set up Surface Dial in Photoshop?
To set up Surface Dial in Photoshop, you need to connect it first and open the Photoshop application. Then, you can use the brush icon and hit the dial button. Next, you can choose size, opacity and make other adjustments as per your requirements. For your information, it mainly works with Brush in Photoshop.Can you use the Surface Dial on any computer?
Yes, you can use Surface Dial on any computer to control most of the essential things. However, you must have at least Windows 10 Fall Creators Update or a later version. In simple terms, if you use Windows 11, you can certainly use it after connecting it via Bluetooth.
I hope you find this Surface Dial guide helpful!
Read: How to fix No Bootable Device on Surface
Fix Coming for Surface Pro 2 WiFi Slowdown Caused by Bluetooth
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In the past, we have reported about numerous other bugs and glitches that were affecting Surface Pro 2 users, like problems with the time which wasn’t updating or the fact that Microsoft has been shipping lately models with the wrong processor inside. But we’ve talked about good things, as well, like the recent firmware update which the Windows 8.1 tablet received in order to boost its battery. Now we’re talking about some annoying WiFi problems which have been reported by Surface Pro 2 owners who had Bluetooth turned on.
Read Also: Download Windows 8.1 Update User Guide as PDF
I have bluetooth wireless audio receiver from logitech which used to work great with my viao laptop, but when using it on my new surface the wifi connection goes really really slow (seems to me it’s not transmitting or receiving anything)! I’m very happy with my new Surface Pro 2 but since I have all my music on my Surface I find this a very annoying problem! Hopefully I gets fixed soon! Also some feedback whether this isssue is being investigated would be nice!
Somebody seems to be having this problem from fall, last year:
I recently purchased a 256G Surface Pro 2 and a docking station. I noticed very poor WIFI, it was only capable of downloading at around 3 MBs (megabytes per second) on my internal LAN. My laptop gets at least 3 times that speed at the same distance from my wireless router (about 6 ft). After doing a bit of searching, I noticed that a number of other people are complaining of similar issues. I discovered that if I turned off Bluetooth, the WIFI speed almost tripled. I have tried modifying the power settings for the WIFI, Bluetooth adapter and USB, installed the latest drivers and patches. The Bluetooth devices that I have are the Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition and the Surface Wireless Adapter for Type Covers. I can confirm I am running the latest .150 drivers. I’m really annoyed by this. I spend extra to get a Bluetooth LE mouse only to have it cripple the WIFI speed when I use it.
By looking to the official page with the Surface Pro 2 update history, we can see that some fixes have been put in place in March, 2014, which could solve these problems, or at least some of them. These include wireless network connectivity fixes for Wireless Network Controllers, but Bluetooth updates are missing. We will keep an eye on the page and let you know if and when the necessary fix takes place.
Read Also: Windows 8 Red Stripe Deals: Halo Spartan Assault, Note Anytime [#18]
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As a performance junkie, I’m less concerned about the security risks of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities—after all, there are no known exploits in use today—than I am about a performance hit from the fixes.
My sole experience with a fully updated platform so far is with Microsoft’s original Surface Book. It’s based on an Intel “Skylake” Core i7-6700U and has 16GB of LPDDR3 and a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro NVMe drive. The Surface Book is running the 64-bit Windows 10 Pro Fall Creator’s Update.
I basically drove the machine all week at CES, and on Friday morning when I fired it up at home, I found that Microsoft had pushed out two pairs of firmware updates that address the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.
I’ll admit, I’m still trying to play catch up on just what the hell is going on with Spectre and Meltdown, but this was a great opportunity to run before and after benchmarks on a production machine.
I know from reading Steve Walton’s write-up at TechSpot that the performance of games and most CPU-intensive apps doesn’t change. But Walton found storage read/write performance to be an issue, so this was my first point of investigation on the Surface Book. I started my tests with a not-yet-patched machine.Before the Spectre and Meltdown fix
CrystalDiskMark 5.5.0 performance results on a Microsoft Surface Book before being patched for Meltdown and Spectre.After the Spectre and Meltdown fix
Once I completed my tests, I was able to reboot the Surface Book and let the firmware patches install.
