[skip to the bottom for the regkey file link – to learn more about the hack check out the Surface Pro 3 article]
I was excited to find the Surface 3 keeps the same 3:2 aspect ratio and high dpi of its big brother (Surface Pro 3) and not the 16:9 ratio from its cousin (Surface 2 RT). The 1920×1280 resolution on the Surface 3 is far more practical than the 1920×1080 on the Surface 2 RT. Its wonderful to see more tablets and laptops breaking free of the 16:9 aspect ratio nonsense pushed by the movie industry and panel manufacturers.
By default, Windows 8.1 chooses 150% dpi scaling on the Surface 3 screen and depending on which external monitor is paired up, the on-screen sizes of objects might not match up exactly. Most folks don’t mind this and will love their Surface 3 out of the box. Others may want to tweak things a bit. Fortunately, you can use the same tweaks as the Surface Pro 3 to manually set a lower 3:2 aspect ratio resolution to better pair with certain monitors.
[photo courtesy Microsoft.com]
For example if you have a 21.5″ 1920×1080 monitor at 103dpi, you can choose a screen resolution placing the effective Surface 3 pixel density at 107dpi to match very closely. As shown in the Surface Pro 3 tweak article, once the monitor is disconnected from the tablet, the tablet will magically spring back to full pixel density so you get the best of both worlds – hi-resolution /pixel density when using the tablet close up, and lower resolution to match your desktop monitors when docked.
If you use the built in lower resolution options to avoid dpi-scaling issues in certain applications, you’ll get black bars. So to avoid black bars, here are some 3:2 aspect ratio screen resolutions you can add with the regkey hack method to match your favorite monitor:
- 1920×1280 213.7dpi 100% scaling native resolution at 10.8 inches diagonal
- 1800×1200 200dpi 106% scaling
- 1728×1152 192dpi 111% scaling
- 1530×1020 170dpi 125% scaling (Intel driver may round to 1528×1020 which isn’t exactly 3:2 ratio)
- 1440×960 160dpi 133% scaling
- 1350×900 150dpi 142% scaling (Intel driver may round to 1352×900 which isn’t exactly 3:2 ratio)
- 1278×852 142dpi 150% scaling (Intel driver may round to 1280×852 which isn’t exactly 3:2 ratio)
- 1200×800 134dpi 160% scaling
- 1152×768 128dpi 167% scaling
- 1080×720 120dpi 178% scaling (can’t run modern apps on Surface screen)
- 1020×680 114dpi 188% scaling (can’t run modern apps on Surface screen, Intel driver may round to 1024×680 which isn’t exactly 3:2 ratio)
- 960×640 107dpi 200% scaling (can’t run modern apps on Surface screen)
Don’t be scared away by the lower resolution options. Read the full Surface Pro 3 article to understand why low-resolution in docked mode actually works better for many people. Curiously, I noticed that when attempting to add certain resolutions, the Intel control panel added a slightly different resolution that was off by 2 pixels. I’m not sure why that is but they look just fine. I shared my findings with the Surface team a while back and they grok why all of us enthusiasts are doing these tweaks, so don’t be surprised if some of these extra resolutions get baked into a future Intel driver update.
- backup your system (use at own risk – modifying the registry can have side effects and precautions such as backing up your data should be taken before modifying your PC
- download the .reg file
- double-click the .reg file and click OK to import it into your registry
- Having trouble importing a .reg file when downloading via the MS Edge browser in Windows 10? That’s probably because it is auto-renaming to .txt for safety. You can rename it back to .reg or import the .txt file from within regedit.exe. Or just download with Internet Explorer or FireFox instead.
- Reboot OR follow these steps to reset the Intel display driver
- open Device Manager
- open the Display Adapters
- right-click “Intel HD Graphics…” GPU and click “disable”
- click “Yes”
- after the monitors stop flashing, right-click the Intel GPU again and click “enable”
- open System – Display – Advanced display settings in control panel and choose your preferred resolution
If the regkey option doesn’t work for you it may be that the latest Windows Updates have broken it.
- Try this generic driver from Windows Update: http://download.windowsupdate.com/d/msdownload/update/driver/drvs/2016/10/20940638_b3707c2673928e8ab70a602a1cf89df3665a3b54.cab
- You’ll need to uncompress the .CAB file and follow the “have-disk” install directions to force-update over the Microsoft provided driver.
- Then use the intel.com instructions to manually add the resolutions you want.
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