Where previous Surface docks were overly-complex devices that were custom-fitted for only certain Surface tablets, Microsoft has finally come up with the right design for the new Surface Dock. This new dock works across any Surface that includes what is now called the SurfaceConnect port, including Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3,
Previously, each Surface essentially required its own dock, though Microsoft has worked to ensure some compatibility between different Pro generations: The original Surface Docking Station worked with both Surface Pro and Pro 2, and the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station will also work with Surface Pro 4. But this kind of compatibility really limited the ways in which Microsoft could innovate with future devices. So its new approach with Surface Dock is a great idea.
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Now, instead of provide a slide-in design that limited the placement of your Surface, Surface Dock attaches to compatible devices using the new SurfaceConnect cable. So it’s external to the Surface, requiring that single magnetic (power) plug on the tablet. Microsoft had suggested that the power plug on Surface Pro 3–retroactively renamed to SurfaceConnect—did much more than power, and there were rumors that perhaps the firm could deliver external video capabilities over it. But SurfaceConnect is apparently even more powerful than that. It is no less than an external bus for the tablet, and can deliver a host of expansion capabilities.
Like previous docking stations, Surface Dock provides a plethora of ports—gigabit Ethernet, 4 USB 3.0, and audio out—but it also outdoes its predecessors by providing two Mini DisplayPorts. That means no more daisy-chaining, as with the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, a perilous bit of functionality that requires exactly the right hardware. Now, external video just works, even for two external displays.
Physically, the Surface Dock is quite small, and that means it is actually portable as well. So you could take this gadget with you on a business trip and use it like a USB hub if you wanted.
At $200, Surface Dock is no less expensive than the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station or the Surface 3 Docking Station. But it’s much more versatile. I’ll definitely be buying one of these.