One of the things I’ve usually taken for granted is how much of a difference a quality docking station makes in my daily computer use. Sure, I have a laptop and (now) a netbook for my “regular” job. Working with a netbook provides additional mobility with a lighter machine to lug around for the daily grind, but it can be a challenge during extended periods of time (read: 12-16 hours of work at times to meet deadlines). A decent external monitor certainly helps, but needing to manually plug-in every peripheral item is an unnecessary task when you have a docking station.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but where I work we are not using docking stations. Connecting either the laptop or netbook (and these days, it’s usually the netbook for ‘regular’ work days) had meant early morning wrangling of cords. When Judie sent me over the HP USB 2.0 Docking station to review, I was VERY happy to put it to real-life use. In fact, ahem, it’s been put through a very extended period of daily use (Judie sent it over right after CES wrapped up in January).
To really appreciate the product HPs put together, we really need to take an in-depth look at how I put it to use — and how HP have been showing it off themselves. I do warn you, though, if you are using a Windows machine (sorry, this one is not Mac compatible ) you’re going to want one. The good news is that due to HPs affordable pricing, you probably won’t need to put off that impulse buy
Let’s jump right in for a full look at HP’s USB 2.0 docking station…
The image above shows just one possible configuration (don’t worry, you can click right here or right on the image above for a full-sized view of the graphic above). What I like about this docking station is, opposed to many solutions available on the market today, I can literally throw it in my bag and take it with me on the go. It’s literally that small and light. What is nice is that since I do need to travel to other sites for work, the portable docking station means I don’t have to sacrifice function if I do need to spend a day or two using a “makeshift” workspace. I can simply use the docking station and my netbook with any external monitor. I like being mobile, and this product definitely helps keep me mobile by not requiring any additional space or significant weight (it’s only 11.32 oz) in my bag.
Heck, if I wanted to I could even take this puppy home and use it in my home office — but for the affordable price of $99 I’d probably just pick up two and keep one at work & one at home. HP’s docking station includes all the ports you’ll likely need for any situation: an RJ-45 Networking jack, four USB 2.0 ports, Audio-In/Out, a DVI-D monitor connector, a VGA monitor connector and even a security cable slot (just in case you’re worried your cube mates may walk off with this one ).
Straight from HP:
The HP USB 2.0 Docking Station uses universal USB technology to pass through critical signals such as video, audio, LAN and peripheral connectivity (keyboard, mouse, printer). No need for a CD, this docking station has flash memory that stores installation-ready software drivers. This device supports one display output at a time (DVI or VGA).
[All Boxed Up: The HP USB 2.0 Docking Station: Main unit, USB connector (PC to the Docking Station) and Power Supply]
[Look at all the lovely ports in a very compact package ]
[Quickly connect! It took literally two minutes to connect up the docking station...and I spent one of those minutes refilling my mug o' coffee! ]
[Why can't I have this guy's setup? Here's a promotional photo from HP showing off all you can do with the docking station...talk about connectivity!]
[ watch a video of the docking station in full action with multiple monitors]
Full Product Press Release:
DisplayLink Helps Boost Notebook, Netbook Productivity in HP’s New Universal USB Dock
Making life easier for globe-trotting or hot-desking workers, DisplayLink Corp. USB graphics technology is featured in the new HP USB 2.0 Docking Station. A universal solution, the HP dock enables people to use a convenient USB cable to quickly connect netbooks and notebooks, including the new HP Mini 2140 Notebook PC.
The HP USB 2.0 Docking Station uses universal USB technology to pass through critical signals such as audio, LAN, peripheral connectivity – and video images thanks to the elegant simplicity of DisplayLink’s USB graphics connection hardware and software. As a result, the dock is perfect for notebooks that don’t have an integrated docking connector; workers can just plug the dock into their computer’s USB port and a power outlet and get to work, rather than worrying about finding a “matching” dock solution.
In addition, the DisplayLink technology makes it easy for people to bring the productivity of multi-monitor computing to the office. The HP docking station can connect to an additional display – enabling workers to expand their visual work space – without the need for graphics cards, thereby saving offices time, money and energy.
It is HP’s first device to incorporate DisplayLink’s USB graphics technology, which earned a 2008 PC Magazine Technical Excellence Award.
“Aligning our technology with HP’s renowned innovation and IT market expertise has created a practical office productivity solution that benefits IT staff and end-users alike,” said Dennis Crespo, executive vice president of marketing and business development for DisplayLink. “With the new HP dock, thousands more notebook users will have DisplayLink’s simple USB connection, efficient multi-monitor computing and other powerful capabilities all packaged in one small, easy-to-install device.”
For example, the HP USB 2.0 Docking Station prevents frequent business travelers from having to unplug and replug multiple devices and cables every time they arrive at and leave their desks. The dock has a built-in Ethernet connection and four USB connections that can “permanently” connect all devices, such as keyboards, audio recorders, drives, printers, mice or displays. Stereo and microphone ports in the docking station also let people connect stereo speakers or Internet chat headsets.
For companies that have a location-independent work environment, called hot-desks, or that have guest desk space, the HP USB 2.0 Docking Station allows IT departments to support all workers or visitors with the same dock. Notebook PCs no longer have to be precisely paired with a certain dock, extending hardware life and use. Whether a worker settles at a desk for a day or a month, it takes just one simple USB snap to connect the notebook to the peripherals that make it function like a desktop machine – especially practical for notebook and mini users who want full-sized monitors and keyboards.
The HP USB 2.0 Docking Station is designed to bring maximum productivity to users with minimal installation issues. Unlike other docking stations, the HP device also has Flash memory with installation-ready software drivers that detect when a notebook is connected and guide users through a simple installation wizard. There’s no need to install software from a CD, another benefit for users.
Most critical for a superior computing experience: DisplayLink technology embedded in the dock ensures high-speed, high-quality transmission of video and graphics over USB. The dock operates multiple types of displays – widescreen and regular monitors – and provides 32-bit true-color graphics, smooth video playback, and connection capability over the included VGA or DVI output connectors, making it perfect for any display up to 1680 x 1050 resolution. Users also can choose to extend their desktop across two or more monitors, or view the same desktop on each monitor.
I really enjoyed using this product. This docking station combines features in a lightweight, highly portable package. The fact that it’s not too hard on the wallet at $99 is just icing on the cake. If you’re a Windows user and in the market for a nice docking station, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a better solution that this one.
Check out the Full List of Specs to verify the HP USB 2.0 Docking Station meets your specific needs.
MSRP: $99 – available from
What I Like: An affordable, portable and easy to set-up docking solution. Includes all the necessary ports (RJ-45 Network jack, four USB 2.0, Audio-In/Out, DVI-D monitor connector, VGA monitor connector, and even a security cable slot!). Easily passes audio/video and shares with multiple monitors via DVI or VGA connections.
What Needs Improvement: I haven’t found anything truly lacking. It is only PC/Windows compatible, though.
Overall, HP really did a nice job with this one!
[all images from HP's Display Link site, unless otherwise noted/watermarked]