Surface Connect is Thunderbolt in disguise


Microsoft's very successful first-party hardware effort under the Surface brand has been a lighthouse moment in an otherwise dull PC universe over the last three years. The Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 have led the way for a new era of Windows tablets, laptops, and convertibles. Surface Connect has been there on the desktop to add extra ports, but how? Is Surface Connect a Thunderbolt port in disguise?

The Surface Dock is a great accessory, well-engineered, well-weighted, and delivering the ports that pro-level computer users expect on the desktop. When connected to a Surface Pro, the dock turns the tablet into a port-laden PC.

Reviews of the dock have heaped glowing praise on the accessory. The dock delivers two front-facing USB-A ports, along with the rear-facing additional two USB-A ports, two Mini DisplayPorts, an Audio Out, an Ethernet port, and a power connector. A side-mounted lock slot keeps the expensive dock shackled to your desk.

But there's one more port on the dock that usually escapes the attention of would-be reviewers and purchasers. That is the cord that runs between the dock and the Surface Pro. The end of this cord sports a magnetic Surface Connect plug, keeping everything attached when you need it to be, and breaking away when someone trips over your cord or slides your tablet away from under you.

No great revelations so far.

Consider:

Let's consider that cord and the Surface Connect plug, and the slot that it fits in to on the side of the tablet.

That cord connects a multitude of ports to the tablet, all of which can be used simultaneously if need be. So, what magic is this... one connector, delivering power, 4 x USBs, audio, ethernet, and dual Mini DisplayPorts. It sounds a lot like Thunderbolt.

Everyone has been calling for the Surface Pro 5 to step up the game and include USB-C. Perhaps it will find its way directly on to the side of the tablet. Perhaps it will find its way on to the dock instead. But anything capable of delivering the multitude of existing ports plus USB-C connectivity, has got to be either Thunderbolt or USB-C itself.

As USB-C wasn't on the horizon at the time of reveal of the Surface Pro 3, my money is on Surface Connect being a Thunderbolt connection. For the current docks to retain backwards and forwards compatibility with older and newer hardware, it would need to stay Thunderbolt.

USB-C on the next Surface Dock:

With the likely inclusion of multi-lane and multi-port USB-C on the next Surface Dock, Microsoft had better increase the bandwidth by updating it from Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3.

One more feature:

What would make the Surface Dock the ultimate docking station?

Somewhere to charge and dock my Surface Phone, err, my Surface UltraMobile; or perhaps my Surface Courier.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas

XYZ Media Group

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