Do you like the new 3:2 aspect ratio on Surface Pro 3?

Surface Pro 3 portrait

When the Surface Pro 3 was announced, one thing that might have stood out is the aspect ratio of the display. The 12-inch screen with 2160 x 1440 resolution has a 3:2 aspect ratio. That may be unusual because previous Surfaces had widescreen 16:9 aspect ratios. While 16:9 is great for watching movies, it makes a narrower screen in portrait mode. WPCentral forum member trainplane and others have shared that they like the new 3:2 aspect ratio. Read on to find out why.

trainplane says:

I wanted to commend MS for daring to put out a tablet that isn't 16:9. I hope other tablet and laptop makers follow now that Apple and MS have tablets not 16:9.

Mercule says:

For things like taking notes, reading books, or word processing, a ratio closer to a piece of letter/A4 paper is nearly ideal.

The new 3:2 aspect ratio provides a wide screen even in portrait mode. It makes the Surface Pro 3 look and feel like a pad of paper. How do you feel about the new aspect ratio? Share your reactions over at the forums.

(Also, stay tuned as tomorrow we'll explain why Microsoft chose 3:2 over other display ratios)


Reader comments

Do you like the new 3:2 aspect ratio on Surface Pro 3?



No. Editors are not supposed to write +[phone model number]. It's moronic and Sam is mocking those who do it. It just chews up comment space with people typing "lol! +930!!"

Weird request, but could one of you SP3 having types measure the screen in inches or mm?

I know it's 12" but I'm trying to work out it's actual dimensions compared to, say, an A4 sheet of paper and I'm simply not mathematically equipped to do that on my own. ;)


The equation is 12 * (3 / sqrt( (3^2) + (2^2) )) for width and 12 * (2 / sqrt( (3^2) + (2^2) )) for height. 

Amazing, thank you! And nicely done, I wish I had more aptitude for figuring this kind of thing out but alas, I'll just stick to drawing pretty pictures, lol! :)


So, we have 254x169mm, ok cool. A little less than than A4 (297x210mm) but not bad. Certainly more than capable of giving a decent canvas size as a still really portable device.



254 x 169 mm you say. Looks like they still got 16(:)9 in there. Half-Life 3 confirmed, and coming to Xbox One only! /s

ahhh, remember to subtract the margins you would have on paper. Another 25.4mm or so on the edges on average. 1" for the American folks

If drawing is your specialty, then even without maths you can get pretty far: all you need to do is drawing a box of any size whose sides are in 3:2 ratio, then draw the diagonal and make it a 12 inches long line segment. Then draw the box of which this 12 inch segment is the diagonal and measure its sides with a ruler.


Come on man, it was going away....cripes. That has to be the dumbest forum reply ever created... + whatever phone model etc. Just stupid...

No, it makes it look like a regular computer monitor shape. Never did like this new era of 16x9.

Who cares. 3:2 is a fantastic aspect ratio. Its better than 16:10, which is better than 16:9, which is better than 4:3 (which isn't too bad but I think its a bit too square for me)

I'd agree with saying 4:3 just doesn't give you enough screen estate in any direction really...and holding a 16:9 tablet in portrait to read books feels awkward...

Well 3:2 is actually 15:10 would not be so bad for movies too.

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It makes it so it's not awkward to use in a portrait orientation. And 16:9 is great for movies, but not that great for information-heavy tasks (too wide and not tall enough). The new screen aspect ratio is full of win.

I have a 16:10 monitor 19" on my pc, and it is amazing for all jobs ! I enjoy it more than my 16:9 laptop, though sadly, my pc's lcd can't be used everywhere in the house.. (

Sam (or Daniel), can you guys please give us more information on the processors. Model numbers or clock speed. Then with the i7 models, we need core count if we can't get model numbers. Every site seems to be saying "here are the full specs", but they really aren't complete without that information. That would give us a truer performance and price comparison.

To be honest Microsoft hasn't shared much info on the exact models of the i3 and i7 models. All we know is i5 info.

