Microsoft Surface Duo arrives in September with sky-high pricing

And users don't get 5G, NFC, or a Surface Pen

Credit: Microsoft

The Microsoft Surface Duo, the dual-screen smartphone unveiled last October, has brought good news and bad news for eager fans in a recent blog post. The good news is it will ship September 10. The bad news is it’s very expensive.

Microsoft will be charging US$1,399 for the base configuration of its dual-screen Duo with 128GB of storage (add $100 for 256GB). You’re not getting much for your money other than the pleasure of being first.

It has last year’s top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, just 6GB of RAM, a relatively small 3577mAh battery, and a single 11MP camera. It’s also quite heavy at 250 grams, and not all that pocketable at 145.2mm x 93.3mm x 9.9mm (versus 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra). It’s more like a tiny touch-screen laptop than a phone, though you can use it to make calls.

But with Android 10 onboard rather than Windows—even a heavily skinned and specified version—the Surface Duo's competition will be the latest luxury Android phones. On that note, the Duo costs more than the just-released $1,299 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, even though it has less-powerful specs.

The Surface Slim Pen, which seems central to the experience, costs extra and can't be stored on the device. The Duo also doesn’t support 5G, Wi-Fi 6, nor will it have an NFC chip for contactless payments. To start it will be limited to United States customers on AT&T and T-Mobile at launch.

Its design is certainly interesting, though. Rather than a true folding display, the Surface Duo opens to a pair of 1350x1800 AMOLED displays with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Together, they total 8.1 inches of screen space and work more like a multi-monitor desktop set-up than a single screen. For example, when you tap a link on one side, it’ll open on the other screen. It supports a variety of unique dual-screen features, including drag-and-drop and split-screen multitasking.

Structurally, the Surface Duo lacks an outer screen like the Galaxy Z, so you’ll need to open it up to use it. There’s a 360-degree hinge for folding it back like a Chromebook.

The folding future

While its concept might have seemed novel last year, the Surface Duo joins a growing lineup of folding phones, including the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Galaxy Z Flip, and Motorola Razr. Additionally, the LG Velvet has a Dual Screen accessory that turns it into a Surface Duo-like device with a second screen when opened.

However, Microsoft isn’t trying to compete with the folding Android phones of the world. Calling it “the next wave of mobile productivity,” Microsoft is touting the Surface Duo’s ability to switch between Android apps and Microsoft 365, as well as its strong security—the company says it wrote and reviewed “every line of firmware code in house”—as integral to the experience.

In an enterprise-oriented blog post, Microsoft also pointed out the Duo’s ability to integrate with Microsoft Intune for managing multiple devices through the cloud.

But even as an enterprise device, the Surface Duo has a steep mountain to climb. Considering you can get a Surface Pro 7 for under a thousand bucks, the Surface Duo is a pricey boutique device that doesn’t seem to be all that convenient.

Even if you can fit it in your pocket, you’ll need to open it to use it or even see who's calling. Its size and lack of an outer screen will make simple things like taking pictures more difficult than other phones. And it remains to be seen how well the Duo will process photos and videos compared to other Android phones, even single-camera ones like the Google Pixel 4a.

Microsoft has built a device that plays by its own rules, but it's breaking many of the conventions we take for granted along with way. 5G isn't a necessity yet, but it will be in a couple of years. In a post-Covid-19 world, not being able to use your phone to make payments is going to feel antiquated. And the lack of wireless charging in a $1,399 phone is a major bummer.

But one thing is clear: Microsoft is finally back in the phone game with the Surface Duo, and Windows and Android fans alike should take notice. Even if they don’t buy one right away.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoft

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Michael Simon

Michael Simon

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?