Microsoft calls its Surface Pro 4 and devices like it Windows 2-in-1s. The idea is that purchasing a Surface Pro 4 or any of the devices that resembles it means you don’t have to purchase both a notebook and a tablet. Since Microsoft announced its first tablet that can be a notebook, all we’ve heard about are those types of 2-in-1s. We’ve all ignored another benefit of purchasing a Surface Pro 4.
The Surface Pro 4 doesn’t just make a great tablet and notebook. It also makes a pretty great Windows 10 desktop PC. As a Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 user, I’ve spent some time with the form factor at my desk. The way I see it, there are couple of different scenarios to get Surface Pro 4 users the best desktop experience.
Pick The Right Surface Pro 4
Desktops are powerful, bulky beasts. They’re big because transporting them isn’t really that much of a concern. The Surface Pro 4 is a mobile powerhouse, a machine that was designed to be portable. At first, one might assume that it wouldn’t be that great at doing the things that desktops do: playing video games and editing video.
That’s absolutely true of the entry-level Surface Pro 4 for $899. It’s not really great at playing the latest games at all since it doesn’t have a fan and uses less powerful internals. The Surface Pro 4s with Intel Core i7 and Intel Core i5 processors are better at those activities. Any Surface Pro 4 plan that involves the device doubling as a powerful desktop Windows 10 PC starts with those two models.
The Surface Pro 4 with Intel Core i5 Processor and 4GB of RAM starts at $999. If you really want the best performance possible, investigate purchasing a Surface Pro 4 with at least 8GB of RAM. The Microsoft Store sells all versions of the Surface Pro 4, including a model with 16GB of storage.
Buy a Surface Pro 4 Dock
Once you’ve acquired a Surface Pro 4, you need a way to charge the device and connect to accessories. Microsoft makes two docks for this task, both of which have advantages and disadvantages.
The Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is a typical dock. There are no cables to connect. Instead, its two arms encapsulate the Surface Pro 4, on three sides. Built into it are three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet out and a Mini DisplayPort. The Surface Pro 4 Dock isn’t built specifically for the Surface Pro 4, which is why users need a free spacer from Microsoft to enjoy the $199 accessory.
The Microsoft Surface Dock is this year’s docking option for the Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3 and Surface Book. It too costs $199. There are two front-facing USB 3.0 ports, a power port, Gigabit Ethernet, two more USB 3.0 ports and 2 Mini DisplayPorts on its rear. With this dock, you need to physically plug in a cable, but just the one. The dock itself does the rest.
Other companies make compatible port replicators, but in those cases you’d need to plug your Surface Pro 4 into a charger, then have a separate USB cable running from the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft’s solutions are expensive, but simplistic.
Use A Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse
The next thing you’ll need are the typical accessories that desktops require.
The Surface Pro 4 has two pretty loud speakers, but don’t hesitate to pick up external speakers if you feel like you need to. The Surface Pro 4 and Windows 10 support Bluetooth audio profiles. The docks and device itself all have 3.5mm headphone ports built-in. Bluetooth headphones work too, that’s what I use at my desk when playing music late at night and early in the day.
Microsoft used to make a Bluetooth keyboard accessory for its Type Covers. It’s long since killed that device, betting that users would rather purchase separate keyboards and mice that offer better battery life and bigger keys. For the best results, go with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Microsoft makes the, entry-level Wireless Keyboard 850 for Bluetooth users. I personally use the Wedge Wireless Mobile Keyboard. It’s $79.95 – not cheap – but does have a thin profile. For a mouse, I recommend the $69.95 Surface Arc Mouse because it becomes very portable when you need it to be. That being said, anything you have around the house works fine too. You can go with USB mice and keyboards, but if you do you’ll need a USB hub or a Surface Dock. Remember, the Surface Pro 4 only has a single USB port.
I actually skipped the mini adapters, displays and docks in the early days. Instead, I purchased a Surface Pro Power Supply for $79.99 and a tablet stand that held up my Surface Pro 4. This method does hinder viewing angles somewhat, but it’s cost effective and keeps me from being surrounded by screens and accessories I don’t need. The stand I purchased from Amazon is long gone, but there are more available from other makers.
Disable Tablet Mode
Finally, remember to set your device to either ask you before switching in and out of Tablet Mode or turn off switching entirely.
Windows 10 is able to detect physical keyboards and make the switch, but not with Bluetooth accessories. My solution to this has been to manually toggle Tablet Mode on and off when I’m done with work using the Action Center. The Action Center is always a left swipe from the right edge of your display.
Optional: Get a Monitor, Maybe With Touch
On its own, your Surface Pro 4 is a great all-in-one PC in its own right. At least, it is if you’re comfortable with using a 12-inch display. If you aren’t, consider adding a widescreen monitor to your desktop setup to get more screen real estate.
Which display you get really does depend on your tastes as a user. Some people like to get large monitors, then hide the Surface Pro 4 somewhere in their setup because they don’t need to monitors. Others prefer to keep the Surface Pro 4 and external monitor sitting side by side. If you’re going to hide the Surface somewhere in your setup, like a desk drawer, be sure that it has plenty of ventilation. Be sure that whatever monitor you do go with has matching connections for whatever dock you use too. Stay away from any monitor that has a VGA cable. For consistency, it might be better to with a monitor that supports touch.
The Surface Pro 4 can be connected to a monitor even without a docking accessory. For this you will need a MiniDisplay Port adapter for whatever plug the display features. Microsoft makes a line of Surface Mini DisplayPort Adapters and a Wireless Display Adapter. Two monitors connect through the Surface Dock, but you can add a third running straight from the Surface pro 4’s body too.
Microsoft frequently runs specials on Surface Docks and monitors at the Microsoft Store.
Read: The Best Surface Pro 4 Deals Available
The Surface Pro 4 gained a reputation for being a great tablet and a decent notebook. I’d make the argument that it’s also a terrific Windows 10 all-in-one with the right accessories.