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Review: Trying out the Surface Dock 12-in-1 Triple Display (with 2 HDMI + VGA) (2024)

My thoughts on the Surface Dock 12-in-1: ease of use, compatibility, performance, and reliability.

Paul Norvig


February 9, 2024


I recently bought the Surface Dock 12-in-1 for my Microsoft Surface. It has significantly improved my workflow with multiple devices and the requirement of several displays. I was looking for a hub to consolidate my connections and minimize clutter. Since using this dock, I have identified several aspects that are great but also areas for improvement.


Property Value Property Value
Brand Cateck Color Surface Dock
Hardware Interface VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0 Compatible Devices Surface Pro 9/8/X/7/6/5/4/3, Surface Laptop 5/4/3/2/1, Surface Laptop go, Surface Book
Total USB Ports 1 Number of Ports 12
Total HDMI Ports 2


Click on photos to enlarge them:

Surface dock 12 in 1 triple display connected to laptop Surface dock 12 in 1 triple display cables Surface dock 12 in 1 triple display  on desk


Ease of Use and Setup

A close-up of hands plugging a cable into the dock station

The Surface Dock 12-in-1 is a simple hub for connecting various devices to Microsoft Surface range. Setting it up was effortless, requiring no extra software or drivers. Here’s my initial experience:


  • Connecting is straightforward; no software or driver installations are required.

  • The system quickly identifies various devices like keyboards and USB drives.

  • This device is space-saving and doesn’t require much desk area.

  • The multiple ports provide excellent connectivity options.


  • Surface devices with protective cases may not fit snugly.

  • Reports indicate durability issues with some ports, potentially failing over time.

Upon unpacking, I discovered the monitor had multiple ports including dual 4K HDMI, suitable for setting up multiple monitors. The device offered USB 3.0 and USB-C ports for added versatility in accessorizing and quick data transfer.

The magnetic connector that attaches to the Surface did light up with a white LED, confirming a solid connection—but one problem I noticed is that it does not connect with a case on the Surface. This might be a minor hindrance for those (including me) who prefer to keep their device protected at all times. You’ll have to peel off your case every time you dock, a repetitive and somewhat frustrating task.

A week of using the Surface Dock, I tested each port and was happy that my devices – from iPhone XS to external hard drive – were identified without issue. However, my satisfaction was somewhat diminished upon realizing that the SD card reader was selective with cards, necessitating some adjustments before recognizing my storage.

Despite the limitations, using a single hub for power, video output, ethernet, and data transfer is practical. However, some users with higher demands on peripherals question the build quality. They’ve reported potential declines in port functionality over time.

In terms of usage, the Surface Dock was beneficial when functioning properly, enhancing my Surface into a powerful workstation. The convenience of converting my portable device into a desktop setup was an asset. However, I remain cautious due to reported durability concerns.

Compatibility and Connectivity

Surface dock 12 in 1 triple display connected to laptop

In my experience using the Surface Dock 12-in-1, I find its extensive compatibility and connectivity features very appealing. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Compatible Devices: Matches a wide range of Microsoft Surface models.

  • Multiple Connections: This device offers various options, such as 2x HDMI for 4K displays, VGA, and 2x USB-C ports.

  • USB 3.0 and USB-C ports provide Data Transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps.

  • Display Outputs: This monitor supports HDMI connection for up to 4K resolution, enhancing visual tasks.

  • Ethernet Port: Useful for establishing reliable wired internet connections.

  • Audio Jack is a feature that enables direct connection of headphones or speakers.

Having a dock with dual 4K displays is beneficial for multitasking. It provides an expansive view, enhancing my work experience. The USB ports enable me to connect all my peripherals directly without the need for additional hubs. The SD/TF Card Reader’s capability to read multiple cards simultaneously is convenient when dealing with data from various sources.

However, some friends with Surface devices and protective cases have difficulty connecting the dock. The Ethernet port only supports 100Mbps, which feels outdated compared to the gigabit standard for wired connections. I wish it offered faster networking speeds.

