How Can You Connect Your Surface Tablet To External Displays?

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Connect Surface Tablet to External Display

If you’re like me and you want to use your Surface tablet to its full potential, you probably already purchased a Type Keyboard for your device (or bought a Surface Book which comes with a keyboard).

However, you may also be considering making a full transition to the Surface and giving up all of your other computers (desktops, tablets, laptops) and just using the Surface for everything – hey I did it and love it! Or, you may simply want to view movies on a larger screen (like a TV).

In any case, you will need to figure out how to connect your Surface tablet to an external display. This can be anything from an external monitor on your desk to a TV or projector. For the purposes of this article, I’m calling them all an “external display”.

Connect Your Surface Tablet To An External Display: The Mechanics

Note: This article applies to Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Books running Windows 10.

To connect any of the Surface Pros, Surface 3 or Surface Book to an external screen, you will need:

  • External display, like a monitor or TV
  • A compatible cable or an adapter with a connecting cable
  • Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter – if you want to connect wirelessly but your external display is not natively wireless

How Do I Figure Out Which Cable/Adapter I Need?

Your Surface tablet comes with a Mini Display Port built-in. To determine which cable or adapter you will need, simply look at the ports on your external display (TV, monitor, projector).

These are the most common port types:

  • HDMI
  • DVI
  • VGA
  • DisplayPort

Surface Tablets to External Display

Now that you know what you are connecting to, find a Mini DisplayPort to ___ (fill in the port on your external screen) cable on Amazon or at your local tech shop. Keep in mind that the markup on computer cabling in retail stores can be about 300%+, so Amazon is usually the cheaper option.

Note that in some of the cases above, you will need a cable AND and adapter. For example, if you have an VGA monitor that came with an VGA cable, you will need to purchase a Mini Displayport to VGA adapter, like this one: Amazon Basics Mini DisplayPort to VGA. Also, keep in mind that not all adapters/cables are created equal, some work with the Surfaces and some don’t. If you want to make sure your adapter will work, purchase it from Microsoft.

Tip: Daisy chaining monitors – if you have a Surface Pro or a Surface Book, all the latest updates on your device, AND an ACTIVE (or powered) adapter you can also daisy chain multiple monitors to your Surface. The cheaper passive adapters may or may not work when daisy chaining. So, if you are planning on connecting multiple external displays, make sure whatever adapter you get is an ACTIVE one.

General Types of External Displays

Monitor or Projector – if your external display doesn’t have a DisplayPort or HDMI port, you will need to use a VGA cable and a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter. VGA is only capable of displaying video, so sound will come out of your Surface tablet, unless you also have external speakers. The same applies to DVI ports.

HDTV – if your TV has an HDMI port (most new ones will), you can connect to it with a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable (or HDMI cable and HDMI to Mini DisplayPort adapter as mentioned above).

Wireless Display – you can connect wirelessly to a Miracast compatible display if your Surface detects one nearby or you can use a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (note: it doesn’t work in many places outside of  USA) or another type of wireless display adapter, such as a Chromecast, see our post on Chromecast on Surface post.

Connect to a Wired Display on Your Surface

If you want to connect to a display via a wired connection, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the Mini DisplayPort end of the cable (or adapter) to your Surface tablet or Surface Docking Station
  2. Connect the other end to your external display
  3. If the external display does not auto-detect your Surface, Project it, using the same steps as in our Windows 8.1 instructions for connecting Surface to External Display (the steps are the same).

Connect to a Wireless Display

If you want to connect to a Miracast enabled wireless display, follow these instructions:

  1. Swipe from the right
  2. Tap or click Connect and allow your Surface tablet to find the wireless display
  3. In the list of displays, select the name of the wireless display you want to connect to

Pretty easy, right?

The only real trick in connecting your Surface tablet to external display is making sure you selected the right cabling and/or adapter or, in the case of a wireless connection, a compatible display. After that, it’s pretty much a piece of cake.

Happy connecting!

Cheers.

Joanna-


13 COMMENTS

  1. I am a professor at a university in China. I love my Surface for teaching Software Engineering and English. I use the VGA adapter in the class room with either their sound system or my own small, but powerful USB speaker. I use an Apple TV box at home and watch movies and our favorite news program, “NBC Nightly News” on our TV. Sometime I use an HDMI adapter, but there is little need for that. The surface is SO versatile.

    Now about China internet speeds…. Well, you really don’t want to know.

  2. Can you explain why the Microsoft Wireless Display adapter does not work at many places outside the USA? Does it used banned frequencies or something?

