Surface Duo vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2: Battle of the Flagship Foldable Phones

by birtanpublished on October 4, 2020

Hi i'm sasha segan from pcmag.com and i'm here to compare two of the hottest new folding phones i've got the microsoft surface duo here surface duo and the samsung galaxy z fold 2. let's take a look at how they're different in various different ways the z-fold 2 is narrower and that means that it's easier to hold up to your head when you're using it as a traditional telephone like this however it's also very heavy so i found that holding it up to my head for more than 10 or 15 minutes

Got uncomfortable my hand and my wrist got tired now the surface duo is even less appealing to hold up to your head because it's 3.7 inch width is uh quite a hand buster holding it up to my head i really do feel like i've got a tablet on my face ultimately you don't really want to use either of these for a long period of time in this posture now first of all you can see here that the surface duo

Is wider than the z-fold 2 but it's significantly thinner it's really amazing how thin the surface duo is now that said when the surface duo is closed there's nothing on the outside here it's protective this is glass but there's no way to see what's going on at all whereas the z-fold 2 is a completely usable smartphone even when it's closed all apps work on this external screen and for a lot of apps such as google maps for instance

Um if you uh load them on the external screen and then open the phone they then open bigger on the internal screen now there is a way to use the surface duo as if it were closed and that's to bend it all the way back into a single screen posture now you see here though that we have screens facing out on both sides these are protected glass screens but it's still a less protected posture than if it was closed now you could argue that the z-fold 2 is

Just as fragile because it's got a glass screen here and we have the camera glass on the back which anyone who's dropped one of these things knows is totally shatterable let's talk about cameras this is a way in which the z-fold 2 really just destroys the surface duo you've got a 10 megapixel selfie camera here you've got a 10 megapixel selfie camera here and you have three 12 megapixel cameras on the back

And they are regular ultra wide and zoom and so the result is that you have a lot of really good camera options on the z fold too and it's it's they're using samsung's advanced camera technology which has really good hdr decent digital zoom and just takes really good photos now another thing you can do that's pretty cool is that you can take selfies with the rear camera hey i'm looking at myself and that way i can use the main camera and the front screen

To take a selfie like that the surface duo on the other hand only has a single 11 megapixel camera which is on the inside and this camera is nowhere near as good as the z-fold 2's camera you can see here for instance that uh this camera is completely blown out in the bright areas the hdr on this uh surface duo's camera is nowhere near as good as on the z-fold 2's camera we also have the problem that if you want to use it as a primary camera

Outward facing you have to flip the phone into this posture and now you see that the uh you see that the viewfinder just flipped around well that's good but it doesn't always do that it can get pretty buggy and so as a result just flipping it out to take a picture quickly the way you can with this phone isn't as easy on the surface duo okay so how are these devices when you open them up well the surface duo opens up to have

Two 5.6 inch 5×4 screens which turn into an 8.1 inch 3×2 screen but as you can tell they are not a single screen there's an air gap between them and uh that means with this hinge that you can fold them back into a crazy range range of postures you can have a table tent you can have them completely flat you can have book mode you can have a single screen folded all the way back etc etc etc the z fold 2 has fewer postures but the single 7.6

Inch screen inside is a single screen and so now what that means in terms of the z-fold 2 is that you can open up individual applications like i was doing with google maps or like with the gallery oh hey here's that selfie i took earlier um and have them be convincing on a single big screen in a way that they aren't quite as convincing with the air gap in between the screens here i mean look at google maps

Here i'm going to drag it so it's on both screens and you see the air gap it's a little it's it's a little annoying in my experience and i know some people disagree but in my experience with the surface duo you really do want to open different things on the two different screens and that's how you want to use it so let's talk about multitasking the surface duo is all about multitasking that is why you're getting this device you're getting this device so you can do

Two different things on the two different screens and it comes with an option to do these app pairs that pop up different apps on the two different screens so that you can do two different things for instance you can surf with edge on one screen and take notes with onenote on another screen this is all pretty liberating if you have the kind of workflow where you want to do one thing over here and you want to look at something else over here

Now to increase your productivity the surface duo also works with the surface pen and so especially in say one note you can scribble or in a sketching or art program you can draw on the screen with a surface pen the z-fold 2 doesn't work with a pen samsung has a lot of great pen technology but just not on this phone so no pen and it generally opens up into one big screen now the way android works this uh means

That it's really wants to use one app as a big screen experience it's much less multitasking oriented now that said you can definitely multitask on it um but it's a multi-gesture situation where you have to do multiple taps to open apps in split screen view and then when you've got them in split screen view sometimes they can be a little bit janky because android split screen view is a little janky now i definitely know people who uh

Use their folds or use their large phones in the split screen view all the time but personally i think it's less easy and less compelling to do than just having two screens for two different apps the way you do here now let's also talk about custom app experiences there are some apps on the surface duo that are designed to work across both screens and they do really well mostly it's the microsoft apps so if i tap on onenote for instance and i cause onenote to span

Then i have my index on the left hand side and i have a note on the right hand side and that's really great i know if i went into kindle for instance i could have different pages of a book on the two sides of the screen so that's really neat um i wish it happened with more apps and of course that comes down to uh which manufact uh that comes down to which app developers are going to develop specifically for this device on the z-fold 2 your custom experiences

