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Computer Docking Stations buying guide

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Computer Docking Stations - An Introduction

A computer docking station gives you a simple way to plug in your laptop computer. The name is often shortened to ‘dock,’ which can also be used as a verb. Using a docking station lets your computer’s battery recharge while connected. It may also give you an easy, convenient way to attach peripheral devices. Because there are a wide range of laptops, many are designed for use with a specific model. There are also computer docking stations that can be used with a variety of laptops.

By using a Laptop Dock Station, a laptop can substitute for a desktop computer, while still retaining the mobile functionality of the laptop. You can dock and undock your laptop in hot, cold, or standby modes, depending on the system. With a cold system, you have to completely shut down the computer before docking or undocking. With a hot system, you can dock and undock while it is running. A standby system is an intermediate option, so the computer can be powered on but must be in sleep mode before docking and undocking.

There is also a Mobile Docking Station designed for use in your car. These are especially useful for industries that need the vehicle to operate as a mobile field office. Common examples include law enforcement, military, EMS, construction, and many more.

Whatever your Docking Station needs, Price Inspector is here to help. We compare the prices from different UK stores to make sure you always get the cheapest prices. Our buying guide will explain the different types of docking stations available so you can find exactly what you need.

Types of Docking Stations

  • Breakout Dock: This style of docking station, replicates the externally visible ports and also provides additional ones. This is done most often by using a proprietary connection which consolidates signals from concealed traces. This reduces the number of ports on your computer while still providing cheap, convenient access to its features. Many manufacturers also provide simple adapters to grant access to up to two buses at once. 
  • Converter Dock: This is similar to a breakout dock. Instead of extracting connections from internal chipsets, however, these docks create them using converters inside the dock. They are typically USB based, incorporating a range of converters such as display adapters, NICs, audio chipsets, modems, storage enclosures, and memory card readers. This gives the computer access to connections that it did not already possess. A simpler docking station is basically a hub inside a computer stand. Converter docks use non-proprietary connections, so they are usually vendor neutral and usually supplied by third-party manufacturers.
  • Hybrid Docks: These docks connect directly to the motherboard, allowing a laptop computer to basically convert to a desktop computer. It uses a proprietary connector like a breakout box dock does, but it communicates with internal devices.
  • Mobile Docking Stations: These are designed for use in cars, turning your car into a mobile office. Some are designed to withstand the hazards of travel, such as vibration or impact. They are usually equipped with an armature, a laptop desk, or a standard rack. This lets you position your laptop in a safe, ergonomic position. Some also provide a security lock to protect your laptop from being stolen.
  • Port Replicator: Also known as pass throughs, these are a group of extension cables that can be plugged and unplugged at once to save time. They may also have a simple electrical adapter that lets you change from one pin-out to another.

