OPINION: Microsoft has just announced the Surface Duo 2 and it is a huge upgrade over the lacklustre original.
The Duo 2 ups the chipset, places a greater focus on photography and adds in many features bizarrely missing from the original model including 5G, NFC and Qi wireless charging.
The Surface Duo 2 does indeed look like a great device and I have been a fan of the dual-screen design ever since Microsoft first announced it in 2019.
While Microsoft is happy to tout this as a productivity beast and a vessel for all those Teams meetings you likely hate, I see it more as a phone designed for gaming. A true Xbox phone, if you will.
Of course, the improvements to the chipset will make this far better for games installed from Google Play. The Snapdragon 888 might not be Qualcomm’s current flagship silicon, but it packs a punch and has a very capable GPU.
The way the Duo 2 is designed should help its gaming prowess, too. It has a whiff of the Nintendo DS about it thanks to the dual-screen setup and the bottom display is an ideal place to pop a touch control pad. During the announcement, Microsoft said it has partnered with Gameloft to make a number of titles, including Asphalt 9, properly optimised for the device.
But really, gaming on the Surface Duo 2 should all be about streaming. There’s a dedicated GamePass app included and Microsoft said many titles have support for touch controls. By pushing the controls down to the lower display, it means you’ve got the whole top 5.8-inch panel for the game without anything getting in the way.
You could also pair an actual game controller to the Duo 2 and use the tabletop mode to sit back and play GamePass games with a physical pad. It just all makes sense.
The Duo 2 also has 5G for faster, more reliable data connections and the displays are smoother at 90Hz. Both of these are very welcome additions for gamers, with the latter especially looking like a welcome upgrade if Microsoft decides to support streaming beyond 60fps.
I’ve used GamePass streaming on a number of phones and it’s truly a great service. But, no phone I have used it on looks to be as built for it as the Duo 2. The squat aspect ratio means there will likely be no black bars around the game, and the second panel gives you more room for controls.
What could the let device down though is the price, which at £1349/$1499 is very expensive and probably more than what most people would be willing to pay for a phone.
We’ll likely never get a true Xbox phone, but with the Duo 2 on the market I am not sure we really need one.