Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U Review

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  • Pros

    • Clean, wireless docking solution
    • Easy to setup
    • Includes wireless USB adapter
  • Cons

    • Slower as distance increases
    • Pricey compared to wired docks
    • Limited range of wireless video

Toshiba is well respected for making some great consumer laptops and business notebooks, but you may not know that Toshiba makes one of the most popular universal USB docking stations for laptops … the Toshiba Dynadock U. Last month, Toshiba introduced a new wireless version of the universal docking station: the Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U.

The Dynadock does not need to be connected to the notebook by a cable like traditional docking solutions. You simply connect peripheral devices to the dock and your laptop communicated wirelessly with the docking station via a wireless USB adapter. Devices including keyboards, mice, speakers, and even monitors can be connected via the Dynadock.

We took a closer look at this wireless USB docking station to find out if it makes a good replacement for the original “wired” Toshiba Dynadock U.

Features and Specs of the Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U:

  • Wireless USB connection from your laptop to all your accessories
  • Built-in HD digital video card supports an additional monitor up to 1680 x 1050 resolution
  • Ability to view up to three displays simultaneously
  • Built-in digital audio card supports 7.1 surround sound through S/PDIF port
  • Six USB ports – including 2 front Sleep-and-Charge USB ports to supply power even if your PC is off; charge your cell phone, MP3 player, etc.
  • Includes a Wireless USB dongle
  • One touch undock/dock button
  • Easy installation software
  • Universal compatibility with all Windows-based PC brands
  • Dimensions and weight: 1.8″ x 3.1″ x 8.75″ ; 1.13 lb
  • MSRP: $299 from the Toshiba website

Build and Design
Anyone familiar with Toshiba’s original Dynadock U will instantly recognize the design of the new Dynadock Wireless U. In fact, the only things that have changed between the wired Dynadock and the wireless Dynadock are the addition of two antennae and a subtle color change from silver to bronze.

Like the original Dynadock U, the new wireless docking station includes six USB 2.0 ports, S/PDIF, Ethernet (10/100 LAN), DVI, mic, headphone and lock slot. Toshiba removed the VGA port from the back of the Dynadock Wireless U in order to make room for the wireless antennae and wireless switch, but they include a DVI-to-VGA adapter in case you need it for connecting older displays or projectors.

Of course, the biggest thing that sets this docking station apart from most is the inclusion of a wireless USB adapter that allows you to stay connected to all your peripherals without needing to plug in a bunch of cables to your laptop.

Setting up the Dynadock Wireless U is relatively simple thanks to the included installation DVD that comes with the docking station. Simply insert the disk into your computer’s optical drive and follow the on-screen instructions. Next, plug-in the wireless USB adapter and you’re ready to roll. You may be asked to temporarily connect a USB cable to establish the initial connection, but after that is done you’ll never need the USB cable again. Your laptop will work wirelessly with your peripherals just as if they were connected via USB. Well … almost.

Performance
Although it’s nice to have a sleek, all-in-one wireless docking station, the main reason that people buy docking stations for their notebooks is to connect multiple external devices without needing to connect multiple cables. If those external devices don’t work when connected to the docking station then there isn’t much point in using the docking station.

The first thing we wanted to do when the Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U arrived was test its performance compared to using either the standard USB port built into your laptop or the old wired Dynadock docking station. In order to take a closer look at the performance we used HDTune to measure the data transfer rate of a generic SDHC USB card reader.

SDHC USB Card Reader using notebook USB port:

SDHC USB Card Reader using Toshiba Dynadock wired USB dock:

These two tests gave us a nice baseline for judging the performance of the Dynadock Wireless U docking station. As you can see above, the average data transfer rate (read speed) for the USB card reader is about 17MB/sec using the USB port in my laptop and about 15MB/sec when using the original wired version of the Toshiba Dynadock U. This is not the maximum possible speed for either the laptop’s USB port or the Toshiba docking station, but it does provide a performance baseline for this particular USB card reader.

Next, we tested the data transfer speed of the new Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U at a distance of 12 inches (305mm) from the laptop’s wireless USB adapter to find out how this docking station performs compared to a standard USB docking station.

SDHC USB Card Reader using Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U at a distance of 12 inches:

It’s easy to see from the HDTune image above that the data transfer speed of USB devices is significantly reduced when connected to the Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U. However, since the speed and reliability of wireless USB decreases as the distance between the transmitter and receiver increases, we also wanted to test the performance of the wireless docking station as you walk away from the docking station. For this test, we started at a distance of six inches (152mm) and began walking away from the docking station to a maximum distance of 10 feet (3 meters).

SDHC USB Card Reader using Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U walking from a distance of 6 inches to 10 feet:

As you can see in the HDTune image above, the performance of the wireless USB signal drops dramatically after we moved the notebook out to a distance of 10 feet. At 10 feet away the signal suffered a sudden drop almost low enough to disconnect the docking station, and then the signal leveled off and continued the data transfer.

This is why Toshiba recommends that users keep the wireless USB adapter at a distance of less than two feet away from the docking station’s receiver if you plan to use the Dynadock Wireless U with an external display. The data transfer rate at longer distances is just too low to allow for trouble-free use of video.

In short, the HDTune results suggest that you’ll have to sacrifice speed if you want to get rid of all those USB cords connected to your laptop.

Conclusion
Toshiba’s original Dynadock U is a fantastic universal docking station, but is the Dynadock Wireless U a worthy successor? The answer is … yes and no. The Dynadock Wireless U offers the same easy setup and simplistic docking station design that made the original Dynadock U so popular. Unfortunately, the limited transfer speed and range of wireless USB significantly limits the practical use of this docking station.

The Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U keeps your desk clean with fewer wires but you’ll notice slower performance compared to a wired docking station. Likewise, although it’s convenient to connect wirelessly to a docking station, you shouldn’t expect to walk around your office building and stay connected to the dock.

Bottom line, the Toshiba Dynadock Wireless U is a good product for people who hate USB cables but you’ll get much better performance with a traditional wired docking station.

Pros:

  • Clean, wireless docking solution
  • Easy to setup
  • Includes wireless USB adapter

Cons:

  • Slower as distance increases
  • Pricey compared to wired docks
  • Limited range of wireless video


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