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Micro USB Port - A Poor Design?


Active Member
I bought my Surface 3 for my wife. Yes, I know, contradictory but it is hers but I thought it was a good idea.

She really likes it and says it is noticeably faster than her Surface 2.

She asked tonight, 'I can't find the charging port there's three holes there?'. I was somewhat dismissive and explained that you have to look closely.

She has a point though and the fact is she is far sighted and she puts it on to charge last thing at night and often has taken her glasses off.

The Micro USB port is a clumsy design though, not only is it very small, you have to look closely to see which way to insert the plug. It requires reasonable eyesight and light to do this without scratching the Surface (as it were).

The other issue is one of safety. This is a very expensive device and unlike a mobile phone is often used with the charger attached. This potentially can result in someone swooping by and either damaging the port or taking the whole device to the floor with potentially catastrophic results.

The other point she made had me thinking also. "I can't see the charging light when I insert it". I said "well it is on the other side" to which she replied "well that's silly". I said "well, if you are looking at it in normal viewing position then you can see it". "Oh, but when it is lying flat on the keyboard at night I can't see it". Mmmm.

I bought their viewpoint that it was practical as there are lots of Micro USB chargers around. Thinking about it and getting feedback from my wife, I am thinking it just slack design. If my wife can figure all this out in 48 hours of owning it, why can't designers figure this out also? I think maybe they all have pretty good eyesight and coordination. Now, some people are born far sighted and just about everyone except those born short sighted have poor vision up close once they reach 45 or so years old.

Overall, it is IMHO, poor design. I was slightly skeptical of the Micro USB but even more so now.

I look at my Surface SP3 and see good charging port design. The charging light can be seen regardless of which side is up. The cord is safe since it is magnetic and anyone swooping past will simply swipe the cord out, harmlessly. It can also be inserted either way and the port is big enough it is probably visible easily to people with less than ideal eysight up close.

Finally the other issue that my wife made that I noticed but she also commented on is that it looks plugged in from one side but not the other as the side slopes. Now the magnetic charger on the SP3 of course there is no such issue as the port matches the slope of the side.

So there you go a multitude of negatives from a simple design decision that I think was a bad one.

Don't get me wrong I really like the Surface 3 but my guess is that the Surface 4 will have a much better thought out charger and port than this anachronistic throwback to el cheapo mobile phone chargers, practical or not. This is a premium device and this could be seen as a cheap cost saving measure which blights an otherwise top end premium device.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Blame it on the customers. Microsoft said they went micro USB because customers demanded it.
I said it before and I'll say it again, sometimes the customer is wrong!
(poor implementation notwithstanding)

This might still be salvageable though as the Docking Station doesn't have a micro USB connection yet it is able to power and charge the S3. MS could release a "Fast Charger" for the S3 that fixes all these problems and uses the same connector the Docking Station uses, presumably the DisplayPort for charging.

Hope someone notices...


Super Moderator
Staff member
With regard to not ebing able to work out which port is which because of poor eye sight etc, I hardly think that scenario is the fault of the port. Also, when you pull the S3 out of the box, the plastic wrap over the thing has all the ports labelled so you know what is what.

With regard to which way up does it go, easy, cable pointing down. It doesn't take long to get used to.

That's not to say I don't agree in that the micro usb port has a lot of drawbacks, and is getting a bit long in the tooth (bring on type-c reversible cables :)). I definitely think that it was a bad choice to go with micro usb (especially given that it clearly isn't as cross compatible with other cables and battery packs as MS claim (See GreyFox7's thread on charging).

My personal gripe with micro usb and has always been a gripe, is the potential for damage. I love my SP3 because I know I can just grab it, and if the cable gets knocked it just detaches. With my S3, just picking it up and putting it on my lap while it's plugged in requires me to actually pay attention to the interaction which is a big step back from magnetic cables.

All things said though, the pro's and con's of micro usb charging were known a long time before the S3 came out so I don't really see why anyone is surprised by anything they experience (other than the 3rd party compatatbility hiccups)


Well-Known Member
Not being able to see the port properly and trying to insert the plug upside-down, is the very reason USB-C will explode in popularity very quickly. It can't come soon enough for me.

I do agree that like the SP3, the S3 would do well with some kind of charging connector that broke away easily. Perhaps it could be implemented with a USB cable, I don't know.


New Member
I am thinking about drawing up "block" in Solid Works and having it 3d printed from Shapeways. to glue to the charging cable that gives some more support while plugged into the device. To prevent it from rocking while in use and charging. I never thought that this was a robust plug but love the versatility. for example if you check out the s3 charging thread there is a few portable batteries that can be used for long trims (airplane etc).

would anyone be interested in something like this?


Super Moderator
Staff member
I actually really like the sound of @malberttoo s idea. Surely that could be quite easy to manufacture, and because it's micro usb, a manufacturer wouldn't be restricted by the S3 market size like they would with cases etc. Would actually be a brilliant product. Would be perfect for when you are at home and know you might want to plug it in here or there.


New Member
I was hoping that they were going to keep the old charging port and that the micro USB was there for optional charging in a pinch.
I was actually disappointed when I opened up the box.


Funny, I was so close to getting a Surface 3 (one of the main features being MicroUSB charging) if I was able to get the accessories bundled for $600 (or around that price), but instead got a SP3 i5,4GB,128GB model instead and couldn't be more pleased. It was a lot cheaper too.


It is easy to make mistakes plugging in the cable when you first get the Surface (mini display port is "similar" in size as the micro usb port), but it is also easy to figure it out after the first couple of mistakes.
Just look at where the Windows logo is and make a note of where the port is in relation to it. You don't need great vision to do that.
When the kickstand is in use, you can just remember that the charging port is the last port to the bottom on the right side. You can feel this with your fingers. Then remember which way the charging cable is oriented when plugged in correctly. No great eyesight is needed for this method either.


New Member
The charging via USB was a MAJOR selling point for me. Battery life is NEVER long enough, so being able to recharge via a battery if you don't want to be tied to an AC outlet is great, as is being able to buy extra chargers and car/plane chargers that are reasonably-priced.

An adapter for the port that allows a quick/safe breakaway is a good idea; it wouldn't be hard to do.

It's also nice that the micro USB port is actually a full USB port so you can use it with an OTG adapter (as are used on cell phones).


Active Member
The mini USB is something that has received mixed response, obviously.

One issue is that whatever charger you use has to be fairly powerful and most cell phone chargers aren't powerful enough to recharge it although it may do in an emergency to reduce the rate of discharge. Emergency...eeeek I can't access my Facebook!

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