Surface Pro 3 landscape docking station teardown

[Skip ahead to part 2 for info on the 40-pin connector]

Being a Surface fanatic, I wanted to see what was inside the Surface Pro 3 docking station:

Tools:

  • #0 Philips screwdriver
  • #00 Philips screwdriver
  • 1/8” flat screwdriver
  • pliers
  • Pentalobe screwdriver (needed for non-destructive method)
  • Dremel or similar cutting tool (needed for destructive method shown)

 

 

Disclaimer:

Opening your Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will void your warranty. You should take every precaution when tearing apart any consumer electronic device. Even though the Surface Pro 3 dock operates at 12V, you should be careful to keep metal bits and tools away to not short out anything. If you are not familiar with the safety aspects of working with electronic projects, do not attempt this teardown. Ifixit has a good safety guide for electronic teardowns and repairs.

 

Part 1 – Removing fasteners

  • Flip over and pull off bottom sticker
  • Remove 5 pentalobe screws on the back of the dock
  • Here is one of the screws up close
  • If you don’t have a Pentalobe screwdriver, use a Dremel cutting wheel or similar tool to cut a slit in the screws then remove with regular slot screwdriver
  • Pry off front cover – the cover is stuck on with adhesive so it will take a little force to pry off
  • It is best to pry off with the docking clamp mechanism opened so it won’t jam
  • Take a minute to check out the design and operate the docking clamp a few times to see everything work; then remove the 26 screws circled in red
  • Pry metal guide free
  • Remove bearings and free cables from white plastic guide
  • Remove 12 screws
  • Pry off bottom cover

 

Part 2 – Separate board from chassis and cable assembly

  • Free circuit board from chassis by gently prying up at corners.
  • Push in USB retainer tabs and free the plug – wow its a standard type-A plug!
  • Free 7-pin power header (looks like a standard Foxconn part)
  • Free 3-pin DisplayPort power header with slot screwdriver or fingernails (it looks like a wake-on-lan connector)
  • Remove 4 tiny DisplayPort screws on underside of board with #00 Philips driver
  • Free DisplayPort receptacle and re-install 4 screws so they don’t get lost
  • Free at last!

If you are building the 3-in-1 Dock put the circuit board back into that last piece of the plastic housing.

Part 3 – Separate 40-pin charging connector

  • Remove 2 screws
  • Pry off cover to reveal 4 more screws and remove them
  • Pull each cable end through plastic opening one at a time: power, USB, then DisplayPort to free the cable assembly. I wonder how 40 tiny wires get soldered inside that fancy connector?

If you are building the 3-in-1 Dock, Re-connect the cable to the circuit board and stop

Part 4 – Examining the board (Optional)

  • Remove 6 screws to dislodge the main RF shields
  • Lift the individual square shields up by prying with small screwdriver at corners
  • Cut through the “+” shaped frame of the individual RF shields to expose the integrated circuits underneath
  • Left side
    • Under top left shield
      • Conexant CX20772 audio chip
      • LM352 DC-DC converter to power audio chip
    • Under bottom right shield
      • SMSC USB5537B 7-port hub (4 USB 3.0, 3 USB 2.0)
    • Atmel H340 8-pin serial EEPROM chip?
    • AP2176 8-pin power switch for USB 3.0 downstream port
  • Middle
    • 2 more AP2176 8-pin power switches for USB 3.0 downstream ports
    • NXP LPC811 16-pin microcontroller – for tablet charging circuit?
    • Undetermined tiny 8-pin chip with markings “C 40 AA” next to the LPC811
  • Right side
    • Under shield
      • 2 NCP3170A PAZZ 8-pin buck voltage regulators
      • Undetermined IC with markings “43A097U 21305SQ”
    • 2 NTMS4177P PE06 8-pin power mosfet chips for tablet charging?
    • 3540 8-pin voltage regulator (3.3v 500mA for DisplayPort?)
    • Undetermined IC with markings “4C55N RAMOE” next to large capacitor – probably some sort of power regulator or mosfet package
    • Undetermined tiny 8-pin IC with markings “ACH” next to DisplayPort power connector
  • Underside – Realtek 8153AM Gigabit Ethernet and two buffer chips

 

Conclusion

The clamp mechanism is a thing of beauty but I can’t believe how many fasteners there are! The circuit board is surprisingly sparse with several open pad areas. It looks like one of the open pad areas is for a 48-pin IC connected to DisplayPort. Perhaps in one design there was a built-in DisplayPort repeater chip. There is a signal insertion loss at the tablet -> 40-pin connector and another loss at the dock passthrough port so that’s a lot of loss to deal with.

