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Should you buy Microsoft's pricey Surface Dock?

Surface started out as the tablet that could replace your laptop, but over the years it has grown into so much more. The Surface family offers flexibility in your computing lifestyle that's hard to beat, and thanks to the hardware inside the Pro, Book and Laptop, they're all capable of being your only PC.

Still, you might need a little help with that. As versatile as Surface products are, they have some limitations. That's where the Surface Dock comes in. This little black box has everything you need to turn your portable into a full desktop PC.

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Here are some details on the Surface Dock, directly from Microsoft:

  • Works with Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3.
  • 5.12 inches x 2.36 inches x 1.18 inches (130mm x 60mm x 30mm).
  • 1.21 lbs. (550 grams).
  • Two Mini DisplayPorts.
  • One Gigabit Ethernet port.
  • Four USB 3.0 ports.
  • One audio-out port.
  • SurfaceConnect cable.
  • External power supply.

The size of the Surface products works against them when it comes to ports. They're thin and light and meticulously designed to be some of the finest-looking premium products on the market. While some ports are available, there aren't many. That's not the case with the Surface Dock.

Surface Dock

By hooking up with a single SurfaceConnect cable you transform the Surface into a desktop PC with connections galore. You'll also deliver power to the Surface through the same cable that you're pushing everything else.

The Surface Dock allows you to hook up a pair of monitors, Ethernet and a bunch of USB accessories, just like you could on a regular desktop PC. It's a neat arrangement, with only that solitary cable running to the dock, allowing all the other cables to be managed out of sight.

It's a great product that only has one potential barrier to entry: the price. At $200, the Surface Dock is a significant investment on top of the already premium price you pay for a Surface in the first place.

But that also makes it possible to draw an easy conclusion. Should you buy the Surface Dock? And is it worth $200? Yes, absolutely, but only if you plan to use it frequently to turn your Surface experience into a desktop. If you're enjoying your Surface mobile and have no plans to use it in this way, keep the cash in your pocket. It's that simple.

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Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

