Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Hands-on: Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is a capable, costly upgrade

Mark Hachman | Sept. 29, 2014
By now, you should probably think of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet as the Windows equivalent of a MacBook Air: an exquisitely constructed, premium tablet for those who aren't worried about their next mortgage payment.

surface pro 3 dock front and back

By now, you should probably think of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet as the Windows equivalent of a MacBook Air: an exquisitely constructed, premium tablet for those who aren't worried about their next mortgage payment. 

The new Surface Pro Docking Station simply completes the experience. For the superlative Surface Pro 3 is already a tablet that is already almost a two-in-one notebook. When docked, the tablet provides enough horsepower to drive two other monitors, adding its own high-definition screen as a bonus. At that point, you may as well be working at a desktop PC.

The dock itself costs $199. Yes, $199. It's definitely pricier than tablet docking stations from the likes of Dell and HP, but also fancier, and a minor upcharge to the $1,200 or so you might pay for a midrange Surface Pro 3. If you're going to spend that much already, you may as well go whole hog.

Physically, the new dock looks very similar to the dock Microsoft built for the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2. Microsoft also stole a page from Hollywood and "rebooted" the name, calling it simply the Surface Pro Docking Station. Despite the moniker, however, only the SP3 is supported. 

Like earlier models, the sides of the dock clasp the tablet like a vise, connecting power and I/O alike through the tablet's charging connector. The Surface Pro 3 doesn't dock as easily to the Surface Pro Docking Station as the Surface Pro 2 did to its own dock, though, because of the way the new Type Cover connects to the tablet.

If you fold the Type Cover upward to provide yourself an angled typing surface, make sure you "unfold" the cover and lay it flat. Otherwise, the dock's extended charging connector may miss the tablet's port, possibly damaging itself or the tablet.

You can either leave the SP3's stylus in its fabric loop, or attach it via a handy magnetic connector Microsoft has added to the left side of the dock.

Ports, ports, ports
If you're buying a docking station, you're buying connectivity, which is one of the slight deficiencies of the Surface line in general. Each Surface Pro 3 tablet, by itself, includes just a miniDisplayPort and a USB 3.0 connection. The docking station does not obstruct those ports, and it adds five more USB ports--two USB 2.0 and three USB 3.0. (That's a slight step up from the Surface Pro/Pro 2 dock, which had three USB 2.0 connectors and a single USB 3.0 connector.) There's also another (replicated) miniDisplayPort connector on the back, plus Gigabit Ethernet, a headphone jack and Kensington lock. Microsoft removed the mic jack from the Surface Pro 2 dock, probably because no one was using it.

 

1  2  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.