Years back, I got caught up in the UMPC — UltraMobilePC- fad. (I blame James Kendrick and his JKontheRun blog.) None of those devices lived up to their promise of a full PC in a small, touchscreen device. Fast forward, and that promise has been realized in the Microsoft Surface line of computers. microsoft, via CDW sent one to Judie; I “borrowed” it. 🙂
Before I dive in, let me come clean and offer up an apology: I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time. I’ve started and stopped it at least a dozen or more times. (Judie has been beyond patient.) The stoppage wasn’t because the Surface Pro 3 isn’t a good device. It is. In fact, the Surface Pro 3 is a fantastic, albeit imperfect, device. No, the holdup was because, while the Surface Pro 3 is an excellent device, I couldn’t figure out how it fit into my workflow. And, this year especially, time is in limited supply to the point that I needed my devices to save me as much time as possible. The learning curve moving from being specifically Mac and iOS back to Windows, even with a fast, excellent device, was too much. I’ve finally discovered a workflow with the Surface that does indeed work. All thanks to a Surface accessory I purchased directly from CDW.
By now you know the score with the Microsoft Surface line of computers. The Surface Pro 3 was the 3rd iteration of the line and, many have argued, the one that got it right. And while the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Pad have now come to market, the Surface Pro 3 continues to be available and remains a compelling device. Where the Surface Pro 3 differs from something like the iPad Pro is immediately obvious. Both devices are fast. Both devices are thin and light. But only one, the Surface Pro 3, runs a full computer OS.
Said another way, the iPad Pro is a large, powerful, fast version of the iPad and a humongous version of the iPhone. The speed, the Apple keyboard case, the ability to use the Apple Pencil and the split screen functionality all come together to create the most productivity-focused iPad ever. But, and this is a huge but, the iPad Pro is still just an iPad. That translates to a great device that is still hampered by some of the limitations of iOS.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 comes at things from the other side of things. It looks like a tablet but it is, in fact, a full computer. Yes, it has a touchscreen and pen input so you can use it like a tablet. And yes, like the iPad Pro there is a keyboard that can be attached to it for productivity on the go, but the Surface Pro 3 runs a full version of Microsoft Windows. In fact, I was able to upgrade the sample CDW sent to Judie to Windows 10 for free. It is the fact that the Surface Pro 3 is a full computer that let it finally fit into an office workflow for me.
The key to the Surface Pro 3 finally hitting a sweet spot for me came when I ordered the Microsoft Surface 3 Docking Station. Available here from CDW for $166.
As Microsoft explains:
Transform your portable tablet into a desktop and enhance productivity with the Microsoft Surface Pro Docking Station. This USB docking station is compatible with the Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 tablets and Surface Book. It comes with multiple port outlets, including two HD video ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 ports, an audio out port and two mini Display Ports. With this compact docking station you can connect external monitors, a mouse, keyboard, charge your device and transfer data. The innovative Surface Connect technology allows high-speed audio, video and data transfer. This docking station with ethernet port is easy-to-setup by simply connecting the Surface Dock to the tablet using the magnetic Surface Connect cable and then connecting external devices to it.
- Microsoft Surface Dock enables easy setup of peripherals for your Surface tablet
- Comes with multiple connectivity ports
- Surface Connect cable for attaching the Surface device to the docking station
- Comes with an external power supply to charge device
So how do I use the dock at work?
First, I set the Surface Pro 3 into the dock and the tablet is held at an angle that is easy to view when sitting at my desk. In addition, once in the dock, the Surface Pro 3 is automatically charged using the wall adapter that runs from the dock to a power source. In addition, I can connect the Type Cover and use it as I would a laptop sitting on my desk. That, however, is just the beginning.
Since the Surface Pro 3 is a full laptop, I can connect the type cover or I can use a wireless mouse and either a wired or a wireless keyboard and have the typing and mousing experience you might prefer when using a desktop. That too, however, is just the beginning.
Thanks to the docks two HD video ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 ports, audio out port and two mini DisplayPorts you can quickly and easily turn the Surface Pro 3 into a full desktop computer. Attach a mouse and a keyboard, plug in a monitor (or two), add a few key peripherals to the USB 3.0 ports, and you have a full desktop computer setup. And because the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 CDW sent us has a Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM, you won’t see much if any slow down or lag.
So there I am working at my desk. I have a nice monitor connected so I can enjoy extra screen estate. I also have my Plantronics headphones plugged in as well as an external drive. If I wanted to, I could also plug in speakers and let the Surface serve as my music source. This might not sound like a big deal and, in and of itself it might not be. Where this gets interesting is when I need to head into a meeting. When I do, I can simply pull the Surface from the dock and grab the pen. From there, I can use the Surface Pro 3 as a tablet and take notes. When I’m done, the Surface goes back into the dock in less than a second, and I am back to desktop computing. Try doing that with an iPad Pro.