In pursuit of the dream docking station

090804-dockMaggie Mason’s recent post on WePC.com “If I Were In Charge: A Docking Station Wishlist” has me thinking about charging stations for electronic devices. For the most part, PC laptop docking/charging stations are unattractive and cumbersome. It’s one of the reasons that I use a second monitor with numerous USB ports instead of a traditional docking station. Maggie describes what she would like to see in these devices in her article:

… I don’t want a mass tangle of wires — there should be individual drawers with gratifying slots for all my gadgets. And like GBear’s idea for a streamlined dockbook, my dream docking station would connect to my laptop via a single, elegant plug.

Simple and clutter-free to the eye, my docking station would also have muscle, with heavy peripherals like DVD burner/player or secondary processor all built directly into the station, which means my laptop can be ultra light, petite, and purse-friendly.

I agree with her ideas and would add that I would also love a back up hard drive dock. What would you like in your dream docking/charging station? Tell us your ideas in the comments.

12 Comments for “In pursuit of the dream docking station”

  1. posted by Bernardino Lima on

    I have a docking station for my laptop that is almost like that.

    It is good looking. It has multiple connections in the back (VGA, USB, network, speakers, etc.) and even has a space for an external disk built in the docking station.

    HP XB3000 – http://www.hp.com/canada/produ....._base.html

    The best of all is that it connects to the laptop with only one connection leaving the desk clutter free!

  2. posted by John on

    Does anybody remember the old Apple Duo laptops & docks? They were the first docking stations (I think) and still the coolest – the station had the form factor of a desktop PC, and the laptop simply inserted into it (with the help of a little motor). The dock itself had a hard drive bay.

    I had one back in the day and it was really fantastic.

    There’s an image here: http://lowendmac.com/misc/mr07/0904.html

  3. posted by Paul on

    I have an HP tc4400 Tablet. I use it as my main desktop PC with the HP docking station for it which is fitted to a hinged stand (http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc.....14364.html). It’s great, replicates all my ports, allows me to use my big 22″ monitor and the laptop in dual screen mode in the office, but with a single button it’s out and I’m off !

    The tc4400′s replacement, the elitebook 2730p doesn’t have any kind of docking station similar, which kind of defeats the point of using it as desktop / mobile, so I passed on an elitebook and am still using my tc4400.

    Paul.

  4. posted by Karen on

    I’d like a docking station that would keep my laptop out of the way. When I’m docking, I use an external keyboard, mouse and monitor. But I still have to use up desk space for my opened laptop to sit in the dock, even though I’m not using the keyboard. It would be nice to have a docking station that would free up limited desk space and got your laptop off your desk, if you preferred it that way.

    However, I don’t think a bigger dock would necessarily mean a smaller laptop. I want a full size screen on my laptop (at least 13″) which means the laptop can’t be much smaller since most of the size is due to the size of the screen. If you got rid of the DVD or processors, the laptop itself could be lighter but not smaller.

  5. posted by Ryan Dunlavey on

    Ugh – docking stations are CLUTTER! Just get a laptop that can handle everything you throw at it. I’m a professional artist and every day I work with dozens of photoshop files that are 100 MB or more each, and my 4 year old 17 inch Mac powerbook G4 handles everything just fine. I know people who are professional video editors that get by with just a MacBook. Unless you’re doing high-end 3D animation or editing feature films pretty much any off-the-shelf laptop can handle all your computing needs, so why load yourself down with external monitors, keyboards, hard drives, etc when everything you need is already right there?

    My peripherals: a Canon USB scanner, a 6 x 8 inch Wacom Tablet, 320 GB external hard drive, ipod classic. All of them are powered by their USB connections, and other than the tablet I don’t use all of them every day, so they sit in a drawer and I take them out only when I need them. Our laser printer is wifi enabled and sits on a shelf in a closet.

    Dock, schmock.

  6. posted by Dave P on

    @John — I had an Apple Macintosh Powerbook Duo also! At the time I worked for a large high-tech company (Digital Equipment Corp.) and attended a COMDEX awards banquet because I was the PR guy and our company’s product was a finalist for a Best of COMDEX award. I had just purchased my Duo with the Duo Dock about two weeks before COMDEX, and I brought it with me to the awards ceremony. Guess what product won the best hardware design? THE DUO!!! I was feeling pretty good that evening… that I had chosen an award-winning product. Oh yes… our company’s product, LinkWorks, also won a Best of COMDEX award for best software product!

  7. posted by Dave P on

    @John — Oh, another thing I remember about the Apple Macintosh Powerbook Duo… Apple demonstrated it in their booth at the show side-by-side to a Compaq docking station that looked similar to the Duo Dock. However, the docking process on the Duo Dock was motorized and guided the Powerbook Duo into the Duo Dock. The Compaq had to be slid into the dock by a human… subject to human error… and they showed the connector pins on the back of the Compaq laptop smashed by people shoving it into the docking station. What a great demo!

  8. posted by Chris M on

    I really think the new Mac LED Cinema Displays are essentially one of the best laptop docks I’ve seen. One cable from the monitor that splits out to a power connector, USB and video connector. The monitor has a built in speakers, webcam and USB hub so you can keep any devices attached you would like.

  9. posted by rutinerad on

    I agree with Chris M, the new Cinema Displays are my dream docking stations. Sadly it is more expensive than it is useful. My DIY solution works almost as good.

  10. posted by Dave on

    I have a Dell Latitude with a C-Dock, it just snaps into it, it allows my laptop to run PCI cards has a 2nd drive, all the conections,
    I’m waiting for wireless USB and wireless vidio to come down in price, then who needs a dock.

  11. posted by Carl S on

    Less than a year after this post was written, and it seems nearly all the major laptop manufacturers have decided docks are no longer essential accessories. WHY? The only make that still even seems to support a dock are the HP’s.

    Why are manufacturers no longer offering docking solutions?

    @Ryan – docks are essential for many users. I have a very high-end laptop that can “handle everything I throw at it” when it comes to processing power. But a dock has little to do with “handling” software… and everything to do with handling your HARDWARE. My laptop has a 17.2″ widescreen display that’s awesome for the road… but when I’m at home, I still have a dual monitor set-up with a full-sized keyboard, separate numpad, a precision optical mouse, and a Wacom tablet… not to mention a flight yoke and joystick for my entertainment pursuits. Trying doing that on a laptop without a dock. It’d take me a good half-hour every time I sat down at my desk just to get everything hooked up.

    But now that it’s approaching time to retire this laptop… I’m having trouble finding anything that could replace this functionality in today’s market.

    All the manufacturers seem to have decided to let the third-party generic USB docks be their “solutions”. But the USB docks aren’t fast enough to handle anything close to the setup I described above. Not only that, but most don’t recharge your laptop when they’re connected… an essential part of a dock’s mission.

    Why have all the laptop makers foregone docks… just when they were starting to live up to their potential??

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