CDM 5.5.0 results on the Microsoft Surface Book once its been updated for the Spectre and Meltdown exploits.
Far worse, though, 4K read and write with high queue depth take a performance hit of 42 percent and 39 percent, respectively. Ouch.A more relatable scenario
Before Meltdown and Spectre patch in WebXPRT 2023.
Unpatched, I saw an overall score of 450. Once patched, the score dropped, though not substantially, to 433. That’s about 4 percent slower. Intel’s own findings with that same test show about a 10 percent reduction.
After Meltdown and Spectre patch in WebXPRT 2023.
So is the situation not as dire as the synthetic storage benchmarks make it out to be? Yes and no. We’re still very early in testing the patches, but it’s safe to assume that performance drops will be dependent on what you actually do with your machine.
Two sets of patches for the Surface Book address the Spectre and Meltdown exploits.
Even better, BAPCo has developed a method for testing where only the response time of an action is measured. In Word, for example, old-time benchmarks would type and perform actions in Word well beyond what even the fastest typist could ever hit.
But SYSMark 2014 SE measures the things that can truly annoy you, like how long it takes to start the application, or have it perform a search and replace, or import photos.
Intel’s tests on SYSMark 2014 SE mostly indicate about an 8 percent overall hit, but in the details for the System Responsiveness test (where you’d expect the storage performance to matter more), Intel says its seeing a 21 percent drop. Ouch.
We’ll try to independently verify Intel’s results on our own builds, but everything I’m seeing so far says the performance penalty will probably run the gamut from “no big deal” to “this is really testing my patience.” Again: It’ll come down to what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it.
If we’re talking an extra 500ms to launch an application that takes 1,500ms to launch, no big deal. But if we’re talking 34 seconds to import or copy photos instead of 27 seconds, it’s going to get annoying really fast and that’s what scares me.
Dual-screen experience is exemplary
Surprisingly good daytime shots
Very good battery life
Thick when folded back, surprisingly heavy when opened
Dual-screen design makes it awkward to shoot photos
Camera suffers in low light, portrait shots
Still buggyOur Verdict
Microsoft still believes in its dual-screen phone/tablet hybrid. Its vision is coming closer, but isn’t quite there. Hold out for the Surface Duo 3.Best Prices Today: Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Microsoft’s new Surface Duo 2 smartphone poses a problem.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that skepticism, and apply it with a fresh eye towards some key questions: Does the Surface Duo 2 succeed as part of the Windows ecosystem? How does it compare to other Android phones? Does it solve the issues that plagued the first Surface Duo? And can it work as both a traditional phone, as well as some new breed of productivity device? Customers certainly never saw the original Surface Duo as anything special, and it tanked. Microsoft saw dual screens and the way it integrated into the app ecosystem as the selling points. Customers expected a quality camera, NFC, 5G, and wireless recharging.
The Surface Duo 2 represents Microsoft’s attempt to reach a middle ground. Yes, it checks some of the boxes people asked for, but little more. The camera is just okay, there are still bugs, and the price tag is outrageous. But under certain conditions, it shines.
Camera bumps aren’t that unusual with modern smartphones, and Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 joins the club.
Mark Hachman / IDGSurface Duo 2 configurations and pricing
The Surface Duo 2 costs an astounding $1,499.99, minimum, for the base model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Two other versions are available: a 256GB SSD model ($1,599.99) and the top-of-the-line Surface Duo 2 with 512GB of storage, for $1,799.99. If you buy into the Microsoft ecosystem, you’ll be saving most storage-chewing photos and videos to the OneDrive cloud anyway, which means that anything above the base model is superfluous.
