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.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Poll: What size and aspect ratio would you want for a smaller Surface's screen?

Next Story

Samsung set to unveil curved screen smartphone in October

123 Comments

View more comments

I wish there was a way to DOWN VOTE articles... these articles and editorials lately have been so stupid.

If you think simply not having 2 display ports is missing the mark, you obviously know nothing about the dock. I did quite some research on it, and it's really sweet and well designed.

Most people will use the Surface screen as the 2nd or main screen. If you need more screens, simply get an adapter. That's what most people do and the new Surface Pro will be able to handle that quite well. geez.

Neowin Editorial Formula:

1. Produce editorial dismissing Microsoft's latest efforts.
2. Make sure its full of factual errors and blind speculation.
3. Wait for the click-storm.
4. Profit!

Leopard Seal said,
Neowin Editorial Formula:

1. Produce editorial dismissing Microsoft's latest efforts.
2. Make sure its full of factual errors and blind speculation.
3. Wait for the click-storm.
4. Profit!


Where are the factual errors and blind speculation?

The author isn't too smart. There are mini-DP to dual DVI adapters. It's a perfect solution for a problem like this. I'm not sure what you'd do if you want a 3rd monitor, however. After all, the Surface acts as a monitor in & of itself. In addition, I don't know how this dock sits on the Surface, I fail to see why the DisplayPort would be blocked or an issue on the device itself.

I understand everyone has their opinion but the real reason the docking station has only Mini DisplayPort is because it is new technology. If you want to live in the past with DVI (really???) and HDMI then buy a port replicator. That's how you push technology forward. While I do agree more ports would help appeal to a larger audience it's just the wrong way to go. Should we add a serial, parallel and PS/2 port as well? It is a docking station not a port replicator. I also agree the article and Editorial tag are not very thought out in this case. And the article sure does not warrant a tile at the top of the page. Yikes!

The only dead horse I see is your repetitive comments. The same thing, over and over again, offering nothing new, nothing of value, nothing with content. Just "I hate Microsoft and therefore I hate everything they do" - the same s***, different comment. That complaint is dead, and there is no bringing it back to life. So try something new, for a change.

TsarNikky is a anti-MS troll that spits his venom on many, many forums over the Internet.

I often think he's just being paid to do this, as no normal person wouldn't have the time to browse all those forums and post on them several times a day.

Keep giving suggestion. Microsoft might make it on Surface 3.
surface 2 maybe still not great success. but microsoft improve it.
But the price is too high

bunch of crybabies... :-P

People complain about the features aren't 'high-tech' enough (USB2 ports), and also complain if the monitor output is too 'high-tech'.

At some point we moved from CRT to LCD, with the connectors changing from VGA to HDMI/DP along the way.
That's progress, get over it.

Here's what I don't understand. This guy is blogging and whining without doing any research. Unless Panay is wrong, you can power two monitors off of the docking station.

Here is Panay saying so in the Microsoft Press release for a few days ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uePlQUh5d0&t=14m0s

Perhaps MS has a Mini Display splitter that comes with the dock, the does MD to HDMI, MD to DVI, etc. (something similar to this but for display port) http://www.amazon.com/2-Port-2...ywords=displayport+splitter

But, to just spread FUD without doing any research is just irresponsible of the writer here. His own doubt and caused him to jump to conclusions.

Edited by uxo22, Sep 26 2013, 5:10pm :

Hold up... So now "Boo hoo I am one of the minority (yes it is a minority) who runs 2 monitors. I want 2 monitors off my tablet" is now a piece of editorial?

This is the most stupid "editorial" I have ever read. This is not a common usage scenario - and it can still be achieved with an inexpensive dp hub.

I think this was way too harshly judged. Having three monitors (the Surface one + two more) is a) a niche scenario and b) a problem that has solutions. Sure, not integrated in the dock itself, but this is often what you get for specialized use cases.

We regularly use dual monitors at work, but I don't really think a single person here would even expect a laptop dock to support three monitors (including the laptop's itself) out of the box. If we connect laptops, we really only use the laptop display and the connected one and don't expect more than this.

