Kensington Universal Docking Station Review

by Reads (81,092)

by Phillip Kramp, South Carolina USA

Kensington notebook stand and docking station

With an ever increasing number of notebooks being purchased there is also an increasing number of accessories that you can get for your notebook. An accessory that turns out to be very useful, and not often thought of, is a docking station. One reason to think about a docking station is that usually you will carry a notebook between work and home and use that notebook in a consistent location for an extended period of time at each of those locations. Under such circumstances it is very nice to have a full sized keyboard, a proper mouse, printer, and internet connection all setup and ready to use with your notebook at each location.  A docking station, such as the Kensington Universal Docking Station and Notebook stand, can provide this solution.

   

  
The Kensington docking station is a third party product designed for use with any laptop that has a USB 2.0 port, which 99.9% of laptops have these days.  The docking station connects to the laptop’s USB 2.0 port via a cord and comes with a CD containing driver and manual information. The actual part of the docking station that expands your laptop’s ports and connections is detachable from the notebook holder part of the docking station, so it can be used in conjunction or separately depending on your needs.

The docking station does require a power source to power all of these extra ports, so keep that in mind. The docking station gives you 3 USB 2.0 ports that you can leave keyboard, mouse, and other devices hooked up to for easy use. Some other nice ports you’ll get with this expansion part is an IO serial port, a printer (parallel port), and an Ethernet T10/100 port. This allows many of the devices you may need while working in your main location easy to setup by having them permanently connected to the docking station and then you only have to plug in one USB cord to use them all at once.

A very nice feature when using the tilting dock is the document clip in the front. The black bar at the end of the silver panel in front is actually a spring loaded clip. This is very nice to use for typing up papers and reports, since it keeps your document secure and in front of your eyes. The tilt level of the laptop is easily adjusted on the station from nearly vertical to about 60 degrees. I found that this is most useful for me while I’m watching movies from bed. This helps to raise the screen up and make it so that nothing else can be in the way such as the edge of the desk or the base of the laptop. Of course while the laptop is in the station the speakers are likely covered up, but Kensington already thought of something better. Included in the docking station is a 5.1 surround sound support. The drivers are easily loaded from the CD and the setup is a breeze. So I hooked up my Logitech z-560 speakers and gave it a test. The sound quality was very pleasing allowing me to finally use my fairly nice desktop speakers with my laptop.

Now that all the features have been covered it is time to address the few issues I had with the product. First the underside of the front piece of plastic is not smooth, and as a result if you are not careful it can catch your keyboard and rip off keys (which I had happen, but luckily I just pressed the key back into place). Another potential problem is that if you have a front loading optical drive you will have to take your laptop completely out of the station to access it. Luckily for me I have a side loading one, but it is something to keep in mind. The only things missing from this station is the ability to leave an external monitor hooked up, and providing power to your notebook. The monitor support is probably not implemented due to the limitations of USB 2.0 bandwidth with everything thing else being done, and possibly due to the protocol itself. Providing a universal power port is not implemented because every notebook has a different size AC jack so it would be impossible for Kensington to accommodate for the various sizes and shapes of AC jacks on the back of the port. So as a result three cables may need to be plugged in each time you get to the docking station: your notebook power plug, USB cord to the docking station, and external monitor if you want one.

The Port Expansion part of the the docking station solution can be used seperately and even purchased seperately if you don’t need the stand

I would say that the features provided by this docking station are very well implemented. The main reason I see this not being bought by everyone is the price, $169.99. However, docking stations are always high priced, and thus not for everyone. If you are looking for a docking station though I would take a look at this Kensington docking station if what you need is a few USB 2.0 ports, printer port, serial port, ethernet port, and 5.1 audio.  In addition, the document holder is a nice feature for holding those papers and sources right in front of you while you type off papers and reports.

Features:

  • Patent-pending SmartFit system adjusts screen height to optimal ergonomic setting.
  • Detachable dock provides 5.1 audio, Ethernet, parallel and serial, and USB 2.0 connections.
  • A single USB 2.0 plug quickly connects notebook to keyboard, printer, network and USB 2.0 devices.
  • Space-saving, money-saving design converts laptops into desktops without bulky, expensive monitors.
  • 5.1 surround sound support includes rear, front, and center speaker outputs.
  • High-speed USB 2.0 provides 40 times faster transfers than USB 1.1.
  • Compatible with all Windows-based notebooks but designed for Dell Inspiron notebooks.
  • 2-year warranty and free technical support.
  • Price: $169.99

Score

Style: 4/5
Features: 4.5/5
Functionality: 4/5
Value: 3/5
Overall:  3.9/5

Pricing and Availability

Docking Station without notebook stand

Docking Station with notebook stand


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