Microsoft Docking Station for Surface Pro review

Pros

  • Easy-to-use docking mechanism
  • Adds Ethernet and multi-monitor support

Cons

  • Not compatible with RT-based Surface
  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • No screen tilt adjustment

The Microsoft Docking Station for Surface Pro complements your first-generation Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro or second-generation Microsoft Surface Pro 2. It gives your highly mobile tablet a home base while you're in the office or indeed at home, with additional connectivity to USB devices, wired Ethernet, charging power, and external displays. The easy-to-use dock is a bonus convenience for mobile professionals who sit down at, and get up from, their desk multiple times a day.

Design

The Docking Station for Surface Pro looks a little different from most of the laptop docks out there. It sits almost vertical, in order to support the tablet at a viewable angle. Most docks are squat, featureless boxes. Indeed, most laptop and tablet-specific docks, like the one for the Dell Venue 11 Pro, make you line up a docking port to the centre or edge of the system, which can take interminable seconds and a bit of dexterity.

In contrast, you simply need to place the Surface Pro tablet into its matching groove on the bottom lip of the dock, then slide the docking connectors in from the sides. Everything is lined up correctly in a few seconds. The connectors close and open easily with an audible click to let you know that everything is hooked up. The side-sliding action feels like making a Surface Pro sandwich.

There are three connectors on the side panels that line up with the external ports on the Surface Pro tablets: USB 3.0, power port, and the mini-DisplayPort. Because of the way the ports line up, the dock isn't compatible with the Microsoft Surface RT and Surface 2 Windows RT-powered tablets. When connected to a Surface Pro, the dock gives you audio jacks (mic and headphones), three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, Ethernet, and mini-DisplayPort. USB 2.0 and 3.0 will let you hook up peripherals, like external keyboards, mice, printers, and hard drives, while the Ethernet port will give you connectivity with wired networks.

The mini-DisplayPort supports multiple monitors via an optional adapter. When we connected a monitor via the mini-DisplayPort, we could mirror the same screen on both displays, extend the desktop from the Surface Pro to the monitor, or use the external monitor exclusively. You can do all of this, and the Surface Pro recharges in the dock as well.

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The Docking Station for Surface Pro lets you hook up the tablet whether it has a keyboard cover connected or not. While connected, the keyboard cover works just fine and is comfortable to use. The dock will support an external keyboard and mouse through USB, or via Bluetooth.

It measures 310 x 100 x 180mm (WxDxH) without the keyboard cover, with a depth of 280mm with the keyboard cover installed and deployed. That's very little desk space used in return for a good amount of convenience. It keeps the tablet at a fixed angle meant for a seated user; if you tend to stand repeatedly while you work, it makes sense to have an external display attached to the tablet as well.

Verdict

For most users, the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 work best as standalone tablets. Their built-in two-stage kickstand is a little more flexible than the single angle provided by the Docking Station for Surface Pro.

That said, if your business still uses wired Ethernet or if you need to take your Surface Pro out and about every day, the Docking Station makes a lot of sense. It's not wireless, but it's certainly easier to use and more convenient than traditional docks such as the one made for the Dell Venue 11 Pro. In short, it's a good desk-side companion for your mobile Surface Pro 2 tablet. While the dock isn’t yet available to buy in the UK, it should be soon, with any luck.