Behind the scenes on Surface Duo with Microsoft Mechanics
Published Sep 15 2020 10:51 AM 4,092 Views

For a detailed look at the internals and user experience of the new Microsoft Surface Duo, find out what sets it apart in the latest episode of Microsoft Mechanics. Vineet Thuvara, Senior Director of Program Management for the Surface team, joins host Jeremy Chapman to discuss how the team approached numerous design challenges in creating Surface's newest form factor.




It's the first dual-screen foldable device for Microsoft that combines the best of Surface's signature hardware design and Microsoft productivity experiences. It runs on top of an Android operating system, making it Microsoft's first Android device. And it's now available for purchase

“As an engineering team we set out to build Duo as the ultimate intersection of hardware and software experience,” says Vineet, a key member of the global team that came together to make Duo happen. “We wanted to build a device that could offer the perfect balance of productivity and mobility roughly within the footprint of your phone.” 


Multitasking comes to life

As Vineet explains, most of us multitask to get what we need done but the phone form factor with a single screen is not optimized for doing multiple things at once.


Our user research tells us what most of us already intuitively know: We can get more work done on two screens than one. And sure enough, multiple ergonomic studies confirm that it takes significantly less mental effort to multitask with the benefit of a dual screen. 


To optimize multitasking, Surface engineers set out to design a dual screen device that was foldable and compact enough to fit in your pocket while being capable of doing  everything a phone and a portable smart device can do and much more. The result is what you see today: All new postures that combine to deliver our signature productivity experience. Here are a few examples:


  • Drag and drop content between certain apps and span apps from one display to the next.
  • Join online meetings on one screen while taking notes on the other.   
  • Write on the Microsoft SwiftKey keyboard that spans across the screen to allow for comfortable two-hand typing or take notes across the full canvas with Surface pen on OneNote. With a combined 8.1-inch display, unfolded it is larger than the iPad mini.



By far one of the top engineering challenges was achieving the unfolded thickness of this device, which at 4.8 millimeters leaves very little space. If you subtract the display and the cover glass only about 3.7 millimeters is left for the internal componentry.


Dual screen internals

Putting a screen on both sides of the device essentially redefines the concept of a “front” or “back” of the device posing unique design challenges. For starters, Surface needed to find a way to synchronize two visually perfect displays to work as one.  To customize this dual topology architecture, engineers developed a single motherboard architecture distributed across both sides of the device that increased the density of the electronics while improving overall thermal performance.


All day battery

Dual screens require dual batteries, split into “asymmetric scales,” meaning engineers had to find a way to independently charge and “charge-balance” two cells. Surface Duo features left and right cells to independently power systems on either half while also functioning as a single battery to meet the demands of running multiple apps simultaneously. The result that sets it apart from many other mobile devices: An astounding 15.5 hours of local video playback. A fast charging 18-watt adapter lets you go from 5 to 50 percent charged in about 30 minutes.



Inside, Duo runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor optimized for dual screen productivity with 6 GB of RAM designed to meet the needs of demanding productivity-based experiences:

  • Wi-Fi connectivity supports speeds of up to 3.4 Gbps.
  • 4G LTE Advanced supports up to 1.2 Gbps download.
  • 150 Mbps uploads across most common frequency bands carrier connectivity.

360-degree hinge

Taking a page out of the design of other Surface devices (like Surface Book), Duo features a full friction 360-degree hinge leveraging four custom profile micros gears and 56 micro coax cables thinner than a human hair. The result is a solid and consistent experience whenever you pick up and use the device. The optimized torque profile ensures easy opening and folding while maintaining constant friction for 360 degrees. When holding the device straight, Surface Duo stays straight and does not flip-flop.





Defense in depth

Surface Duo defense in depth is built in by design. On the edge of the Duo you will find an enterprise grade biometric fingerprint sensor for multi-factor authentication. And what sets it apart even more is what's on the inside: A layered approach to security from the chip to the cloud.







Modern management

And of course, you can deploy and manage Surface Duo using Microsoft Endpoint Manager and Intune or your favorite MDM solution. You can take a lighter management approach by implementing app protection policies that don’t require users to enroll their own devices but still protect all your corporate data. Or choose a number of more highly managed configurations designed for company-owned devices all the way up to fully locked down, dedicated devices. 


Learn more


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