Check out anandtech.com. The i5 is a 4300U, the i7 is a standard model, something like 1.9-2.9 ghz?

Yes. it is great. Makes viewing in the Portrait mode a lot more pleasant. 

Still 12" is pretty big, and 1.8 lb is not a log of fun to hold long time. 

No tablet is a lot of fun to hold for a long time. It takes a >250gr E-Reader to be fun to hold for a long time.

I agree. For a larger display, I like the wide screen format since you can typically put two virtual sheets of paper next to each other and comfortably read them. On a device the size of the surface, this isn't possible, so it makes more sense to try to match the paper aspect ratio so you can maximize the usage of your limited screen space.

This is and will be the new screen ratios for MS going forward.
All 3:2

I like that idea, but I think they'd be better off if they condensed it to two. A 12" Surface Pro for college students/professionals which would run Windows 8 Pro and have an aspect ratio of 3:2... and a 8" for the little instagram girls, high school students and people who just want that media consumption and don't need anything more than Windows 8 RT. 16:10 would be more suitable on the smaller tab.

There's tons of Windows Store apps you can use to play just about any media type. Hell, I have a Surface Pro 2 and I don't even keep VLC installed (which was pretty much mandatory for me back in the XP/Vista/7 days) because there's lighter-weighted metro apps that do the job while letting me be anal about subtitles, audio tracks, etc. RT is easily one of the most underrated operating systems of this generation, and I've often thought about downgrading to a Surface 2 for the weight and thin-ness... up until the Surface Pro 3 got announced anyway.

With the exception of an old square moniter, all of the devices I've used Windows on were 16:9

I've tried using a Surface in portrait, though and I have to admit it was terrible

Having more viewing options is great

as most windows apps scroll horizontally and most don't rotate at all. you in for a surprise about how bad portrait mode will work for anything other than notes.

Oh yeah, and I think I'm sold on the 3:2 format. More real estate in landscape for productivity tasks. Interested to know the impact when using the onscreen keyboard as well. Should give users a lot more real estate there too. Definitely better in portrait

Yes now if they could add more tiles to the start screen and eliminate some of the unused space ill be happy.

I hate the pre-made columns that win 8 uses for tiles. I'd rather it be more like window phone

No, its not that, its how they shift left when you move them... Also how they are in a 2 wide preset...i may be explaining it wrong. It just seems like a step back from wp

But Windows Phones are built vertically, so it makes more sense for the icons to scroll down, whereas on a horizontal screen having the icons move downwards wuold leave a lot of empty space


I suppose they could have the tiles rotate when you turn the device, but thatwould confuse a lot of people

I agree^^^ live tiles like the ones on our windows phones would be nice! Taking up more of the screen space, but in a horizontal format (natively) rather than WP's vertical. Oh and transparent tiles too!!
Hmmm maybe once they merge Windows Phone and RT???

Reading the comments I thought all hope was lost. Good to see that there are some people like me who want to keep 16:9. It makes the tablet feel like a real PC. Without it people will think these tablets are just glorified iPads. Also, the position of the Windows button will look weird when using the SP3 as a laptop (when docked on a keyboard). +SP2

Yay I'm not alone! Although I don't hate it I would have much prefered a 16:9 tablet. It feels more in line with the rest of my devices (TV, Phone, Laptop and my current tablet, the Surface 1) which are also 16:9.

The 16:9 ratio also has a nicer side by side look which kind of a major point for Windows 8.

The button on the right is also weird to me almost to the point that I wouldn't want to buy one even if I had the money. OCD kicks in hard.

A "real" PC? I don't know; if you've been using computers for more than 10 years, this might feel more real than the HDTV standard they've foisted upon us.

can we please cut it out with these "you obviously haven't used" comments. first of all, surfaces aren't like a date with the pricess of england. they are really easy to get. 16:9 tablets are really common so if if you've used one, you know what a surface will look like. second, you can claim that he hasn't used SP3, but to claim this person hasn't used a 16:9 tablet is silly.

