Microsoft Surface Duo reviews

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/11/microsoft-surface-duo-reviews.html

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The form factor is intriguing, but perhaps something less ambitious, like an e-ink screen and embracing the book/notebook aspect? Then the trick would be to compensate for lesser functionality with instant on and doing just a couple of things right. Where both sides are readable, maybe.

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Having an interesting(or at least more aggressively focused in some direction than average, utility and validity of said direction sometimes questionable) design, admittedly good screen; and way too many goddamn bugs and quirks is exquisitely on-brand for a Surface device. Apparently that commitment is so strong that it manages to transcend operating systems.

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On a computer, having 2 screens means having additional real estate when arranging windows and doing work while multitasking. Little to nothing on phones or tablets is designed specifically with multitasking in mind. I don’t use my iPad’s multitasking features because I find them distracting. Much the same way I found Picture In Picture displays on old CRT TVs distracting.

I’m reminded of the Nintendo DS I owned years ago. The top screen was where the action happened and the bottom was almost always used for inventory/status/other static displays. If it weren’t for the fact that the bottom screen was touch sensitive, it would have been a waste. I’m sure there were games that utilized both screens equally effectively but I never came across any.

Spotify in the Surface Duo screenshot above is doing the same thing as the bottom screen in the Nintendo DS - just showing something relatively static that I don’t really need in the moment. If I DID need it in a moment, there’s a shortcut to get to it (Control Center on an iPhone, a pause menu on a game console).

I’m ignoring in all the above that many people pay attention to multiple screens all the time via using an ipad while watching TV or what have you. In those circumstances though the focus is very separate - it’s not two screens immediately next to one another fighting for focus. Unlike Picture in Picture its easy to divide attention between the two and hop from one to another at will. I guess you could watch a movie on one screen of the Duo while browsing twitter on the other but is it worth buying a single $1400 device for just that? When you probably have a TV, tablet, laptop, and phone already?

TL;DR: Developers may very well one day figure out a way to use a second phone/tablet screen effectively but for now it’s just a distracting gimmick that doesn’t seem to increase functionality.

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I can only think of two justifications for a two-screen phone/tablet like device:

  • Permanent virtual keyboard space. where the second screen is just always the keyboard / emojis/ control input device. This way the app size doesn’t get scrunched down when the keyboard comes up.

  • If the point was to be able to carry a larger display than would be possible - say, having a standard iPad that folded in half so you could stick it in your pocket. Having a minimal bezel (say a 1/8 inch or so) might be better than having a “folding screen” from a mechanical perspective, since you could still have a glass screen top. Obviously, hinge design would be a thing. This would want to look like a single display when deployed.

I agree with you that having two apps up on a cell phone or tablet right now seems a little pointless under most conditions. I mean, having an app that you are using for content creation and having an app that you are using for reference might be useful, but that is a very small use case for most people.

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They should call it the Microsoft Surface Poo-O

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The amount of commercials on Boing Boing is annoying and ridiculous!
And why do we have to get the stupid pop video teaser on every BB page we load?

I understand that money has to come from somewhere, but it is sad to see that a place like Boing Boing is having such a hard time to find a decent balance.

I find macos’s full screen mode to be frankly baffling. I use a 27 inch imac and I “feel” most productive. when I’m working with a PDF reader, a couple of web pages, and whatever I’m writing in-- be it an IDE or a word processor or an illustration tool. Two or more sources into a bricolage.

This sounds interesting but not $1400 interesting.

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Side question: do you use Spaces? Or any of MacOS’s built in ways of temporarily hiding windows/swapping active desktops?

I find them all as baffling as full screen.

This is embarrassing, but I don’t use an apple keyboard (preferring a mechanical), and I haven’t figured out how to assign function keys to activate spaces/ expose, etc.

Not embarrassing at all - I only ever activate it by accident and immediately curse out loud and fumble about trying to undo it.

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