While it’s primarily easy to use, some devices with specific needs may cause connectivity issues. However, the abundance of ports and ability to attach multiple displays and gadgets makes up for these difficulties in my view.

Despite these issues, the Surface Dock 12-in-1 enhances my Surface setup significantly. I recommend it for those seeking to expand their Surface device’s connectivity. Be sure to check case compatibility first.

Performance and Productivity

Surface dock 12 in 1 triple display cables

In terms of performance and productivity, the Surface Dock 12-in-1 has been beneficial for my setup. Connecting various peripherals such as monitors and USB devices has noticeably improved my workspace. The triple display support is particularly impressive, enabling seamless multitasking across three screens. When I turned off the Surface screen and utilized the triple display configuration, it felt like a major upgrade for my Surface into a desktop-class computer.

However, it’s not all flawless. Here are the standout points:


  • This device supports connection of up to three displays, improving multitasking capabilities.

  • USB 3.0 and USB-C support rapid data transfer. Ideal for moving large files.

  • An Ethernet port ensures reliable internet connection.

  • Plug-and-play means easy setup with no additional software required.


  • I need to remove the protective case of my Surface before docking it. This is inconvenient.

  • One USB port stopped working, raising doubts about the device’s long-term durability.

  • Potential overheating issue requires resolution to maintain device’s optimal performance.

While I haven’t fully tested the 4K HDMI output, the dual HDMI ports offer high-resolution output useful for presentations or media consumption. The USB-C ports are beneficial for data transfer, which is essential for my workflow. However, the Ethernet port provides a more stable internet connection with a limitation to 100Mbps, which may not be sufficient for demanding professional use-cases requiring faster internet speeds.

The plug-and-play feature means no need for time-consuming driver installations. The magnetic surface connect offers a secure and easy way to dock and undock my Surface, with the LED indicator providing instant feedback on a successful connection.

One point of frustration is the incompatibility with protective cases for docking devices. Many people use cases to shield their gadgets, so having to take it off every time for docking can be bothersome and potentially damaging to the case.

I have observed that my Surface with a protective case doesn’t fit nicely in the dock, and I’ve experienced a USB port malfunction, raising concerns about its durability.

In essence, the Surface Dock 12-in-1 is a compact accessory for Surface devices that enhances functionality and productivity. Despite minor drawbacks, its benefits make it a valuable investment for daily use.

Durability and Reliability

Surface dock 12 in 1 triple display on desk

When assessing the Surface Dock 12-in-1, its durability and reliability are important aspects to consider for those looking to expand their Surface device’s functionality. After extensive use, here’s what I have observed:


  • The design of this accessory suits the Surface’s appearance nicely.

  • This device offers various ports for different connection types.

  • The initial construction appears strong, and attaching it magnetically produces a distinct sound and sense of security.

  • A two-year warranty is beneficial for extended usage.


  • The longevity of these ports is a concern. Reports indicate that they may stop functioning within a few months.

  • Surface devices with protective covers may cause a poor fit in some cases, impacting their usability for users prioritizing device protection.

  • Issues with overheating have been reported, which can impact performance and potentially shorten the dock’s lifespan.

The Surface Dock simplifies my workstation by supporting multiple device connections at once. Its HDMI and USB ports smoothly handle data transfer and video output. Additional features include a 3.5mm audio jack and card reader slots, ensuring comprehensive connection options.

However, the product has issues that cannot be ignored. Reports of failing ports are concerning, even if I haven’t encountered this problem myself. The doubt of investing in a product that may not last is disquieting. Additionally, its incompatibility with Surface device cases seems an oversight, given how prevalent protective casings are used.

I appreciate the ease of use; it doesn’t need technical expertise to begin, which is beneficial for those anxious about complex configurations. However, this convenience may be outweighed by compatibility or malfunction issues that might necessitate troubleshooting or replacements.

In conclusion, the Surface Dock 12-in-1 is a versatile accessory that reflects the changing demands of today’s workspaces. It’s easy to set up and offers great convenience. However, I have concerns about its long-term reliability based on some users’ experiences. I would still suggest it for its features but urge potential buyers to monitor its performance closely, especially during the warranty period.