Microsoft also sells a Surface Do 2 bumper ($39.99), which we didn’t test, which surrounds the Duo 2’s edge and provides some basic protection. It appears that most third-party cases are going the same route, with the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 Riveter case ($89.95) from Otterbox adopting the same approach. If you’d like to ink on the Surface Duo 2, you can buy the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($129.99) and the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover (price not disclosed yet) which will grip and charge the Slim Pen 2. The real thumb in your eye is the $40 Surface Duo 2 charger. No, Microsoft does not ship a charger alongside the Surface Duo 2 (thanks, Apple) and you’ll pay extra for the plug. There is no wireless charging. A USB-C cable is thankfully included, though, and for free.
The Surface Duo 2 is a dual-SIM phone, but with one eSIM and one physical SIM slot.Surface Duo 2 basic features
Display: 5.8-inch AMOLED (1344×1892, 401 PPI, HDR, 90Hz, 800 nits max) (single screen); 8.3-inch AMOLED equivalent (2688×1892) (dual-screen equivalent); Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
Memory: 8GB LPDDR5 DRAM
Storage: 128/256/512GB (256GB as tested)
Camera, rear-facing: Wide: 12MPixel, f/1.7 aperture, 27 mm, 1.4µm, dual pixel phase-detection autofocus (PDAF) and optical image stabilization (OIS); Telephoto: 12MP, f/2.4 aperture, 51 mm, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2X optical zoom/10X digital zoom; Ultra-Wide: 16MP, f/2.2 aperture, 13 mm, 1.0µm, 110o diagonal field of view with distortion correction
Camera, user-facing: 12MP, f/2.0, 24 mm,1.0µm
Network: WiFi 6 (802.ax), Bluetooth 5.1
Wireless: 5G (mmWave, sub-6); LTE Bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48, 66, 71
Battery: 4449mAh (rated)
Dimensions: 5.72 x 7.26 x 0.21in. (5.5mm) (open); 5.72 x 3.63 x 0.43 in. (11.0mm) (closed)
Weight: 284g / 0.63lb
Operating system: Android 11
Optional accessories: Surface Duo 2 Bumper ($39.99); Surface Duo 23W USB-C Charger ($39.99); Surface Slim Pen 2 ($129.99); Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover
The Surface Duo 2’s book-like pair of screens is the phone’s selling point, and it’s the obvious place to begin. Unlike, say, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold devices, there’s a distinct gap between the two displays — these are two separate screens, which can fold closed like a book or else fold back along itself. With the original Duo, this was the only way to take a photo, as there was just a single camera. With the Surface Duo 2, Microsoft invested in a rear-facing three camera array. Unfortunately, that creates a fairly thick camera bump that prevents the Duo 2 from flattening out when folded back on itself. It doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on either the camera or phone, however.
Microsoft loves to tout the engineering behind its Surface hinges, and yes, the Surface Duo 2 lives up to its reputation. The Duo 2 can sit, cocked at a 90 degree angle, so that one screen can display an email app (Outlook appends a “Sent on Surface Duo” signature by default) and the other can project Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard. (SwiftKey seems to be the only keyboard option instead of Gboard.) This is a fantastic orientation for content consumption, as I found while streaming the MLB playoffs while cooking dinner. The 5.8-inch AMOLED screen is also excellent for playing streamed cloud games from Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass.
This landscape orientation is quite useful for streaming video and games, but a persistent gyroscope glitch means that the screens often get stuck in a portrait orientation in multiple scenarios. It also can be a bit top-heavy, too, with the camera bump.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Quite a bit of the Surface Duo 2’s utility boils down to one contradiction: The Surface Duo 2 is most effective when used with two screens. Ergonomically, however, it’s most comfortable when only using one. It simply isn’t that comfortable to hold the Duo 2 in the “book” orientation for a prolonged period, while navigating and interacting with content. Part of that is due to the edge. While the Surface Duo 2 isn’t that thin, there’s a sort of “palmability” aspect to it where the Duo 2 leans into your hands like the Surface Pro 8’s kickstand digs into your thighs. (The bumper may solve this.) You’ll notice the size and weight almost immediately. The camera bump tends to overbalance it in some scenarios, too. This is a relatively massive phone.
