Skip to main content

Forget the Steam Deck — this modded Android phone is a gamer’s dream

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 is one of the most divisive devices out there. On one hand, its dual-screen design has won laurels, and there’s a very small bunch of loyal enthusiasts that swear by its productivity tricks. But there are a whole bunch of practical flaws with the camera, battery life, and UI departments that kept this phone-tablet hybrid from realizing its true potential.

Of course, a sky-high asking price didn’t do it any favors. However, one enthusiast has turned it into a handheld gaming machine with a few cool add-ons — and it honestly looks pretty incredible. On Reddit, one Surface Duo 2 owner (going by the username u/Sarspazzard) showcased their Frankenstein version of Microsoft’s doomed phone after giving it a glorious handheld gaming makeover.

Modified trim of Surface Duo 2
Sarspazzard / Reddit

One-half of the modified Surface Duo 2 has controller grips attached to it, hovering over the left and right triggers on the screen. Nestled between the handles at the back is a small power supply unit that is hooked up to an actual cooling fan sold by Black Shark, a Xiaomi-backed company from China that makes over-the-top gaming phones.

The fans are there to keep the device cool while gaming, but they didn’t offer much of a performance boost, according to our DIY champ. “I ran some Geekbench tests, and I only saw a bump of like 10 to15 points on single-core and multi-core with the cooler,” says the Surface Duo 2 owner.

Modified Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Sarspazzard / Reddit

The other half also has a dock, which enables passthrough charging. But more importantly, it allows the addition of an external storage solution like a thumb drive, which is key considering that the 128GB of onboard storage inside the device isn’t enough to store a lot of game files. Plus, the Surface Duo 2 doesn’t allow storage expansion via microSD card, so an external dock was the only recourse.

“These features are USEFUL to us. I’m talking about microSD support and 3.5mm headphones. There was no good reason to remove them in the first place,” the modder writes in one of the comments. Valid point there! But given the odd placement of the USB-C port on the Surface Duo 2, a 180-degree male-to-female USB-C was required to connect all that gear to the actual device.

Modified Surface Duo 2
Sarspazzard / Reddit

Apparently, the whole modification was done to play PC and console games with a layer of emulation on top. One half of the Surface Duo 2’s screen serves the actual game visuals, while the other half has the on-screen buttons and a pair of physical trigger pads hovering alongside the two top corners.

The mobile gaming segment is no stranger to such add-ons, as they really give an edge in games like Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG: Mobile. The best part of this gamified Surface Duo 2 is that it doesn’t require any specialized custom gear, as most of it is easily available from outlets like Amazon.

Modified Surface Duo 2 gaming rig
Sarspazzard / Reddit

The only apprehension is that the Surface Duo 2 was launched at $1,500, and even after the occasional price drops, the price only fell to around $1,000. That’s a steep price, and only worth it if you want to really push its computing prowess, gaming potential, or just need a keeper piece of tech memorabilia.

There are, of course, pitfalls with running emulated game files. The Surface Duo 2 modder warns that unplugging often crashes the game. If you really need to enjoy mobile games on a handheld, the new Razer Edge or Logitech G Cloud handheld are the best options out there. Otherwise, you will only find true handheld gaming nirvana in devices like the Steam Deck or the Nintendo Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
Microsoft atones with Surface Duo 2, adding 5G, Snapdragon 888, and triple camera
The Microsoft Duo 2 can accept Slim Pen input

At today's Surface event, Microsoft unveiled the second generation of its Surface Duo device, called the Microsoft Surface Duo 2. It's the "world's thinnest 5G device," according to Microsoft, which is quite a claim to make.

The updated hardware carries over a few aspects of the first edition including the ultra-slim build, dual screens, and a 360-degree hinge capable of all the postures of its predecessor. This generation bumps up every other specification to what you'd expect to see in a 2021 flagship.

Read more
Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 is coming with 5G and NFC
microsoft surface duo review  modes tent 2

Microsoft is holding a Surface event on Wednesday, September 22 that's expected to see the launch of a wide range of new devices. Alongside the Surface Pro 8, Surface Book 4, and other traditional Surface-branded products, the company is reportedly preparing a sequel to its first Android phone, the Surface Duo. A new set of FCC documents spotted by Windows Central confirm the addition of two missing features from the original Duo, 5G, and NFC. The documents also hint at the addition of wireless charging support and ultra-wideband for tracking accessories and enabling scenarios like Nearby Share.

Like with other FCC documents for pre-release products, the details are scarce. It's not clear if the Duo 2 will support Qi charging, for example. However, Windows Central speculates that the Duo could support some form of reverse wireless charging for the Surface Pen, noting that the Qi wireless charging coil could be too big to fit into a device like the Duo without running into hearing issues or increasing the thickness unreasonably.

Read more
Why Steam Deck doesn’t stack up to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on Android
A player using a Steam Deck on a couch.

The promise of handheld PC gaming has always been something of a siren's call for manufacturers. From the defunct Nvidia Shield Portable to Dell's prototype Alienware Concept UFO, and the profusion of Kickstarted vaporware products, many have tried over the years, and many have failed.

Valve is a more prominent name in the game in some ways, with Steam as the single biggest PC gaming platform in the world despite Epic's aspirations. It's only logical that the company would try to launch the Steam Deck, a Switch-like portable console that should be in the hands of gamers by December. But Valve hardly has the best track record with hardware, as anyone that purchased one of its Steam Machines, Steam Box, or Steam Controller can attest to.

Read more