Microsoft Surface 3 review

Microsoft Surface 3 review: screen

One of the biggest attractions of the Surface Pro 3 is its larger screen: 12.1in versus the 10.6in of the Surface Pro 2. It's still small by laptop standards, but just big enough to be usable for productivity and strike a good balance between size and portability.

The Surface 3's screen is a step backwards, though. At 10.8in, it's smaller than any laptop or Chromebook. Microsoft has changed it to a 3:2 aspect ratio which makes the tablet nicer to use in portrait mode than 16:9 Surfaces as it's closer to the aspect ratio of paper. And since you can use the Surface Pro 3 pen with the Surface 3, those who want to draw or write will appreciate the more pad-like dimensions.

The resolution of 1920x1280 equates to a pixel density of 214ppi. That's not particularly high, but if anything I'd prefer a lower resolution on a display of this size. Usually I'd say the opposite, but Windows doesn't scale well and at the default text size everything is tiny. If you're used to using Windows on a large or low-resolution screen, adjusting to the Surface 3 can take some time.

Having swapped my 15.6in office laptop for the Surface for the duration of the review, I've come to the conclusion that it's possible to use a 10.8in screen for work. It's just not that pleasant.

Microsoft says there are several reasons for making the Surface 3 smaller: to offer more choice, to give better battery life and to make it cheaper.

So if you were hoping for a less powerful, cheaper Surface Pro 3, bad luck. This is arguably a better Surface 2 which can run legacy Windows programs, but it's not an alternative if you had your heart set on a 12in screen. Here are the two side by side:

Surface 3 review

Next section: Microsoft Surface 3 review - Usability