Physically, I suspect most people prefer to use a phone either one-handed (nearly impossible across both screens) or two-handed, with one hand holding the phone and the other swiping and touching. You can certainly fold the phone back along itself, though you’ll only be able to use the right-hand screen, as the left shuts off.
Of course, that also means that the only way to take a photo is with the Surface Duo 2 unfolded, making you look like one of those weirdos who take photos with their iPad. Yes, you can kind of cheat by holding the phone in landscape mode, so that it looks (well, sort of) that you’re taking a photo with an ordinary phone. There’s really no cool way to take a portrait photo with the Surface Duo 2.
While it’s awkward to shoot photos with the Surface Duo 2, the ability to review your recent shots is undoubtedly useful.
Mark Hachman / IDG
The 90Hz displays on the Surface Duo 2 feel like a nice compromise between battery-sucking high-refresh-rate displays and slower, laggier screens. Scrolling was generally smooth and lag-free.Is the Surface Duo 2 a successful productivity phone? Largely, yes
Those are the negatives. If the Surface Duo 2 does one thing right, it’s that working on dual screens — with certain apps, under certain conditions — is revelatory. The Duo 2 allows you to drag one app over another, “grouping” them. When the group is launched — say, an email app alongside your calendar — the arrangement makes perfect sense. Chatting with a friend on one screen while a playoff game streams on another? Fantastic…until you get carried away and rotate the phone into landscape mode. Then the Surface Duo 2 will put your chat app on the top screen and the keyboard on the other, hiding your stream until you compete your message.
Microsoft probably expects reviewers to gush a bit here about how well it all works. Let’s put it this way: If you can grok why a second monitor adds to your productivity, you intrinsically understand the Surface Duo 2’s core appeal. The Duo 2 is less effective when an app spans both screens: held like a book, the small gap between the displays is still a bit distracting. One app that Microsoft specifically included as a dual-screen demo — Asphalt 9: Legends — was supposed to span both screens, Nintendo DS-style, with controls on the lower screen and the main action taking place on the top screen while in landscape mode. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the app to span both screens. Otherwise, there was nothing that forced me to use spanned apps, so I didn’t.
The keyboard seems a little awkwardly crammed near the top for my tastes, and I prefer to still use my thumbs to type. Still, this is a PC-like phone.
Mark Hachman / IDG
I’m torn on the new Glance Bar, an edge-mounted notification bar vaguely like the 2014 Galaxy Note Edge. When closed, a sliver of the curved glass peeks out. Tap the power button (or just wait for a call) and a little icon will light up, showing you have a missed call. There’s really no discreet way to see who called or left a message, though, so you’ll still be forced to open your Duo 2 regardless.
The Surface Duo 2 glance bar offers minimal information.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Inking is surprisingly good. While the only ink-centric preloaded app on the Surface Duo 2 is OneNote, pairing with a Surface Slim Pen 2 was simple, palm rejection just worked without the need for any setup, and the ink jitter was minimal.
There’s also one other thing I really like about the Surface Duo 2: its surprisingly amazing fingerprint reader. The reader is built right into the tiny sliver that is the power button, and it consistently recognized me right away. Opening the Duo 2, brushing my finger across the power button and unlocking the phone/hiding notifications felt unexpectedly powerful for someone used to the “will it or won’t it” fingerprint reader on a Galaxy S20+.
Deadlines meant that I didn’t have too much time to play games on the Surface Duo 2, but the big screens certainly appeal to game players to that regard. Unfortunately, Microsoft claimed that games like Asphalt 9: Legends could be spanned across both screens; I simply couldn’t get that function to work, and Microsoft couldn’t offer any help.
