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Quick review of the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Starting on Friday, Microsoft began to sell the new Surface Pro 3 Docking Station at various retail locations. So besides being a laptop and tablet replacement, your Surface Pro 3 can do triple duty as a full desktop replacement too.

The $199 accessory is by no means 'cheap' – in terms of either price or quality – but it is awesome. I managed to grab one from my local Microsoft Store in Natick, MA. Here are my initial thoughts, including a hands on video.

The build quality of the Docking Station is still top notch. It is not too heavy, nor is it light and almost entirely made from a thin, metal material, presumably something akin to VaporMg (magnesium-aluminum). Microsoft puts the specs at 1.43 pounds (650g), and its overall footprint is subtle only adding about an inch on each side.

Surface Dock (Image credit: Windows Central)

Interestingly, on the left side of the docking station, the area is magnetic so that the new pen can attach for when not in use. It is clever and it works well.

Placing the Surface Pro 3 into the station is super easy and requires very little, if any, lining up. In other words, the fuss level of using this is extremely low. Once docked, you closed the sides, and this locks in the Surface, including a new power adapter, which also handles the display out, audio out and Ethernet.

Microsoft designed the Docking Station so that everything on the Surface Pro 3 is fully accessible when docked. Such things as the volume keys, the USB 3.0 and mini Display Port are all available to use, adding to the already generous port selection on the Station itself. Speaking of ports, here is what you get:

  • Gigabit Ethernet port for up to 1 Gbps wired network speeds
  • Mini DisplayPort for HD video of up to 4096x2304 resolution
  • Five USB ports (three USB 3.0; two USB 2.0); the Surface's 3.0 USB port is also exposed for six in total
  • 48W charging system for charging and usage at the same time

You do need to pick up a mini DisplayPort adapter for HDMI, which is another $40 (or $80 if you want to use two external monitors). The Surface Pro 3 can push up to a 4K monitor; however, most reports note that it is limited to 30Hz (instead of the preferred 60Hz). This limitation is a common complaint that a many laptops and Macs suffer from although at least one reader told me you could run two displays within the 4K and achieve 60Hz.

Currently, I have the Surface Pro 3 outputting to a traditional IPS 1080P display, which looks 'ok.' Fonts can be thin sometimes, and the output is not as nice compared to my Dell XPS 27. I am considering getting a Samsung S27D850T 27-Inch at 2560 X 1440 Resolution, which should run a bit better than 4K.

The only downside so far is when you enable the Docking Station it takes over the sound from the Surface Pro 3. This change means you need either connected speakers or headphones to hear anything from the Surface (perhaps there is a way to override it; I have not really looked yet). [Edit: See the comment below from Tony, which explains how to get this to work.]

In conclusion, I am delighted with the Docking Station and anyone picking up or considering a Surface Pro 3 should give it serious consideration. Although the $240 ($199 plus HDMI adapter) is even more money, if you are in the market for a desktop replacement that can also sub as a laptop and tablet, there is nothing that comes close. Indeed, it truly is a remarkable feat to have something this small and light act as a desktop, but nimble enough to be a tablet.

The Surface Pro 3 as a 3-in-1 is a whole other class of hardware, and it may steer you to grab the more powerful Core i7 version, which makes much more sense with this setup.

Do you have the Docking Station for the Surface Pro 3? Tell me what you think of it in comments, or if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Head into our dedicated Surface Pro 3 forums for more discussion or read my full review.

Order the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station (opens in new tab) from Microsoft.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