Largely have to do with which apps successfully transition from the outside screen to the inside screen and all the google apps do all the microsoft apps do a lot of third-party apps do um so that transitioning between a big screen experience and then a smaller screen experience here i'll wake it up i see it closed it but kept it state as it does in android but as i said that transitioning between a big screen experience and a smaller screen experience that's a lot of what the default 2 is about

Okay let's talk about networking which is something that i'm not necessarily going to show off here but i can tell you about because i've walked both of these around my neighborhood with various wireless carriers the surface duo has 4g and wi-fi five it uh it's 4g is very very good it works with lte on all three major us carriers and i just got great speeds and i got great performance on all three of the carriers with the surface duo

The z-fold 2 has 5g now that sounds great and up in the corner here i'm on 5g right now that sounds terrific right but as we found in my fastest mobile network study this year 5g in the us is not all that um first of all sometimes it isn't even 5g you see we've got the 5g icon right now but speed test is telling me i'm on lte which is a little trick that t-mobile pulls at t does that too but i also found that att's 5g is often slower than

4g so the 5g advantage on the c-fold 2 just makes it more future-proof than the surface duo it doesn't necessarily give you better lan speeds in the world right now now the z-fold 2 does have wi-fi 6 though and so if you have a wi-fi 6 router at home and you're in a complex wi-fi environment then you will find an advantage with the z-fold 2. now something else that isn't on the spec sheets but that kept bedeviling me is that this surface duo is very buggy the bluetooth is buggy

It keeps cutting out uh the camera is buggy uh getting it to fold into the outward facing camera posture is not a hundred percent it doesn't always happen uh scrolling can be janky uh it just had various bugs throughout my experience of it that caused me to get frustrated the z-fold 2 on the other hand relatively bug free this was a very smooth experience opening and closing it worked pretty much all the time uh much better smoother experience

So let's talk battery life this z-fold 2 big screen inside big battery samsung's power management software 11 and a half hours doing a video playback over wi-fi surface duo thinner lighter 9 hours 10 minutes so still okay just not as good as the battery life in the z-fold 2. now let's talk weird postures both of these phones can open up into this sort of l-shaped quasi-laptop mode and both of the companies have made sure that some software especially the camera

Operates in this mode now in terms of the uh in terms of the surface duo we have the camera up here and then we're showing photos i've taken on the bottom screen or i'm going to get rid of that because i want to show you uh let me get a keyboard up in one note up here so we've got one note up here a big keyboard on the bottom screen so that gives you sort of this tiny laptop feel to it z z-fold 2 calls this flex mode and you got to flex it with the camera

On top like this and so uh flex mode i've got camera up here i've got camera controls and results down here uh youtube also has flex mode on the z on the z fold too and i'll play a random music video for a second and you see video up here next videos down here what both of these have in common though is that not very many apps support those custom experiences the best you'll get is that most apps do support

Uh the keyboard being on the bottom on the surface duo and you notice when i picked it up it did a little bit of weird rotation and the keyboard moved itself in a way i didn't want to and that's one of my surface duo bugs basic specs and performance the z-fold 2 does outspec the surface duo we have a qualcomm 865 processor in here we have an 855 processor in the surface duo uh in my experience though that didn't necessarily mean visibly better performance the 865's advantage in the z-fold 2 seems to

Mostly have to do with being able to use 5g that said scrolling maybe a little jankier on the duo but i'm not convinced that's a processor it feels like it may just be software okay let's finish with price surface duo is 1399 or 14.99 z-fold 2 is 19.99 much more expensive but i feel like the z-fold 2 is a much more finished experience and when i was using both of these for several days the z-fold 2 was far less frustrating the problem with the surface duo

Isn't the hardware which is beautiful um although it's a little bit the fact that if you're using it a lot like this as you kind of do uh by default because you want to walk around you're out in the world to some extent you're using it one-handed 3.7 inches wide is trouble on the hand um but a lot of it was around the software bugs i experienced and you could say that yeah they'll fix the software bugs with updates but we don't know whether they will or whether they won't so at this time my big problem with not recommending the

Surface duo is that i don't know if they're gonna fix the bugs there's a lot of bugs they're frustrating i would like them to fix them keep an eye out maybe look at a more recent review if you're watching this six months from now the z-fold ii on the other hand feels like a finished experience um i was really happy to use this a lot with it closed uh just using it as a long skinny smartphone not needing to open it up at all and then when i opened it up i had

This beautiful big screen to do things on and that was really exciting and really useful and relatively flawless there aren't a lot of bugs here it feels like a finished experience it feels pleasurable and really easy to surf the internet on um and frankly i found more situations in which i would want to use a single big screen then situations in which i came up with uses to have two different things going at once

Because you don't want to use these two together as a single big screen the bezel really bothered me there so the surface duo super interesting concept beautiful hardware the idea of doing two things at once is very compelling and yet we do multitask a lot in our lives but right now as something that you spend your own money on right now the z-fold 2 is a lot more finished and the utility of the single big screen is a lot clearer so those are the two big folding phones

Out there right now uh the microsoft surface duo the samsung z-fold 2. thanks a lot for watching my video

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