Popular Brands of Computer Docking Stations

  •  A good IBM Thinkpad Docking Station R50 is the IBM Dock II Model 2877. This model has the most features of any IBM dock. It has extension capability to transform a ThinkPad into a complete workstation, including multiple monitors, high fidelity audio, and extra storage. The downsides are that the internal fan is loud and the dock is relatively expensive.
  • The Dell E Port lets you use your laptop as a desktop computer by easily attaching a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Its simple connectivity gives you a single interface for connecting your printer and other peripheral devices.
  • The Acer Aspire is the EasyPort IV. It offers plug-and-play connectivity, letting you dock and undock your equipment without having to reboot your laptop.
  • The Toshiba R500 is a lightweight port replicator docking station. The station lets you plug your peripherals into the docking station for convenience. Its slim design makes it easy to take the station on the road. It allows for LAN access when the laptop is docked. The station also comes with a power adapter to use with your laptop. The system is compatible with Toshiba Portége R500 computers, and it has an easy release mechanism.
  • The Hp Nx9420 keeps you from having to unplug and replug your peripherals every time you dock and undock your laptop. The docking station remains stationary on your desk, and you can connect the mouse, monitor, printer, and keyboard to the docking station rather than to your laptop. Then you won’t need to connect and disconnect these items; simply dock and undock your laptop whenever you want. It gives you access to 16 extension ports.
  • The Kensington Sd100 lets you connect your peripherals with a single USB plug. The unique wedge shape raises your laptop to keep it cool. It has five USB ports that let you connect your printer, MP3 player, or external hard drive. These ports are always powered on, even when your laptop is disconnected or turned off, which means you can recharge your MP3 player or mobile phone overnight. It easily attaches to a Kensington SmartFit notebook stand, and it is recommended that you use an external mouse and keyboard.
  • The Lenovo Thinkpad X200 Docking Station has a streamlined design to give you easy portability. The integrated batter charger powers your system while recharging the battery. It has a power button and easy ejection lever.
  • The vLenovo T61 dock provides full connectivity for users of ThinkPad systems. It’s a great choice for users who need high-end graphics, multiple monitors, or work with digital media because it gives you a second hard drive. Its left corner alignment gives you easy attachment. The buttons are easy for ejecting the computer. It has an integrated key lock to secure both the laptop and the dock. The power supply recharges your system’s battery while powering the dock’s functions.
  • The Belkin USB 7Port Hub lets you instantly attach up to seven USB devices to your laptop with a single cable, making it a good docking station for your computer. Simply attach your USB devices without having to reboot.
  • The Targus USB 2.0 Docking Station gives you instant connection for your peripheral devices with a single USB port. It is compatible with Windows 2000 and XP laptop computers.

Tips to consider before buying Computer Docking Stations

  • Consider whether you want to be able to dock and undock the computer in cold, hot, or standby modes. If you typically only dock at the end of your workday to take the computer home in the evening, a cold system might be appropriate for you. If you frequently dock and undock your laptop throughout the day, however, you might find it inconvenient to have to shut down and restart your computer every time.
  • Look at how the laptop docks and undocks. Are the buttons easy to use and understand? Some systems give you step-by-step undocking instructions to make sure you do it safely and correctly. Others are more difficult to operate when docking your laptop, requiring you to precisely place the laptop. If you do not place the laptop correctly, you may think you are docked when, in fact, you are operating on your laptop’s battery.
  • Look for security features such as locks that prevent your laptop from being undocked and stolen. Some have cords with combination locks that attach your laptop to the station. If the system does not come with its own security system, there are inexpensive add-on cables you can buy separately.
  • Find out whether then docking station lets you connect peripherals to the dock. This will keep you from having to connect and disconnect all these items every time you dock and undock. Some varieties offer this function, while others are basically an easy way to recharge your laptop battery without having to crawl under your desk to plug in the cord every time.
  • If you want to take your docking station on business travels, such as for working in the hotel or remote office, look for a slim, lightweight model that is easy to pack.

Jargon Explained

Bus or buses A subsystem that is used to transfer data between computer components or between computers. This is important for a docking station because it provides the connection between your laptop and the peripheral devices.
ArmatureA support stand for your mobile docking station. You will want to look at the sturdiness and positioning capabilities of the armature when choosing a mobile docking station.
ChipsetIntegrated circuits that are designed to work together. Make sure that your docking station’s and laptop’s chipsets are compatible.
MotherboardThe central circuit board that lets your computer, printer, keyboard, mouse, and other devices communicate.
USBA Universal Serial Bus is a standard connection device for computers. It is the connection port for all your peripheral devices. A convenient docking station will offer USB ports for connecting these devices to the station, rather than having to connect them to the laptop.
ProprietaryThis is computer software that is the legal property of one company, although other companies may sometimes use them under the terms of a licensing agreement. A proprietary connection means that you will have to use only certain brands of docking stations, while if your laptop has a non-proprietary connection, you will have more options. It is important to make sure your laptop will be compatible with the docking station you choose.
PeripheralsThese are devices that attach to your computer but are not actually part of the computer itself. Their function is dependent on your host computer. It expands your computer’s capabilities but it not part of the core system. Common peripherals include printers, scanners, microphones, speakers, cameras, keyboards, and a mouse.

Buying Guide to Computer Docking Stations
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