Review: Noreve Leather Cover for Surface Duo 2
Continuing our Surface Duo 2 coverage - a possible next step for Microsoft-loving Lumia enthusiasts and also a refreshing 'something different' for Android fans - we have a £82* leather case from premium accessory maker Noreve. In summary, beautifully made (though perhaps go for a different colour?) but there are some design and usability issues that you need to be aware of.
* (after the usual 15% off from the Noreve front page promo code)
I should preface this review by saying that putting an in-situ case on a phone with two screens that folds almost completely back on itself in daily single-screen use is essentially impossible. However you arrange the materials and dimensions, the case will always get in the way. That's just physics.
An easy compromise is to forego leather or other materials that sit 'around' the Duo 2 and opt for protective 'skins', in addition to the official Microsoft Bumpers. I have several sets of skins on order and will report back. Now, leather and metal (as here) will be far more protective, but there's that bigger compromise, in that the Duo 2 won't be able to fold back on itself at all. So the question to then ask yourself is whether you use the Duo 2 solely in tent/dual screened/spanned (etc) modes or whether you also want to fold it back on itself and use it as a single-screened, traditional smartphone. If the latter then this case isn't for you.
Arriving in a posh red box and luxury red carry bag (both of which are more for presentation when you give a Noreve product as a present), I was sent the Athracite grained leather option (mainly because it was in stock and didn't need to be ordered and hand made specially), but see below for some rather more striking colours:
Looking on the Noreve web site, here's a fuller range of colours to pick from:
Many of these colour choices can be combined with different leather finishes too - the cases are hand-made, so often are crafted 100% to order, though this obviously means a multi-week delay, so you'd have to factor this in.
The cover slides onto each half of the Duo 2 easily enough, with raised 'clips' at the top and bottom of each half to make sure the cover doesn't fall off, as it were:
Once on, the cover can be closed, exactly like a book, with the stitched leather on display and protecting the relatively fragile Duo 2. Note the thickness difference between the main body halves of the case and the thinner section around the phone's hinge:
The same look is on the back, with the leather neatly counteracting the camera island in terms of thickness:
Viewing the cased ('covered') Duo 2 from the right hand edge shows the extra thickness involved, plus the cutouts for the volume and power buttons (of which more below). Yes, it's thicker, but the phone is also protected to a decent degree, which is what you'd expect:
From the left edge, however, things are different, and this is where things start to go a little pear-shaped. Noreve took the design decision to allow the charging animation and 'edge' time display to be seen when cased, meaning that they didn't encase the left edge of the closed phone. As a result, the loose ends of the thin section of the leather rather flap around and splay outwards, which seems... untidy:
If I had been designing this cover, I'd have full enclosed the left edge with leather, for extra protection and a tidier look - yes, the glance features from the screen edges would be lost, but I have found that they're an ancillary feature on the Duo 2 and not exactly essential.
And so to daily use. Opening the Noreve cover a smidge allows the usual Duo 2 'Peek' view (time and date, though I do wish Microsoft would add notification icons here too):
From there I open the Duo 2 out to normal 'dual screen' use - which is perfect when handheld, i.e. 99% of the time, but I do have to note that, for the other 1%, you can't lay the opened Duo 2 on a flat surface without a little wobble because of the natural way the leather bunches up. Again, this is simple material physics and there's no easy way to avoid this happening. But it's worth noting and picturing:
The leather material around the hinge then gets in the way more and more as the phone is folded back on itself. The Duo 2 has a number of different form factors and screen permutations (which I'll demonstrate in video form soon) and one of these is 'tent mode', in which the two screens are visible in landscape mode from either side (usually for watching media, propping itself up), with the hinge at about 275° (relative to 0° for closed). Now, Noreve claims 320° is possible, at which point the leather is bunched up quite a bit, but 275° is indeed easy enough, so tent mode is no problem with the leather cover in place.
The same isn't true of folding the Duo 2's screens back so that you're in 'single screen' mode. Yes, I know the Duo 2's camera island means that it can't fold back perfectly, but it gets to 357°, which is damn close and an excellent way of using the Duo 2 when you've only got one hand free or have limited space. So even at Noreve's claimed 320°, you're nowhere near being able to use this mode, sadly - the bunched up leather physically gets in the way.
Of course, if you never use this mode and always have the Duo 2 opened in some form then you're good to go with a physical cover like this. So... it depends on your use case.
The second design point that I need to point out is that there's no indentation in the cover edges around the physical buttons, meaning that getting your thumb to them (especially the power/FPS button) isn't as easy as when the Duo 2 is naked. This isn't a showstopper, but as the power button is accessed a hundred times every day, then having your thumb pressing in over-hard to reach the button does get a little annoying:
This would have been easy to solve in a redesign, if Noreve are listening - a simple indent over this 5cm space of a couple of millmetres would make the buttons more accessible with negligibly less protection. Speaking of which, I'd suggest that during the redesign, the main leather is extended around the hinge and the Glance bar can be forgotten - it's such a transient and small readout that I'm sure most people don't need or use it. With leather all the way around, protection would be significantly improved and there wouldn't be loose leather ends on top and bottom of the closed Duo 2.
Just suggestions and my tuppence worth, Noreve - I know that you've reworked at least one of your designs after my feedback, so maybe this will happen again? Drop me a line if you do!
In the meantime, this is a premium case that may or may not fit in with your Duo 2 use case - but it'll look fabulous if the former is true, in and around the office.
PS. Disclaimer: Noreve supplied this sample for free, and they have sponsored my PSC podcast in the past.
PPS. YouTuber Shane Craig has also reviewed this case in video form, embedded below:
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at