I've never had two monitors, and while I may have two or even three somewhere down the road I can't imagine why I would want to hook a tablet up to them; I'd want to use the monitors on my desktop. One monitor is fine by me for a tablet, and if I can ever afford a Surface Pro and a docking station I think I'd be pretty happy with it.

Darrian said,
I've never had two monitors, and while I may have two or even three somewhere down the road I can't imagine why I would want to hook a tablet up to them; I'd want to use the monitors on my desktop. One monitor is fine by me for a tablet, and if I can ever afford a Surface Pro and a docking station I think I'd be pretty happy with it.

You may be missing the point with the Surface Pro 2 then... It's not "a tablet" -- it's a desktop/laptop replacement. Nobody would spend $1200 on just a tablet.

You're right. It's essentially a laptop/ultrabook with a detachable keyboard. How many laptops do you know run 2 monitors?

Darrian said,
You're right. It's essentially a laptop/ultrabook with a detachable keyboard. How many laptops do you know run 2 monitors?

Roughly 80% of the people in my office (everyone has a laptop so they can bring it with them and work from home if needed). They dock when they get into the office so they can have multiple screens. It also appears that 77% of Neowin readers use multiple monitors: http://www.neowin.net/news/poll-do-you-use-multiple-monitors

Regardless, it was never my point that "nobody" uses multiple monitors, only that claiming that the dock will be "DOA" because it only supports one monitor is about the most ignorant thing I've read in a while. Assuming that this generation of Surface does better than the last and enough people own them that there might actually be a market for the dock I think it has the potential to sell really well.

If the Surface team are planning ahead like they should be that'd be a "feature based on feedback" for version 2 along with a 2-stage rotation for the angle

This editorial wins for feedback, that's for sure.

I agree, not sure where any of you are from but I've worked in IT for many years and dual monitors is not niche. While I like having a dock for the tablet I'm on, it only has a single output too. While DP supports multi monitors, the benefit of that doesn't outweigh the fact you still need to spend more on an adapter, hub, or new monitors, where the port replicator does just fine. The whole point of an editorial is to get people involved to discuss, to give an opinion which is valid and have others chime in with ideas or feedback. Since when did this community degenerate so far as to calling that whole premise stupid, add in a few boo hoos, and rip into Neowin? Chris, hats off for showing us that people need to think before they comment.

koppit said,
This editorial wins for feedback, that's for sure.

I agree, not sure where any of you are from but I've worked in IT for many years and dual monitors is not niche. While I like having a dock for the tablet I'm on, it only has a single output too. While DP supports multi monitors, the benefit of that doesn't outweigh the fact you still need to spend more on an adapter, hub, or new monitors, where the port replicator does just fine. The whole point of an editorial is to get people involved to discuss, to give an opinion which is valid and have others chime in with ideas or feedback. Since when did this community degenerate so far as to calling that whole premise stupid, add in a few boo hoos, and rip into Neowin? Chris, hats off for showing us that people need to think before they comment.


Thank you for the kind words, much appreciated!

Pouring more good money after bad. When is Microsoft going to kill the Surface program and stop the bleeding? The longer it goes on, the more expensive it gets and the harder to stop. Look to government programs as excellent illustrations.

I use 3 monitors myself. You can't have enough screen space when working as far as I am concerned. It's nice for gaming and every day things like browsing and watching tv(if you have a tuner) along with other things.

Working on sites it's a big help and really speeds things along when you can have several different browsers open as you debug style coding. Being able to do the same with the new dock would be a big plus and Microsoft dropped the ball on that one. Two would be much better than just the one as most of who do serious work are accustomed to working on multiple monitor setups.

The nice thing with MS is I'm sure they will correct the over site with the next dock they put out for it. Not realizing their error leaves things open for an aftermarket product that has a better set up for cheaper. time will tell.

I do find articles like these a bit amusing though. There seem to be a lot of them putting down Microsoft with any tidbit they can find front and center, yet touting how they like the Surface pro and are happy with it subtly in the background.

billstelling said,
yet touting how they like the Surface pro and are happy with it subtly in the background.

I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to be subtle... I find the Surface Pro to be the best laptop I've ever owned.

Commenting is disabled on this article.