Surface Pro 3 Holiday Buying Guide

Surface Pro 3 Holiday Buying Guide

Surface Pro 3 owners were once a rare breed, but the quality and performance of Microsoft's most current tablet version has pushed it almost into popular status. The Surface Pro 3 can truly be everything for your computing needs and I've detailed that over the past few months in my Surface Pro 3 Diary series.

I took a couple weeks off from work recently, but the Surface Pro 3 was at my side the entire time. And, you'll find that with Surface Pro 3 owners. You'll rarely see them without the tablet within arm's reach.

So, with the holidays coming up, what do you get for the person who has everything? I mean, if they already own a Surface Pro 3, what's left to own?

Accessories.

During my time with the Surface Pro 3, I've tested and used various add-ons, components, and accessories. Some have been extremely valuable, some very poorly designed, and some of them I still use every day. So, if you have a Surface Pro 3 owner in your life, here's a list of my suggestions for potential Christmas gifts that's sure to enthrall.

Docking Station

A Docking Station is an absolute must have for anyone wanting to take the Surface Pro 3 to the next level. A Docking Station provides more USB ports, video output for external monitors, embedded network connections, and more – essentially turning the Surface Pro 3 into a desktop computer. Microsoft has its own, which is the one I use successfully and am happy with, but I've heard from others who are happy with their 3rd party choices.

Here's the ones I've been made aware of that are being used effectively.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station - $149.99

Toshiba Dynadock - $131.99   

Plugable UD-3900 - $99.00

Display Adapter

If you decide on acquiring a Docking Station as a gift, or your Surface Pro 3 loved-one already owns one, the recipient would probably enjoy expanding their current external monitor situation. Right now, I run 4 external monitors and the Surface Pro 3 handles these famously with no problems. If there are unused monitors laying around, to expand monitor capability, you generally need to acquire a graphics adapter that will convert a USB connection to HDMI or DVI. If you have even older monitors, you might need a VGA adapter. In this case, I'd suggest just throwing out the old monitor and buying a new monitor with modern connections.

In any case, Plugable provides adapters for almost every scenario. Plugable makes awesome products and support is great. Here's what I currently use to drive all of my external monitors:

Plugable USB 3.0 HDMI/DVI graphics adapter - $49.95

Additionally, the Surface Pro 3 owner in your life may have the need to provide boardroom presentations on occasion, or deliver technical sessions at events like, ahem, IT/Dev Connections. A lot of times these places are outfitted with older presentation equipment. The Surface Pro 3 has a modern mini DisplayPort, and a lot of places aren't capable of connecting. For that, an adapter is needed.

When I travel, to minimize this problem, I carry the Cable Matters Mini Display Port adapter. It plugs into the Surface Pro 3's mini DisplayPort and provides the full gambit of potential video configurations just in case.

You can find it here:

Cable Matters Mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt Port Compatible) to HDMI/DVI/VGA - $24.99

Wireless Display

There's simply nothing cooler than being able to wirelessly "cast" the Surface Pro 3 screen to a remote TV or monitor. If you don't own an Internet video streaming device, the Surface Pro 3 with a wireless video adapter can be used in a pinch, and does a great job. It's also useful for doing work on a much larger screen.

My family is a cable-cutter and we rely solely on NetFlix, HuluPlus, Amazon Prime, Crackle, and others to watch our favorite shows and stream movies. But, when I'm out of town on a trip, I don't want to miss out. When traveling for extended periods of time, bringing any bit of home with you is extremely valuable. By carrying a wireless video adapter with me I use the Surface Pro 3 to watch my favorite shows on the hotel TV.

Microsoft recently released its own wireless video adapter, but I continue to use and carry the Netgear PTV3000 which works great for me. Here's where you can find both of them:

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter - $59.95

Netgear PTV3000 - $59.00

Cases

Buying a case for someone is tough since it's usually a personal preference decision. In my life, I have two needs and you might find your Surface Pro 3 loved-one feels the same way. First, I need a case that I can travel with that's lightweight but has enough storage for miscellaneous accessories. Secondly, I need a sleeve that can be used for short trips around town.

Here's what I've found that works for me:

Sleeve:  Maroo Premium Leather Laptop Case for Surface Pro 3 - $35.99

Messenger bag: Kenneth Cole Reaction - $79.99

P.S. I realize that the Kenneth Cole Messenger bag may be a bit pricey for a Christmas present. There are more cost worthy options. I chose the Kenneth Cole due to durability and its professional look. I do also own the soft-sided CaseCrown Messenger bag, but gave it up after I purchased the Kenneth Cole. Your Surface Pro 3 gift-getter may enjoy the CaseCrown just as much. You can find it here:

CaseCrown Water Resistant Vertical Mobile Messenger Bag - $37.88

Extra Ports

The Surface Pro 3 comes with just a single USB 3.0 port, and you might hear your Surface Pro 3 loved-one complaining about this from time to time. There are a huge number of options for providing USB port expansion, but only a few that I would actually recommend.

There's two ways to view this, too. For those with Docking Stations, a massive number of additional USB ports could extremely useful, but might be more of a stationary solution. For this case, I use the…

Plugable USB 3.0 10-Port Hub - $44.95 (I've reviewed this hub HERE)

But, if you simply want to add a few ports, and have an expansion hub that's easy to travel with or carry around the house, Inateck offers a 3-port hub that also provides a wired LAN connection. Here it is:

Inateck USB 3.0 Hub with Gigabit Ethernet Wired LAN Connection - $$22.99

Better Sound

The sound for the Surface Pro 3 is good – for what it is. The tablet has two speakers that aren't exactly designed to provide the best in ambient sound. In fact, the location of the tiny speakers is a bit odd and pushes sound in the wrong directions. I fully expect the Surface Pro 4 to improve on this, but, until then, your Surface Pro 3 owner might enjoy better sound, particularly for filling the room with Christmas favorites.

There's a gaggle of Bluetooth speakers available, but I have experience with the following ones:

Braven 570 Portable Bluetooth Speaker - $77.00 (I have a review HERE)

Lumsing Portable Waterproof Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker - $35.99 (I have a review HERE)

Incidentally, both speakers do double-duty as speakerphones for your smartphone, but the Braven also provides portable charging for your mobile devices. 

Personalization

I'm the only Surface Pro 3 owner in my house, but my entire family (4 kids and a wife) all have Surface Pro tablets (original series). Because they all have the same tablets, it could be hard to tell them apart without booting and reading the Windows 8.1 login profile name. So, they've all decided to personalize. One of the most awesome personalization services that we found is DecalGirl.

DecalGirl houses thousands of pre-developed images you can choose from, but also allows you to upload your own images for even richer personalization. The "skins" are tailored to fit the Surface Pro 3 exactly. The skins are not permanent, but do adhere firmly on the Surface tablet.

Both existing artwork and a custom, uploaded image costs just $24.99.

Surface Pro 3 Skins at DecalGirl

Miscellaneous Accessories

And, of course, there's a myriad of additional accessories that any Surface Pro 3 owner would appreciate. Some can be full-on, wrapped gifts, while some could be used as stocking stuffers.

Here's some additional ideas that I believe would inject seasonal joy into even the most finicky Surface Pro 3 owner.

 

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