Day 10: Changing the docking station

Lincoln Spector

This is my tenth day (Feb. 19) using a Windows 8.1 laplet (laptop/tablet hybrid) in place of my Windows 7 laptop and iPad.

None of this would have worked without a generic docking station — a box that provides the ports needed to connect external monitors, a keyboard, mouse, speakers, and so on. The doc not only expands the laplet’s capabilities, it also makes it easy to transition a portable device to an effective, ergonomic workstation. You simply attach the device to the docking station with a USB 3.0 cable. (I normally use a docking station built specifically for my regular laptop.)

I started out with the Targus Universal USB 3.0 DV Docking Station (more info). Today, I switched to the Plugable UD-3900 Dual Display Universal Docking Station (site). Although they look very different (for example, the Targus is horizontal and the Plugable is vertical), they do pretty much the same thing. Each give your laptop or tablet two additional USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and DVI video connectors (plus a DVI-VGA adapter), Ethernet, and two 3.5mm audio jacks — one each for microphone and headphones/speakers.

In theory, with a docking station you only need to plug two cables into your laptop or tablet: USB 3.0 and power.

One thing both the docs I’ve tried are missing is drive bays. Ideally, a docking station would have two bays, one for an extra hard drive and a bigger one for an optical drive. To my knowledge, no generic station has even one.

Both docks occasionally failed to make a complete connection. Either the external monitor or the keyboard and mouse just didn’t come alive. A reboot always fixed it.

But the Plugable station I’m using now has a problem that isn’t fixed by a reboot. Its audio jack doesn’t seem to work at all. As I write this, their tech people are looking for a solution. And I’ve got my speakers plugged in directly to the tablet, rather than the docking bay.



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Lincoln Spector

About Lincoln Spector

Lincoln Spector writes about computers, home theater, and film and maintains two blogs: Answer Line at PCWorld.com and Bayflicks.net. His articles have appeared in CNET, InfoWorld, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.