Kensington sd100s Docking Station Review

by Reads (28,429)

by Jerry Jackson

Anyone using a notebook as a desktop computer replacement has no doubt discovered the inconvenience of using a mobile computer as a desktop: A smaller keyboard, touchpad, limited ports, and bad viewing position of the LCD are just a few reasons that notebooks don’t make the best desktops. Kensington comes to the rescue with their sd100s Docking Station! Now you can instantly convert your notebook into a desktop (and back again) … but is it as good as it sounds? Let’s take a look.

Considering the MSRP of only $109.99, the Kensington sd100s makes a tempting accessory for your notebook. Slip your notebook into the SmartFit stand, plug in a single USB 2.0 cable, and you’re ready to enjoy the ergonomics and productivity of a desktop.

Features and Specifications

  • "SmartFit" stand allows screen height adjustment for optimal viewing comfort
  • Detachable sd100s dock connects your notebook to peripherals with a single USB plug
  • Built-in copyholder positions documents in line with the screen for easier viewing
  • Black translucent front cover allows you to operate your notebook multimedia IR remote
  • Five spaced USB 2.0 ports allow you to connect multiple USB devices such as printer, external hard drive, or iPod
  • 10/100 Ethernet port allows you to maintain an Internet connection and avoid wireless hang-ups
  • Stereo Out & Microphone port allow connection of 2.1 speaker systems or headset for Internet chat
  • Always-on USB ports are powered even when your notebook is turned off or disconnected, so you can charge your iPod or Smartphone overnight
  • Dimensions: 11.5"L X 14.5"H X 12.5"W
  • Two-Year warranty


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Build and Design

The sd100s docking station and stand actually comes as two separate parts which snap together: The sd100 dock, which supplies the actual electronics for the docking station, and the stand itself. The majority of the stand is constructed of thick matte black plastic. However, the front of the stand is made of a translucent plastic so that your multimedia remote (if you have one) still works with your notebook. Another nice little extra is that the front of the dock station doubles as a copyholder so you can keep important documents in front of you while you type.

The only minor problem with the design of the docking station is the "SmartFit" stand which holds the notebook. Although we didn’t have any difficulty fitting 15.4" and smaller notebooks into the docking station, we did find that thicker 15.4" notebooks with extended life batteries sometimes had trouble fitting inside the "SmartFit." In fact, when we inserted an HP dv2500t with extended life battery and a Compaq v6000z with extended life battery into the docking station both of the keyboards would catch on the "lip" of the docking station near the F-keys. If we replaced the extended life batteries on both notebooks with the standard size batteries then those notebooks fit with room to spare.


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In Use

The Kensington sd100s docking station is remarkably easy to use. Simply insert your notebook into the stand, adjust the color-coded height adjustment knob to your ideal display height, connect the supplied USB cable to the notebook and connect an external keyboard, mouse, and other accessories to the docking station. That’s it! You just turned your notebook into a desktop.


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The actual "hub" section of the docking station is the Kensington sd100 dock (available separately for $79.99) which also uses its own AC power adapter. Essentially, the heart of the docking station is an advanced USB 2.0 hub that gives you five USB 2.0 ports, microphone in, headphone out, and Ethernet. It’s a brilliantly simple hub design that mates perfectly to the stand.

The only possibly negative issue with the sd100s (and sd100) is that you must install the Windows drivers included on the CD. Both XP and Vista require specific drivers in order to recognize all of the ports on the hub. In fact, I tested this docking station on one notebook with Windows XP Home (a Compaq v6000z) and a notebook running Windows Vista Business (a Toshiba Tecra M8) and both notebooks would blue screen and restart unless I installed the required drivers.

Once the necessary drivers have been installed the docking station works flawlessly. The headphone/audio out port produces crystal clear sound (great for notebooks that have the built-in headphone jack in the front) and the Ethernet connection supplies a reliable data transfer rate.

That said, the docking station does suffer from the same technical limitations of any USB hub … splitting the bus over multiple devices means not all devices can run at full speed at the same time. For example, if you upload songs to your iPod, transfer files to an external hard drive, and use the cable Ethernet to download a video then all three of these tasks are sending/receiving files via the single USB port connected to your notebook. While this never caused a "serious" reduction in speed, it did make multitasking a little slower.


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Conclusion

Overall the Kensington sd100s docking station is a solid universal docking station with a great design and enough ports to keep most users happy. That said, splitting the bus for audio in/out, five USB ports and an Ethernet port means data transfers may suffer some slow down if you’re multitasking with this docking station. I’d be very eager to see if Kensington could make a similar docking station that uses the ExpressCard slot to allow for improved speed when multiple USB devices and Ethernet are transferring data.

In any case, if you’re looking for a simple and reliable docking station to transform your notebook into a desktop machine then the sd100s is an excellent option.

Pros

  • Nice design
  • Excellent USB hub
  • Solid audio input and output
  • Reasonable Ethernet speed

Cons

  • The "SmartFit" docking section should be adjustable to accommodate thicker notebooks
  • Requires drivers for both XP and Vista (included on CD with the docking station)


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