Do you have a laptop and wish you could use a different set of mouse and keyboard, a monitor, and other devices all at once without having to continuously disconnect and reconnect devices due to your laptop’s limited number of ports? Well, the solution to all of your problems is here, and it’s called a docking station.
What Are Docking Stations?
A docking station is a device that allows you to turn your laptop into a desktop computer. With a docking station, your laptop can simultaneously connect a monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, storage, backup drives, and even a local area network (LAN). This way, you can easily benefit from using multiple devices that are necessary for your work on a single personal laptop, and therefore, turn your system into a comfortable working environment. The versatility of docking stations makes them excellent devices for those who work from home, especially in the year 2021, when most people are teleworking from their homes.
Additionally, as many of you might have already noticed, laptops and other portable devices have continued getting thinner, lighter, and more streamlined in the past couple of years. As the result, the number of ports in each device has also become very limited. So, docking stations can also be significantly beneficial for individual consumers who do not necessarily use their laptops for their job or professional work but might still need extra ports to connect their preferred devices.
Docking stations add extra, varied connectors for those who need additional functionality in their personal laptops. Docking stations also make it possible for individual users to customize their system by allowing them to connect their preferred set of keyboard and mouse, or perhaps even another monitor display.
If you would like to read more about how docking stations can significantly help those who are currently working from home, please make sure to check out our “How to Prepare for Work from Home” article. For now, let’s take a look at the features you should consider before purchasing a docking station for your devices.
Compatibility – Is the docking station universal?
One of the most crucial factors that you need to consider is whether a docking station is compatible with your devices or not. After all, a docking station that would not work with your laptop is pretty much useless.
Many laptop manufacturers build custom docking stations that are specifically designed for their own laptops. These docking stations often have a proprietary input port that connects to a matching port on specific laptop models. The biggest advantage of using model-specific docking stations is that you can always expect them to work properly with your device. Since they are both developed by one company, it is mostly guaranteed that they work perfectly together and probably take the best advantage of each other’s hardware for delivering a more complete user experience.
On the other hand, there are also universal docking stations developed by other manufacturers that do not have any boundaries regarding compatibility and are usable for so many different types of systems, laptops, or any other type of device. By using a universal docking station, you mostly would not need to worry about whether your docking station works with a specific system or not.
Universal docking stations are excellent options for those who use multiple devices from various brands. For example, corporations have large numbers of employees and each one of them might have a different brand of laptop. Or perhaps a company might want to change the brand of its devices at some point. In these cases, having universal docking stations can help them save so much money as they do not need to continuously change their docking stations.
Video Output – Does it support 4K?
As mentioned above, docking stations allow users to connect a new monitor to their docks and enjoy using the new display. However, you should always check out the supported qualities of a docking station’s video output ports before purchasing one.
The video output can have a significant amount of importance for those who work in more professional fields and need the best display quality. Moreover, as many modern video games also include 4K resolution with 4K texture designs, the display quality has become quite important for gamers as well.
Many new docking stations do support 4K resolution. A number of them include dual 4K panels whereas others might support one 4K display and 1-2 monitors at lower resolutions. Again, there is quite a large number of variations. So, you should consider your work environment and the monitors you want to be supported by a docking station before choosing one that is most suitable for you.
Audio Output – Does it support your speakers?
In addition to video output, it is also suggested to pay attention to the audio outputs of a docking station. In case audio quality is important for you, especially if you conduct webinars, work in broadcast media, or as a podcaster, it is better to choose a docking station that also supports dedicated external speakers with a 3.5 jack for plugging in a microphone.
Ease of Installation and Use – How easy is it to work with the docking station?
We all have been in situations where a device would not work with our system or has a long and tedious installation process. In many cases, missing drivers or firmware/software updates are usually the reasons behind these types of technical problems. If you wish to avoid struggling with such issues, as most people do, it is important to check out how easy to use a docking station is. Ease of installation can be even more crucial for employers who want to purchase a large quantity of docking stations and equip an entire office with them.
Fortunately, many new models of docking stations that are USB-C enabled are completely driverless, which makes them usable right after connecting them to your system. Almost all universal docking stations are very easy to use as well since they work with most systems.
Design and Size – Vertical or Horizontal?
There are two main types of designs for docking stations; they can be either vertical or horizontal. Horizontal designs are usually preferred by most people due to space reasons and how they often can fit on any worktable. However, some users prefer getting a vertical docking station, which does not take up a very large footprint on their worktable. In the end, it all depends on how your work environment is and which one you believe best fits your needs.
Size can also be an important factor when choosing a docking station. Those who work from home usually prefer a smaller docking station since they have fewer devices to connect with. However, small-sized docking stations might not be an appropriate option for many large offices in which each employee usually has many devices to use and connect to.
Number of Ports – Does it have the ports you want?
The number of supported ports is probably the most important factor as many people consider purchasing a docking station only for gaining additional ports. Most docking stations include two to six USB ports, and the type of these ports varies in each model. A few models include even more ports than the standard models. The number of supported ports and their types both are very important and should be taken seriously before deciding on a model.
The most capable docking stations usually include USB-A ports at fast USB 3.0 speeds, USB-C ports, an HDMI port, and also display port connectors for monitors or any other type of external display connections. Some models also feature Ethernet connectivity and the ability to power devices such as a smartphone. As we mentioned earlier, a number of docking stations come with specific ports for headphone and microphone jacks as well, letting users enjoy the best audio quality possible. So, it is highly recommended that you consider the ports that are necessary for you and choose a docking station that would support all of them.
Length of Warranty – For how many years does it have a warranty?
The last, but definitely not the least important factor to consider is the length of the warranty. It is always important to look for a relatively long warranty when it comes to digital devices. Docking stations, like any other digital device, are manufactured in large numbers within factories and not fully tested before shipping. So, there is always a chance that some of them face early failures due to manufacturing issues.
Having 2 or 3 years of warranty can be really reassuring as it would remove the risk of losing the value of the expenses you pay for by purchasing a product. Targus docking stations, for instance, often come with a 3-year warranty, which is usually more than enough for a user to feel secure that in case of any defects, the product can be repaired or replaced.
Docking stations are relatively new, beneficial devices that can be very helpful and greatly improve users’ productivity. They provide new features and capabilities, make things easier and simpler, and turn a normal personal laptop into a desktop computer. With the existence of so many different models of docking stations from various manufactures, it is highly recommended you consider all the factors we mentioned in this article before making a purchase. After all, if you are interested in upgrading your workplace, you want to choose a docking station that would meet all of your needs and preferences in the best way possible.
If you are interested in learning more about the docking stations Newcom offers, be sure to check out our products page. You can also always get in contact with us if you would like additional help from one of our team members.