Editorial

Microsoft misses the mark with the new Surface Docking Station

When I heard the announcement for the original Surface Pro, I was skeptical. Why would I want something that wasn't quite a tablet and wasn't quite a laptop as well? Our review of the Pro vetted out my same concerns: It's a jack of all trades, but master of none. I figured there was no chance I'd ever buy one of these devices, so stopped paying attention.

Then, at TechEd in New Orleans, Microsoft released a bombshell: Attendees would be able to buy the Surface Pro 128G for a mere $399. For that price, I was willing to try out the Surface Pro and see if it could replace my normal day-to-day laptop at work. So I put my laptop away and vowed to only use the new Surface Pro, although I was skeptical of its use.

Before I could start the experiment, I had to find a way to connect all of my desktop peripherals, including hardwired Ethernet, a USB keyboard I've been using the Surface Pro as my main work machine for three months now, and it works greatand mouse, and two 24" monitors. I purchased an HP port replicator that does a well enough job. I have to connect the Surface Pro to the replicator every morning via the USB3 cable and then connect the power cable, so it's a little clunky, but gets the job done. I've been using the Surface Pro as my main work machine for three months now, and it works great, but I've always wanted the extra convenience of a docking station, similar to the one I used to use with my Dell laptop.

When I heard that Microsoft was releasing a docking station for the Surface Pro, I was excited. I'd finally be able to avoid plugging in a couple of connectors every morning and removing them every evening. Then I saw the spec sheet: A single Mini DisplayPort connector, the same as what's on the device itself.

Microsoft has, in essence, killed off the usefulness of the docking station before it has even been released.While many may be happy with a single display, there's still a large number of people who use two or more monitors to do their work, and for them, this will be a deal-breaker. Sure, they could buy the docking station and a port replicator and probably get similar results, but that adds a lot of extra cost for very little benefit. Although it's true you can daisy-chain devices with DisplayPort, the majority of monitors out in the wild right now do not have this port, with most currently being DVI or HDMI. For those people, it makes more sense to go with the port replicator. Microsoft has, in essence, killed off the usefulness of the docking station before it has even been released.

Why would most people choose the new docking station over a standard port replicator? I'll probably still upgrade to the Surface Pro 2 because the extra battery life and video power will be helpful, but the one accessory that everyone was clamoring for is practically dead on arrival for a large segment of Microsoft's customers.

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