65 Comments
  • Does it work with Surface Laptop? The article text suggests so, but it is not listed among the compatible devices.
  • 😀
  • It's funny nobody's replying to this, I had the same question, and one of my colleagues heard it wasn't compatible. We can't find the reference though. Surely someone at WindowsCentral can try and come back to us?
  • Yes. It works with any Surface device since the Surface Pro 3 (including the Pro 3) that uses the Surface connector (and I'm writting this this way because I'm not sure if the Surface Studio has a surface connector port)
  • Whilst I know the Surface Laptop doesn't have a USB C port, perhaps with a standard USB3 to USB C cable one could use the ms display dock for the 950XL with other devices? Perhaps some of the Surface devices have USB C anyway? Just saying, as the ms display dock is much cheaper and has HDMI as well as DP. It has no lan port, but that can be added very easily. An option?
  • The Surface Dock works with the Surface Laptop but the Lumia Dock only works with phones.
  • Are you sure? The MS dock used for phones is just a standard USB C dock, much like many others available. It can be used with Apple devices with USB C ports which are not phones I hear, so it's not just limited to phones as you indicate. Also, other USB C docks can be used with Lumia phones no probs (I have one MS dock and one third party USB C dock not designed for Lumia phones) so they are quite generic devices. Perhaps an experiment is in order? I don't own a Surface device and though I can get hold of a Surface RT I doubt testing that would help much.
  • Well, I never heard of it working. I do have a couple of Surface devices and this Surface Dock BUT I do not own the Lumia dock to test it out. The Surface Dock, unfortunately, doesn't work when you connect other devices to it. Believe me, I tried lol The Lumia dock...considering it's from Microsoft and the Surface Docks works the way it works, I'd presume it won't work either. But you're right, an experiment is in order.
  • I've had mixed experiences with the Surface Dock (Brick variant). Between work and home, I've had 5 Surface Docks. Of the 5, 1 has given zero issues. 1 now works as expected after months of issues. 1 still gives us buggy performance, and 2 were returned and refunded. My advice is to thoroughly test your dock before your return period expires. Make sure you've bought the right MDP adapters (not the passive type). And get the updater/troubleshooter app from Microsoft. Their compatibility list is not a suggested list, the dock legitimately is that fickle about what it works with.  Edit: My overall suggestion is that if you want a dock that is guaranteed to work, get a USB 3 dock. It won't charge the Surface, but my Dell D3100 works Every. Single. Time. As did my Pluggable USB 3 dock.
  • I agree I set a standard for my department for SP4 and Surface books but we have had such a mixed experience with Docks.  Mostly display issues.  My suggestion is to use the updater for the dock.
  • This is great info. Would you mind telling us how you go about testing a Surface Dock??
  • Sure thing. You'll want to try to test every posssible use case scenario for you. In my experience the docks work in one way, but not others. ie. works great with a single display, but not with two, or only works when the Surface is already powered on, not from sleep or hibernate. Try 2 monitors.
    1 monitor.
    4k monitor if you have one.
    Connect to dock while powered on.
    While powered down, then turn on.
    While in tablet mode.
    While in desktop mode.
    While asleep, dock, then wake.
    Hibernate, dock, then wake. 
    With/Without ethernet plugged in.
    Speakers or no.
    etc. etc. it seems ridiculous, but for a dock that is supposed to be so versatile for a product that is so versatile, there are a lot of possible use case scenarios. So I try to test for every possible one you'll use. The dock you get might not like the way you intend to use it. It might work fine with dual 1080p displays, then you switch to one 4k monitor and your dock is just "Nope."
  • Perhaps MS could put some of these ports on the Surface in the first place.  Typical MS Surface money grab.  Charge extra for pen, keyboard, ports.  Hello EVE.
  • Oh, another Eve brainwashed drone. Looking at their web site they make a couple every few months then claim they are sold out, and that is after being delayed over and over and over and over, again. And from their web site (which is completely unusable), the pen is not included either. Of course, they use the Y series CPU making it underpowered, without any other options. Use slower storage than the Surface Pro. And all for the price of ??? - yes, that is the price, they don't even know and can't tell what it is.
  • He is at least right about Microsoft trying to rob people for proprietary connector accessories. I would bet that most families don't own entirely Surface devices, making the dock useless for their other laptops. Thunderbolt 3 was what they should have done, but chose not to. It's quite clear to me they don't care about anything except squeezing every cent they can out of people, and locking them in to their own ecosystem. It's absolutely the wrong approach. I would certainly never buy a Surface for this reason.
  • People don't own Surface Docks because they don't work with laptops from other manufacturers? That is your argument? I own Dell XPS 13, Dell XPS 15, and a Surface Pro. The power supply for the two XPS devices do not work with my Surface Pro. Therefore, using your argument, Dell is a horrible company for making a proprietary connector, and you would never buy one one because of it.
  • I have a hard time believing the use case of families queing up to share the same dock is a significant thing.  I might have an even harder time imagining the queue of families that all have thunderbolt enabled devices to share said Tbolt dock either.  I'd be less surprised that there are families that share surface products and thus one (or less than 1:1) docks across them than your scenario of the family filling station like teammates sharing a power cord during a JAD.  You have to realize it's a small user base and hardly worth the acrimony that this is proof that MS wants to squeeze every cent our of people.  
  • And what ports do you get on a Macbook?
  • Why are you bringing MacBook into this?
  • Lol, you should scratch out Microsoft and put "typical every company"
  • .
  • No. Do not support proprietary connectors. Should have had Thunderbolt 3.
