Although the Surface Dock doesn’t have standard DisplayPorts or HDMI, it does have two Mini-DisplayPorts, and ostensibly supports a single 4K-resolution display at a 60 Hz refresh rate. Actually achieving that frame rate can be frustrating and difficult. Here’s how I did it.
No really – just Bing it. Owners of this dock have long been asking how to achieve a smooth frame rate on their expensive 4K monitors. Officially, the dock supports outputs of the following (in all cases, the Surface built-in display panel is assumed to be active as well).
- One 4K-resolution display at 60 Hz (what I’m after)
- Two 4K-resolution displays at 30 Hz
- Two 1440p-resolution displays at 60 Hz
When running at 30 Hz, many users (yours truly included) can observe a noticeable flicker or lag, especially for moving graphics like moving windows or the mouse cursor — it is distracting to say the least. Even though the system OS is performing properly, this display lag makes everything feel sluggish — dragging a window across your nice large 4K monitor (like my 4K, 28″ Samsung LU28e590DS display) feels choppy, as if the system can’t keep up with your hand. Not at all the kind of experience a Surface Book 2 should provide.
Many users have taken to submitting warranty replacements. Others have purchased newer, more premium DisplayPort cables or engaged in near endless troubleshooting of uninstalling/reinstalling device drivers to try to achieve a quality image, with very limited success.
At first I even thought my system was using the wrong graphics card. Internally the Surface Book 2 has a discreet nVidia graphics system, as well as a more basic Intel Display Adapter. It seemed logical that only the beefier nVidia graphics card could power the 4K resolution display at 60 frames per second, but this is not actually the case.
Another important detail are the settings on your monitor itself. For example, back to the Samsung 4K display I have. Setting the DisplayPort version from 1.1 or 1.2 didn’t impact the refresh rate achieved, but enabling FreeSync – a function that purports to only apply to AMD graphics cards – actually did allow the monitor to (finally) display graphics at the full resolution and frame rate it should.
Of course, there are other issues: The dock cannot put the monitor into sleep mode properly, so if you have power saving settings set in Windows, the monitor will instead turn on and off while repeatedly flashing the “no source signal” warning when the system tries to blank the screen. So it’s not saving power, and it’s super disruptive when you’re trying to sleep.