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Surface Pro driving four displays at once (video)

Surface Pro Multiple Displays

Some tablets are great for playing games, reading emails, and browsing Facebook. Then are others that kick all kinds of ass, like the Surface Pro. While calling it a tablet is a bit disingenuous, it does highlight the form factor of the Surface Pro as a jack-of-all-trades sort of machine. While it won’t win any awards for being light weight or thin, it can be used as a tablet on occasion. It really shines as an ultrabook.  An ultrabook that can, depending on your needs, become the only PC you really need. A fun video on YouTube shows a Surface Pro driving four monitors.

Keith Elder (@keithelder), from the Deep Fried Bytes podcast, put up a video on YouTube where his Surface Pro is driving four displays at once. It’s being helped out by the Plugable UD-3000 USB 3.0 universal docking station (about $99 on Amazon for Prime customers).

The video above shows the Surface Pro hooked up to the four displays through the docking station. In the video the Surface Pro is powering four YouTube videos while downloading Visual Studio 2012. It’s also running TweetDeck, Outlook 2013, Skype, Chrome, IE, Live Writer, and Adobe Audition.

I’ve seen some friends on Twitter and other social networks share photos of a display or two powered by a Surface Pro, but never four at once. Five if you count the display on the Surface itself. You can bet your bottoms I’ve ordered the Plugable docking station. Now I just need some more monitors.

Who else can't wait for version 2 of the Surface Pro?

Source: Keith Elder, Via: Geek

Thanks for the tip Gurggles!

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Reader comments

Surface Pro driving four displays at once (video)

66 Comments

I don't like the quality of the video out the USB dock. Its laggy while scrolling. Yuck. Ok for Office, maybe even VS, but I don't like it for browsing. I just use hdmi.

I second the Toshiba DynaDock. I have a mere 3 monitors + the Surface Pro 128 itself. The extra HDMI is nice. I also have 2 USB 4-port hubs. The DynaDock also has 5.1 Surround Sound.
Built-in Mini DisplayPort to 1 monitor
Built-in USB 3 port to DynaDock
DynaDock HDMI to 1 monitor
DynaDock DVI to 1 monitor
USB 3 to external 750 GB portable HDD
USB 3 to DVD player
Audio out to old speakers.
10/100/1000 Nic to company network
USB 2 to HDD docking station w/1 TB drive.
USB 2 to JamBox for charging
USB 2 to 4 port hub: microUSB for Lumia 822, DSLR, and Brother P-Touch Label Printer
USB 2 to 4 port hub: transceiver for wireless Microsoft mouse and keyboard. The transceiver gets messed up when plugged directly in to DynaDock
Software: Office Pro Plus 2010, vSphere Client, PaintShop Pro x5, Photoshop Elements 10, Visual Studio 2010 Standard, Visio 2013, Project 2012, VMware Player with Server 2012, Fedora Core 19, W8.1 preview, Server 2012 R2 Preview, Daemon Tools Lite, Lotus 123 and Approach, Microsoft Works, AutoCAD 2004, TrueCrypt, and a buch of free apps. When used as a tablet, I'm usually running OneNote with the stylus.
Still have 25 GB free on the 128 GB SSD, including the W8 restore partition. Have a 64 GB microSDXC card that is mostly empty. All my music is on my 822 w/64 GB card.
 
I've had different YouTube videos running simultaneously on all 4 screens, no problem. The noise was horrendous.
I'm sure the new 256 GB SSD version will be nice, but I'm not hurting now. I have close to 650 GB of pictures. No way will I be able to afford an SSD that large.
 
 
 

You're probably right. I just hear all these things from old people and try and use them. I'll go Google Bing it! 

I forgot that there's the phrase "you can bet your arse (ass)" so perhaps using "bottom" is being more polite :P

I'd be curious to see what the actual experience would be. This reminds me of the people who would run PhotoShop on netbooks, to show that it could run it. But of course, it would never run 'shop anything close to well.

You can see in the video how smooth it is. Surface Pro has a Core-i5 so comparing it to a Atom-powered netbook is silly.

I'm not comparing an i5 to an Atom. I'm just saying this is an interesting demo but not very useful for real world use. When am I going to need to watch four YouTube videos at once? Show me this running a YouTube video, Photoshop, Lightroom, and a file transfer. Or Visual Studio, an app tuning in the emulator, Photoshop, and a YouTube video. That would give me an idea of what this could really do.

I don't have a YouTube video, but I develop using Visual Studio 2012 for work and while I do not have Photoshop because I refuse to pay for Creative Cloud, I do run Lightroom 5 on mine and will be taking it on vacation with me.  I use an Olympus E-M5 and shoot RAW and edit on my Surface Pro with zero problems.  I am waiting for the E-M1 to be released in Sept so I can finally send my photos to my Surface Pro via WiFi.
I have also been able to get Spyder 4 to calibrate the tablet so I am editing in a calibrated screen.
There are no issues for me thus far.  I do want Haswell for better battery life and I want GPS in the next tablet but the GPS is not going to happen unless there is a version with 4G.
 