Mark Hachman / IDG
There’s just one thing I’d like to see, and that’s for something to happen when I plugged the Surface Duo 2 into a Thunderbolt dock. For a company that tried and failed with Windows Phone’s Continuum five years ago, that’s a little disappointing. It leaves Samsung’s Dex as arguably the king of “your phone as your PC” implementations.Is the Surface Duo 2 the next Windows phone?
No, not really. Besides the multitude of preloaded Microsoft-authored Android apps — from Bing to OneNote to Outlook to To-Do to “Start” news, all of which can be downloaded on other Android phones — there’s little that explicitly screams “Windows.” Some apps (like the Surface app and Surface Audio, which connects to the Surface Headphones) are specific to the Surface Duo 2, however.
Supposedly Your Phone Companion works with the Surface Duo 2, but apparently not. What it should be showing here is the Duo 2’s screen, allowing remote access from a PC.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Honestly, you’d expect more from Microsoft in this regard.Does the Surface Duo 2 solve the problems of the first Surface Duo?
One of the problems reviewers and customers had with the first-generation Surface Duo was with the numerous bugs that cropped up. And yes, they’re still here. I experienced more than a few instances where the phone refused to switch from portrait to landscape mode. A camera app shot an image upside down because it refused to reorient itself. The SwiftKey keyboard lagged, and didn’t fill the screen in landscape mode. (The latter was probably a design choice.) The Surface Duo 2 kept popping up a message that I could switch an app from one screen to another by double-tapping, and then didn’t switch when I double-tapped. In the ESPN app, the app’s navigation buttons (“Scores,” “Watch,”, etc.) overlapped with the Duo 2’s navigation buttons, preventing me from interacting with the app’s navigation. (Locking and unlocking the Duo 2 solved that issue.) We mentioned the Your Phone Companion bug above.
To be fair, some of the phone’s problems can be fixed by simply understanding it better. The Surface Duo 2 runs Android 11, and I found gesture navigation — swiping up in various places to access either the app drawer or the running apps — to be astonishingly difficult. Switching the phone to use Android’s “soft buttons” at the bottom of the screen made a world of difference. You know how Android 11’s button navigation includes a “switch apps” button? Each screen has its own list of apps to switch between, which feels a bit odd.
A surprisingly useful tip is that swiping toward the center of the screen from the left or right edge is the equivalent of the “back” button, and allows you to navigate without readjusting your hands. It’s also fair to say that the dual screen can be also be understood as a “modality,” or simply another way to interact with data. It’s perfectly okay to use the Surface Duo 2 folded backwards on itself, then open it when necessary.
Yes, the Surface Duo now includes NFC, which worked with the Google GPay app. Weirdly, the Surface Duo seems to “lean” toward the right-hand screen, which houses the camera and tends to open apps by default. When using NFC, though, you tap the left-hand screen to the reader.How does the Surface Pro Duo 2 compare?
The lack of a decent camera probably sounded the death knell for the original Surface Duo. Without a decent camera, consumers simply won’t bother buying a new phone. With the first Surface Duo, there was just one camera, and the device had to be oriented appropriately to take selfies as well as normal photos. With the Duo 2, there’s finally a proper rear-facing camera.
Is it up to snuff? Yes and no. In daylight, the Surface Duo 2 surprised me with the quality of its pictures. Color balance tended towards cool (or blue), but the main camera and the wide-angle lens delivered results that satisfied me. Selfies looked fine, too. Portrait mode seemed really iffy, though, with the camera struggling to lock on to the subject with the camera oriented vertically. A 2X optical-zoom telephoto also doesn’t quite measure up to the 3X optical zoom on an iPhone 13 Pro (which also costs $500 less than the Surface Duo 2, by the way).
At night, though, the Surface Duo 2 falls way behind the competition — by years, probably. Microsoft told us that they had largely designed the image sensor itself, tapping its Finnish engineering corps that had helped design the Lumia line. It doesn’t really measure up.