My first impression was that they just back-handed all the fans who stuck up for 16:9's superior video viewing over the iPad's antiquated 1980 TV aspect ratio... but for all practical purposes it does make more sense for the business crowd. I'd only be giving half the truth if I didn't note how many times I was on my Surface Pro (and currently Surface Pro 2) portrait-view-writing in OneNote and found myself having to horizontally scroll to get to a decent amount of content.

3:2 is a lot better than 4:3. It's a decent compromise. It's not much more square than 16:10 (3:2 = 15:10) which many believe is better for productivity than 16:9. I like 16:10 a lot more than 16:9.

Personally, 16:9 suits small tables in the 7"-7.5" range, 3:2 for 8"-8.5" and 4:3 for sizes above that.

Nope, totally turned me off Surface. I use my current Hybrid, the Lenovo Helix for everything. Including a 1:1 res WACOM tablet on my 27" 16:9 desktop monitor.


Wierd screen res screws that up totally, not to mention a bigger device just to show black lines while watching video. I also really like the old ratio in portrait to read, it shows me so much more!


Besides which why would I want a device with a 256 point n-trig pen? It's pretty much only any good for OneNote now.


I was waiting for the next Surface to replace my device, as the surface really has best in class construction quality and industrial design, but they've ruined everything I love about it. Now I'm stumped as to what to look to next for an i7 12" 256gb wacom hybrid tablet.

Depends on what you're doing. If you're doing 3d then wacom is really the only way. Anything 2d like photoshop/corel/manga studio and I heard that the N-Trig should be okay. 

Trust me I was stumped about it too at first, but try it out when it is available and see how it works. If not check out the review shortly after. N-Trig may have just came a long way.

Love it!

Can't wait for the iPadPro\iBook\Airtab or whatever the hell they call it, to be somewhat similar, so that I can then laugh at all the sheeple that say msft copied aapl.

4:3 dows not equal 3:2. Just as 2+2 does not equal 5. Unless you are the American government of course. hah.

Dude, it's not about OS! It's "Surface". I don't have money now for it. So I will buy Surface 3 when the Surface 9 comes out xD

It'll allow for 9x upscaled GBA emulation if there's an emulator that supports a resolution that high. I wonder if VBA-M supports that.

I can't necessarily say if I like it or not without using it, but it seems to be well received, so I probably will.

I like it because it makes the usefull vertical size a lot larger. SP3's 12" 3:2 vertical screen size = 13.6" 16:9 laptop vertical screen size!

And therefore better suited as a (business) laptop and that made me think about replacing my work laptop for a SP3.

IMO it's the biggest drawback of it, but that's because I rarely read books and magazines and things of that sort. I watch tv and movies, and that's all in 16:9, so 3:2 is of no use to me. But people seem to like the iPad, so maybe there's something to a less wide screen.

Nop. 16:9 all the way.

This is just the TV screens all over again. I still remember when the World had moved to 16:9 yet Americans insisted in doing everything in damn 4:3. Eventually Microsoft will go back to the normal 16:9 screens on the Surfaces. I get it that this 3:2 of the SP3 is to make it easier to use in portrait mode like a "piece of paper".

But I'm also willing to bet that the majority will NOT use it in portrait mode because the majority who's willing to throw away money on a SP3 will also be buying a type cover to make it useful. And with the type cover in, portrait mode just gets less ideal (there's no way to pick it up with the cover bend backwards without feeling the keys and I don't see people keep attaching and detaching the cover).

I wanted to stick up for this just as bad as anyone because, well... it's really REALLY fun watching an iPad user get his video letterboxed or cropped while I played it near a prime res... but the reality that's getting proven true more and more is that we can't judge everything by the standards of a TV screen. 16:9 works nicely for displaying video content because it's closer to the standard of video aspect ratios... thing is, not everything abides by that. There's a whole world outside of watching videos and I'll even admit to ignoring what matters in that whole world that exists outside of just watching videos.

Most of the business-oriented tasks that Microsoft expects people to do on a professional tablet do simply work better on a 3:2 screen. The fact that it's bigger, WHILE LIGHTER and more powerful with better battery life and more efficient operation just make it a no brainer.