125 Comments
  • Hope this comes to Europe, I'd love one of these!!!
  • I waited for the dock for SP2 to come to Europe and it never did. Ended up buying it for double the price on US eBay.. Have used it every day since and don't regret it.. If you use the surface professionally, you got to get the dock!
  • Agreed. I picked up the sp2 dock in Houston and have loved it. I suppose I can pick this up there also (I have a homestead near by) but I would just rather go to Selfridges and pick one up. Regent street needs a msft store!!!!
  • It's available on the online Microsoft store, at least in Portugal (for pre-orders, at the moment).
  • Lol, you're in love with the Surface Pro 3 ;)
    But who wouldn't be? Though it's too expensive for students like me :(
    It's still awesome though
  • The Core i7 version with this station is really neat. I know it's expensive, but if you are in the market, you could basically buy a tablet/laptop/desktop for just under $2k and it'd be quite powerful. I just think it's neat you can take your PC wherever you go now :)
  • The station seems really pointless and limiting. Get a permanent 10 port USB hub for the desk and a display port adapter. Can actually use the SP3 as a digitized/touch second screen. Docking station forgoes that capability.
  • There are people who use their tablets for work. Whether you're at the office or at home, people like having a workstation and the docking station does exactly that. Remember, option is always nice to have.
  • That's the point that went over your head, the dock limits your options. Stop and think about what was said instead of regurgitating the same old line.
  • Maybe you should stop having a selective mindset of some kind. If you don't like something, it doesn't mean others don't as well. Someone's trash is another's treasure.. Whatever gets the point across.. This thing may be of no help or service to you but there are people out there who appreciate it. In the end it's out there and it's optional.
  • From where I stand you have the selective mindset. You completely spewed cud at me without bothering to chew it.
  • Maybe you should stop being so arrogant and think about what Wael said instead. I've spent many, many years in universities, and docking stations are the way to go. To keep plugging and unplugging 3-4 cables (projector, mouse, charger, and possibly ethernet and storage) every time you change desk is a total nightmare. Maybe not for you, but when people do it 3000+ times a year, it is. A docking station is a matter of slide in, bang, everything set up. It's a MUST.
  • Arrogant? The dock is unnecessary and limits digitizer use. Go screaming "I need a dock! I need dock!" If that's your security blanket. In the end, I don't really care.
  • Hey your mom called lunch is ready. Bet you have alot of friends.
    So if I don't need the digitizer is it ok if I buy a dock or am I still wrong in your world? Quick I need to know what to do.
  • @Novron Pot meet kettle, whatever floats your boat, good luck with your life, etc.
  • yep im a musician, external audio i/o interface, and keyboard controller, and full sized keyboard, as well as two monitors will always be pluged up, might even have a control surface hooked up to it.
  • I don't understand how the dock limits you.  You get charging, a second DisplayPort, three more USB3 ports and two USB2 ports, audio out and ethernet with a simple drop-in.  I can (and do) still use the touch screen, and have a second non-touch monitor, plus I could have another (third) monitor plugged in using the second DisplayPort.  USB DisplayLink adapters are too slow for me to use on a daily basis.  I used the SP3 without the dock until it arrived like you described, and the dock is vastly superior in my usage.
  • You already have charging. Display port is a daisy chain solution. Audio out is already over a touchscreen monitor on the USB. Ethernet is already done on WiFi. You do not need display port adapters for display port supported monitors which is what the $240 is better spent on. Three connections is all you need and they are just as fast to pop in as it is to stick an SP3 into a dock. And, you don't lose digitizer or be stuck in one angle on the SP.
  • Hahah, Ethernet is done over WiFi? Man, that is best thing I've heard in a long time.
  • My goodness... I don't know if I've ever seen a poster as arrogant, abrasive, and closed minded as Novron. He seems incapable of understanding that different people desire different things, and that some people are willing to pay a premium for quality, convenience, and design. It must be difficult to live life without the ability to understand and interface with others to the degree that he finds it necessary to attack them over their docking method preference without provocation.
  • He's basically a troll. Coming on to argue in a vain attempt to feel superior. Don't 'feed' him. I also bought a dock from the US at vast price for a very simple reason troll-boy seems to overlook - I used to have to plug in my speakers, screen, usb drives etc every time I wanted a workstation environment until I noticed the connectors themselves were starting to feel loose. Constantly having to plug in cables is going to put a lot of wear on the connectors, as opposed to a dock which is a guided connection and generates much less fatigue over time.
