Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, which of these devices is the king of the fold? Microsoft launched several powerful new handheld products at the Surface event, including the next generation of its mobile lineup, the Microsoft Surface Duo 2. This is the successor to the much-criticized Surface Duo, which received negative reviews and weak sales due to problems with below-average hardware and software. With Duo 2, Microsoft took the criticism seriously and innovated with quality hardware and promises of an improved software experience.

The Duo 2 now joins other foldable phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, widely regarded as one of the best on the market in terms of performance and features, and the compact and easy-to-use Galaxy Z Flip 3. The Duo 2 and Fold 3 are similar in many ways, but there are some key differences, and Samsung generally has more experience when it comes to folding phone hardware. There’s also a price difference, with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 costing $300 more than the Duo 2. Keep reading to see our review of how they differ and which one is best.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Pricing and Availability

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 will be available in the US and UK on August 27, 2021, and in Australia on September 10. Prices start at $1,799 / £1,599 / AU$2,499 for the 256GB model, while $1,899 / £1,699 / AU$2,649 offers 512GB of storage.

Surface Duo became available on September 10, 2020 in the US and February 2021 in the UK. Prices started at $1,399 / £1,350 (about AU$1,930) for 128GB of internal storage, rising to $1,499 / £1,449 (about AU$2,080) for 256GB.

It’s already a bit cheaper than the Galaxy Z Fold3, and we’ve only seen the Surface Duo’s price drop since its launch. We saw the device reach $700 / £680 for the 128GB version and $750 / £730 for the 256GB variant.

Whatever happens in the next few sections, remember (SPOILER ALERT: It’s a pretty one-sided battle), remember that the Microsoft Surface Duo can be bought for less than half the money of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Duo 2

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Best Deals

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Specifications

Microsoft Surface Duo 2Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
SizeOpen: 145.2 x 184.5 x 5.5mm (5.71 x 7.26 x 0.22 inches) Closed: 145.2 x 92.1 x 11.0mm (5.71 x 3.62 x 0.43 inches)Unfolded: 128.1 x 158.2 x 6.4mm (5.04 x 6.22 x 0.25 inches) Folded: 67.1 x 158.2 x 16.0mm (2.64 x 6.22 x 0.63 inches)
Weight284 grams (10.01 ounces)271 grams (9.56 ounces)
Screen sizeOpen: 8.3-inch Dual PixelSense Fusion Display AMOLED (90Hz) Closed: 5.8-inch PixelSense Display AMOLEDMain: 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X (120Hz) Cover screen: 6.2-inch Super AMOLED 2X (120Hz)
Screen resolutionOpen: 2688 x 1892 (396 pixels per inch) Closed: 1344 x 1892 (401 ppi)Main: 2208 x 1768 pixels (374 ppi) Cover screen: 2268 x 832 pixels (387 ppi)
Operating systemAndroid 11Android 11 with One UI 3.1
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slotNoNo
Tap-to-pay servicesGoogle PaySamsung Pay, Google Pay
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 888Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM8GB12GB
CameraRear: 16-megapixel ultrawide, 12MP wide-angle, 12MP telephoto Front: 12MPRear main: 12MP ultrawide, 12MP wide-angle, and 12MP telephoto rear Front main screen: 4MP under-display Cover screen: 10MP
Video4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, slow motion at 240 fps, HDR4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps, HDR10+
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.1
PortsUSB-CUSB-C
Fingerprint sensorYes, side-mountedYes, side-mounted
Water resistanceNoIPX8
Battery4,449mAh dual battery Fast Charging with Microsoft Surface 23W USB-C4,400mAh Fast charging (25W, charger not included) Fast wireless charging (10W) Reverse wireless charging (4.5W)
App marketplaceGoogle Play StoreGoogle Play Store, Samsung Galaxy Store
Network supportAll major carriersAll major carriers
ColorsGlacier, Obsidian BlackMirror Purple, Mirror Black
Prices$1,500$1,800

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Design, display, and durability

Duo 2 and Fold 3 are nothing alike in design. Duo 2 essentially looks like its predecessor, with no bezel screen, a large, durable hinge between two separate monitors, and a design language similar to larger Surface devices like the Surface Pro 8 and Pro X. Instead of one overlay screen, you get the Glance Bar, a gap between the hinge that allows you to see the screen and provides color-coded notifications. The Fold 3, on the other hand, is like two Galaxy S21 phones fused into one display and comes with a 6.2-inch cover display that supports 120Hz. The external display offers extra usability that you just don’t get with Duo 2, which requires you to open it every time to interact with it.

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Separated by just half an inch of screen space, the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 offers an 8.3-inch Dual AMOLED display compared to the 7.6-inch Samsung offers when unfolded, but it’s worth noting that the Fold 3 has a screen that can be folded continuously (apart from the fold), while the Duo 2 still has the canvas divided by a frame in the middle and a large one on the sides. The Duo also comes with 401 pixels per inch (ppi) thanks to its high-definition AMOLED resolution of 2688 x 1892. However, regardless of when folded or when using the cover screen, the Fold 3 offers a bright and sharp AMOLED display for social media, games, and video. This display translates to a resolution of 2208 x 1768 or 374 ppi – which puts it on par with the Duo 2 in terms of resolution, despite some differences in pixel density.

Most importantly, it is the hinges that separate these smooth and elegant hinges. The Samsung Fold 3 offers a unique hinge for opening a 7.6-inch panel. It’s like night and day compared to Duo 2, which uses what it calls Revolutionary Articulation Technology for a full 360-degree turn. Keep in mind that this ultimate folding comes with a refresh rate – you can expect a 90Hz adaptive refresh rate on Duo compared to Samsung’s 120Hz adaptive rate. While you can’t tell the difference between the 60Hz and 90Hz refresh rates, you may be able to detect the difference when you reach those higher numbers, which can impact mobile gaming experiences. Our reviewer loved playing Genshin Impact on the big screen in Fold 3.

