Microsoft: Please make a real keyboard dock for the Surface Pro 3

The newest Surface tablet is thin and light enough to support a keyboard that will turn it into a real laptop.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

The newly announced Surface Pro 3 is the best tablet from Microsoft yet produced. Increasing the screen size to 12 inches allowed stretching out the inner components enough to make it thin (0.36 inches) and light (1.76 lbs). This makes it a reasonable size for a tablet and an even better size for a laptop.

Transformer T100 open
Asus Transformer Book T100
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The message from Microsoft is clear: The Surface Pro 3 is a laptop replacement that is also a tablet. The laptop replacement part requires one of the snap-on keyboard covers that Microsoft doesn't include with the tablet purchase. The newest Type Cover is pretty decent for laptop use, although falling short of real laptop keyboards, according to reviews.

What would turn the Surface Pro 3 into a real laptop replacement is a full keyboard dock. These have been around for a while and now that the Surface Pro 3 is thin and light enough, Microsoft could produce one. 

This would make for a killer laptop with a screen that could pop off and be a reasonable tablet.

A good example of a keyboard dock is included with the purchase of an Asus Transformer Book T100. It has a full keyboard that rivals those on many laptops. Both the keyboard and the trackpad on the Asus' keyboard dock are undersized given the 10-inch display of the tablet, but are still useful.

The larger display of the Surface Pro 3 would enable a keyboard dock to be full sized and overcome the minor shortcomings of the smaller Asus dock. This would make the Surface Pro 3 and keyboard a real laptop in every way. The dock could still be light and thin, even if Microsoft used the dock to add additional capabilities to the Surface.

Such capabilities would be a small second battery in the dock to add three or four additional hours to the nine hours of the tablet alone. This would be game changing for business travelers needing long operation away from a power outlet. Such a dock would also permit additional ports such as one or two USB 3.0. A second memory card slot would also fit to increase storage in laptop mode.

The keyboard dock could provide these extra ports while remaining thin if a wedge design was used. Keep it very thin at the front of the dock and just thick enough at the back to fit the USB ports. The combination of the Surface Pro 3 and the keyboard dock would be just over half an inch at the back and still weigh just over two pounds. This would make for a killer laptop with a screen that could pop off and be a reasonable tablet.

A dock as described would push me over the edge to buy a Surface Pro 3. I am currently considering buying the new Surface but the $1,000 it would cost me with a middling configuration is holding me back. I would also need a Type Cover, which would push the purchase price well over the $1,000 mark. That is making the decision to order one a hurdle I can't get over.

If I'm going to spend that much for a hybrid system I want the full keyboard dock. I don't want a laptop replacement that is just OK, I want to get a real laptop out of the deal.

Perhaps these feelings put me in the minority; I know many like the Type Cover and the portability it yields. I don't dislike the Type Cover, I'd just prefer a full laptop experience for that much money.

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