Isn't making business targetted devices what put Microsoft BEHIND in the tablet consumer game in the first place?

They're only *behind* when looked at from the view that they're taking on iPad. Surface Pro isn't the pop-fad-toy all the little Instagram girls will cheese their panties over... it's a business machine which AIMS towards a niche... that niche being people who look at the overall concept of tablets and want something that isn't a media consumption toy.

You buy $1000 tablets to just watch videos on it? Why?

I like my productivity machines to have a more productive aspect ratio. My TV is great at 16:9 though.

A 3:2 aspect ratio is close to an A4 paper, which means it can also work like an A4 where if you cut it in half, it will still have the same aspect ratio. Remember what the Windows 8 is good for? Side-by-side multitasking, right? This means that the aspect ratio is perfect for productivity.

I mean look how that good it looks in portrait mode, now imagine that at 10 & 8 inches. That's what's next.

Actually, I kinda prefer writing on the SP2 in portrait at 16x9. It feels like the long legal size writing pads that I used to use in my office (8.5x14). At first, it does feel a bit fiddly, being more narrow than the average sheet of paper, but having more vertical space is great for lists since you don't have to keep scrolling up for more writing room.

That said, I'd be curious to see how well the new pen writes. I'm kinda spoiled to having the whole "flip the pen to erase" motion, since that's more like a real writing mechanical pencil than a plastic stick.

Can this pen not do both click to OneNote and flip to erase? Genuinely curious. They're marketing for note taking and image editing but if I have to select another tool everytime I want to erase... =/

I loved the case when I saw it but sadly out doesn't support the keyboard cover. The perfect surface case for me is the freedom case, you should check that out on YouTube.

I spent a lot of time regretting the thick SP2 until I saw pictures of this. Would Microsoft really just *not* resolve that?

I am not so sure there is anything to resolve here. They claim that it is not a finish and simply the vapor mag. without a coating. Ever the original black 'coating' chipped.

This aspect ration is FAR superior to 16:9.  I have a 16:9 monitor and I always wish it was 16:10.  I always thought the surface was awkward in regards to aspect ratio.  I'm glad MS did their homework and changed the ratio.


I know I am in the minority but I have to express my preference of 16:9.


Multi-tasking makes more sense with such ratio.

I halfway agree, but at the same time chopping off bezel may compromise us having something to hold while leaving room for the second hinge to magnetize to the screen for that added stability.

I like thin bezels on handsets and televisions, but with the edge gestures of Windows 8 I'd prefer swiping in from the edge of the screen, not the edge of the device. That and having a small space to grip it off-screen.

yes 3:2 is perfect. I prefer saying 15:10 instead because you can easily and immediately compare the scale with 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratios

3:2 is good by me. It's also the same ratio as 35mm film which is why I like it. In reality it's also not that far off 16:9 anyway. I'm not sure how it looks iPadesque though, I was under the impression that was 4:3?

"I'm not sure how it looks iPadesque though, I was under the impression that was 4:3?


1.5 is closer to 1.33 than to 1.78. That's why it's iPad-esque.

For Photoshop this will be a welcome change. I thought the widescreen looked cool, but for getting things done the new ratio will be great.

If they scale it down to A3 size it will attract even more people I would say. I often take notes or make doodles on a A3 block. Well of course, a Surface can do way more than just taking notes ... but ... I would really like to get rid of my A3 block. ;)
However, the close to A4 format of the Surface Pro 3 also pleases my taste receptors. ⌒.⌒

Is this where I post that is seems much faster?


I have not held one so I can't say if I like it by the 16x9 for a tablet is weird on the larger ones. Regardless I am ordering.

I love the new format - in fact, I've been resisting 16:9 on desktop with some 16:10 and 5:4 monitors for desktops. 

The 4:3 on iPad is better, but it is lousy for video and too short in portrait mode by a bit.

The 3:2 format is really "15:10" to put in in equivalent values - that is just like a 16:10 but a bit taller - I've been waiting for someone to do something like this for a long time.  Every tried a current surface in portrait mode?

