Laptop docking stations

sawdust123

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Nov 10, 2006
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I am in the market for a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-c) docking station. I haven't looked too hard yet but I do see a large range of prices and a lot of manufacturers I am not familiar with. I also have little experience with the types of problems that are common with these docking stations. Most of the negative reviews I have seen discuss incompatibilities with older laptops. My laptop has 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports that supports 2x external 4K monitors. My laptop's 87 watt charger attaches through the Thunderbolt port.

The minimum features I need are as follows:
87 watt power delivery to the laptop
2x 4K HDMI outputs
2x USB A 3.1 ports (5GB/s)
2x USB A 2.0 ports (480MB/s) (extra USB 3.1 ports would negate the need for the slower 2.0 ports)

Nice to have features include
1x USB C port
SD and micro SD car readers
Mic and headphone ports
Network (RJ-45) port

What I am finding is that many adapters that can deliver power to the computer are limited to 65 watts. Those with dual HDMI ports seem to forego the SD card readers. Many dual output models have one HDMI and one DisplayPort. I don't use DisplayPort, I want dual HDMI. If you know of one that has all of the above, please point it out. I realize that I could just get a unit with lots of extra USB ports and add adapters for the card readers and other functions but this just makes my desk messier. I didn't think I would have such a hard time finding this.
 
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steve149

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I am in the market for a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-c) docking station. I haven't looked too hard yet but I do see a large range of prices and a lot of manufacturers I am not familiar with. I also have little experience with the types of problems that are common with these docking stations. Most of the negative reviews I have seen discuss incompatibilities with older laptops. My laptop has 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports that supports 2x external 4K monitors. My laptop's 87 watt charger attaches through the Thunderbolt port.

The minimum features I need are as follows:
87 watt power delivery to the laptop
2x 4K HDMI outputs
2x USB A 3.1 ports (5GB/s)
2x USB A 2.0 ports (480MB/s) (extra USB 3.1 ports would negate the need for the slower 2.0 ports)

Nice to have features include
1x USB C port
SD and micro SD car readers
Mic and headphone ports
Network (RJ-45) port

What I am finding is that many adapters that can deliver power to the computer are limited to 65 watts. Those with dual HDMI ports seem to forego the SD card readers. Many dual output models have one HDMI and one DisplayPort. I don't use DisplayPort, I want dual HDMI. If you know of one that has all of the above, please point it out. I realize that I could just get a unit with lots of extra USB ports and add adapters for the card readers and other functions but this just makes my desk messier. I didn't think I would have such a hard time finding this.
According to this article .. 65w is about the max you'll get through a combo dock .. unless your laptop can use a docking station (Lenovo and a few others) ...


 
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steve149

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My laptop is a year-old Dell with an extra capacity battery. That's why it needs 87 watts. The regular battery only requires 65 to charge.
This guy will do 130w to the laptop ... a bit expensive though


Cheaper on eBay ,,,

 
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sawdust123

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Nov 10, 2006
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This guy will do 130w to the laptop ... a bit expensive though
Nope. The 2nd video output is DisplayPort, not HDMI.

This unit seems pretty attractive
It claims 100w power delivery. Price is great but I would have to buy the power supply separately. I am not very keen on the form factor. It uses all 4-sides for connections. The USB-C cable connection to the computer is built in and short. Could be a point of failure. An extension cable could be the answer though. I wish this was a company that had a real website and a US support number if needed. They only seem to exist on shopping sites.
 
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steve149

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Nope. The 2nd video output is DisplayPort, not HDMI.

This unit seems pretty attractive
It claims 100w power delivery. Price is great but I would have to buy the power supply separately. I am not very keen on the form factor. It uses all 4-sides for connections. The USB-C cable connection to the computer is built in and short. Could be a point of failure. An extension cable could be the answer though. I wish this was a company that had a real website and a US support number if needed. They only seem to exist on shopping sites.
Just a cable to convert DP to HDMI .. I have that on my main PC.
 
