Best Laptop Docking Stations

Mary Gormandy White
Computer Docking Station

If you use a laptop, a docking station is a great accessory to consider. A docking station allows you to essentially use your device as if it were a desktop computer, making it easy to connect the machine with other devices, such as monitors, keyboards, printers, and speakers. It also provides access to additional connectivity ports, such as USB and HDMI; some even have Ethernet connections or serve as external power supplies.

Five Top Docking Stations

1. Targus Universal 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station

The USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station from Targus costs around $210 and is designed with the needs of modern computer users and current laptops. As it has two video ports, it is an ideal choice for those who like to work with two monitors. Both ports can provide "beyond HD video" and are capable of displaying 2048 x 1152 graphics. It is compatible with Windows 7 and 8, as well as the following Macintosh operating systems: Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9, Mountain Lion 10.8, Lion 10.7 and Snow Leopard 10.6 (release 2.2).

Reviews:

  • On PCWorld.com, reviewer Michael Brown has high praise for this item. He states, "This little device has become as essential to my day-to-day productivity as my coffee mug."
  • Brown states that this model is particularly well suited for "notebooks and Windows 8 tablets that don't have dedicated docking ports."
  • A PCMag review by Eric Grevstad states that this docking station is a "convenient way to connect everything from a couple of monitors to half a dozen USB devices" and that it offers "a good way to expand an Ultrabook or other laptop's connectivity."

Features include:

  • One DVI-I video port
  • One HDMI video port
  • One DVI to VGA adapter
  • One HDMI to DVI adapter
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • Audio in/audio out ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Integrated laptop charging (Note: The charging feature only works with 90W PC laptops. If you don't need or can't use this feature, a less expensive model that does not have it is available for around $150.)
  • Selection of universal power tips
  • AC adapter (6.15A) included
  • USB 3.0 cable (two feet) included
  • Security slot lock

2. Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Universal Docking Station

The Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Universal Docking Station for PCs is available in both dual display and single display models, priced around $110 and $90, respectively. When two displays are connected, which is possible only with the dual display model, the maximum resolution is 1920 × 1200. When a single monitor is connected, maximum resolution is up to 2560 X 1440 assuming you are using a high speed HDMI cable. It is compatible with Windows 7 and 8, as well as XP with Service Pack 2 or 3. Note that 64 bit support is not available with XP. It is not compatible with Linux and Mac usage is not supported.

Reviews:

  • A review on SurfaceGeeks.net says that this docking station "is a great device and works as expected." The reviewer tested the device using a Surface Pro laplet.
  • Another Surface user reviewed this docking station on DeployHappiness.com and reports having no problems with the device. He says, "The setup was seamless and only required a single driver install."
  • In a slideshow highlighting top USB 3.0 docking stations, ComputerWorld refers to this model as "a good deal" (slide five).
  • An NH TECH review describes it as "great as an upgrade for your Windows tablet, laptop, or desktop" and also reports using it successfully with a MacBook.

Features:

  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 DVI-I port
  • DVI-VGA adapter
  • DVI-HDMI adapter
  • Gigabit Ethernet port (also compatible with 10/100)
  • 1 headphone jack
  • 1 microphone jack
  • 4 Amp AC adapter included
  • USB 3 cable included

3. Satechi USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station

The USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station from Satechi is a great option for PC users, including those with older operating systems on their laptops, and costs only around $100. It has three video ports (one each HDMI, DVI-I and VGA), so you can simultaneously operate multiple monitors with it. This docking station works with Windows 7 and 8, as well as Vista and XP. However, it is not recommended for use with Apple computers.

Reviews:

  • A review on TunguzReview.com praises this docking station, saying that it "gives your computer almost all the connectivity that you could imagine for today's computers...without the need for any complicated hardware."
  • Customers on Amazon praise the device for its ease of use as well as its number and variety of ports for connecting peripherals. One reviewer even states that it works great with his MacBook Pro, acknowledging that he knows it isn't recommended for use with Apple machines.

Features:

  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • DVI-I port
  • HDMI port
  • VGA port
  • DVI to VGA adapter
  • Audio in/audio out ports
  • Ethernet port (10/100/1000 Mbps connections)
  • 12 volt power adapter included
  • USB 3.0 cable included

4. StarTech.com Thunderbolt Docking Station

The Thunderbolt™ Docking Station from StarTech.com works with computers that have a Thunderbolt interface, such as MacBook Pro®, MacBook Air®, Ultrabook™ and other Thunderbolt-enabled PCs. It costs around $250 and allows for the use of two monitors at one time, as long as one of the monitors is HDMI and the other is a Thunderbolt device. Maximum Thunderbolt display resolution is 2560 x 1440; it is 1920 x 1080 for HDMI. You can also utilize the Thunderbolt port to connect a DisplayPort monitor, though this option disables the HDMI port so you will only be able to use a single monitor. This device is compatible with Windows 7 and 8, as well as Mac OS X Mavericks.

Reviews:

  • Gadgetreview.com describes this docking station as "an excellent means to provide a bunch of additional connections to your desktop or laptop Mac, and even to the few PC's with Thunderbolt support."
  • GadgetReview particularly likes the fact that this docking station has an HDMI adapter, allowing flexibility for for users who prefer not to purchase expensive Thunderbolt monitors.
  • An iLounge review praises this device over its nearest competitor, Belkin's Thunderport Express Dock, because even though the StarTech.com model is less expensive, it has one more port.
  • A review on Macintosh News Network praises this device for its wide variety of ports and port speed, but does point out that some Mac users might be disappointed that it does not have a FireWire port.

Features:

  • One HDMI port
  • Two Thunderbolt ports
  • Three USB 3.0 ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Two 3.5 mm mini-jacks
  • 3 meter Thunderbolt cable
  • Power adapter

5. Henge Docks Vertical Docking Station for MacBook Pro

Released during the summer of 2014, Henge Docks' Vertical Docking Station works exclusively with MacBook Pro machines and costs around $70. This device's unique vertical orientation allows you to free up desk space while also reducing clutter, as your MacBook stands straight up and down inside the docking station rather than lying flat on your work station. The company promotes the device as allowing "users to get the best features of a laptop, desktop and media center PC all from one computer."

Reviews:

  • AppleInsider.com calls this docking station "one of the best laptop docking solutions we've ever seen." The review particularly praises the device's "metal alloy construction" and "details like covered screws for cable installation."
  • A review on The Gadgeteer states that this unit " provides an easy way to connect all your peripherals to your laptop while maintaining portability" at a surprisingly affordable price point, considering that Apple accessories often have a "premium price."
  • GeekBeat.TV says that this device is "the best way to instantly connect a MacBook with your desktop or home theater while streamlining space and reducing cable clutter."
  • This docking station is also named as a GeekBeat.TV 2014 Editor's Choice product.

Features:

  • Two USB ports
  • One FireWire 800 port
  • Ethernet port
  • Audio in/audio out ports
  • Express card
  • One Mini DisplayPort (an adapter is not provided; you will need your own Apple display connection or Mini DisplayPort adapter)
  • MagSafe power port (a MagSafe power adapter is not included)
  • Pass-through cables for USB, Ethernet, audio and FireWire included

Powerful Laptop Accessory

Make the most of your laptop computer with a top-rated docking station. Choose a model that is compatible with your device and operating system, with features that match the way you use your machine. Once you have your docking station in place, you'll be able to work with your laptop as if it were a full scale desktop system through the expanded capacity provided by multiple ports to accommodate a variety of peripheral devices.

Best Laptop Docking Stations