Review: 5 universal docking stations make quick connections

Link your laptop to an office full of peripherals with one USB cable.

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Targus Universal Notebook Docking Station with Video

Housed in a long strip that can fit under any notebook, the Targus docking station provides useful connections while making typing a little easier by tilting the notebook about 10 degrees. At $150, it's a little cheaper than the Kensington dock and does many of the same duties.

The dock from Targus Group International Inc. measures 1 in. by 10.6 in. by 3 in., weighs 14 oz. and has well-placed soft rubber skids so it won't mar your notebook or desktop. All the connections are along the back, and the device's AC adapter plugs are on the side. There's an on/off switch, but it's awkwardly placed in the back.

The Targus dock provides:

  • Four USB 2.0 ports (two of which are powered for charging a cell phone or camera)
  • 10/100 Ethernet for wired networking
  • A VGA port for an external monitor
  • A microphone and external speaker jacks
  • An RS-232 serial port, which might look like an antique, but there are thousands of devices (such as mice, keyboards and a whole slew of data-acquisition products) that it can be used with

On the downside, the dock lacks the iConcepts dock's flash card reader and the digital audio of the Dynadock.

Setup took all of three minutes, and unlike the Toshiba Dynadock and the Kensington dock, the notebook didn't need to restart.

As is the case with the docks from Toshiba, Vantec and Kensington, the Targus device has a task tray icon to make video selections. It's capable of extending the desktop or mirroring it on an external monitor, but it can go no higher than 1,600-by-1,200 resolution, well short of the Dynadock's graphics capabilities, which might be a problem with a large monitor.

Targus universal docking station

The Targus dock.

It worked with all nine of my USB devices and even connected with a serial port PDA that none of the others could touch. After being plugged in, the Targus dock was ready for work in 40.4 seconds, about midway between the Vantec and Toshiba docks. While connected, it uses 7 watts, putting it just behind the Toshiba Dynadock.

All told, the Targus dock makes it easy to reconnect when the road-weary traveler returns to the office, and it provides the ability to connect with old-school RS-232 devices.

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