  • The only way you can daisy chain with displayport is to have 1.2 compliant monitors.  Right now they are pretty expensive.  Most people won't rush out to buy new monitors.  The docking station gives the option to connect 2 via VGA/DVI.  I agree that the docking station is costly, but buying new monitors doesn't sit well with some.  I would also consider buying it because of ease of use.  I know grabbing tons or cords and plugging them in doesn't sound like much but after doing it a few hundred times it might get old (especiallyif they fall behind the desk).  I see pros and cons with both, just thowing out some of my experiences.
  • it didnt go over his head as like you I was interested in the usb one like the plugables 3.0 dock. I see a guy hook up 4 monitors to it from a surface pro 2. but I like this option as it power device, and does it thru the surfaces ports, I think they might last longer than the usb port as on my laptop I have 3 ports and 1 and a half are working, the 3.0 port works, and one 2.0 work if you wiggle it, i still would how ever get some thing like the pluggable for road use perhaps  
  • My thoughts exactly... $240 is a lot to spend to not have to plug anything into the SP3... I think I can take the extra 10 seconds to plug in my monitor, USB, and power cord when I get to my desk/workstation...
  • Glad you want that, lol. I sure as hell don't and like this clean look much better. Regardless, choices are good.
  • The same can be said about virtually every other docking station these days. Though, if the argument were about the display connections alone, that would be different.  Display Port supports daisy chaining so you can have several more monitors connected.  But it would have been nice if they left out a USB 2.0 port for a dedicated HDMI and DVI connector to bring it to parity with similar offerings for laptops.  People can always use USB hubs and port replicators but they are clunky and messy.  If you're one to consider a Surface Pro 3, let's face it, you're probably not interested in clunky and messy. Again, this is all subjective.
  • Right now I do what you've described with my SP1 but also have it on an adjustable arm so it can be high and back as a second monitor or low and close for writing/drawing. BUT what I'm thinking about doing with the SP3 is mounting the dock to a fancy, multi-adjustable, monitor arm so I can achieve the same thing and have the benefits of the neat docking solution. Even if I can't get it to work I am still going to go with the dock over being able to use the digitiser while docked, that's more useful to me.
  • In what way does docking prevent the usage of the touchscreen?
  • You're correct, but that setup is not as an elegant solution as the Surface dock for the basic user. For the power user, your solution would be beneficial, but for the basic user being able to pull that pad out of your travel bag and now make it your desktop with a very small footprint, that's useful.
  • I have bought two laptops uptil now and the expensive one out of the two was worth 40,000PKR which is roughly $375 so yeah,$2000 is out of the question for me right now but yeah, it's definitely the best option for those who have the money to buy it, and like you said, after all its a portable PC so, it definitely is neat :)
  • Don't forget about the i3 version - much cheaper. Granted the space is limited, but you can stick in a SD card for more. Microsoft also give a discount to students (10%, I think).
  • Correct. It is $150 off for the i3/i5 models and 10% off for the i7 models.
  • Daniel, I picked up a mini DP to HDMI adapter from Amazon for $8 that works fine. I wouldn't spend the $40 for the Surface name on it. In fact I also have one that is mini DP to HDMI, VGA, and DVI, and I think I paid under $20 for that one.
  • Good to know and like HDMI cables, makes sense.
  • Seconded.  I got a couple of DP adapters and cables from Monoprice for $20 in total and they work well.  The only complaint I have is that the second LCD has to be plugged into the tablet rather than both running off the dock.
  • Well honestly you don't need to plug into the tablet to use more than one monitor with the SP3 Dock. Display port 1.2a supports the use of DP hubs which can support up to 3 DP monitors from one display port. So techincally you can get a DP hub plug it into the DP on the dock and have two or three extra monitors instantly once you plug it into the dock.  Only problem is the cheapest DP hub I have seen is about $100. 
  • Yes, I am aware of this however as you point out its an additional hundred bucks.  Given the price of the dock I wish they had built this in.  But really its the only nit I can pick at this point, its fantastic otherwise.
  • Honestly, the dock isn't that expensive for what it is.  Compare it to a Dell, Toshiba or Lenovo dock (not a USB port replicator) and you'll find that they're very comparable.  I just wish the DisplayPort worked for me :( http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro3-surfdevice/surface-pro-3-dock-not-detecting-external-monitor/b6a2da5d-f4d1-44db-b0b9-676ff9a35739
