To say that the kickstand Microsoft provided with the original Surface RT was innovative is an understatement: Once you've experienced it, it's a feature you miss in every other device on the market. Surface 2 improved matters with a two-position kickstand, which was of course even better. So how does Microsoft improve on such a wonderful feature with Surface Pro 3? Three positions? Oh no.
No, they've gone much farther than that. This time around, we're treated to a an amazing continuous kickstand that lets you tilt your Surface Pro 3 back to whatever angle you prefer, just as you can with a normal laptop or Ultrabook.
Here's what's new with the kickstand in Surface Pro 3.
Multi-position. The Surface Pro 3 kickstand can be positioned however you want, from 0 degrees to an incredible 150 degrees back.
Friction-free. Unlike the kickstands on previous Surface devices, the Surface Pro 3 kickstand does not click into position. Instead, it features a "friction-free" action that lets you smoothly reposition the screen angle however you like.
New hinge design. As you might expect, the Surface Pro 3 hinge has been completely redesigned to accommodate this friction-free new range of motion.
Stage mode. At 22 degrees—the same point at which previous Surface kickstands stopped—the kickstand does stop (without really clicking) providing access to what Microsoft now calls stage mode, or what you might think of as a normal laptop position for the screen.
Canvas mode. At 150 degrees back, Surface Pro 3 is in what Microsoft calls canvas mode, which is ideal for creative scenarios, such as an artist writing on the screen with the bundled pen.
Other modes. A Microsoft press release refers to "movie mode, working mode and writing mode," but I take these to be general descriptions, not formal usage modes. For example, writing mode is clearly the same as canvas mode. As the Surface web site explains more simply, the kickstand lets you work comfortably whether you’re on the plane, at your desk, or in front of the television.
Lapability. The Surface Pro 3 kickstand has been designed for "lapability," the ability to use the device on your lap in conjunction with the new Surface Pro Type Cover. "If you're going to build a tablet that can replace the laptop, it has to work in your lap," Panos Panay said. "We think it works amazingly well." At the launch event, results here were mixed, mostly because the upper legs on many people are not long enough to accommodate Surface Pro 3 plus the Type Cover.
Stable. I'm curious to see how the new kickstand and hinge stand up to time, but up front, the kickstand is quite stable, with no shake at all. On the Amtrak train ride home from New York, the Ultrabook screen next to me was shaking regularly with the shaking of the train, but the Surface Pro 3 was rock-solid.
While I do kind of miss the click, it's hard to argue with the versatility of this design. This makes kickstand-less tablets and other devices seem even sillier by comparison.