Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station
Docking Station Makes Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 Indistinguishable From a Desktop
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is ready for work. I tote the tablet/ultraportable hybrid everywhere and am almost always pleasantly surprised by how, with its optional Type Cover, effective it can be in any situation that might require a full-blown PC. However, it hadn’t supplanted my go-to Lenovo laptop — until now. And that’s all thanks to its new $199.99 docking station.
The 1.4-pound black device is an expertly designed holder for the Windows 8.1-running Surface Pro 3. At roughly 13 x 3.8 x 4 inches (WxHxD), the dock, which holds the Surface Pro 3 at an upright but slightly tilted back angle, isn’t much larger than the tablet. It offers ample ports: five USB (three are 3.0 while two are 2.0), a gigabit Ethernet port, a standard 3.5mm audio jack, a Mini DisplayPort connector and a security slot.
Setup is easy: just plug the dock into power and attach your USB devices and drives. To put the Surface Pro 3 in the dock, you pull apart the two far edges, drop in the tablet and then slide the sides back together. A power plug on the right side of the dock lines up perfectly with the Surface Pro 3’s charging slot and the tablet is held firmly in place by the two plastic lips at the bottom of the dock.
I put the dock on top of a 3M LX500 laptop stand, which raises it up a few inches so I wouldn’t be looking down at the screen all the time. For future docks, I’d suggest some sort of height adjustment.
For a mouse, I used the Bluetooth-based Microsoft Surface Mouse (not included), which doesn’t take up any of the USB ports, and the Surface Pro 3 recognizes the mouse automatically.
For my keyboard, I used a Logitech K120, which I attached via USB. I kept the Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover within a space on the 3M stand, just below the dock, and put the tablet’s stylus on left side of the dock, which is, naturally, magnetic.
As you would expect, the Surface Pro 3 and its docking station recognized the wired Ethernet connection automatically. It did not find my network printer automatically — I had to tell the tablet to recognize shared devices on the network. Once I did that, the tablet found the printer and installed the driver. I was then able to print with no issues.
Using a standard HDMI cable and a Surface Pro 2 HDMI-to-Mini DisplayPort converter (not included), I connected a 21-inch ASUS monitor. On the Surface, I opened the display dialogue under settings and chose a multi-display setting. The tablet automatically identified the correct resolution for my second screen and I chose to extend my display onto it.
Here’s where using a Surface Pro 3 in a dock with another display gets interesting.
As with any other multi-display setup in Windows, I can choose to simply extend the Windows Desktop across two screens, which is what I usually do. However, I can also switch either screen to the Windows Design interface independent of the other. Since the Surface Pro 3 is, obviously, still at touchscreen, it’s beneficial to be able to switch to, say, Fresh Paint and start drawing on the Surface Pro 3, while still being able to see my standard Windows desktop and all its open applications on the connected display.
I have to admit that I did find myself occasionally trying to use my large attached Asus monitor as a touchscreen; once you have that option with one, it’s hard to get used to the idea that it doesn’t automatically carry over to the other display.
My chief criticism of the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is its price; $200 is a lot to ask on top of the tablet’s $799 starting price. You already have to spend $129 for the keyboard — an absolute necessity for Surface Pro 3 road warriors. I think the dock would be a bit more palatable at $99, but I’m guessing that Microsoft would end up taking a loss on each dock sold. The company could, however, consider including a few display adapters, since I suspect there will be many customers with displays that are not displayport-ready.
Even so, if you own a Surface Pro 3, I consider this dock a must-have device. It simply completes the picture of a no-compromises tablet and ultraportable hybrid.