Think its good for the Pro line but for the non-Pro line I think consumers would like 16:9 still to avoid the black bars during movies.

16:9 doesn't really work well with portrait mode. I like the 3:2 ratio for a tablet for portrait and landscape. I think it's better the. 4:3 cuz I don't like the 4:3 for landscape.

I hope the next surface rt or whatever it will be called will stick to 16x9. I understand why this was done for the Pro tablets, but for someone like myself who just uses it for media, 16x9 is the only Way to go. If they change that I will not be purchasing another tablet.

if you use it for media why would you need a Surface Pro in first place? to run VLC or Potplayer in the desktop? oh wow....
I'm sorry but your argument doesn't make sense, it seems surface 2 would be enough for you and cheaper, then if you use it JUST for media like you just said.

New ratio is awful. Tired of Microsoft telling me why one way is better and trying to sell me on it for three years, then when I buy in, flip flop on what they had been preaching. F'ing stick with something for once. Way to much flip flopping from the big M.

It's not flip flopping. It's progress. That's like saying that switching to making tablets after selling folks on netbooks as the future of mobile computing is flip flopping.
1. Try what looks good.
2. Evaluate and analyze market reaction.
3. Try what looks better.
4. ????
5. Profit

Really? Look at their track record all the way back to 'Play-For-Sure' through the 'Zune to Xbox Music Debacle'....they never see anything through. This isn't progress to a lot of us. Its changing just for the sake of it because they have no clue what they vision is anymore.

16:9 is too wide, 4:3 is too boxy. 3:2 is perfect. Our elders have taught us this when they invented the 35mm film. :-)

Yes. Most photos have a ratio similar to 3:2. That is why our American prints are mostly 4x6" and 3x5 (actually 3.5 x 5.25 inches). Any photo slideshows will look great on this screen, without letter-boxing or cropping.

16:9 in landscape mode and 4:3 are also good though.

Yes. Wide screen is good for watching movies, BUT that only accounts for 5% of my device (tablets, computers, phones) usage. The rest of the all that width is totally wasted on me! So I rejoice the 2nd coming of our Lord 4 By 3.

Whatever it is.  3x2 or 4x3.  I honestly don't care.  All I want to say is that for me, anything is better than stupid wide screen.  :-)

16x10 = awesome, have dual monitors that size, so i think i will like 3x2 (15x10) better than 16x9. would use it in portrait mode a lot i think. 16x9 looks silly in portrait mode...

Yes i do like it much better than the 16:9 or 16:10. A lot more usage area in a smaller format/shape. I wish The smaller ones come in the same aspect ratio.

I'm disappointed with the choice to go 3:2 vs 16:9. That's one of the first things I disliked about the iPad was its odd aspect ratio. I prefer 16:9 on my first Gen Surface. However, this is not a deal breaker. There are too many positives about the Pro 3 to overlook. The screen ratio is a minor negative for me.

Is it wrong that I really want the UI to make a change? Not a huge drastic change, more of a marrying of windows phone 8.1 and the desktop. I want transparent background live tiles that can live on the desktop. They should be interactive tiles (would especially be useful for mail, music. I'm not into the legacy start menu like all the minions out there, I'm a huge fan of modern UI, just think it needs some tweaks. I would be extremely happy if windows phone 8.1 launcher were an option on pro devices, maybe that's where we are headed in threshold, who knows. All I do know, is that MS has nailed it with WP 8.1, and the features they have added to the phone need to start making their way to pc's of all sizes. Universal apps, Cortana, etc.

Absolutely. 16:9 is why I don't own a Surface. I hate that aspect ratio. I use computers for more than movie watching.

I think it's a good idea! God knows how annoying it was for me when trying to read magazines, pages where way to skinny. But maybe for Surface Pro 4, Microsoft can make the 16:9 for media fans and 3:2 for bookworms. Options are never a bad thing.

Ugh. I wish one of the SP3 models offered the "standard" Surface 16:9 display ratio. It's perfect when using the on-screen keyboard. Even so, I rarely use my SP1 in portrait mode, even when reading books, because I prefer looking at two full pages instead of just one.

