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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Vantec Laptop Docking Station with Video Output

The smallest and least obtrusive of the bunch, Vantec Thermal Technologies' docking station does a lot with a little by providing the basics for connecting a notebook.

Tiny and sleekly designed, the Vantec dock is the best looking of the five and is about one-third the size of the Toshiba Dynadock. It measures just 5.6 in. by 0.7 in. by 3.2 in., and at 7 oz. is the lightest of our roundup.

On the downside, this upright dock was easily moved around by its cables, despite having rubber feet. Clearly, it needs the weighted base of the Dynadock.

Setup took a quick two minutes. The dock provides:

  • Four USB 2.0 ports, two of which are located on the front of the dock for easy access
  • A 10/100 Ethernet port
  • A DVI video port for an external monitor, which comes with an adapter for use with older VGA-port monitors
  • Microphone and headphone jacks

In a design faux pas that drove me crazy, the USB plugs in the back are upside-down compared with the ones up front. It was the source of endless frustration for me when I was plugging stuff in.

Vantec universal docking station
The Vantec dock.

As with the other video-enabled docks, the software creates a task tray icon for customizing the video with the choice of extending the desktop or mirroring the action on an external monitor. The downside is that, like the Targus dock, it is limited to a maximum 1,600-by-1,200 resolution.

Everything I threw at the Vantec dock worked, and it was up and running in 18.7 seconds, making it the speed demon of the bunch. It used 6 watts of power, putting it right in the middle of the pack, but it lacks any of the digital creature comforts that the others provided, like the iConcepts speakers and flash reader or the Toshiba's digital audio.

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