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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.

Microsoft doesn't make it clear whether you can daisy-chain two DisplayPort monitors together, as its documentation refers you to a support site where that question wasn't addressed. Microsoft has said previously that you can, however. (I lacked the appropriate miniDisplayPort adapters to test this properly.)

One slight annoyance is that the pitch at which the dock reclines is fixed, which takes away from the nearly limitless pitch options that the SP3's flexible kickstand delivers. You'll probably end up using the desktop monitor as your primary display, however, which means you'll be staring at the Surface display a lot less than you might have otherwise. 

Finally, a true left-handed gaming tablet
Right-handers blithely move through the world, failing to appreciate that everything from desks to golf to the way we write has long favored a right-handed approach. While the world's somewhat kinder to southpaws these days, gaming remains biased. I'm left-handed, and I can't effectively game on a PC without access to a keyboard's number pad--which compact keyboards like the Surface's Type Cover sacrifice to save space.

That's not a dealbreaker, of course. A game like Trine or the Batman Arkham series work well with gamepads or an Xbox controller. But with the dock, I can finally connect a mouse and keyboard and game as I choose. 

That said there are other options. Consider spending $199 for the Surface Pro 3 dock, versus $19--yes, $19--for a powered four-port USB 3.0 hub that can plug right into that USB 3.0 slot. You're sacrificing the option of an extra monitor connection, but saving yourself $180. The weight of that hub, plus the miniDisplayPort, might be enough to topple an undocked Surface Pro 3. But I doubt it.

With Microsoft's Surface Pro Docking Station, you have a fairly simple decision to make: Do you need that extra connectivity? Most likely, you do. But I also think you could probably find a cheaper alternative.

If money's no object, however, you won't regret it: Microsoft's Surface Pro docking station is a well-engineered, robust piece of hardware that looks great and makes your Surface Pro 3 even more useful than before. 

 

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