Hands-On with Surface Dock

Posted on October 21, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 0 Comments

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Microsoft’s new Surface Dock is in some ways the most exciting hardware device the firm announced this month: With this affordable peripheral, you can transform a Surface Pro 3, Pro 4, or Surface Book from a 2-in-1 into a 3-in-1, making it a truly powerful desktop PC too.

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And I suspect I’m not the only one thinking about making one of Microsoft’s already versatile PCs even more versatile. Indeed, I’ve been thinking about replacing my desktop tower PC for quite a while, and have come up with a number of possibilities: A personally-built PC, which I’ve been threatening to do all year, a new tower PC, a small-form-factor (SFF) PC … or maybe this.

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Like it’s predecessor, the Surface Pro 3 Dock, the new Surface Dock relies on the newly-renamed Surface Connector to work its magic. But unlike that previous device, the Surface Dock doesn’t require the Surface you use with it to be a certain width, depth or form factor. That is, instead of having a slide-in slot with a complicated docking mechanism, Surface Dock is just an external box, and a small one at that. To use it, you just replace your SP3, SP4, or Surface Book’s power plug with a cable attached to the Dock. It just uses the same connector.

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This is brilliant in its simplicity. And while other PC makers have offered similar peripherals for a while, it is the type of thing that makes your brain click “ah-ha” the moment you see it. It’s just smart, because Microsoft can now innovate on Surface form factors moving forward and not be constrained by backward compatibility concerns.

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I’ve only had the Dock in-house for about a week, and I’ve not yet replaced my PC–temporarily or not–with it yet, so this isn’t a review. What I’ll be doing is swapping out my tower for the Core i7/NVIDIA-based Surface Book plus Surface Dock this week and using them together—and apart—so I can more thoroughly review each.

In the meantime, there are no surprises with Surface Dock, unless of course you consider the fact that its power supply is bigger than the Dock itself. (Actually, that is pretty funny.)

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It provides an excellent array of ports, including four USB 3.0 ports (two in the front, two in the back), two Mini DisplayPort ports (for which I’ve purchased two MDP to HDMI adapters so I can use this with two 27-inch 1080p external displays), a headphone jack, gigabit Ethernet.

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I’m looking forward to this grand experiment. And we’ll see whether Surface Book (i7/NVIDIA) and Surface Book have what it takes to not only replace your laptop, but replace your desktop PC as well.

 

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