Docking Stations are Dead


Top level executives and owners often express frustration because they want to upgrade their notebook computer, but they don’t want to have to buy another docking station. The good news is that you can forget docking stations forever.

The whole point of a docking station was that you could drop your notebook into the dock, and the notebook would automatically connect to your desk’s monitor, printers, etc.

Now, you don’t need a docking station at all. On your desk can sit a single USB cable. When you return to your desk, all you need to do is plug that single USB cable into your laptop computer. All of your other devices will spring to life.

The way this happens is that your single USB cable connects your laptop to a powered USB hub. You can plug one or more monitors into that hub using USB graphics adapters. If you run out of USB ports on the first hub, just cascade to another hub by connecting a USB port on the first hub to a second hub. You can connect all kinds of USB devices including full size keyboards, vertical mice, USB external hard drives, USB DVD drives, USB microphones, USB speakers, printers, scanners, a USB Ethernet or Wi-Fi dongles, a USB connection to your smartphone and tablet, and so on.

Save your money—you don’t ever need a docking station again.


14 Responses to “Docking Stations are Dead”

  1. Tim White says:

    Very true and very workable. But, a USB hub will not give you external monitors like a docking station can. If an Ethernet cable is used for network connectivity rather than wireless then the exec would still need to plug that in as well. Docking stations are not that expensive and provide the best user experience.

  2. Mike Foster says:

    Those are great reasons to use a docking station. And it is neat that DisplayLink has a chipset that manufacturers use to create USB to Video adapters, so video ports on a docking station are no longer necessary. One example is made by Plugable http://plugable.com/products/uga-2k-a. You can drive one or more monitors – and need multiple adapters – one adapter for each external monitor. Additionally, several vendors offer USB to Ethernet adapters so that the data from that wired Ethernet cable can communicate via USB as well. Docking stations work – and if you like them – then the docking station is “the way to go.” And, you will have an alternative (a USB port) if you ever want one.

    A trend you may find interesting is the availability of devices called “docking stations” that use technologies like those discussed herein. This type of “docking station” uses a single USB cable to connect to the computer. Included are extra USB ports, Video out, memory card slots, etc. The result is arguably more aesthetically appealing if the user will put the USB hub in plain sight. Two examples include the “Plugable UD-3000 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station” and the “Toshiba Dynadock Docking Station.” A quick online search will show you pictures, specifications, and prices for those models.

    For me, I prefer the “customization” of just using USB hubs and choosing what adapters to use (and not use) depending on my needs. However, the “docking station” devices are wonderful too.

    Thank you very much for your comment. Comments are what help “keep a blog alive” and your participation is appreciated!

  3. Tim White says:

    Those Plugable devices are awesome! In looking at duplicating my desktop setup using these devices, I would need: 1 UD-3000 and 1 UGA-2K-A (2nd monitor). Cost would be $185. About the same price as a Dell Latitude docking station. The advantage of the Plugable devices is that they are very portable whereas a docking station must sit on your desk.

  4. Mike Foster says:

    Excellent – Keep us posted on how they work out. I know what you mean – they will be portable to your next computer as well (rather than having to match a specific docking station to a specific computer)

  5. […] You can easily connect a world of peripherals at the office, at home, and any other “fixed location.” Using a “real keyboard,” mouse (for those monitors that aren’t touch enabled), printers, etc. is common at “desk” locations. And being able “to be mobile” is essential for people who are on the move. As you plan to connect to those external devices, read “Docking Stations are Dead” […]

  6. Tom Macy says:

    If you use a Mac laptop and connect to a Thunderbolt display, you have the best of all worlds and it only requires plugging in one cable and power. I am on my 3rd Mac Book Pro with the same Thunderbolt display.

  7. Mike Foster says:

    Excellent! Easy and quick hookup and heading out the door.

    Those displays look amazing. That’s cool one display has lasted through the first two and is now on your third computer – if I understand you right.

  8. richard says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble but i have to disagree. I hate those port replicators. Why because everything runs through it. so you only have a f innate amount of bandwidth eg Ethernet. The lenovo ones always need to be reset. you cant charge with them meaning the you still have to plug in a power supply.

  9. Mike Foster says:

    I had to get rid of my bubbles a long time ago – because I enjoy it when people disagree (that’s how I learn) 🙂

    Unrelated: NZ – I think that you live in such an amazing country! Have only visited a couple of times and would love to come back. Everyone is so nice and the environment is phenomenal!

    Most of the time, when users complain about speed issues with USB 3.0, I’v heard them complain about throughput to their 3.0 drives being more like 1GBps as opposed to the rated 5GBps. When it comes to Ethernet, at a USB 3.0 rate 5GBps, that would be 50Gbps network speed (small b on the second value – bits not Bytes). But the point you (I think) you are making is that “too much” through “one port” may be too much. You must be driving some really high-speed stuff. I do think that most of our users would ever notice the difference. And it is great that you do use the USB the way you do!

    And I feel your pain about the charging – especially for Apple devices (knowing, as you do, that Apple changes things up a little for their chargers). Plugable, not to push any brand in particular, does have a model with higher power output. It won’t charge my iPhone, but it makes it easier to drive my USB powered USB monitors. I do cascade the hubs in order to get more electrical power (and because I fill up the ports).

    And I hope Lenovo will replace your devices, or at least refund you so that you can buy a new USB hub from a different manufacturer. I’ve never used a Lenovo branded hub before and did’t know they had technical problems like that. That sure must be frustrating!

  10. richard says:

    Yeah well im in it. so i tend to use a lot of bandwidth. Im not with that company any more so don’t know. well i see that lenovo has come out with a dock that has some sort of plug that also charges dunno what its called.

  11. Greg says:

    I’ve been a docking station loyalist for years. With the one I am using now (for HP EliteBook), for example, there is virtually no on-screen lag when typing, using the mouse, etc. But when I have used the USB 3.0 port replicators, I have noticed a small amount of lag – perhaps not appreciable for everyone, but noticeable nonetheless.

    I assume you have experience with USB 3.0 port replicators that do not have this lag? No lag at all? Any examples?

  12. Mike Foster says:

    Not sure what the port replicators are, and I’m using the plugable USB hubs, 2 daisy-chained, and they are lightning fast. It isn’t important the brand as long as you have something that works. I have no lag at all anywhere – anytime. That’s driving four hi-res monitors too…

    It is just nice to know that you’ve got a solution that works for you.

    Happy Docking!

  13. Charles Lee says:

    I have an HP EliteBook 840 G1 at work which came with a docking station. I thought it would be nice to have one for home so I went to HP’s website… They don’t list their OWN docking station for that unit, they list 3rd party solutions, so I think you’re right, Mike. The Docking Station is DEAD. I’m actually glad because I have my own notebook I would like to use a “dock” on too but it’s not practical to have one for every different notebook you may use. I went to Plugable’s site and saw this listed: http://plugable.com/products/ud-3900 Do you have any experience with that? Looks like just what I need. Thanks!

  14. Mike Foster says:

    Charles:

    Sure! That one looks cool.

    I use the plain USB 3.0 Hubs, and didn’t opt for the docking station, since I already have some plugable USB to Video adapters and don’t need the wired Gigabit Ethernet and the audio connections. However, I think that is an awesome docking station if can use the added ports!

    You may want to be sure you are using the latest drivers. No matter who’s USB to Video connection you use (even through a “docking station” like this), you’ll want to have the most recent Display Link drivers from http://www.displaylink.com

    Please keep us posted on your experience

Leave a Reply