Microsoft pioneered the 2-in-1 PC with the introduction of the Surface. But heading into the future, the company is taking its most famous brand in an entirely new direction. For holiday 2020, Microsoft will be releasing not one, but two, foldable devices: The Surface Neo and Surface Duo.
We went hands-on with prototypes of both devices during Microsoft’s October 2 event in New York City and came away impressed. Both devices share the same a similar design, but there’s still quite a lot of differences between the two. Although not much is officially known about the devices, in this side by side comparison, we’ll give you a look at the design, performance, and portability of the two.
As we’ve mentioned before, the Surface Neo and Surface Duo share one common design element — foldability. Both devices feature what Microsoft calls a “revolutionary” 360-degree hinge, tucked inside a polished metal seam beneath the screen. The devices even share the same magnesium material all around on the outside, as seen from the rest of the Surface lineup. We found that it adds up to make both devices feel solid and sleek, with no notches or buttons to get in the way when holding it.
It’s also important to note that the screen itself isn’t folding, like with the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Instead, on both devices, two screens are connected together by that 360-degree hinge. Allowing for the devices to be completely folded over, similar to a modern 2-in-1 PC.
But the similarities end there. The Surface Neo is a much larger device, featuring two 9-inch screens that expand out to 13.1 inches when combined. Surface Neo, meanwhile, is meant to be a bit more portable, as it sports two 5.6-inch screens, which fold out to a total of 11.2 inches. Microsoft mentioned that Duo is just 0.19 inches thick. In our hands-on time, we noticed that only a volume button and a power button sit on the left side of Neo, adding to the overall sleekness of the device.
Moving on to performance, there’s quite a bit that separates Surface Neo and
Before proceeding, a significant point worth mentioning is that Microsoft stopped short of calling
Specifically, the prototype Duo device we were hands-on with is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. However, the software and Android OS wasn’t working for us to see. Instead, Microsoft demoed how apps like mail could be opened on both screens and dragged across or into split-screen across the hinges.
But, judging from photos of the device showcased during its reveal, it appears as though that
On the other side of the spectrum is the Surface Neo. This foldable device should perform a bit more like a traditional
Neo is also powered by Windows 10X, a variant of Windows Core OS, a new modular operating system from Microsoft. Microsoft spent quite some time demoing some features of the operating system showing how apps could span across the two screens, or move into a split view mode. However, it is still
In terms of portability, the
Surface Neo, meanwhile, is a bit larger and features room for some accessories. There’s a particular Bluetooth keyboard that can magnetically attach to the back or the front of the device. When folded over, it will enable a Wonder Bar on the bottom screen, which can be used as a secondary display, or as a trackpad. There’s also support for the new Surface Slim Pen, which magnetically attaches to the back of the device.
A final note on portability pertains to battery life, connectivity, and cameras. Microsoft has yet to mention battery life claims on either of the two devices. It’s also not clear what ports will be found on Surface Neo and Duo, but judging from photos, there does seem to be at least one USB-C port. Finally, Surface Chief Panos Panay recently hinted that the Surface Neo and Duo will not feature
Two experimental devices battling it out
The Surface Neo and
Microsoft has a clear advantage with the Neo, though. The company’s experience with smartphones hasn’t worked out in the past, which will give many people pause before throwing out their iPhone. The Neo, however, fits more neatly into Microsoft’s vision for 2-in-1 computing, and could be a nice secondary PC for travel. For now, we’d put our money on the success of the Neo before the Duo.
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