Nearly two months to the day after first revealing the Surface Pro 3 tablet, Microsoft has officially put its $200 docking station up for pre-order, after teasing would-be buyers with a limited-availability window last month.
Microsoft designed the Surface Pro 3 to be a replacement for both laptops and tablets. The company engineered the device to mix a sleek, 0.35-inch frame (sans Type Cover) with laptop-grade Intel Core processors, all the way up to a hulking Core i7 chip.
The docking station helps the Surface Pro 3 become a true all-in-one device. Adding desktop-like capabilities to the tablet's arsenal are a trio of USB 3.0 and a pair of 2.0 ports, Gigabit ethernet, and a 3.5mm audio connection. You get a Mini-DisplayPort connection to output your display to one or more external monitors. (The Surface Blog post announcing the docking station's availability has a solid rundown of how to daisy-chain multiple monitors using the SP3.) The Surface Pro 3 dock also includes a security lock slot, a feature missing from the original Surface Pro/Surface Pro 2 dock.
Senior editor Mark Hachman called the Surface Pro 3 "A legitimate work PC in tablet clothing" in his review of the shape-shifting slate; the docking station essentially enhances those powers.
Don't try using the SP3 with an older Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2 docking station. Those tablets are much thicker than their successor, rendering the Surface Pro 3 incompatible with that older hardware.
While the idea of a truly portable, use-case-agnostic device is appealing, be sure to count your pennies before you rush out to buy a Surface Pro 3. Pricing for the slate starts at $800 for a Core i3 model, but the Core i5 model with 128GB of storage that's most likely to appeal to many buyers will set you back $1000. Add in the cost of the must-have $130 Type Cover and this $200 docking station, and you're suddenly staring at a $1330 cumulative purchase, before you start buying additional accessories like power adapters or mice and monitors to go with the dock.
The Surface Pro 3 docking station is expected to ship August 15, shortly after the August 1 release date of the Core i3 and Core i7 versions of the tablet. A Core i5-powered variant is available now. You can see a comparison of the various configurations in our deep-dive into the Surface Pro 3's stats.