  3. Honestly, I’ve not been able to get a good answer to that question. It could be something like banned frequencies but it could also be internet proxies. I know some countries do some weird stuff with access to the internet. And MS says that “The adapter won’t work if you are using a proxy server to access the Internet”. Whatever the reason, they did, at one point, have a disclaimer that it doesn’t work in all countries. I don’t see it anymore because they keep changing the store layout but I always air on the side of caution.

  4. Anyway, the plug&play does not work as it should. Any time I connect the external display, icons, text, etc. show wrong sizes. Need a logoff/logon. Very boring. Hope in redstone…

  5. I have erratic results using the Surface 3 Pro (i7), MS docking station and try to run dual Samsung 21″ HDMI monitors off it. I’ve got a StarTech mini-DP to HDMI powered adapter box hooked on one side to the monitors (it has 3 HDMI ports but I’m only using 2) and the mini-DP attached to the dock (although it behaves the same if attached to the Surface itself).

    About 10% of the time the Surface will see both monitors. They’re powered and I see them wake up when I fire up the Surface (a little mini-DP logo pops in the corner of each monitor). Usually the Surface can only see one of the monitors despite resets (of the StarTech adapter, Surface or monitors). Then randomly the second screen will light up and I’ll be able to use both for awhile. I’ve invested dozens of hours playing with various settings and haven’t been able to resolve the issue so generally I’m just using one external monitor and the Surface monitor at the same time.

    My guess is there’s something about the StarTech (MSTMDP123DP) that’s not quite compatible and requires some very specific docking & powering sequence that I’m only occasionally stumbling on. It’s not plug-and-play. Just a confirmation of Joanna’s warning that not all adapters/cables work.

  6. Hi Joanna & Tim: I have a Surface 3 that I love so much and I have 2 questions:
    1. I have a external display USB 3.0 but I can’t to connect it to the Surface 3 in the USB port. Is it because I need to connect to the Mini DisplayPort…???

    2. I downloaded and installed all update to my Surface 3 but I still having problem with the charging running out of the baterry when is in Sleep mode. My Surface only has 2 month, its new. What can I do to solve this issue…??? Its tge only thing that don’ t like me of my Surface 3.

    Thanks a lot for this articule and your blog that is awesome….!!!

    xmennight…!!!

  7. I use the new surface dock with my surface pro 4 and I’d like to use the external monitor and the surface screen simultaneously, bit because the monitor is set at 100% zoom (no zoom) and the subisce at 200% zoom (the default), the view on the monitor is blurred.
    Is there a solution?

  8. Hi xmennight,
    Thank you for your kinds words.
    1. What do you mean when you say you have a USB 3 display? Do you have like a universal dock or hub or a USB 3 display adapter or something like that? I have used Plugable docks before and they are pretty good but they do require a lot of tweaking to get the work. You will have to go the manufacturers site and download their drivers, they will be essential and need to be for the right Windows OS.
    2. Surface 3 are plagued by poor charging and battery life. Check out some battery-related articles on our site here (feel free to browse around). We have several posts to address some of the issues. I totally agree, that is the only thing I don’t like about the S3 ether.
    3. Consider asking your questions in our Forum. We often have others in the community that can answer because they have experienced similar problems.
    Joanna

  9. Hi sixian,
    The problem is that the font scaling on the built in LCD and the font scaling on your external LCD’s are mismatched – that’s actually pretty common. Windows does a poor job of simultaneously handing different scales(zooms). You can switch to second screen only – that will scale correctly. Or you could try to set the displays to match, i.e set a custom scaling level (MS does not recommend this bec it can cause unexpected behavior with some monitors.) otherwise, the only other thing I can think of is to set the specific apps you’re using in a compatibility mode for Win 7, and it will do the scaling for you.
    Good luck.
    Joanna

  10. Hi Joanna

    Thanks for your recommendations. My external display is an AOC USB 3.0 Monitor that has 2 USB end point: 1 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0. The USB 2.0 doesn’t work, but USB 3.0 end point installed their own drivers and it is working excellent.

    I will looking in your blog related to the battery life and post my question in your Forum.

    Thank to this blog, today I can use my external monitor with my loved Suface 3.

    I hope I can solve the battery problem to stay relax to hang out with Surface.

    Thanks a lot and success;

    xmennight…!!!

  11. Travel to USA and Australia a lot from UK and find that I have to use Active MPD to HDMI as the non active cable failed. With VPN software can watch UK TV catch up services like BBC iPlayer. Netflix have blocked VPN but presently still works using DNS providers.

  12. Hi guys, okay so Surface 3 connecting to VEON tv via a HDMI dongle. I’ve checked to make sure that the dongle works fine and it does, the table can recognise which tv it connected to (e.g. sony, veon ect…), i’ve checked to make sure that the tv is set to adjust to whatever screen size comes through and that its set on the right source. And yet even with all this the screen (or sound for that matter) will not come through. Any thoughts?

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