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ittigger

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My laptop is a year-old Dell with an extra capacity battery. That's why it needs 87 watts. The regular battery only requires 65 to charge.
My $0.02

My office runs 100% laptops - and at the moment, specifically the Dell 5570, 5580, 3510 and 7520. The 3510 came with a hard dock. The 5570, 5580 and 7520 all came with 'soft docks' (thunderbolt docks). Based on our experiences with these, a very big problem is that in the event of a power failure, the systems don't recognize when power returns. Seems to be a failure in the communication to the system that power has returned .. and because of that, the battery will die and none of the devices on the dock will work - until you power down everything and restart - in some instances, you have to unplug everything in a specific order and then deplete the dock of any residual power. This problem has been seen with the 5570, 5580 and 7520. Additionally, the 5570 / 80 require 130w power adapters. The 7520 requires a 180w power pack. Dell actually suggests that you have a 180w power pack in both the dock AND the laptop at all times - due to the power needed by the system. Both docks (7520 and 5570/80) have 1 HDMI, 1 minidisplay port, a VGA port and an assortment of USB and other plugs.

Fun fact: the 5570 and the 7520 have hard dock ports on the bottom - and when plugged up to a previous generation hard dock, work absolutely fine in all conditions with 1 power pack (at the dock). Additionally, the hard dock has 2 display ports, 2 DVI ports, 1 VGA port, 5 USB ports, an E-SATA port and others.

When using a thunderbolt dock, it seems you need more power and have more problems. If possible, run away from thunderbolt docks.
 
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sawdust123

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I had Lenovo and HP laptops with those mini hard docks in the past. I was never a big fan of those. There is no such option for my laptop (Dell 7400 2in1) but it is good to know about potential power outage issues with Thunderbolt docks. That is not a big problem by me but the PoCo now shuts power on hot and windy days to prevent fires in some areas. My neighborhood has buried lines but a feeder can still be shut down.

My guess is that the Thunderbolt docks are designed to operate powered by an external supply or by the PC's supply. I could see where it would run down the PC's battery quickly during a power loss. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
 
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ittigger

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I had Lenovo and HP laptops with those mini hard docks in the past. I was never a big fan of those. There is no such option for my laptop (Dell 7400 2in1) but it is good to know about potential power outage issues with Thunderbolt docks. That is not a big problem by me but the PoCo now shuts power on hot and windy days to prevent fires in some areas. My neighborhood has buried lines but a feeder can still be shut down.

My guess is that the Thunderbolt docks are designed to operate powered by an external supply or by the PC's supply. I could see where it would run down the PC's battery quickly during a power loss. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
I was referring to full hard docks (port replicators), not mini hard docks. Thunderbolt docks require external power and they will not use laptop power. What happens when the power goes out is the dock loses all power resulting in all comms between the dock and the laptop being severed - the laptop is made aware of this via devices gone and power not coming in. When power returns, the laptop never gets the message that power and devices have returned and to resume normal operations. IMO, single point of failure - using thunderbolt for all comms, in and out. Additionally, 2 external monitors is about as far as I'd go with monitors. More than that and you're really asking the machine to work. If it's a gaming level machine, that's potentially a different story.
 
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sawdust123

DJ Extraordinaire
Nov 10, 2006
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Ventura County, CA
I think we are describing the same type of dock just using different terms for it. The laptops had dedicated connectors built especially for the dock. One of my older ones even had an expansion slot in the dock.

Right now I have a single external monitor but I am thinking I may go with two as I find myself using the the larger external screen now more than the internal one. My current monitor has a 16:9 aspect ratio. I can get a second one rather cheaply and have a 32:9 extended display. I could get a single 21:9 curved monitor instead. It is certainly a cleaner approach. However, these monitors cost a lot more and I am not confident that it would give me enough extra screen real estate to forego using the internal monitor. I tend to keep a lot of apps open at once and transfer data between them.
 
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ittigger

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I don't know of a laptop that has an issue with 2 (even 2 different sized screens). Depending on what you're doing, 2 could cause some bottlenecks. 3 seems to be the magic number.
 

DJ Bobcat

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Nov 8, 2014
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I had Lenovo and HP laptops with those mini hard docks in the past. I was never a big fan of those. There is no such option for my laptop (Dell 7400 2in1) but it is good to know about potential power outage issues with Thunderbolt docks. That is not a big problem by me but the PoCo now shuts power on hot and windy days to prevent fires in some areas. My neighborhood has buried lines but a feeder can still be shut down.

My guess is that the Thunderbolt docks are designed to operate powered by an external supply or by the PC's supply. I could see where it would run down the PC's battery quickly during a power loss. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
UPS.😊
 
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