  • Thunderbolt 3 itself is not yet universal, if you know it.
  • If you want a single wire connection to your Surface for display, networking, power and USB, there is no other choice. Re. reliability: we have two and they work reliably with our Surface Pro and Book. The dock *does* however, need updated firmware. Interested readers can refer to this: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/surface-dock-updater
  • Yes!  I think most people forget to update the firmware.  Mine was a bit flaky until I updated.  Now I have zero issues.
  • RELIABILITY: I bought one with a SP4 and it was excellent to use but after one year/two months it stopped working probably due to a failure of the power supply part of it. The warranty is one year. Microsoft store's solution? Just spend another $200 and buy another one. No repair.
  • Thanks for the tip. Comments for May show the latest update is breaking audio.
  • Up!
  • I love mine, it's very convenient for docking to my 4k display.  I got the dock for like 120 at Best Buy, new in the box. I think they're similarly priced now on Amazon, eBay, etc.  also new, and cheaper preowned.  
  • Why can't these things plug in the back?
  • What do you mean? Plug in the back of the Surface?
  • Yeah, they could put the port under the stand with a small cutout in the stand for the cable. It would give it a cleaner look on your desk. Having visible cables like is messy to my eye. There is a fair amount of people that buy laptops and the like simply because you don't have wires all over the place.
  • Well, the previous versions of the Dock actually had the Surface docking into a thing that would hide most cables. The problem with that was that you had to buy another dock every single time a new device was released. This new dock however works with the Pro 3, Pro 4, Pro 5, Surface Book and Surface Laptop. So if you bought it already to use with an SP3, for example, and you now buy a Surface Pro 5 or a Laptop, you don't need to buy a new dock.   I understand the aesthetic complaint in your comment, but these docks are for functionallity over looks. They're not designed for people who want pretty set ups. It's more for use on the go. Still, you can find clever ways to only leave the Surface connector cable connecting to the Surface Pro. Putting the connector port under the stand, unfortunately, is just not possible. It would require twice the space which is simply not available.
  • Mine has been rock solid since the initial firmware update. The updates are supposed to be automatic, but there is a Surface Dock Updater that can be downloaded from MS.
  • Thunderbold 3 should replace the surface sock connector to unify the docks to every device! TB3 will be the future an I don't unterstand why MS is blocking it? It should not replace the surface dock connector instant, both could be their for one or two generations.
  • The Surface Dock is definitely worth it. I have my Surface Pro 4 connected to the following, all through the Surface Dock, which is a single connection into the Surface while simultaneously charging it: external, touch-screen monitor; external speakers; external hard drive; Xbox One controller (and then external keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth). I can easily disconnect it and the Surface instantly becomes portable and activates Tablet Mode. Walk over to the couch and use it to surf, bring it back and re-connect it to the dock and everything  instantly and magically works again as a desktop setup. Also, because it charges the Surface, I'm able to keep my actual charger in my 'laptop case' for when I actually take the Surface on the road.
  • Absolutely buy it. No issues whatsoever and love it!
  • I never had a major issue with my docks until I upgraded to 4K at both home and work. The problem was with sleep and the monitor "losing" the resolution on wake-up. It would scale all my open windows to 640x480 or 1024 x 768. Fought with this for a while and it ended up being an Intel driver. Having the right one paired with the dock. I have had every dock for the Surface Pro line since they were first released. Overall I have been very happy with them. Much happier than I ever was with anything that used USB display drivers. I tried Pluggable, Lenovo, Dell and HP. Of all of them, the Surface Dock worked the best. That being said, I am looking forward to Thunderbolt 3 docks. But based on our experience most of them aren't ready for prime time either. Dell recalled the initial one's we purchased so we went back to USB-C, which eliminated the possibility of dual 4K. Their second release of a TB3 dock works fine so far. I will miss the magnetic connector. I wish they could develop a TB3 magnetic connector standard.
  • ^ this.
  • Never understood the true benefits of this unless you wanted to drive two more screens. I always got by with a USB 3.0 hub and a display port adapter. Three things to plug in vs the convenience of spending 200$ just to save maybe a couple seconds more? Don't think it's worth it unless you really need two monitors.
  • I use my dock to help make my SP3 truly replace my desktop by attaching a 34" monitor, two USB drives, an old USB keyboard, Ethernet, and external speakers. I'm not crazy about the price of the dock, but I am willing to pay a little more for a premium hardware.
  • I need a shock on my SP3 because the single USB port was low power and as such using a DVD drive rarely worked and, more importantly, when I would run DMX to my lighting rig for work the signal would stop, constantly. It was completely useless. The dock fixed this. So yeah, if you are just plugging in a keyboard and mouse you are set, but if you want the tablet to actually replace a laptop then you need the dock. At least that is how it was for the 3, they may have changed things since then. That being said, a recent article on here has pointed out that it could have been a default setting in Windows that caused my woes, but I'm not sure because the problem occurred in Windows 8 and Windows 10.
  • Yep, it was worth the money and has never caused me any problems
  • Mine has been rock solid. I use it with my Surface Book. I'm hoping it'll work with the Surface Laptop. It's been invaluable to just pop the cable off and be on the go. When I need to be tethered to my desktop, a single cable gets attached and I'm in business.
  • i don't like the brick versions. the original dock that the surface pro slots into, and is also a stand, works great.
  • But then it wouldn't fit the Book, Pro (3, 4 and 2017) and laptop.  I'll have been able to keep my dock while going through 3 generations of device.
