There's been some confusion regarding the Microsoft Surface and external displays. The problem stems from a little symbol no one notices above the mini Displayport. If you look closely, there’s a symbol of a D with a P inside of it and two plus signs to the left of it. Not all mini Displayport to DVI adapters and hubs support DP++. It’s important to know what you’re dealing with before you buy an adapter.
Some cheaper adapters will accept your monitor cable and plug into the Displayport yet refuse to display anything on your external monitor. It's not a flaw in your device or your monitor; it's a simple case of not reading the fine print. Typically, this shouldn't be an issue for you if you're using a Microsoft Surface since it supports DP++ unless it's an older Surface.
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That said, before you buy an adapter, check your port or your device’s technical specifications to ensure it supports DP++. If it does, any passive adapter will do the job. If for some reason it does not support DP++, you’ll need to look into the more expensive active adapters. Make sure it has two plus signs next to the DP. There's a DP, and a DP++ and DP require an active adapter to use it with DVI or HDMI.
Active adapters use special hardware and chips to convert the signal into a form that will display on monitors that accept HDMI or DVI connections. If you plan to use more than one external monitor or projector, you’ll need an active adapter since it’s unlikely the video card in your device supports more than one external monitor.
As we mentioned before, check your device but it's highly likely you can get by with a passive adapter. A passive adapter doesn't need special hardware or chips to transmit video and sound if your device supports DP++. If you're hooking it up to an older VGA monitor, you may still need to use an active adapter. Microsoft recommends using an active adapter, but it's often unnecessary.
If your device has the DP++ logo near the mini Displayport, any active or passive adapter should work correctly. If it has no logo near the port or just a DP logo, opt for an active adapter. You'll find active and passive adapters in our list below. If for any reason your new passive adapter doesn't work even if you have the DP++ logo, fall back to Microsoft's advice and get an active adapter.
We’ve done most of the research for you and found the best active and passive adapters available. Our focus is adapters that convert from a mini Displayport to a DVI connection. We ignored the price of these adapters since most are inexpensive. We chose the adapters on this list based on the quality of the product and customer opinions above all other data.
How Do I Know Which Adapter I Need?
The adapters on our list are designed to connect to the DVI cable connected to your monitor or projector. Some older smart televisions may have a DVI connection as well. If you plan to use a TV as your external monitor, you probably need an adapter that converts to HDMI instead of DVI. Otherwise, you may need an adapter to convert your signal a third time to go from DVI to HDMI.
However, some older monitors and TVs still use VGA which is usually blue and has 15 pins or 15 holes for pins, depending on which end of the cable you’re on at the moment. We don't recommend that you use a mini Displayport with VGA since the VGA cable will likely degrade your video signal. You can do it, but you probably won’t like the results.
The connection our list focuses on has 24 pins or pin holes along with a big plus sign on one side that's surrounded by four additional pin holes or pins. Older DVI ports and cables may not have the plus sign on one side and won't work with most of the adapters on this list. They'll either have the plus sign and two pins or pinholes, or they may have a single slot instead of the plus.
Use your favorite search engine and find some images of display cables and ports to compare your connections to before you buy anything. We want you to make sure DVI is what you need before you waste a lot of time with the wrong hardware. It can be easy to confuse the different cables and ports if you don’t have a lot of experience with them.
The Best Displayport To DVI Adapters
This list contains a mix of passive and active adapters. In the past, active adapters require more parts to construct which usually increases their price. However, most adapters are easily affordable, so get an active adapter if you aren’t absolutely positive your device supports DP++. It may cost a few more dollars, but it will save you from the stress of trying to figure out why you can't get it to work.
StarTech Mini DisplayPort To DVI Adapter
You can order this Displayport to DVI adapter on Amazon for $10.67. It supports 1080p resolution and DP++ along with Intel’s Thunderbolt technology. It supports a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1200. It’s a passive adapter, so make sure your device supports DP++ before you purchase this one. It’s a bargain for the price and works with any device that has a mini Displayport.
Rankie Mini Displayport To DVI Adapter
You can order this adapter from Amazon for $8.99. It supports 1080p and up to 1920 x 1200 resolutions. It's a passive adapter, and owners report it works perfectly with their Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and newer models. It supports Intel's Thunderbolt but not the newest Thunderbolt 3 technology. If that's a concern, it's probably best to skip this adapter and get a different one.
