Ever wondered is there a good way to extend the number of ports on your laptop? By buying one of these best laptop docking stations you can actually achieve that. If it is the number of USB ports you want to increase, you might consider a USB Hub. But a docking station has plenty of different ports on it to help achieve maximum connectivity.
People use docks, specifically when they need to turn their laptop into a desktop solution. Connecting displays, keyboards, mice, and speakers to the laptop, again and again, seems like an annoyance. But if all of these devices are connected to the docking station, you just need to plug that to your laptop and you are set.
This not only saves tons of time but also keeps things organized around your desk. These days specifically, when working from home has become so important, docking stations seem to be a beneficial investment. You get ports for displays, connecting your laptop to the Internet through Ethernet and USB ports for peripherals.
Before investing in one of these laptop docking stations, check out this buyer’s guide.
Buyer’s Guide for Laptop Docking Stations
The biggest reason anyone would by a docking station be to increase connectivity. Laptops these days are shifting towards USB-C ports for almost everything.
They do not even have USB-A ports to connect devices. So if you have had peripherals with USB-A connectivity, you will need adapters to connect them. But with a docking station, you get plenty of USB Type-A ports and extra USB-C ports. Not only that, if your laptop supports Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, you will also get power delivery through the dock.
The second biggest reason in our opinion, that anyone would buy a dock would be the organization and ease of access. Connecting your peripherals and displays to your laptop every time you have to use it as a desktop for work can be time-consuming.
With a dock in place with all the peripherals and displays connected to it, you only need to plug the dock to your laptop. With that simple step, you are ready to work using your laptop like a desktop.
While you are on the hunt for the perfect docking solution, you need to make sure it has the number and types of ports you need. Other than that, you might also want the check the power delivery on the dock.
So the ports vary between docking stations, some docking stations will have a lot of ports. But then there are others which have a limited amount of ports to them. They have the basic connectivity to a display and peripherals on them. But they might not have tons of features on it.
Normally in the best laptop docking stations, you get Ethernet, HDMI, Display Port, USB-C, USB-A, Audio out, and VGA. Some might not include a VGA though since it is such an outdated method of display connection.
Number of Displays
Some docking laptops also are limited by the number of monitors you can plug on them. Some docking stations use USB-C to drive monitors instead of having HDMI or Display Ports. At least that is the case with the Surface Dock 2, the Surface Dock had mini-Display ports. But that does not seem to be the case with the Surface Dock 2.
Also, some docks only support a limited resolution on the total number of monitors. The Surface Dock had support for 2 4K displays with 30Hz and one 4K at 60Hz. While the new Surface Dock 2 can support 2x4K displays at 60Hz and 1x5K display at 30Hz.
So be sure to check how much display resolution per monitor and the number of monitors can you docking station support.
Docking stations can also provide power to your laptop if needed. It charges your laptop through Thunderbolt 3 port which connects to your laptop. If you have a normal USB-dock though, that does not have a power brick powering it, it will not have a power delivery option.
There is also the limit on the number of Watts a docking station can deliver. If for instance, you have a very power-hungry laptop which needs a 90W power brick to charge it. And your docking station only gives 80W of power delivery, you will not charge your laptop efficiently and end up losing power instead of charging.
So always check power delivery on the dock’s specifications.
Always check if your device will be compatible with a laptop docking station. There are chances that the dock only connects to a specific brand or model. Surface Dock 2 is a prime example of this scenario.
It only connects to Surface devices, not only that, it only supports the newer Surface devices. So not all, but the latest of the Surface devices are supported on the Surface Dock 2.
The Best Laptop Docking Stations for Extra Connectivity Reviewed
We reviewed plenty of docking stations for laptops, but we have yet to find one this unique. The HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W G2 with audio is the only dock with speakers and a built-in mic.
These days, working from home has become an obligation due to the pandemic. Even without pandemic, many professionals work from home. These professionals need to have video calls with their clients very often.
This is a routine for those who have been working from home since the very start. But the pandemic has very much locked work at home for most people. That is where this docking station shines the most.
The HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W G2 with audio is the alternate version of the basic G2 model. The only difference between this and the basic model is that it has inbuilt speakers and microphone in the dock itself.
Not only that, but it also has call buttons for ease of access on top. The buttons are touch-sensitive, so by tapping the option on the top of the dock, you can perform the corresponding actions.
So if you want to make a call, cut a call, increase or decrease volume, you can do it from the dock itself. There are two microphones so that your voice is not missed by the dock.
So having this dock can change how you make video calls. It is a whole new experience as the speakers are better than what a normal laptop speaker might offer.
Secondly, the dock has a lot of ports on it. It has 4 USB-C ports, with two of them delivering power. One of the USB-C type ports delivers a 100W power delivery, while another has a 15W power draw for charging mobile devices.
Other than that, it has a Kensington lock slot, Ethernet RJ45 port, and 1 VGA port. Along with the one VGA port, it has 2 display ports as well.
It also has 2 USB Type-A ports on the back and 1 on the side, so a total of 3xUSB-A ports. That is more than plenty for connectivity if you ask us.
The Hp Thunderbolt Dock 120W G2 With Audio is expensive, costing at around $269 on HP’s official site and Amazon. If you feel that your professional life requires a lot of conference calling and video calling, this dock is the perfect addition for your laptop system.
Winning the 2019 Red Dot Awards, the ICY BOX Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is in a class of its own. It has plenty of ports for connectivity, including an SSD Card Reader not found on docks usually.