In the photos below, you’ll see that the Surface Duo 2 takes perfectly fine photos outside, in broad daylight, as nearly all cameras do. It’s when you start asking more of it — in portrait mode and in low-light situations — where it simply falls short. In most cases, we shot the same scene as closely as we could with a Samsung Galaxy S20+, Samsung’s 2023 flagship (either $1,200 or $1,350, depending on the storage options) for the people who couldn’t afford a $1,400 S20 Ultra.
A daylight photo from the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) and the Surface Duo 2 (right) with no zoom. The Duo 2 tends to run a little cooler (bluer) in terms of its images.
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) compared to the Surface Duo 2 (right), cropped in at 259 percent zoom. The Duo 2 looks a little grainier, but otherwise both images look quite good.
Mark Hachman / IDG
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) compared to the Surface Duo 2 (right). Image edited to obscure the car’s license plate.
Using the image above as a reference, this is the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and its 30X “space” (digital) zoom (left) compared to the Surface Duo 2 (right) and its own 10X digital zoom. The Surface Duo 2’s zoom is a mishmash at extremes, losing a ton of detail.
Closeup (not macro) photo from the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) and the Surface Duo 2 (right). The Surface Duo 2’s photo is dimmer, but it’s sharper.
Portrait mode on the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) and on the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 (right). Infuriatingly, the Surface Duo 2 decides to invoke portrait mode about a third partway up the image. There are some weird, jaggy artifacts near the top of the pelican’s beak, too. Interestingly, these problems largely went away if portrait mode was used with the phone held horizontally in its landscape orientation.
Night mode on the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) and on the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 (right). The Galaxy clearly lets in more light, while the Surface Duo 2 blows out its light sources to try and compensate.
Night mode with flash on the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (left) and on the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 (right). What you don’t see here is that the Surface Duo 2 requires several seconds to take the photo, too.Performance is superb
With a phone that’s probably being used for productivity, web surfing, and streaming video first and foremost, it’s hard to argue that performance benchmarks will matter. Inside the Surface Duo 2 is a Snapdragon 888 5G, a processor that’s used in the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, among others. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S20+, my daily driver with a Snapdragon 865 processor inside, the Duo 2 still felt a bit laggier when navigating through the interface.
Battery life seems more than sufficient as well. I charged the Surface Duo 2 up the night before, let it idle all night, then used it for a day of photos and working out and about and in the office. It had about 20 percent left at the end of the day. Using the PCMark battery rundown test that constantly asks a phone to perform various tasks with the screen on, it lasted 9 hours 59 minutes before giving up the ghost. That’s very good. Quick charging, is only officially supported via the Surface Charger, sold separately.Conclusion: Cynicism is still justified
The old chestnut is that Microsoft is governed by the “rule of threes.” Like Windows 3.0, the third time’s the charm. We’d say the second time certainly isn’t, at least in the case of the Surface Duo 2.
Let’s face it: Some really, really big companies (Apple, Huawei, Samsung, Xiaomi) have spent very large amounts of money designing top-of-the-line cameras for their smartphones. Microsoft might hope that the Surface Duo 2’s camera is good enough, but it falls short in my book. In other areas — NFC and 5G — they’ve checked the boxes customers demanded.
Some of Microsoft’s old Lumia Windows Phones were good, and even great, but those were phones that few bought as Android and iOS took hold. The Surface Duo 2 accomplishes what Microsoft set out to achieve: Develop a productive dual-screen phablet-y device that absolutely works unlike anything else under certain scenarios. But it’s somewhat awkward, nerdy, and hugely expensive. And the bugs, still! I just can’t see Microsoft convincing smartphone buyers the way it can convince someone buying, say, a Surface Laptop Studio. On balance, the Surface Duo 2 still falls short.
Updated at 9:51 AM to clarify some details on how the Surface Duo 2 spans apps. Updated on Oct. 22 to note additional details about Your Phone and the “Phone Screen” feature.
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