  • Mine just arrived today at the office and it's very well designed.  They really thought of everything i was especially impressed with the magnetic pen holder keep the pen readily available for quick notes at my desk. i was wondering if i could still use the type cover and was very happy to see it works perfectly with the dock. 
  • The Surface Pro 3 is a superb product, can't wait to get one myself :)
  • My HP dock at work has 3 monitor outputs, smh. Edit: Brand new HP monitors with DP in still don't have a DP output so daisy chain requires another adapter. And to use the port on the surface itself to plug in a wire defeats the whole docking thing.
  • Well, this has 2, but you can usually daisy chain a third on. I'm pretty sure for most people that is enough.
  • Doesn't display port support daisy chaining up to four monitors?
  • Yes, but in this case it is the CPU that is the limitation.  I have found that I can run x3 1920x1200 monitors without issues.  You may beable to get 4 to work if the resolution is smaller. (will test)  Or you may only get 2 4k monitors to work. 
  • Yes it does.  I have 3 plus the Surface Pro2 on my Dock.  It extendds to 3 screens so 1 is dupiclted to the SP.  I a waiting for my Surface Po 3s o come in.
  • DisplayPort 1.2a supports up to 3 connections with the use of the DisplayPort hub. So from the one DP one the SP3 dock you can get 3 DP connections. 
  • Well, although it has two you still need the adapters to get multiple monitor which makes it a pretty expensive if you're used to multiple monitors. I bought a Dell 23" high resolution touch screen with a built in dock for about $600 that supports 2 monitors out of the box, plus a $25 pluggable adapter gives me my third. Dock is nice but pricey.
  • you're screwed. none of the DP hubs out there worked with SP2 and this is the same graphics chipset so they may not work either.
  • That's not true.  I've been using the EVGA hub for months now.  First on my Surface 2 and Now on the Surface 3.  Everynow and then (once or twice a month) I have to restart a monitor, but I'm blaming that of old monitors and adapters that have to plug into the hub.  
  • To stop the capturing of the sound device you can right click on the sound icon in the desktop notification area, choose playback devices and change the default to the 'Speakers (Realtek High Definition Audio)' instead of 'Speakers (Microsoft Docking Station Audio Device)' when docked.  It will now remember that when you undock and dock again later which is nice.  You can even leave the dialog open and see it change when you dock and undock.
  • Ah, very cool! Thanks for the tip.
  • You should add this tip to the actual article :)
  • Great to know. The sound of the Surface Pro 3 is quite remarkable all things considered. So it's nice to know I don't have to connect my external speakers.
  • Great tip, thanks.
  • That's odd, mine didn't switch on me at all.  i had no issues with sound coming from the surface.
  • Thanks for the tip! It does the trick on my old Samsung Series 7 Slate with its dock too. I never thought to check the Sound properties.
  • This is good news, can't wait to get one
  • Short review, it's awesome.
  • $200 for a docking station is a standard price. I have purchased many from Lenovo at work and they are $225-$270.
  • I don't have the dock (yet), but in my office I have the Surface Pro 3 (i5 model) hooked up to my Dell 24" 4K monitor at 60hz. My old Vaio Pro could not do this, and was limited to 30hz, because it only had HDMI out. That did not work well at all (in fact I was surprised how jittery mouse movements and such were). The SP3 has none of these problems. However, a big important caveat here... Apparently the Intel driver has an issue with my particular monitor (Dell UP2414Q) in DP 1.2 mode. Even though it's supposed to be one LCD panel (unlike some of the cheaper models), it gets surfaced as two by the Intel driver, and the effect with the default Surface driver is not great. To fix this, I installed Intel's driver, which includes their control panel. From there you can set it to "Collage mode" where it recombines the two monitors into one. With this, I get 4k at 60hz and it's both beautiful and smooth as silk. The downsides of this, other than the extra setup and the risks associated with using the non-Surface-tailored driver, are: - The Surface's built-in display can't be used at the same time (without making everything a wonky resolution) - DPI scaling is a bit messed up. -- Metro apps all run at a lower DPI scale than they should, so everything looks small. Interestingly, if you choose the "smaller" option in PC Settings -> Display, everything gets bigger! This sounds like a solution, except that when you unplug the monitor, everything on the Surface display is then in "smaller" mode. -- When switching between the 4k monitor and the Surface display, any open IE windows all end up at the wrong zoom level, which is mildy annoying. However, since this is my work setup, I'm mostly on the desktop, so having everything be a little small in Metro apps isn't a big problem. Tweetium is still usable at that size, as is Music and to some extent Mail. I might see if I can script up something to toggle