ICYMI: Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 still needs some work

Plus our thoughts on AMDs underpowered Radeon RX 6600 and Facebook’s Portal Go.

David Imel for Engadget

This week, we’ve got a handful of reviews across several categories. Devindra Hardawar reviewed AMD’s Radeon RX 6600 and determined that its lackluster performance and features made the GPU hard to praise, particularly when chip shortages have forced skyrocketing prices. Nicole Lee carried the Facebook Portal Go around her house and found its features don’t entirely outweigh the flaws. I tracked my twin’s daily habits with the Talli one-touch tracker and liked it more than I thought I would, plus Cherlynn Low found that she wasn’t totally sold on Microsoft’s latest Surface Duo 2 folding smartphone.

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 is still struggling

The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 stands almost closed, with the logo on its back facing the camera.
David Imel for Engadget

Cherlynn Low admits right away that the Surface Duo 2 is a frustrating device, despite upgrades to the cameras, software and performance. At $1,500, it remains a pricey and niche foldable phone. The newest version offers a combined 8.3-inch screen and it runs Android 11. Cherlynn says the hardware is attractive with an impressively thin profile and a sleek silhouette. The unique 1,892 x 1,344 resolution produced some odd aspect ratios, but overall, apps expanded to cover the whole screen when the automatic-span setting was enabled.

While Cherlynn liked the 90Hz refresh rate, the lovely AMOLED panels and the video quality, she was disappointed that the Duo 2 didn’t have any functionality when closed since, unlike competing smartphones, it doesn’t have an external screen. She also experienced occasional software issues: the system periodically required repeated taps to register, and the UI was finicky with swipe-based navigation. But she was most let down by the camera, which disables the rear shooters depending on the position of the phone. In the end, she could only recommend the device to those who really need a dual-screen phone and have $1,500 to spare.

AMD’s Radeon RX 6600 shouldn’t be your first pick

AMD Radeon RX 6600
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

In his review of the Radeon RX 6600, Devindra Hardawar wonders who this GPU is for. Although the card has speedy 1080p load performance, its ray tracing was lackluster at best, its upscaling abilities are limited and it has fewer features than competing cards from NVIDIA. This makes it difficult to recommend, particularly because there’s no way to estimate how much the card will cost due to the global chip shortage and ballooning prices.

During testing, Devindra found the RX 6600 to be a capable gaming card. It reached 120FPS in Destiny 2 with maxed out graphics, but stumbled when he pushed the game to 1440p. Similarly, during the Hitman 3 benchmark, the GPU reached a respectable 138fps in 1080p, but again faltered once Devindra pushed it to 1440p. He says the RX 6600 could be an upgrade for some because of its Smart Access Memory, which allows your CPU to directly address your video card's RAM. Otherwise, he says the GPU can only compete if the market stabilizes and the price drops below $300.

The Portal Go brings Facebook video chat all over your house

Facebook Portal Go
Nicole Lee/Engadget

Nicole Lee approves of the design updates made to Facebook’s Portal Go, which now features a grey fabric enclosure and rounded corners. The improvements make the Go easy to prop up on a lap or hold while you walk around the house. Part tablet and part smart display, the Go touts smart camera tracking via the 12-megapixel wide-angle lens that uses AI-powered technology to automatically pan and zoom to keep you in frame. This makes it easier to get several people in the picture on a call, and it works in third-party apps as well.

Nicole says she was impressed by the video capabilities of the 10.1-inch display, which has the same 1,280 x 800 resolution as previous Portal devices. She was particularly pleased by the adaptive lighting features like Night Mode, which reduces the amount of blue light in the evening. It also provides decent audio thanks to its two full-range speakers and subwoofer, so it can double as a portable speaker in a pinch. Nicole also managed to squeeze a little over six hours out of the battery — more than the company’s claims of five. Despite this, she says the Go is your best choice only if Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are your primary video call services.

Talli’s one-touch tracker makes it easy to log kids habits

Talli Baby One Touch Tracker
Talli Baby

Although I like the app I use to track my twins' daily habits, I was curious about Talli’s dedicated hardware. A sleek box with eight buttons , the Talli is intended to help busy parents track their kids' stats with a single button press. I have to admit: I found it a lot more useful than I thought I would. Being able to push a button to log a medication or a bottle without having to open my phone, launch an app and enter in details was a welcome relief.

The Talli tracker also pairs with an app that records and graphs your child’s daily activities. The app is standalone, meaning you don't have to buy the physical tracker to use it, and there's no subscription required in order to access features or data. If you get the device, it runs on AA batteries and can be left freestanding or be wall mounted. I’ll admit I had a challenging time trying to find the exact right location for the Talli. Grabbing it often resulted in an accidental button press, but that didn’t diminish its usefulness. It can also work alongside an Alexa skill enabling parents to log events by saying “Alexa, tell Talli Baby that Sam had a bottle.” At $99, it’s a bit pricey for a single-function device, but if you’re looking to establish a routine of recording your baby’s habits, it can make things more convenient.

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