The idea is that, instead of having to reconnect external devices such as an external display, keyboard and mouse, printer, Web cam, speakers and microphone, all those devices remain connected to the docking station. Your LAN also connects to the docking station. Upon your return, rather than having to reconnect all your peripherals to your notebook, you just connect one cable from the hub into your notebook.
A small, slim and sleek black box, the docking station is powered by an AC adaptor. It includes four USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, a 10/1000 RJ45 Ethernet connector, as well as speaker and microphone jacks. It connects to your laptop via one USB cable, and comes with a driver CD for setup.
I used the docking station at home with my personal laptop, a three-year old Dell running Windows XP. During the instillation I received a warning that the device had not passed Windows logo testing and a recommendation that I stop the instillation as it may impair performance. I bypassed this warning and instillation proceeded with no ill effect.
The install process took about 10 minutes and, once completed, I began connecting my peripherals. My USB keyboard and mouse both worked plug and play, and my speakers provided acceptable sound quality.
Connecting my notebook to an external display also worked simply. A taskbar menu provides different display options, such as to mirror or extend displays, and also provides different resolution and screen rotation options. StarTech.com promises resolutions up to 1600×1200. I found display quality acceptable, although I wouldn’t recommend it for graphic-intensive gaming.
Getting the LAN to work via the docking station was a challenge. First I connected directly from my cable modem to the docking station, and my notebook kept trying (and failing) to secure a network connection. Several reboots failed to solve the issue. However, once I connected by cable from my wireless router to the docking station, I was immediately able to connect to the network and get online.
The USB Docking Station with VGA is priced at $135.19 and is available now through Ingram Micro Canada, Tech Data Canada and D&H Canada. If you use a number of external peripherals in your home or office and you’re regularly taking your notebook on the road, this docking station may be a good investment to save the hassle of reconnecting all those cables.