Making a great desktop PC from your Surface PRO

Microsoft’s Surface PRO is a great tablet / laptop device, but for me a problem has always been transitioning away from my home desktop during travel onto a mobile device.  Compounded with the sheer number of PC/Tablet/Laptop/Ultrabook devices I have going, it’s a recipe for pain.  Well friends, there is good news; I found a  Targus USB 3.0 docking station on Amazon which allows you to connect up to 3 additional monitors to your Surface PRO (or other USB 3.0 capable ultrabook / laptop), and it works great!

Targus USB 3.0 Docking Station (ACP70USZ)
http://www.amazon.com/Targus-Docking-Station-Ultrabooks-ACP70USZ/dp/B005YR1PV2

Surface PRO Desktop

I’ve already torn down my old home PC, and moved to using this as my main home desktop PC.  It’s slick – runs faster than the AMD based desktop it replaced, adds a third touch-enabled screen to my traditional dual-monitor setup (nice development plus), and when it’s time to take it with me I just disconnect power and a single USB cable.

Some Windows 8.1 Specific Nice-ities

Natrually since it’s shiny and says Microsoft, I’m running the preview of Windows 8.1 that came out a week or two ago.  This adds some really nice benefits for this Surface desktop of scenario over previous versions of windows that I thought I’d take a minute to mention.

Note:  If your running Windows 8.1 with the Targus docking station, you’ll need to visit the displaylink.com website to download new drivers for the external displays.  Luckily they had drivers for 8.1 within a week of the preview being announced – kudos to them!

First off, it supports independent scaling ratios for each of the monitors, which is a big deal when you have a high DPI device like the Surface PRO connected with some standard 96 DPI monitors.  With all previous versions of windows, stuff would either look really small on the surface PRO or really big on the other monitors, depending on which scaling option you set for Windows.  This is nice addition to Windows, and it works really well in practice.

Secondly, and in my opinion more importantly, it expands support for more Windows store / metro style  / modern apps running concurrently on your desktop, at user definable sizes.  No more single store app with maybe one more snapped to the left or right of that app.  Now you can have multiple store apps running side by side and resize them as you like, and you can even have store apps on each of the different monitors.  Apps can even open other apps in new ‘windows’ or add additional window instances of their own app (think new windows for tabs in IE).  This is another great addition, and I think that with this the Windows Store style applications will become naturally interwoven in people’s daily desktop usage.

Overall I’m super excited about this setup, and I recommend it to everyone.  Be aware that Windows 8.1 is in preview and does have some quirks, so if your not into the pre-release scene (don’t feel bad just because I think your weird) then wait until the August RTM.

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