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 Introduction to docking stations

A docking station, dock or port replicator provides a practical yet neat way to have multiple peripherals connected to your laptop without unplugging / plugging them in every time you need to change location.

Some laptops will have a docking station connector built into the base of the laptop. Other laptops might not have a docking station connector built in and require to be connected via a USB cable, "OneLink" connector which is exclusively for some Lenovo laptops, USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 for more recent laptops.

Docking stations can offer a variety of benefits ranging from additional USB ports all the way up to supporting multiple monitors. The most basic features a docking station will offer is additional USB ports, audio in / out and Ethernet. The next step up from this will be the previously mentioned ports with an additional video output (VGA, DVI, HDMI) - this gives you the option to use an external monitor in addition to your laptop or as your primary screen. The highest specification docking station you can have will offer support for multiple monitors at various resolutions - these would be most suitable for designers and stock brokers.

Note: Laptops with built in docking connectors, Lenovo OneLink, Thunderbolt / USB-C laptops are able to be charged via the docking station. The majority of USB 2.0 / 3.0 docking stations will require the AC Adapter to be plugged into its DC socket as usual.
 Which docking station is right for you?
If you are unsure of what type of docking station you require, the below questions should help give you a clearer idea.

What connection do I need?
Due to the various types of connectors, you will need to establish which connector your laptop has. The traditional docking station connector is usually located on the base of your laptop and others connect to a port on the side of your laptop (USB 2.0, USB 3.0 (Blue Colour), USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 or a manufacturers unique fitting such as ‘Lenovo OneLink’.

Are USB ports with the same fitting backwards compatible?
Whilst some connectors are completely different in shape, others are the same and are backwards compatible – but you will lose out on the full potential of the dock, for example; USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 but you will not benefit from the additional data transfer speed. USB 3.0 ports are blue and 2.0 are usually black. A Thunderbolt 3 dock is backwards compatible with USB-C port but you will lose out on features a thunderbolt 3 dock might offer, such as 100W power charging, higher resolutions and quicker data transfer speeds.
 How many USB devices do I have?
Which USB devices will you be using regularly? Keyboard, Mouse, Printer, External Hard Drive, Memory Stick, External Optical Drive etc.

Do I need an external monitor?
Using an external monitor can increase productivity due to having the additional desktop space alongside your laptop screen. You may also wish to disable your laptop screen, close the lid and only use the external monitor to give yourself a desktop PC experience.

Do I need support for more than one external monitor?
If you need more than one external monitor, you will need to look into a docking station that supports multiple outputs (As opposed to a dock with multiple video outputs where only one can be used). It is important to check the output on your monitors and docking station match to ensure out the box compatibility. Adapters may need to be purchased in addition to the docking station to ensure your monitors and video outputs can be used.

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