 

I run mine all the time with 2 external monitors.  The experience is very good for most things I do.  That includes...
 

  • Programming mostly with Visual Studio.
  • 18MP RAW Image processing with Adobe Lightroom.
  • Lots of business, office, and system admin type stuff all open at once.
  • Light gaming.
  • Watching movies.

 
The only thing I do regularly that is limited on my Surface Pro is running virtual machines for testing and development.  4GB of RAM doesn't go very far when you are dealing with virtual machines running server software like databases and web servers.

I hear you about the VMs. I finally broke down and build a Windows Server machine and run my VMs from that and use a browser to access them.

My ideal tablet would have 16gb of RAM but that would be pushing it.

If I have to do some real multi-VM testing I actually have a PC with 32gb of RAM and setup a virtual network and run 8 VMs at the same time.

Yup. I never buy first gen stuff. I will probably replace my current dinosaur laptop with a 2nd gen surface pro.
 

Is it running those monitors through the usb 2.0?
I was looking into getting Hp's version which has HDMI out.  I have the Ativ 700t Pro and thought this is great but the price kinda sucks.

Sorry Greg! It was you and I forgot to add it.  Post updated. Thanks for contributing, always appreciated :) 

You all realize since the Surface Pro native video port is Displayport and can support up to 7 Displays using a Displayport hub. Granted Displayport Monitors are not cheap and the DP hub are about $100, though the option is there out of the box. The USB 3.0 Docks are a nice cheaper way to achive multi-monitors on the surface pro.
Lets see an iPad do this. :)

I thought this much, both Surfaces us MiniDisplayPort, I still don't understand just how he connected 4 monitors to it.

Actually the Surface RT uses Micro HDMI. Only the Pro has DisplayPort.
What the guy in the video did is use a USB 3.0 Dock which gave him extra USB 3.0 ports in conjunction with USB Display adaptors. While this works well but in using these, you are taking up processing power with each USB video adaptor you use since the processor is doing the display emulation work.
Though it was still impressive to see all four displays working and him using it as a normal PC. Just goes to show how much balls the Surface Pro does have.

Ah ok, I was puzzled by this, cause I thought it was acting as some sort of Mini DisplayPort hub connecting to the one in your video card. I guess this USB video is probably enough for Windows but not for multi-monitor gaming (ie, it's not in any way compatible with Eyefinity, for example)

This! LOL Would love to see that response in one of the comparison commercials
 
Siri voice: Am I seeing quadruple? Um, yeah, I can't do that...

I want a HTC TouchPro8.1 windows phone. It would be updated for screen resolution and size but still have the great keyboard and tilt. All thinner and improved to be even better than that great Windows Mobile TouchPro2 phone.

I am waiting for a tablet powerful enough to run modern games decently, then it would be the only computer I would ever need.

All the USB 3.0 docking stations use the same DisplayLink drivers, reading the forums it seems many users have been having issues with Windows 8. I have my extra monitors but haven't decided with docking station to get and Plugable doesn't seem to be easily available in Canada.

I run OneNote Outlook Word Logos Bible other miscellaneous apps and often have 2 browsers open on 2 monitors with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and it never misses a beat!!! Love it!!!

Except that as said in the article, Surface Pro is not a tablet. It's what was called a Slate when HP introduced it yeaaaaars ago. Many of them being able if the same, for years (with proper adapters, of course). The form factor does not define a product, what's inside does...
When we finally have PC shaped like smartphones, you'll still call those smartphones?
Wait, then, Xbox One should be called a VCR ^_^ (kidding, I'm a Xbox lover)

I had been told that a Surface 2 was going to be released, but of course they couldn't confirm that at the MS store. Is it true? If so, without a doubt I will be getting one!

I am searching for a better way to display multi-montior setups using Surface Pro's I currently use the DisplayLink USB 3.0 dual monitor device and a Tripp Lite USB 3.0 Charging Hub 7-Port x USB 3.0, 1-Port x Charging port. I noted the Display link ran into issues when dividing out the one USb 3.0 port into the multitude of usb devices onenormally plugs into the Surface Docking station. So the tripp Lite USB plug helped a bit to start as it provides additional power to make sure all the devices worked. That soon went downhill. As some devices now register in the event log as not being able to be detected properly and my Surface's using this plan also have intermittent rebooting in the middle of work the users do. As well I am getting some interesting errors stating the processors are being limited by system firmware. The prosessor has been in the reduced performance state for a perior of time since the last report. So. This sort of thng doesnt come without a cost. I am wondering if the guy who is using the "Plugable US-3000" is not experiencing some hickups as well>>>>