Laptop dock good for light office apps

Notebook docks eliminate the harried feeling you get plugging and unplugging numerous peripherals whenever you set down or pick up your notebook. Kensington's Notebook Expansion Dock with Video is for notebook owners who can't get a matching dock from their laptop vendor. Although it has some limitations, many users will find it a worthwhile accessory.

The US$180 dock connects to your notebook via a USB 2.0 connection. It offers four USB 2.0 ports, speaker and headphone/microphone jacks, and an ethernet port. Its most interesting feature, however, is its USB-to-VGA connection, which lets video travel through the dock's VGA port and out to an external monitor.

The device supports 32-bit color at a maximum resolution of 1280 by 1024 pixels--native resolution for 17- or 19-inch standard-format LCD monitors. The simple manual also gives instructions for switching the Windows display settings from the default Clone Mode (in which the external monitor shows exactly what's on the laptop screen) to the Extended Mode (which turns the external monitor into a second monitor alongside the notebook screen).

I found the dock's display speed sufficient for scrolling office documents; the lag from notebook to external monitor, though perceptible, was very slight. But the external screen took several seconds to finish updating after I opened the Display Properties window. worse, in a 3-D, full-screen Doom 3 test the monitor showed a black screen while the game ran merrily on the notebook. Kensington says that the dock's lack of DirectX support might be a factor in this failing. Clearly this is a dock for work applications, not for speed-sensitive games or video.

Proprietary docks often pack in more features--such as high-quality, built-in speakers and a DVI connection for nondegraded video on an external monitor--but not every notebook has such a dock available. The Kensington Notebook Expansion Dock with Video gives every XP-based notebook the option of working at least passably well with an external monitor and other peripherals.

Kensington Notebook Expansion Dock with Video

Dock offers easy connectivity and additional screen space for office applications, but forget about using it to view video and graphics-laden apps.

Price when reviewed: US$180

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