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:
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:
- Connect the Mini DisplayPort end of the cable (or adapter) to your Surface tablet or Surface Docking Station
- Connect the other end to your external display
- 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:
- Swipe from the right
- Tap or click Connect and allow your Surface tablet to find the wireless display
- 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.