You can order this adapter from Amazon for $9.99. It supports full HD video and resolutions up to 1920 x 1200. It’s a passive adapter, so your device must support DP++ if you want good video quality while using this adapter. One benefit this adapter has over some of the others is the plug that fits into the mini Displayport is small and won’t block neighboring ports.
You can order this adapter on Amazon for $16.99. It supports the same HD video and resolutions as the preceding adapter from Cable Matters, but this one is an active adapter. It's small and won't get in your way or block other ports. If you aren't sure whether or not your device supports DP++, we suggest getting an active adapter like this one or the next one on the list to be safe.
You can order this mini Displayport adapter on Amazon for $15.88. It supports full 4K Ultra-HD video and resolutions up to 3840 x 2160. You’ll need a monitor that supports those resolutions as well. It is an active adapter so that it will work on any device with a mini Displayport regardless of the type of technology the device supports.
You can order this adapter hub on Amazon for $13.99. It's a passive adapter, and it supports full HD and resolutions up to 1920 x 1200. It's a little off scope for this list since it also features HDMI and VGA ports. We felt that including it might help some of you if you have a DVI monitor at home and an HDMI monitor at the office. This adapter frees you from needing multiple adapters.
A Few Notes On Resolutions
Resolutions may be confusing since we have a dozen new acronyms or other ways to describe them these days. For most of us, an adapter, monitor, and video card that supports full HD and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 are all we'll need to enjoy videos or games. That sentence is what confuses most people since it says full HD then mentions a resolution which is basically the same thing.
IBM started this mess by trying to get other manufacturers to conform to their standard CGA color graphics technology. It seemed fair to them since they invented it. However, everyone wanted to be first and kept pushing the limits of video. That’s not a bad thing since it’s likely the reason we have ultra-high resolutions and crystal-clear video images today.
The next problem is something like 1080i and 1080p. The letter behind those numbers simply means one is using an interlaced scan and the other uses a progressive scan. Interlaced scanning is slowly dying off, and it's only still around because it's cheaper to manufacture devices that support it. They also don’t apply to computer monitors regardless of what the box says.
It all comes down to pixels. The number of pixels packed into the screen determines its resolution. So, a screen that supports resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 means it’s capable of displaying 1920 pixels across the screen horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically, not that it only has that specific number of pixels. Common resolutions and their acronym counterparts may look like this:
Your Adapter Buyer’s Guide
If you've determined your device supports DP++, any adapter on our list will work. Their prices are close enough not to matter much, and they all work with Microsoft's Surface device. We do caution you to make sure your device supports DP++. We might have mentioned that a time or two, but it's critical and might get a little extra push from us.
That said, based on customer opinions, the Cable Matters Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter is the best overall passive adapter. Some Microsoft Surface models have the SD card slot close to the mini Displayport, and bulky connectors might get in the way if you try to use the SD slot and the adapter at the same time. It's unlikely you'll experience this issue, but it's worth noting.
We like the Foinnex Active Mini Displayport to DVI-D Adapter as the best active mini Displayport to DVI adapter. It supports 4K Ultra-HD and a wide range of screen resolutions. Since it’s an active adapter, it will work with any device that has a mini Displayport. It also supports many of the new gaming technologies related to video, provided you have the correct monitor.
Many of you may have different monitors at home or the office that you regularly connect to your device. For instance, you may have a DVI monitor at home while your office monitor uses HDMI. You can get away with only buying one adapter if you opt for the OMorc 3-in-1 Mini DisplayPort to DVI VGA HDMI TV Adapter. It’s a hub that features DVI, HDMI, and VGA ports.
Honestly, unless you need 4K Ultra-HD support or higher than standard resolutions to work, any of the adapters on our list will do the job. If you want to take advantage of 4K Ultra-HD or resolutions above 1920 x 1200, you’ll need to ensure that your device’s video card supports them, and you have a monitor that supports them as well. Many devices don’t support these resolutions as of this writing.
Extending your Microsoft Surface to a TV or external monitor will increase your productivity and make watching videos more enjoyable, but you need the right gear to get you to that point. Before you buy anything, triple check your device to make sure a Displayport to DVI adapter is what you need and determine if you need a passive or active adapter.