Kensington Adjustable Laptop Stand and Universal Docking Station Review

by Reads (31,389)

Performance
When it comes to using the sd400v docking station the external display performance is pretty reasonable as long as you aren’t trying to output 1080p video files to a second monitor while using a USB hard drive connected to the docking station and browse the web with the wired Ethernet connection on the sd400v. Every media player we tested on an external display would have video freeze or stutter immediately. This was less of an issue with streaming YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix videos but playing 1080p video on an external monitor connected to this docking station is clearly limited by the relatively slow speed of the old USB 2.0 port.

While we’re talking about external displays, it’s worth mentioning that the sd400v uses DisplayLink driver to connect additional screens via USB. This isn’t a bad thing for people using laptops that have Intel integrated graphics, but if you have a notebook with discrete graphics it may be a cause for concern. We tested the docking station with five different laptops including three with various NVIDIA discrete graphics cards. All three notebooks with NVIDIA graphics suffered driver conflicts when the DisplayLink driver was installed … which required us to reinstall the NVIDIA drivers before we could use the notebooks dedicated graphics again.

Even with the potential for driver conflicts the biggest issue facing the sd400v is the limitation of the USB 2.0 interface. Data transfers, video playback, audio performance and web browsing speeds are all negatively impacted since everything (video, USB storage devices, audio and Ethernet) is sharing the same USB 2.0 bus. Basic file transfers from a USB 2.0 flash drive to our test laptop’s USB 2.0 port were clocked at a read speed of close to 30MB/s but as soon as we connected that same USB flash drive to a USB port on the sd400v docking station the maximum read speed dropped to just 10MB/s.

In the modern age of USB 3.0 ports the old USB 2.0 interface is already painfully slow and trying to connect multiple high-bandwidth devices to a single USB 2.0 port just makes things worse.

When it comes to thermal performance, the sd400v docking station puts off a large amount of heat during use with multiple USB storage drives, an external display and Ethernet connection. We measured an external temperature of 121 degrees. That said, the temperature did drop by about 10 degrees when we only used it with USB flash drives and an external monitor.

Conclusion

Although many people are perfectly content using their laptops on a desk without any type of docking station, that is far from the ideal ergonomic solution. Using a laptop by itself on a desk often leads to neck pain and eyestrain … not to mention that a desktop keyboard and mouse are usually more comfortable than a cramped laptop keyboard and touchpad.

The Kensington Adjustable Laptop Stand is a great way to raise your laptop screen to a comfortable position and connect to an external keyboard and mouse. We just wish the sd400v docking station supported USB 3.0 speeds so that you can actually use the docking station as an all-in-one docking solution. The sd400v works fine as a USB 2.0 hub but as soon as you connect audio devices, a wired Ethernet connection, and an external display the performance takes a nose dive. A single USB 2.0 port simply isn’t designed to allow all these devices to work at their full potential at the same time.

To make matters worse, the DisplayLink driver that allows the docking station to work with external displays created driver conflicts on three different notebooks with NVIDIA discrete graphics (requiring a reinstallation of the NVIDIA drivers). While this isn’t an issue for people using notebooks with only Intel integrated graphics, it is something to worry about if you have a laptop with discrete graphics.

At this time we fully recommend the Kensington Adjustable Laptop Stand but we suggest you avoid the sd400v docking station until Kensington can offer a docking station with USB 3.0 and DisplayLink updates their drivers to avoid potential conflicts with NVIDIA graphics.

Pros:

  • Low-cost solution for working with a laptop at a desk.
  • “SmartFit” adjustable stand really works!
  • Works with a variety of screen sizes but is really designed for laptops with screen sizes between 14″ and 17″

Cons:

  • sd400v docking station is limited to USB 2.0 speeds
  • DisplayLink driver can cause problems for laptops with discrete graphics
  • Kensington should offer these products together for a discount



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