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Connect Your Surface to a Monitor, HDTV, or Digital Projector

The screen on your Surface is larger than an iPad, but it’s probably smaller than your desktop PC’s monitor. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with your Surface’s small screen, though. Your Surface includes a high-definition video port that lets you plug in desktop monitors, HDTV sets, and many digital projectors used for PowerPoint presentations.

Plugging in a monitor (whether your desktop, HDTV, or projector) not only gives you a larger screen, it gives you two screens: Your Surface’s screen stays active, as well.

Connect your Surface to a monitor

In theory, connecting your Surface to a monitor is quite simple: Connect a cable between your Surface’s video port and your monitor’s input port.

The challenge is finding the right cable. No single cable works in every situation. That’s because Windows 8 tablets and monitors contain different types of video ports. And your cable needs the correct jack on each end, or it won’t fit.

Both Surfaces can connect through HDMI, although both do it in slightly different ways:

  • Surface with Windows RT contains a microHDMI port.

  • Surface with Windows 8 Pro contains a miniDisplayPort port.

TVs and monitors also include one or more different types of video adapters.

  • HDMI: Shown on the right in the figure, this port is the same as the ones found on many computers, but it’s full-size—more than twice as large. HDMI cables also carry the sound as well as the video, a perk when watching movies on a big screen.

    On a Surface with Windows RT, the cable’s small microHDMI plug pushes into your Surface’s video port (on the left in the figure); on the other end, the standard HDMI plug pushes into your monitor or TV’s HDMI port (on the right).

    Both ends of the microHDMI cable used to connect a Surface with Windows RT to a monitor.
    Both ends of the microHDMI cable used to connect a Surface with Windows RT to a monitor.
  • DVI: The next most popular, this appears mostly on PC monitors rather than TVs. For DVI, you need a third-party adapter.

  • VGA: This oldster appeared on monitors for nearly 20 years, so it’s still around on a lot of equipment as a last-resort connector. Cables and adapters with VGA connectors often cost more because they need more circuitry to translate between the types of signals flowing through the cable.

Matching your Surface’s video port with your monitor’s port leaves you with three ways to connect the two:

  • Buy Microsoft’s customized adapters. At $40 apiece, Microsoft’s stylish adapters contain the correct jack for your Surface on one end, and a VGA or HDMI port on the other. Buy the adapter you need, and then plug in your own standard VGA or HDMI cable.

  • Buy a cable with the right plug for your Surface on one end and the right plug for your monitor on the other end. This might be your least expensive option for HDMI connections.

  • If you already have a cable that fits into the video port on either your Surface or your monitor, head to Amazon, Newegg, or your local electronics store to buy an adapter for the cable’s other end. For example, an adapter can turn a standard HDMI plug into a microHDMI plug that fits into a Surface with Windows RT.

Depending on the variety of external monitors you plan to connect to your Surface, you may need to collect several types of cables or adapters.

When shopping for HDMI cables, be aware that the higher-priced ones don’t make the video signal any better. The cables either work or they don’t.

Make your monitor recognize your Surface

After you’ve connected the correct cable between your Microsoft Surface and the monitor and told the Surface to send its signal to the monitor, you face one last challenge. You must convince the monitor to recognize your newly plugged-in Surface.

The solution here works a little differently depending on whether you’re connecting your Surface to an HDTV or a PC monitor.

Make sure your Surface is turned on and set to Duplicate mode, so your Surface sends a constant video signal to your monitor. When you see the Surface’s screen on the monitor, you’ll know you found the right combination.

  • HDTV: On your TV’s front panel or handheld remote control, look for a button for switching between video inputs. Keep pressing the remote’s Video Input button, switching between inputs, if necessary, and your Surface’s screen will eventually appear.

  • Monitor: If your monitor is already connected to another PC, unplug the second PC. (You can plug the cable back in when you’re through.) Your monitor should sense your Surface’s signal and automatically begin displaying it. (Sometimes turning the monitor on and off again helps it switch to the right signal.)

It might take a little fiddling, but you eventually see your Surface appear on the big screen.

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