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3:2 or 16:9–Which is Better?


With the new Surface 3 set to release in less than a month, this question is sure to come up. Yes, the Surface Pro 3 has been sporting the 3:2 aspect ratio for several months now, but the Surface 3 is a more consumer friendly device. A direct iPad competitor. So the questions and comparisons become more relevant. iPads have always been 3:2, as were most of the pre-2009 monitors on everyone’s desktop. But Microsoft chose to go with the 16:9 aspect ratio on the initial, and later releases of the Surface. So why the change to 3:2 on the upcoming Surface 3?



The wider (or longer) format lends itself to viewing video properly. And it’s great for snapping apps to the sidebar while working in another app. But it could become a bit tiring to hold over a long period, with the weight not evenly distributed. But let’s all be honest here. It gets tiring holding any tablet for a long period of time. My Asus Note 8 measures 5.2” x 8.7” and weighs 0.8lbs. Compared to an iPad Air 2, measuring 6.6” x 9.4” and weighing 0.96lbs. So not much different, and the Note is lighter. Even so, holding the tablet for more than several minutes takes it’s toll on your wrist and gripping fingers. When you read a paper book, your constantly moving your hands as you flip pages. No so much on a tablet. And nothing’s ever going to change that. Except maybe a plutonium button battery.

It’s especially difficult to type on a 16:9 device held vertically. And horizontally, the on-screen keyboard will cover half the narrower screen. Some have said the 3:2 ratio more closely resembles paper. That can be helpful when using a pen. You know, like the pen you can use with a Surface 3 tablet. Let’s check that out.

Here are three example of common paper sizes. Legal is closer to 16:9. But letter, and even note pads, are closer to 3:2.


Another format used commonly on Windows tablets, especially 8” tablets, is 16:10. It’s very close to 3:2 (3:2 x 5 = 15:10), but just a tad taller. This seems like a good compromise ratio for video, writing, holding, etc.


I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a Surface 3 to check the feel and balance for myself (maybe a stop at Best Buy on the way to work tomorrow). Maybe Steve Jobs did get it right the first time. But what say you? What aspect ratio do you prefer, and why?