Both phones also feature Gorilla Glass Victus for extra durability, although Samsung only has it on the cover screen despite a more durable screen protector for the foldable screen. The only major difference is that Fold 3 is IPX8 water-resistant, while the Duo 2 still isn’t.

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Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Performance, Battery Life, And Charging

Both Duo 2 and Fold 3 have Samsung’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor, which was one of the major criticisms of the previous Duo, which had an older Snapdragon 855. No matter what, you’ll get 25% more CPU performance on either chipset and 35% more GPU performance. Duo 2 comes with 8GB of RAM compared to the 12GB you get with Fold 3, so you’ll be able to handle more intensive tasks and multitasking better on the latter, although much of this comes down to software optimization.

Charging and battery require hands-on testing, but the 4,449 mAh cell in Duo 2 looks promising. The Fold 3 had somewhat disappointing battery life despite a 4400 mAh cell, and our analysis showed that an overnight charge was needed for general daytime use, with over nine hours of run time in a battery test. The Surface Duo 2 claims 15.5 hours of local video playback and up to 28 hours of talk time, but it’s premature to estimate how this will translate to real-world use.

Fortunately, both models support fast charging and USB-C, but only Fold 3 supports wireless charging. The Duo 2 still needs the plug-in and joins the rest of the market by not including an adapter, so you’ll have to buy a 23 watt separately.

Winner: Draw

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Camera

Fold 3 offers a triple camera array with three 12MP cameras with wide-angle, telephoto, and ultra-wide-angle lenses, a 10MP cover camera, and a 4MP under-display selfie camera. The Duo 2, on the other hand, is 12MP wide, 12MP telephoto, and 16MP ultra-wide rear camera, plus a 12MP selfie camera. On paper, this looks very similar, and users will be able to get the zoom and ultra-wide photos that people have come to love. But Samsung has a much better track record of optimizing camera performance. Our initial testing of Fold 3 showed very good overall photographic capabilities and solid low-light performance, despite some challenges.

Microsoft claims that Duo 2 has vastly improved the camera’s performance and has revealed many sample photos to prove it. Most look pretty good, and in general, most modern smartphones do well in good lighting conditions, so the real test will be how well the sensors work in low light. Duo 2 can also record a 4K video at 30/60 fps, just like Fold 3.

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While we haven’t had much time to play around with Surface Duo 2’s camera systems yet, let’s rely on Samsung’s tried-and-true formula from here on out.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Software and connectivity

The software was the major downfall of the original Duo, with too many bugs and too little of the impeccable performance promised for multitasking and productivity. Microsoft has promised to rectify that for this model, saying consumers will finally get the performance they expect with the seamless switch between Book, Compose, and Tent modes. It should also be optimized for 150 out-of-the-box games so you can use the top screen for gaming and the bottom screen for control.

Fold 3 has many multitasking and productivity features, allowing you to run two apps side by side, launch apps together with App Pair, continue working from cover screen to unfolded screen with Continuity, and open up to three apps simultaneously in customizable windows. Samsung also has a better track record when it comes to folding software, consider this the third generation of their devices.

Updates are more difficult to assess. If you’re worried about missing out on the latest software, don’t worry about either of these models: both run on the Android 11 operating system and are guaranteed to get Android 12. The question is simple: when? Samsung’s track record is strong and while the company hasn’t always been the fastest to update, it’s getting faster and faster and covering more devices. Microsoft is much less tested in this area and while we’re sure we’ll see a lot of updates to the Duo 2, Microsoft just doesn’t have the record that Samsung has, so we’ll give that to Samsung for now.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Special Features

Both Duo 2 and Fold 3 come with 5G connectivity. This isn’t a huge issue for Samsung, but it was a major omission in the original Duo, so it’s good to see it fixed. Other connectivity protocols are virtually identical, including the latest version of Bluetooth and NFC for contactless payments. Samsung also has the advantage of releasing more devices with larger screens, and you can take advantage of that large, continuous screen in a way that’s more difficult with Surface Duo 2’s screens.

What about accessory support? Duo 2 is compatible with Surface Slim Pen 2 and this pen can be charged while on the device. Fold 3 is compatible with the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro, so you can draw, write and take notes – but the downside is that you can’t snap it into the device unless you have a compatible case.

Winner: Draw

Overall Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

While impressed with the improvements Microsoft has made to Duo 2, including the best processor, 5G connectivity, and 90Hz display, Fold 3 has a lot more to offer in terms of refresh rate, software history, and overall design. It also has some key features for today’s phone such as wireless charging and water resistance. If you want a trailer tent you can rely on, we recommend Samsung.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Conclusion

In an emerging foldable phone market, but sparsely populated, Samsung is the undisputed king. It’s the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the most capable and fully rounded hybrid smartphone-tablet on the market, with Microsoft’s older Surface Duo, similar to a prototype, unable to compete in many ways.

However, it is not a full lime. Surface Duo has a sleeker, more tactile design and is significantly more affordable these days. We also like elements of the dual-screen approach, especially when it comes to running two apps side by side.

But the Galaxy Z Fold 3 outperforms its opponent in most areas. It’s much more powerful, offers smoother screens, is a bit more robust, and has a much more capable camera system.

Plus, with Samsung, you also get 5G connectivity and wireless charging – none of that can be found on Microsoft’s foldable device.

In some ways, this doesn’t seem like a fair fight, and the real test will come when Microsoft releases its second-generation folding. For now, though, Samsung is safely installed as the interim king of the foldable form factor.

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