Desktop computer sales continue to plummet as tablets, smart phones, and ultra-thin laptops become ubiquitous in the home and office, and on the road.
But moving to smaller devices means losing the convenient components and ports we take for granted on standard PCs. Here’s how to get some of that convenience back.
There’s no end of after-market gadgets designed to replace the USB ports, keyboards, wireless connections, and even power capacity that are typically missing on our mobile devices. Here are five cross-platform products that let you get more out of your portable electronics.
Give missing I/O ports to mobile devices
The small form factor of the latest ultra-thin laptops is both a blessing and a curse. What you gain in lighter weight and smaller size, you lose in connectivity — there’s a conspicuous lack of ports. When you’re working at your desk, the relatively inexpensive solution is to add a docking station — such as the Kanex simpleDock (site) for Windows and Mac OS X devices.
Billed as a docking and charging station, the U.S. $120 box takes up minimal desktop real estate. It’s outfitted with three USB 3.0 ports; a dedicated 2.1 amp, USB charging port; and gigabit Ethernet. A charging cradle on top is obviously designed to fit an iPhone, but just about any cell phone can comfortably nest there for recharging.
I attached the simpleDock to my Lenovo UltraBook, which is severely I/O-port deficient. The dock’s three USB 3.0 ports let me connect both my printer and my external backup drive to the laptop — and still have one port open for plugging in a thumb drive when needed. The Lenovo does not include an Ethernet port, leaving me dependent on slower Wi-Fi. But by connecting an Ethernet cable to the dock, I now have a faster, hard-wired Internet connection.
The simpleDock connects to any Windows or Mac laptop via a single USB 3.0 cable. Taking my laptop out of the office is a simple process of disconnecting two cables: power and the USB connection to the simpleDock. And I know that my cell phone is fully charged, too.