It is not very often that you come across a “gadget” that does more than a one thing well. When you find one that enhances a number of things you do routinely, you protect it as though you’ve struck oil. The StarTech.com Laptop Docking Station I tried recently is exactly one of those items.
Docking stations for laptops have been around since the early days of mobile computing. The idea of being able to take your mobile computer and replicate its ports so that you can use a full-size keyboard, a mouse, a monitor, a printer and network connections gave notebooks even more added value than just their mobility alone. Fast-forward to today, the USB 3.0 bus standard allows 5 Gbps data transfer rates. The StarTech.com Docking station I took through its paces takes complete advantage of USB 3.0.
In the box, you get the docking station, a USB A to USB B cable, a power supply, a driver disk and a brief setup pamphlet. Setup could not be simpler and within a short time your operating system will have found and installed all of the drivers and you’ll be able to use the docking station to its full capacity. For the one USB 3.0 connection you make to your laptop, you’re afforded three USB 3.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks, a gigabit LAN connection, and three video ports (VGA, HDMI and DVI).
The real standout feature on the StarTech.com is the docking station’s ability to output two HD video signals to external monitors. Effectively, including the laptop screen, anyone could be working on three full HD screens within minutes of plugging the docking station to their USB 3.0 port on their computer. The included software allows for complete control of each additional screen on the fly as well. Adding the three USB 3.0 ports and the gigabit LAN connection just increases the device’s versatility.
As always, the “Gee, those are great features” necessitates the “but how would we use it?” conversation. The first thing I considered was having one of these in a production room. In the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) world, you have radio hosts, creative writers, sales and producers all needing a way to hook up their devices to your equipment to import and export audio into your automation systems. With one USB connection, the process is made simple and complete. Now the setup is only done one time.
What about the conference room? You’ve got the impressive multimedia there, but it gets much less so when you have to spend 20 minutes each time you use it to find the right cables and to hook everything up. If you have guests coming in and presenting to your staff often, set-up could be easier for them (and you). What about the remote broadcast where you have an opportunity to project your image to listeners and non-listeners alike? You could easily put together a top-notch booth with a laptop and a couple of HD flat-screen displays. The only people who wouldn’t appreciate how professional your remote looks would be your competition.
A really useful gadget is one that not only saves you time (read: money), but also performs its duties in the most practical, easy way. If it can be used in more than one environment in your facility, it moves out of the realm of gadgetry and into the realm of necessary equipment. The StarTech.com laptop docking station will make you wonder what you ever did before you had one.
Info: www.startech.com. Price: $171.99