Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Review: Can It Replace a Desktop?

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 makes a great laptop replacement and works well as a tablet. Now, thanks to the newly released Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, the third generation Microsoft 2-in-1 tablet/laptop can also serve as a desktop computer too. With a mouse, keyboard and monitor, Surface Pro 3 owners can finally enjoy what computing enthusiasts want: one device to rule them all.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station ($199.99 direct from Microsoft) converts the Surface Pro 3 into a desktop workstation. Owners connect their peripherals and turn this flexible device into their desktop computer.

surface pro docking station

My setup with the Surface Pro 3 docked in the Surface Pro Docking Station and hooked up to my keyboard, moue and Acer monitor.

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Design

Microsoft made the Docking Station out of durable black plastic, and it feels light and smooth. It sits back at a comfortable angle for viewing the Surface Pro 3’s beautiful screen.

This shows the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station opened. Notice the charging connector ready to insert itself into the side of the Surface Pro 3.

This shows the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station opened. Notice the charging connector ready to insert itself into the side of the Surface Pro 3 once the user snaps the moving edges shut.

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To dock the Surface Pro 3, pull the two edges out and rest the tablet between them, laying the back of the tablet against the back of the stand. Slide the two edges in to connect the charger, which also connects the peripherals plugged into the back of the dock.

Here, the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is connected to the Surface Pro 3.

Here, the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station connected to the Surface Pro 3 by pushing in from the two edges.

The system works well and it’s easy to insert and remove the tablet. I wish the Surface Pro 3 slid down into the dock, but that’s a personal preference, not a design flaw.

back ports on surface pro docking station

The back Gigabit Ethernet port gives users much faster Internet speeds compared to 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

On the back of the dock we get the following ports for connecting to external peripherals.

  • Charging port and included power adapter
  • Mini-Display port and an optional Mini-Display port to HDMI adapter sold separately
  • 3 USB 3.0 ports (two on back and one on the left) and 2 USB 2.0 ports (back)
  • Audio port for speakers or headphones
  • Gigabit Ethernet port for a faster and more reliable network connection (30Mb/sec in our tests compared to 802.11ac Wi-Fi)

back ports on docking station

Back of the Surface Pro Docking Station showing the ports and Kensington Lock

With one connection a user can hook up an external monitor, a USB keyboard/mouse, extra storage, a DVD/Blu-Ray player, network cable, external speakers/headphones or any other peripherals to use when docked.

surface pro 3 docking station left side with pen attached

The Surface Pro 3 Pen snaps to the left side of the dock thanks to a magnet.

Microsoft put a magnet along the left edge of the dock so users can hold the Surface Pen. That’s a nice touch.

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Build Quality

 

The docking station material feels sturdy. The weight of the docking station makes it hefty enough to hold the tablet without wobbling. It never seemed like it might fall over, despite the weight of the tablet. It’s got four rubber feet on the bottom to keep it from skidding around, even on a slick glass desk like mine. Connecting peripherals also helped the dock stay upright.

surface pro 3 docking connector on right inside edge

The Surface Pro Docking Station makes one connection to hook up a multitude of peripherals.

The only moving parts or pieces that could potentially break with a lot of use are the slide out edges and connectors on the inside of the right edge and back. It seems like these should hold up to normal use. It’s well-manufactured.

The connection to the mini-Display port on the back seemed too tight. Since most people won’t connect/disconnect a cable repeatedly, this shouldn’t cause problems, but it took a lot of force to insert the IOGear HDMI adapter I used to hook an Acer 23-inch external monitor.

Can a Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Replace a Desktop Computer?

In a word, yes! The user will need some extra peripherals, but that’s true of any computer. I tested it with a Logitech K360 keyboard and mouse combo, an inexpensive option with a single USB wireless receiver. This left the other ports open for other devices like an SD card reader, necessary since the Surface only includes a micro-SD card slot. Using a wired Gigabit Ethernet cable hooked up to my Apple Airport Base Station gave me about 30Mb/sec faster Internet speeds than the built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi of the Surface Pro 3.

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Microsoft didn’t design Windows 8 to let users easily create different text size settings for different displays. Since the Surface Pro 3 displays at a 2160 x 1440 resolution, by default the settings increase the text size in the Display settings. To find this right-click on the desktop and choose Screen resolution. Find the link that reads Make text and other items larger or smaller about two-thirds the way down the screen. By default Microsoft sets this to the middle option, but on a 1920×1080 external monitor this setting makes text look too large for my taste. If the user lowers the setting so the text and user-interface looks smaller, the text and buttons on the Surface Pro 3 screen look extremely small, which makes it hard to use for people with poor vision. Microsoft needs to allow users to change the text size setting in way that makes it different for different resolution screens connected to the same computer. That was the only complaint, but it’s a bearable problem. There’s a way to fix this by following this how to posted earlier here at GottaBeMobile.com.

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Value

A buyer could find a cheaper docking station that would work with the Surface Pro 3, but Microsoft designed it for the tablet and that makes using the Surface Pro 3 with the Docking Station easier to use than a generic USB docking station. It fits the Surface Pro 3 perfectly. It’s designed to work without any extra drivers needed. It’s built well and not overly expensive. For these reasons, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station offers a good value.

For years the computer world has tried to create one device for all three uses: tablet, laptop and desktop. Microsoft did it with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and the Surface Docking Station. Surface Pro and Pro 2 users can also get one that works for either of those two tablets for $199.99. The Surface Pro 3 version also costs $199.99.

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Comments

  1. johnny says

    It already replaced birth my laptop and desktop. Is a beast. Especially when I get to laugh at mac idiots.

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