The board looks like it is 6 or 8 layers and being so sparsely populated, its surprising to see the Realtek 8153 chipset on the bottom given the extra manufacturing expense. There is probably a good reason for it – my guess is trying to separate the USB 3.0 high-frequency bits from the GigE as much as possible. The cable assembly is wonderful in that it allows a very modular design for everything; it breaks out from the 40-pin charging connector into mini-DisplayPort, 3-pin DisplayPort power connector, USB 3.0 type-A plug, a 7-pin power connector, and a charging indicator LED. Just imagine what else can be created with this cable…

 

References

 

 

Part 2 – More about the 40-pin connector

Back to the main blog https://dancharblog.wordpress.com

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6 thoughts on “Surface Pro 3 landscape docking station teardown

Add yours

  1. aloha dan!
    I produce music for a living and, like you, I really love the sp3 (although colleagues either think i'm crazy or a liar that it can perform as a daw computer). I really would like to make a custom dock so this teardown helps out a lot before I go running out and buying an extra dock to break. if you had the time, I had a couple of questions if you wouldn't mind:
    the 40 pin connector; I know you said that it's magnetic, but does it hold in place on its own (ie if I was using it like the portable charger)? I don't know if this is something you tried
    short of messing up pins/frying the board/being clumsy, i'm guessing it would be safe to assume that if I only removed the vertical part of the docking station and reconnected everything correctly (basically everything except step 4), the dock would function normally/safely (of course covering/sealing any open or exposed parts)?
    thank you for your time!

    Like

  2. Mike, thanks for the interest.
    Aside from the built-in 2-channel audio, the SP3 is quite competent with Ableton, Reaper, etc. An external USB audio interface is certainly a good bet.
    After closer inspection, the 40-pin connector isn't magnetic like the 12-pin connector on the end of the factory power supply. However it could still work exactly as you describe. I just posted an article with more details: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/danchar/archive/2015/06/16/surface-pro-3-landscape-docking-station-teardown-part-2.aspx
     
    Were you planning to build something like this? blogs.msdn.com/…/surface-pro-3-in-1-vesa-mounted-dock.aspx

    Like

  3. Thank you very much! This helped me a lot when I was stuck disassembling and started googling. – I didn't realise there was a sticker underneath, the surface of the sticker being so similar to the plastic casing.
    So glad I didn't use to much force breaking anything before I knew there was more than clips and glue holding the base together.
    I have the original Surface Pro (1) by the way. It is assembled in a very similar fashion.
    Planning on mounting the dock to the the center console in my car, I need to make a bracket and had to disassemble to know where it's ok to put screws through the casing.
    Thanks again!

    Like

  4. Awesome work Danchar4!  
    I have one question that perhaps you are the best person in the world to answer outside of Microsoft:  does the Gigabit Ethernet port on the Surface Dock have direct lines via the 40-pin connector back to the Surface Pro 3 tablet?  Or is the GigE port converted into a USB 3.0 interface on the Dock and therefore shares bandwidth with other USB 3.0 devices connected to the Dock?
    I'm wondering because 3rd-Party GigE-to-USB3.0 converters (such as that which you can get from StarTech and others) to add GigE support to a USB-only computer are actually not capable of reaching full GigE speeds (I've tested several).  However, my testing of the Surface Pro 3 Dock's GigE port has shown full speed operation, so I'm wondering if that's because there is a direct Ethernet line to the tablet via the Dock connector, or because Microsoft's solution for converting GigE to USB 3.0 is superior at the HW or driver level.
    Thanks!

    Like

  5. Hi Nate,
    There is no direct connection from the 40-pin connector to the GigE as far as I can tell. It is through the USB 3.0 hub chipset and ultimately shares bandwidth with other devices. If you attach a fast USB 3.0 hard drive and copy content to the tablet while simultaneously using the GigE network, you likely see a saturation of the bandwidth. As far as I know, all the chips in the Dock/tablet are of the highest quality and the circuit boards are painstakingly designed to perform as is expected with Microsoft's premiere brand. So its no surprise that you're seeing higher speeds than average off-the-shelf solutions.
    Dan

    Like

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