One of the minor mysteries of the Surface Pro 4’s launch appears to have been solved: yes, you can now find a Surface Pro 4 spacer online.
What’s a spacer? Well, it’s been the answer to this question: If I own a Surface Pro 3 and a SP3 dock, and I wanted to buy a Surface Pro 4, would I be able to fit the SP4 inside my SP3 dock? Or would I really have to buy a new $200 Surface Pro 4 docking station, as well?
The answer to this question, has so far, been “No...but.” Although the Surface Pro 4 is nearly physically identical to the Surface Pro 3, a slight difference in the thickness of the SP4 means that the tablet doesn’t quite align with the SP3 dock’s connectors. As a solution, Microsoft originally said it would supply a free “spacer” to prop up the tablet and ensure a proper fit. Unfortunately, Microsoft apparently forgot to brief the employees at its Microsoft Stores, who had no idea what I was talking about when I asked about the spacer offer in the months following the launch.
Windows Central's Rod Trent appears to have discovered the answer, however: an online method to request that Microsoft ship you a spacer directly.
You’ll need to visit Microsoft’s Surface Online Support Center and click the “Replace an Accessory” button. Register your Surface Pro 4 tablet if you haven’t already. You should then see the option to have Microsoft ship you the free spacer. (Microsoft will reportedly charge $6 for shipping.) For some reason the serial number attached to our Surface Pro 4 wasn’t recognized as a valid serial number, probably because it was a review unit.
There are alternatives. A commenter on the Windows Central article notes that Microsoft has posted official instructions for 3D-printing your own spacer. Trent, meanwhile, suggests trying a beer coaster.
Why this matters: As productive as Microsoft’s Surface tablets are, they become that much more useful with a Surface dock. The Surface Pro 4 dock offers four USB 3.0 ports and two miniDisplayPort connectors, an upgrade over the single miniDisplayPort connector and three USB 3.0 ports that the SP3’s dock offers. But the SP4 dock has also been plagued with a number of negative reviews, and who wants to spend an extra $200 if they don’t have to? A free spacer for the SP3 dock seems like a cheap, safe solution.