Surface Book Tip: Use External Displays

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 0

Surface Book Tip: Use External Displays

Microsoft’s new Surface Book is an incredible laptop, but you can also expand its capabilities by attaching one or more external displays. Here are your options.

Mini DisplayPort

Using only Surface Book, you can easily add an external display via the unit’s built-in Mini DisplayPort port. And you’re not just limited to Mini DisplayPort, of course: Via an inexpensive adapter, you can connect your Surface Book to an HDMI- or VGA-based display as well. And if you use Mini DisplayPort or HDMI, you can pass the device’s audio through as well, which can be handy for displays that have internal or connected speakers.


I’ve tested this configuration using an inexpensive Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable ($10.50 to $23, depending on length) and my main 27-inch 1080p display. It works exactly as expected and provides the standard display options (via the WINKEY + P Project menu) we’ve become familiar with since Windows 8. That is, you can use just the internal display, span the displays, or use just the external display.

And thanks to improvements in Windows 10, you can now set a unique screen scaling to each display, something that is hugely important given the unique nature of Surface Book’s 3000 x 2000 3:2 internal screen.

Surface Dock

Using the optional $200 Surface Dock, you can extend your Surface Book’s capabilities into the “3-in-1” realm—e.g. laptop, clipboard and desktop PC—something I’ll be writing about separately soon, as this is my new PC configuration at home. But for purposes of this discussion, Surface Dock includes two Mini DisplayPort ports, a big improvement over previous Surface docking stations. And that means that you can power up to two 4K external displays in addition to the Surface Book’s internal screen.


I’ll be writing about my experiences using Surface Book with Surface Dock and two external displays in the near future.


You should remember that Surface Book, as a modern Windows 10 device, can also take advantage of the Miracast wireless display functionality. In this case, I recommend using the excellent Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter; I have two: One for home and one for on the road.

The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter—like other Miracast dongles—works just like a wired display once you get it configured. You can take advantage of the same Project menu noted above and, get this, you can even use it in tandem with the Surface Book’s Mini DisplayPort to get a three display scenario going without needing a dock.

That’s not the really the point, of course: Miracast is about getting your PC’s display up onto a big external display. And it does that well enough.

Third-party USB docks

Finally, I should of course remind you that third-party USB-based docking stations will work with Surface Book too, though they may tax the device’s processor a bit more. One excellent option is the Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station with Dual Video Outputs, which I own and can recommend. It’s on sale for just $99 right now at Amazon. There’s a slightly less expensive version with one video-out as well.


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