that setting for me when connecting/disconnecting the monitor, though. The rest of the desktop experience, other than the IE annoyance, is quite good. Text is super sharp everywhere, and the Surface keeps up with animations and such just fine. I'm concerned that a second 4k monitor might be too much for the i5 model though. Still, I may experiment with that down the road. I'm hoping that MS and Intel will work on fixing the driver bugs. It'd be ideal if the Collage mode stuff wasn't needed, as I'm pretty sure that's what is screwing up Metro scaling and IE's zoom level adjustment logic. And being able to drive the Surface's display at the same time would be a nice bonus. I don't know if they're actively working on that though. Might try and bug some folks over there at some point to see if it's on their radar. If I end up finding any additional workarounds to improve the experience, I'll put up a blog post at brandonlive.com to share them.
  • By the way, it's weird that this comment editor lets me do things like bullet points and indentation, when the posted result strips all that out =/
  • Eck, will take a look at the comment thing. Thanks for the detailed experience. Seems 4K is still a bit all over the place, so good to hear your results with it!
  • I would love for someone to post a how to to deal with these resolution and multiple monitor issues. I find the scaling issues with multiple monitors absolutely frustrating. I run my SP3 and it hooked up to a 27" 2550x1440 display. I HATE the Windows resizing between monitors described above. So much so that I don't want to use my SP3 as a desktop
  • I can do 4K at 30Hz on HDMI. I can do 4K at 60Hz to the same monitor from my other computer. I tried 2 cables that say they are displayport 1.2 with 21.6G bandwidth. But the Intel software keeps saying I am exceeding the maximum bandwidth when I try to set a custom resolution at 30Hz or 60Hz. Collage mode exits when I try to display to only my 4K monitor. I have the SP3 i7, what cable did you use?
  • Managed to get the displayport to do 4K at 30Hz but still get the bandwidth error for 60Hz.
  • With another cable from StarTech I got 36Hz. Still would like a cable that does 60Hz.
  • Hi David. It should have nothing to do with the cable. The problem is due to broken DisplayPort 1.2 support in the version of the Intel driver that the SP3 ships with (and/or is on Windows Update). If you download Intel's latest driver and install it manually, it works like a charm. https://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?DwnldID=24348&lang=eng&ProdId=3719 The installer may not work, but if you go to Display Properties and manually browse to the driver folder, you can pick it and get up and running pretty quickly.
  • I had the 15363, installed the 15367 and will try it at work in the morning. It was odd the 2 cables worked at different custom resolution frequencies. Thanks.
  • Driver is now 10.18.10.3960 and it still only does max 37Hz even as a single monitor. Will do 38Hz but flickers now and then. Can you tell me the model number of the cable you use? Thanks.
  • Uhhh no..too expensive and doesn't even include the display port adapter?
  • Get a DP monitor. And tell me what dock includes such an adapter or any adapter at all?
  • Love the docking station. My only complaint is the keyboard is just a little awkward. If connected to my sp3, the keyboard has to be open and flat (not magnetically attached), or the keyboard has to be detached. Personally I like detaching the keyboard but then finding a place to put it is a challenge
  • I have had my docking station station for a week now, and love it!  I prefer using my type cover flat, but it WILL magnetically attach up at an angle when on the docking station.  I have a 27" Dell monitor attached to it, and everything looks beautiful, and works well.  I catch myself trying to touch the non-touch monitor, and I can already tell where this is leading!  I need to find out how to get my POP3 mail onto my SP3 so that I can get rid of my old computer.
  • Mini DisplayPort to Male HDMI cables (with Audio Support) are less than $10 on Amazon.   I prefer that over the adapters that you still have to have an HDMI cable for.  I have used them with Macbooks and my HP with Mini Display port and run three monitors with it. Additionally, thanks for bring up the cost of the additional power supply. Everyone typically assumes this is so expensive, but when you factor in thw power supply its pretty reasonable.  It still blows my mind they want $80 for it.  If you are going to get a second power supply for your desk, might at well spend the extra $120 and for the dock.
  • I don't like this new Microsoft, too much like Apple, charging us too much
  • It's premium stuff, and it's targeted for enterprise and business users, where cost is less of a concern.
  • NOTE -- The Docking Station's Security connection ONLY secures the Docking Station itself -- it does NOT secure the Surface Pro 3 that is in the Docking Station.
  • Good to know, thanks!
  • So there's no mechanism to lock the SP3 into the dock?  That makes adding the Kensington security cable slot a very odd design choice.
  • Not when the dock is worth $200, it doesn't. ;)
     
