The Surface Duo could evolve into the Xbox ‘Nintendo DS’ we never had
I have already written about my desire for an Xbox handheld. In a world where Nintendo Switch has emerged as one of the most dominant consoles, you have to wonder if Microsoft is thinking about how best to serve Xbox gamers on the go. The vehicle, without a doubt, will be Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Cloud Gaming, which brings you dozens of games that you can access on low-power tablets, phones and PCs.
When it comes to hardware, however, the experience isn’t the most user-friendly. If we don’t take into account that you need a stable internet connection, which is often not possible, the options we currently have for playing on mobile devices are not the best for a variety of reasons. While attachments like the Razer Kishi and GameSir X2 bridge the ergonomic gap, gaming on a phone in general can be a cramped experience. Phone calls and notifications can interrupt the fun. Screen usage time can quickly drain your battery, especially if you’re using a USB-powered accessory.
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I’ve often wondered if a fully separate device would be best for playing games from the cloud, but after using the Surface Duo for the past few weeks, I think Microsoft may already have an in-house solution.
Play on the Surface Duo
My colleague Zachary Boddy once wrote an article on Surface Duo games, and my experiences largely mirror his, with a few caveats. One thing I totally agree with is that this experience is probably not ready today, but a future Surface Duo 2 could blow this thing up.
For those who don’t know, the Surface Duo is a foldable dual-screen Android phone, which can be manipulated 360 degrees backwards to function as a regular single-screen phone, or rotated into a book shape, or even tilted upwards to mimic a Nintendo 3DS. It is in this configuration that Xbox Cloud Gaming shines the most.
Microsoft’s Surface and Xbox teams worked together on a unique Duo experience for the Xbox Game Pass app. The app detects when it’s running on a Duo, and using the phone’s “spanning” feature, you can drag the Game Pass app to the center of the screen while keeping it in landscape mode, and it will do steal a virtual gamepad in the bottom display.
It feels incredibly natural to use for anyone who has used a Game Boy SP or higher. Importantly, this setup removes touchscreen controls from the in-game display, which often overlap with in-game UI elements and subtitles, presenting both gameplay and accessibility issues. If you’re even on public transport and just want to play a game with no sound, using subtitles, they’re harder to read with your thumbs all over the screen. The Duo’s second screen solves this problem.
You do not have to use the second screen though. There are games where the onscreen controls don’t interfere as much, like Streets of Rage 4. Even then, you can actually move them around if their default positions aren’t user-friendly. The fact that you are not limited to using the second screen opens up multitasking possibilities. Pretending to listen to a Windows Central business meeting for example, using the upper screen for a Skype call, while using the lower screen for games, is a useful option.
If you’re playing in a game, you can also use the top screen for Netflix or Disney +. You can also use the other screen for Microsoft Edge, showing a game guide or whatever. Xbox Game Pass uses significantly less system resources than a native game, making multitasking a cinch even on its outdated SoC.
Even with upgrades from the Xbox Series X server to Xbox Game Pass, I still find that slightly simpler or 2D games still tend to perform better on Xbox Cloud Gaming. Honestly, I find this to be true for the Nintendo Switch out of its docking station as well, due to the smaller screen and low power consumption internals. Streets of Rage 4, Slay the Spire, and Darkest Dungeon all work incredibly well on the Duo, without feeling like they interrupt my ability to actually use my phone, thanks to the dual screen configuration. Would I really recommend it, though? … Probably not.
The Surface Duo itself needs a lot of work
The main downside to this proposal is the Surface Duo itself, which is downright hard to recommend in its current incarnation. The price alone should be enough to put most people off. It is an astronomical amount of Â£ 1,349 in the UK, although it currently enjoys a sale of Â£ 200. It’s been reduced to just $ 650 in the US, which seems a lot more reasonable.
I do appreciate, however, the unique engineering effort that has gone into the hardware here. Unfolded flat, it’s one of the thinnest devices ever made, barely wider than its USB-C port. Microsoft did it this way so that it stays slim “like a phone” when folded back. Plus, the engineering on the hinge is sublime. It remains resistive and rigid over tens of thousands of folds or more, which is ideally what you would want in a device like this. Microsoft should also have invested a ton in Android itself, which didn’t support most of the features needed to make a dual-screen device like this work in practice.
I would say Microsoft misplaced part of its focus. I don’t think a device like this Needs to be so thin, if that cut costs a bit and gave us a better camera, better mic, bigger display ratios, and a bigger battery. It also lacks NFC and 5G, which effectively eliminates it from most modern phone use cases, including tap-to-pay technology and faster connectivity, which you would probably want in one anyway. phone for cloud games. The 5G data was recently rolled out in my city in the UK and I used it to play Street of Rage 4 on my Galaxy Note 20 Ultra without any lag or noticeable artifacts. It was like the future, frankly. But I’d much prefer to experience a dual-screen phone like the Duo, where I could control it without blocking the display with my thumbs.
There is something just enchanting about the Surface Duo, however. Browse books or manga so good with a dual screen display, and the multi-tasking functionality, the multi-position hinge and the general uniqueness of the proposition make me excited about phones again. I just need a little more from my smartphone in 2021, which the Duo does not offer on its own. Hope the Duo 2 can fix this – if it does, I’ll grab it on day one (especially if it adds accent colors …).
An Xbox + Surface collaboration could make it happen
If the goal of the Surface Duo is for it to be a unique phone tablet similar to the Swiss military, it makes sense that Microsoft is dubbing Xbox Cloud Gaming as one of its unique properties. Surface has often been the intersection of Microsoft’s hardware and software teams, with everyone in the company coming together to create unique devices that showcase the ecosystem. What better way to do this for Xbox Cloud Gaming than the Surface Duo itself?
The Surface Duo 2 could be more than just an Xbox Cloud Gaming device, it could be the next big innovation in mobility.
A Surface Duo 2 that has more respectable gaming chops probably needs a better screen-to-body ratio. It probably needs haptics to give smooth feedback on how you move the virtual controllers. Hell, maybe they could even incorporate some sort of magnetic gamepad similar to the magnetic keyboard cover we saw revealed with the MIA Surface Neo.
The Surface Duo has a lot of issues right now, and given the selling prices in the US, I think it probably didn’t do as well as Microsoft expected. The Android ecosystem is difficult to break into, with Samsung completely dominant, with even longtime players like LG and HTC leaving the market. Razer and Amazon also failed to decipher it. I think there are reasons to be optimistic about the Surface Duo, however.
Microsoft has had a ton of success defining new categories of hardware, and there’s no denying that Surface Duo hardware is magical. Teaming up with the consumer-focused Xbox team could give the Duo the springboard it needs to align with what users want and really need. I want this phone to be successful, and on top of that, I want it to become my first consumer device; whether it’s manga, Netflix, or Xbox Cloud Gaming. The Duo is so close in greatness, and close to being one of the best tablets for Xbox Cloud Gaming in general. If Microsoft is willing to invest a bit more in the operating system and provide some of those missing features, the Surface Duo 2 could be more than just an Xbox Cloud Gaming device – it could be the next big thing in gaming. mobility.
Duo of surfaces
The Surface Duo has issues, but it’s a unique and hypnotic device that captures the imagination. At its current price, it’s actually a great mid-range handset, which delivers a unique Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming experience.
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