Microsoft Launches Thunderbolt 4 Surface Dock - Sans Surface Connect Portby Anton Shilov on April 5, 2023 8:00 AM EST
Microsoft has introduced a new docking station for its latest Surface devices equipped with Thunderbolt 4 ports. The Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock has eight ports and provides a comprehensive collection of eight current USB Type-C and legacy USB Type-A connectors along with a 2.5GbE. One of the main selling points of the dock is support for enterprise-grade features. But, perhaps most notably, the dock does not have a Surface Connect port.
Microsoft's Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock connects to a compatible host featuring USB4/Thunderbolt 4 and comes with three 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A connectors and three 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 4/USB4-certified USB Type-C ports that are accompanied by 2.5GbE and a TRRS audio connector for headsets. The docking station can support two 4Kp60 monitors and various bandwidth hungry TB3/TB4/USB4 peripherals such as storage and eGFX external GPU boxes.
Also, the unit has an internal power supply that can feed its host up to 96W of power, which is enough to power a high-end 15 or 16-inch laptop. Yet, it cannot feed more than 15W of power over its USB-C ports, so its charging capabilities are pretty limited.
Microsoft stresses that its Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock is different from its previous docks as it can be used with non-Surface USB-C devices, including Windows OEM devices and Apple Macs. As part of this compatibility, the dock lacks the company's proprietary Surface Connect port, which has been a mainstay of Microsoft Surface devices up until now – for better and for worse. Dropping the proprietary port makes it incompatible with older Surface devices that only have a Surface Connect port, such as the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and the Surface Pro 5, but looking at the bigger picture, Microsoft's release of a dock that lacks its own proprietary port may indicate that the company is (finally) dropping it entirely in favor of the more ubiquitous Thunderbolt 4/USB4 connector.
With its six ports, an audio connector, and a 2.5GbE port, the Microsoft Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock somewhat falls short from being an ultimate docking station (such as 13-in-1 and 14-in-1 docks from OWC). Yet, it looks like its key selling point is not exactly the number of connectors, but rather support for enterprise-grade features, making it a comprehensive choice for commercial customers buying Microsoft Surface or other Windows-based devices.
In particular, the Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock offers Firmware Update via Windows Update, Wake on LAN from Modern Standby, and MAC Address Pass-Through. Additionally, the Surface Enterprise Management Mode (SEMM) allows for easy disabling of the dock ports in mission-critical environments and limits functionality to specific devices (e.g., one can plug in a monitor, a keyboard or a webcam, but cannot use a USB drive).
Microsoft's Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock will be available shortly directly from Microsoft as well as from its resellers for $299.