  • Presumably, if you are away from your desk for an extended period of time you would either secure your office or take your Surface with you.  However, the dock would always be there, hense the cable lock.
  • If I'm at work in the office and have my SP3 docked, I'd prefer the security of it not growing legs when I go to lunch, take a coffee break, step out to make a call, or whatever I'd step away from my desk to do when I wouldn't need it with me.  To me, this is the benefit that a cable lock provides, not securing my dock overnight when I'm not there. Personally, I'm not worried about losing the $200 dock, but rather the $1300 tablet with all of my personal and work data on it.  Besides, I consider $200 to be pretty standard for a proper dock, as opposed to glorified USB hubs like the Dynadock, such as ThinkPad docks, which average around $200 as well: http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/accessories/dock-port-replicators/?page-size=40  
  • And as a teacher, not being able to secure the surface itself, makes the dock worthless to me and also ensures i'll never bring my SP3 to the classroom. A real shame. This is incredibly dumb.
  • Daniel, how is the viewing angle when it's docked?
  • Good. I mean, you do lose the ability to adjust, obviously but for a default angle, I'm okay with it.
  • Daniel, I thought you were in San Diego (I seem to remember you saying you went to your local store in SD..) or am I mixing you up with someone else on the site... or did you move?
  • Sam is out in California. I used to be New York, but now outside of Boston.
  • Got the dock on Friday, set it up on my desk powering one Dell 22"off the do on the dock and one 22" of the onboard port. Between the monitors ports and the dock, I have 10 USB 2.0 and the 4 3.0s. Its perfect for when I get home from work and need to have a setup that allows me to quickly pop the surface in and get back to work.
  • yes moved from tradional desktop to Elitebook 2 years back and cant believe how much difference it makes being able to take my full Dev PC with me when i go to clients (well it workled on my main PC but i didnt have enough time to resetup everything) when i want to go away for long weekends and need a backup plan. When my SPRO3 eventually arrives I'm expecting to be able to have all my stuff with me always.   Its little things like I get an email with some stuff i want to show the wife, do I print, save to OneDrive and show on a tablet or undock teh laptop and take it around the house? WIth the SP3 im looking forward to just one device.
  • I have the adapter for my RT. Is it the same part? And just waiting to get all my coin together to pick up the i7.
  • groan i have all of this on order, SPRO3 i7 and keyboard and Dock. The SP BT arc mouse already came as did my new ViewSonic (AKS View So Nice) VP2772  27" 2560 X 1440   But here in little old New Zealand Im going to have to wait a couple more weeks for the SPRO3 and a little longer still for the dock :( Come on already I cant wait
  • Daniel, Paul Thurrott says the dock is plastic. Am curious to have confirmation.