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Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover hands-on: Add a layer of protection and wireless charging to the Duo 2

This Surface Duo 2 case adds protection and wireless charging for the Surface Slim Pen to Microsoft's Android phone.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on
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The Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover in black. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Microsoft's second attempt at an Android-powered smartphone with two screens is a device I'm equal parts intrigued and confused by as I continue to use and test it. 

The Duo 2 supports Microsoft's stylus, the Surface Slim Penand Slim Pen 2 for writing notes, navigating the interface or sketching ideas. One change Microsoft made with from the original Duo to the Duo 2 is the official addition of using magnets on the front cover to hold the Surface Slim Pen to the phone. It's an easy place to hold your pen when not in use, but it's also awkward when you slide the phone into your pocket -- the pen often comes detached because of how far it sticks up from the phone's housing. 

When Microsoft announced the Duo 2, the Duo 2 Pen Cover was also unveiled. The $65 accessory is a mix of a phone case, a bumper and a wireless charging accessory. Let me explain. 

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You can see the bumper portion of the cover protecting the corner -- that just a few weeks ago was the location of a direct impact on a sidewalk. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The main piece of the Duo 2 Pen Cover is a hardshell plastic piece that covers the entire front section of the Duo 2. It wraps around the sides, covering the edges along with protecting the front glass panel. The remaining two pieces of the Duo 2 Pen Cover are plastic bumpers, covering just the edges of the rest of the device. The back panel, where the rear-facing cameras are located, is left uncovered. The plastic bumpers are lined with adhesive to hold them in place. 

The overall build quality feels great, and I'm confident that had I had the case/cover combo installed on the Duo 2 when I dropped it and cracked the corner, that it likely wouldn't have been damaged at all. 

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The front of the Duo 2 Pen Cover completely covers the glass, and it looks great. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

What about wireless charging?

In addition to adding a layer of protection to your Duo 2, the Duo 2 Pen Cover adds wireless charging for either Slim Pen model to the phone. It's an odd feature, considering the fact that the Duo 2 can't be wirelessly charged itself. At the same time, it's one that makes sense; the phone should be able to quickly and easily charge the Surface Slim Pen without the need for an extra charging accessory (save for the cover). 

I've only had the case on the phone for an hour or two, but my initial impressions are positive. The magnets that hold the pen in place feel stronger than what the phone offers on its own, and the pen instantly starts charging the moment it snaps into place. 

I do wish, however, there was a way to check the pen's charge status on the Duo 2. As it is right now, the small indicator light on the pen is the only way to verify it's actually charging. It lights up for a second or two when you first connect it to the cover, and then after that, you're left to assume it's charging. I've looked throughout the settings app to find a switch or button to enable some sort of status message, but I haven't found anything. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The pen will quickly vibrate after removing it from the case, but, as with the lack of a charging alert, there isn't any sort of alert if you leave the pen behind. Something I promise you I will do, eventually. 

The only settings I can find related to the Surface Pen is to change which hand you write with and a toggle that will turn on charging the Slim Pen when it's connected to the phone with a compatible case on or off. 

I'm still not clear why the Duo 2 can't wirelessly charge the Slim Pen without the case -- or why you can't wirelessly charge the Duo 2 on its own. I feel like wireless charging for the pen, and the phone should be a core feature of a $1,500 phone without requiring a $65 accessory to charge just the pen. 

That said, the case does offer a layer of protection that its glass housing clearly needs. And if you're gaining added functionality of charging your stylus. Are you sold on getting the Duo 2 Pen Cover? Tell me why or why not in the comments below. 

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