I actually got pretty excited when they announced that it was 3:2. 16:9 is just a little too unwieldy to hold with one hand but too narrow for portrait and 16:10 doesn't solve the problem either. 4:3 like the iPad has just reminds me of old TV sets before widescreen was available. I feel like 3:2 is a great compromise between the 2 and it's also the aspect ratio used for DSLRS.

This is one of the most compelling aspects of the Surface Pro 3 for me. I usually prefer portrait mode to begin with, plus Zinio is one of my most-used apps. It also frees up space in landscape if you have to use the onscreen keyboard.

Better than the squareish 4:3 ratio that ipad uses. Not as ackward in portrait as 16:9. Has more vertical space than 16:9. I wonder if surface mini has same ratio? Rumours were pointing to something close to ipad's ratio?

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To all the whiners out there, you realize this beast can drive a tv display at 16x9 all you want for movies while still keeping the 3x2 aspect ratio for business stuff without breaking a sweat right? I always watch movies on my projector anyway with my surface pro. Screen aspect ratio isn't a problem especially at that screen size. Anyway just my opinion and anyone who doesn't like is entitled to do so, and I respectfully decline their request to join in on their hallucinations.

Ugly as hell. I'd rather have an aspect ratio that matches all my other monitors instead of the one Apple tried to force.

Why is it ugly? You're buying a surface pro to use as a mobile monitor or as a productivity tablet? A 3:2 aspect ratio is almost the same as an A4 paper, which means any document related work can be done easier. This aspect ratio also allow the screen to keep the same aspect ratio even if you cut it in half, like when you're using Windows 8 multitasking view. Moreover, a wider screen will have less surface area compared a squarer screen, even if they have the same diagonal length, so it's also better for those who wants to draw or take notes.

I think the 3:2 is better in landscape as well, and I'll tell you why...
Windows 8 onscreen keyboard is such a real estate hog that the idea of having more vertical space made that feature the system seller for me.
Selling my surface pro 128 now, just before my freedom case ships for the damned thing. :\

Do you know how often bluray movies have black bats in top of my led 3d tv?? Like all the time. Be nice if they took up the full screen like games do...

Then buy an extra widescreen TV. 21:9 TVs are already in the market, but they're still relatively new, so they're very expensive.

obviously, since tvs are not 10" or 12". I mean, I would be sad to have a tv of that size, but since tvs are big... well 16:9 would be fine.

3:2 is directly in between 4:3 and 16:9.  Not as much letterboxing when watching a movie compared to 4:3, but a little more natural size than either.  I really think this is the sweet spot in aspect ratio. 


I also look forward to seeing it in a future Surface Mini.  An 8" 3:2 tablet would have nearly 25% more screen real estate than an 8" 16:9 tablet like the Venue 8 Pro (which I like, btw, but which is not great in portrait).  I really hope that we're only waiting for Gemini to see it come out.  Maybe they'll push a Deskop-less version of RT out with it.  I see no reason why RT can't do that ahead of Threshold.

3:2 has 8% more than 16:9, not 25%, unless my math is wrong.

3:2 is 4.44" x 6.66" = 29.54 sq in.
16:9 is 3.92" x 6.97" = 27.35 sq in.
29.54 / 27.35 = 1.08

In this case, more square means more square inches. An 8" iPad in its usual 4:3 aspect ratio would be 4% more screen real estate than an 8" 3:2 Surface. Regardless, variances of 4-8% in area are not going to be as noticable in daily use as the distribution (i.e., aspect ratio) of that area.

Damn you, Microsoft, for releasing a product I didn't realize I wanted! The screen ratio and physical size are just shy of perfect for reading comic books, which are roughly 10"X7.5". I have to wait until early next year but I am definitely buying this.

I thought Apple owned the rights and patent on teh rectangle? #Shotsfired #Lawsuit


In fact didn't they invent teh rectange and the color white?

I hoped MS would make the Pro 3 16:10, but this is even better. 16:9 will be ok on the rt or mini version, but for the pro 3:2 is perfect