  • How about a review on third party dock's that may be a little less costly and provide similar/same functionality? I'm using my old ThinkPad USB 3.0 dock and it works just fine with my Surface Pro 4.
  • Yes, you should get it. My work have me a Toshiba dock that needed to get updates everytime Windows had a cumulative update. It would take them about 2 months to release the update, and sometimes a CU would come out a week later.
  • SilverSee, thanks for the tip about the Surface Doc. I did not know that it had it's own firmware.
  • When you update, make sure there is nothing but power connected to the dock.  You may need to run through the process multiple times as there are four components in the dock each with their own firmware (so it's not just a cable and connectors) and it only updates 1 or 2 each time (at least that's what happened for me).  It has a log so you can see what versions it found and which ones have been done.
  • I've used one w/ my Surface Pro 3 for the last 3 or 4 months and love it. Much more convenient than the old dock, which locked my Surface in place. Furthermore, I had inconsistent performance with some of the ports on my old dock. With the new Surface dock it always works perfectly, and handles multiple screens much better than the old dock. All of this said, I don't know if the price went up, or if I got mine on sale, but I bought mine for just $149. Still pricey, but not $200 pricey.
  • We have probably 30-40 of these installed in our buildings, the users love them.  Much better than the Dell docks that we have.  When they first came out, they were a bit buggy, but now after firmware/drives on both device and dock, they are pretty solid.  I think we have only had to send back one.  For our users, dual monitors (24 inch) are a must.  Also our wifi is public so the ability to plug in and have a static IP in our buiding behind our firewall is nice also.  We have tried others but had some not so favorable results.  Toshiba makes a Dyna Dock, this worked alright, but the users would have to unplug a second cord (power to the surface 3/4).  I am not lazy, I would do that.  But that thing they didnt like is they had to purchase a second cord for travel, or have to get under thier desk every time they needed the power unit.  When we were supporting Surface 3's they had the sandwich It was a pain to get 2 monitors to work on those, and when we started moving people to 4's the "adapter" was alright, but still didnt always fit right.  So the dock was a bit better.   We probably have about 80 total Surface 3/4s deployed but only about 40ish docks.
  • Sounds very nice thanks for sharing.
  • Are you certain that there was only one return?  From just 2 purchases of these, I have had 3 returns so far. If 1 in 40 is correct, then the failures must be environmental, such as being particularly susceptible to damage from power fluctuations - it is not unusual for us to flip on to the backup generator.  Nothing else fails though.
  • I had *multiple* issues with the dock and the SP4, particularly when trying to run two displys using MS's active adapters.  I can't tell you how many trips I made to the local store here in KC, or hours spent on a phone with MS tech support lasy year, I can only hope they'll release a new dock for the SP, although I suspect that won't happen.   David
  • I have 2 of them - one at work and another at home and I never paid full retail for either of them. You can sometimes pick one up on Amazon for under $100. Both of mine have been rock solid powering an external 4k Dell monitor.
  • I wonder if MS would put the Surface Connect port on the rumored Surface mobile device too, that way they could use it for Continuum instead of the USB C display dock? Not sure if there's any benefit in doing this, other than having it act the same as other devices in the Surface family. But back on topic, I've got a SP3 but honestly don't use it enough to justify the $200 dock (also have a desktop I use).
  • What resolution and refresh rates are supported by the current Surface Dock connected to the new Surface Pro or Surface Laptop? For example, using either of these two new Surface models equipped with an i5 or i5 processor, will it support two 4k monitors at 60 Hz (each)?
  • I got one for around 160€. It's overpriced as hell (typical MicroApploft) but it's the best option to expand ports. And it works with a bunch of Surface devices so even if you change the Surface, the dock continues to work with the new device. Pity it only works with the Surface though.
  • I got mine at Best Buy for $100.00. It works great for my Surface Pro 4. No issues at all.
  • This maybe a question already answered. I'm considering upgrading my surface pro 3 to the Surface Pro, but I have the surface pro 3 dock (the one that snaps onto the sides.  I know Microsoft made a surface pro 4 to 3 dock adapter. But has anyone heard anything about whether they're going to give the new one the same treatment ? The older dock's great in the fact that it essentially gives me a multiple monitor setup, I put research material or reference material on the pro (or my calendar, etc) and type my reports or whatever on my full size monitor.  So i'd like to keep using it.  
  • As others have already said, this is an extremely unreliable product.  It's so bad that I wondered whether Netgear made it - that's the worst insult I can come up with. It's a good purchase if you love getting refunds / replacements on a regular basis.
  • I don't see anyone writing in that the Surface Dock is a waste of money, so where are the others who say it is an extremely unreliable product? I haven't got mine yet, as I'm waiting for the upgrade to the present one - replete with USB Type C and Firewire Ports for fastest throughputs!!
  • It's the best accessory I ever bought for my Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. One stop connection to two WQHD 27" monitors, Ethernet, printer, USB speakers, keyboard, and mouse. Makes running to a meeting a breeze, and the round trip to and from home an easy transition.
  • Edit's not working so I wanted to respond to gavhamer - I've had three docks (sold first one with a low end model SP4 that I upgraded to the 16gb/1tb model) and one each with that new SP4 and a Surface Book 512gb model - all have worked flawlessly. My wife's setup at home includes only one monitor (which also contains a three port USB 3 hub), two printers (inkjet and laser), ScapSnap 500, speakers, Ethernet, DVD writer, iPhone connector...it runs like a tank as well. YMMV.