Aegis NetDock offers storage and substance for your netbook

The stylish device adds a 500GB hard drive, a DVD drive and four extra USB ports

Even those of us who happily use netbooks must admit that they don't make good "all the time" computers. They are lightweight, compact and handy to carry around -- but they are slow (most use the less-than-speedy Intel Atom processors and have just 1GB of RAM), limited in capacity (hard drives tend to max out at 250GB) and not terribly comfortable to type on.

Aegis NetDock
Apricorn's Aegis NetDock

Despite all that, there are a lot of folks out there who are using their netbooks as their only computers -- or, at least, are using them for a lot more than simply travel-related stuff. For those people, Apricorn has come out with the Aegis NetDock, a docking station styled specifically for netbooks.

What does it do? The Aegis NetDock is a sleek, nicely designed device (in shiny red and black) that adds four USB 2.0 ports (two are "always on" so you can use them to power other devices) and a dual-layer DVD read/write drive. The $149 model comes with a 250GB hard drive, while the $189 model offers a 500GB hard drive; if you already have a 2.5-in. SATA hard drive around the house, you can purchase a model for $89 that comes without the preinstalled drive.

What's cool about it? The Aegis NetDock really does offer a good deal of utility for a netbook.

First, a DVD player can be very handy. Although netbook manufacturers and Apple MacBook Air enthusiasts alike have tried to convince us that optical drives are a thing of the past, you may still need one if you own some non-downloadable software you want to install, or if you're a movie buff who wants to check out a film's bonus features. I tried the NetDock out with a couple of movies, and the DVD drive worked very nicely, with only a bit of jerkiness during the more action-packed scenes.

In addition, it never hurts to have additional hard drive space, especially if you want to do a quick backup. And the extra USB ports are also handy; for example, you can plug in a full-size keyboard for use when you're home or in the office.

The NetDock comes with a stand, a power cable (there is no on/off button; it powers down automatically when not in use) and the USB cable that connects to your netbook. The package also includes a CD with three applications: BurnAware CD/DVD burning software, Microsoft's SyncToy and VideoLAN's VLC media player. These are all free applications but good ones; I especially recommend VLC, which is my media player of choice.

What needs to be fixed? Very little -- for what it is, the NetDock is quite useful.

While I was trying it out, I did find myself longing for one additional feature. Let's face it -- most netbooks have really bad audio, and that becomes very evident when you're watching a movie from a DVD player. If Apricorn ever considers coming out with a premium version of the NetDock, it might want to consider one with a good audio card. Just a thought....

Bottom line: If you use your netbook at home or in the office as well as on the road, the Aegis NetDock is definitely worth considering. Granted, it's nearly two-thirds the price of a $300 netbook, but you can save a bit on it by purchasing the $89 model and installing a 2.5-in. drive from one of your older notebooks.

Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).

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