Microsoft Surface Thunderbolt Dock 4 Review: The future of Surface connectivity

Kareem Anderson

Starting at $299.99

As Surface fans await the upcoming annual hardware showcase event later this year to see what changes the team brings to PC lineup in 2023, Microsoft may have tipped its hand with the release of the Surface Thunderbolt Dock 4 back in April.

The Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock marks the second time Microsoft has offered a docking solution that utilizes a USB-C connector as the main bridge port, furthermore, it is the first time it offered this solution for its Surface products.

For 10 years Microsoft has heralded its proprietary Surface connector as its flagship charging solution, but over the past couple of years the company has slowly been integrating USB-C for faster data transferring, advanced display support and charging.

Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock - Connectors

The Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock is mostly like the first of many Surface products that will do away with the Surface propriety port altogether in 2023.

  1. Connectivity:
    • 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports (with support for data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps and power delivery up to 100W).
    • 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports (supporting data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps).
    • 1x HDMI port (capable of 4K resolution at 60Hz).
    • 1x Gigabit Ethernet port (for reliable and fast wired network connections).
    • 1x 3.5mm audio jack (for headphones or external speakers).
    • SD card reader (providing easy access to memory cards from cameras and other devices).
  2. Compatibility: The Thunderbolt 4 Dock is designed to work seamlessly with Thunderbolt 4-equipped laptops and PCs, offering full compatibility with both Windows and macOS devices. Additionally, it is backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices, though at reduced speeds.
  3. Power Delivery: With Thunderbolt 4’s 100W Power Delivery capability, the dock can charge laptops and other devices efficiently, eliminating the need for separate power adapters.

Look and Feel

While the Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock does resemble the black slab Surface Dock 2, Microsoft has made some significant changes to the overall look and feel of this dock by slimming the profile of the block.

Surface Thunderbolt 4 dock - comparison

The ST4 comes in at 397g while the Surface Dock was a chunky 560g. The new footprint of the ST4 cuts a lot of headroom off its block when compared to its predecessor, while also extending its length by a few more inches.

The Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock features a combination of metal and plastic construction, providing a more premium feel and potentially better heat dissipation. The Surface Dock 2, on the other hand, is primarily made of plastic.

If users have their Surface Dock sitting somewhere visible at their workstation, the new Thunderbolt 4 Dock should fit in equally well if not better since the surface area has been expanded but the overall profile slimmed down. The ST4 can now double as an additional little stand to put things on with its wider footprint.

Similar to Surface Dock 2, Microsoft makes use of its matte black color and minimalists design with slightly rounded corners and few visible lines.

There is a black Microsoft logo located in the far-right corner of the dock that blends in with the overall look of the device and other than that, there isn’t much else to the dock, which may be the appeal some people want when arranging their workstation.

Performance

The TD4 offers standard Thunderbolt 4 performance the includes-fast data transfer speeds. The Thunderbolt 4 ports deliver up to 40Gbps, enabling fast file transfers that help with reducing latency. Moreover, the USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port is still ideal for connecting “legacy devices”, ensuring backward compatibility without compromising speed.

Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock - Ports comparison

One of the most enticing features for professionals and creatives is the support for multiple displays. The Thunderbolt 4 Dock can power two 4K displays at 60Hz or one 8K display at 30Hz. This capability is invaluable for video editors, designers, and anyone who requires extensive screen real estate.

However, the drawback is that this is done through a DPI port instead of HDMI with 2.1 support. For anyone with a standard HDMI or WVG enabled monitor an adapter will be an additional purchase with the TD4 dock.

Aside from an adapter, the setup of the Surace TD4 dock is relatively seamless. single Thunderbolt cable connects the dock to your compatible Microsoft Surface device or Thunderbolt supported PC, providing power, data transfer, and display connectivity all at once. The plug-and-play nature ensures that most users can get up and running without any hassles it seems.

While most docks tend to emit little to no noise, Microsoft has done so while also keeping the block relatively cool even with extended use.

Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock - Side by side

During prolonged use, it remains relatively cool to the touch, preventing any discomfort during extended work sessions. Additionally, the dock operates silently, eliminating any distractions that might otherwise arise from fan noise.

Most docks are a simple plug-in-play design, the Microsoft Surface Thunderbolt Dock 4 does integrate with the Surface app on most Surface devices to deliver firmware updates to keep drivers and supported plug-ins up to date.

Summary

The Microsoft Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock is a highly capable and versatile accessory that complements the Surface lineup impeccably.

The port selection offered by the STD4 is pretty standard these days and may be a little behind by omitting a traditional full HDMI port but it still offers exceptional data transfer speeds, support for multiple displays, and a user-friendly design make it an indispensable tool for professionals seeking to enhance their productivity.

I was set to conclude that while nicely packaged, the Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock was still an expensive addition to a workstation, but a cursory search of other similar docks places the pricing sort of on par.

Lenovo offers a similar Thunderbolt 4 supported dock for $439; HP has one for $399, Dell’s is $221.99 and Razer’s at $299.99.

There are other options such as Anker and Kensington that come in under $200 and should definitely be considered, but for Surface owners and fans, there is a certain appeal to branding and aesthetic appeal that may have them pull their buying trigger on the Surface Thunderbolt 4 Dock over any other.