So the ICY BOX Thunderbolt 3 Dock, looks like the PS5 for some reason or at least looks similar to it. So aesthetically it is great. But aesthetics are not the big point of docks in the first place. It is about the ports, and this dock has plenty.
There are 4 USB-A ports on this device and 4 USB Type C ports. Two of the USB Type C ports have Thunderbolt capabilities. You are not going to get short on USB ports with this dock at least. And having 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports is just fantastic, who does not require fast file transference these days?
But that is not all, we have a mini Display Port 1.2, HDMI 2.0, and Display Port 1.2. With that many ports in the ICY BOX Thunderbolt 3 Laptop Docking Station, you can connect 3 displays at a time.
So we have yet to find a laptop dock that has an SD card reader. But the ICY BOX Thunderbolt 3 Dock has one, and it is not an ordinary SD card reader either. It is UHS-II which is faster than what normal card readers have. Transferring photographs and videos from your camera to your PC has never been this convenient.
This dock also has support for daisy-chaining, which is also rare these days. Most branded laptop docks do not offer this feature. So basically you can attach plenty of devices on this dock, thanks to having so many ports. And on top of that, you can daisy-chain devices as well. This will make your desk so much more organized.
Finally, we have an Ethernet RJ45 port along with an audio port. So that basically completes the number of ports on this thing.
Not to mention you have enough power delivery to charge even the hungriest of laptops. But all of this comes at a premium price, as this dock does not come cheap in the least.
So the ICY BOX Thunderbolt 3 Laptop Docking Station costs almost $300 on Amazon. But with the features it has, this thing is worth it.
If you want something more portable and comfortable, the j5create Ultra Station is what you are looking for. It is super slim, does not have tons of ports, but more than enough to fulfill your needs.
So the Wormhole feature that the dock has is pretty unique amongst laptop docking stations. With being able to drag and drop files from your Windows laptop to your Mac, you can seamlessly just work on two systems simultaneously.
This is pretty unique, as some people do have a Mac and laptop for work. So this feature is a perfect solution for that. The j5create Ultra Station provides this feature in a very thin and light form factor.
But it is not limited to just file transfer, you can even use your keyboard to type stuff from one platform to another using the Wormhole feature.
The j5create Ultra Station almost looks like a small bar that you can put behind your laptop and attach it with a USB cable. This dock costs less than $100 on Amazon, so you do not have a lot of ports on it.
In terms of display, you can only attach a single FHD display on the dock itself. The dock is pretty thin, other than the Wormhole feature, we think the j5create Ultra Station is a pretty standard run off the mill docking station.
You have 3 USB Type-A ports, one of them being USB 2.0, which is pretty old. It also has 2 USB 3.0 ports with one of them being able to give power delivery. You also have 1 Ethernet port, 1 VGA port, 1 HDMI 2.0, and an audio port.
The power delivery on the dock is mediocre at best, if connected to a power-hungry device chances are you won’t be charing battery.
For the amount, it is not a bad purchase, since other docks in this price tag do not have a lot of ports. But we would have liked to see more USB 3.0 and USB Type-C ports on the j5create Ultra Station.
If you are someone who owns one of the latest Surface devices from Microsoft, you need this dock. If you are a fan of the Surface devices and plan on keep using them in the future, then this is a perfectly sound investment.
But if you plan on moving to another device, like HP or Dell, later on, chances are this is money wasted. But if you want the best dock for Surface devices, the Surface Dock 2 is what you are looking for.
So here is where compatibility comes into place. Most docks we have seen working on different brands of laptops. For instance, the HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W G2 With Audio can be used on an Apple MacBook as well. But the Surface Dock 2 only works on Surface devices.
Not only that, the Surface Dock 2 works only on the latest models of Surface devices. So if you own something that predates the latest models, you will not have support with this docking station.
It is also pretty expensive for something that is exclusive to Microsoft Surface devices. So we would not recommend this until and unless you are sure that you will not move to another device anytime soon.
Now that we have compatibility and the biggest disadvantage of this dock aside, let’s talk about connectivity. Since this thing is meant for Surface Devices, it charges them with enough power delivery.
It has 2 USB Type C ports in the front, two USB Type C ports on the back with display support on each. There is no HDMI or Display Port on this thing, which can be a problem if you do not own a monitor that supports USB-C.
It also has 2 USB-A ports on the back as well, along with an Ethernet RJ45 Port. It also has a security lock which is Kensington lock compatible.
In terms of connectivity, you do not have a lot of that either. But on the other hand, it is really expensive considering it does not even have Thunderbolt ports.
For the price, it might not be worth it, but it really depends on your personal opinion in the end. Do you plan on sticking to your Surface device? If yes, then go ahead and purchase this docking station.
If there is something that can get the most out of your laptop, it’s a good display dock. With a docking station, your laptop display can be output to other monitors. Additional peripheral connectivity is also possible if the necessary ports aren’t available on your machine. This is where the ‘Plugable USB-C Triple Display Dock’ comes in.
The Plugable USB-C Triple Display Dock is arguably the best docking station in the market right now. This bad boy can support up to 3 monitors and can charge USB Type-C laptops.
What’s more, is that this docking station has support for a 4K monitor as well. There are cheaper variants that support lesser resolutions. But if you are going for 4K support, then there’s nothing better than Plugable.
It’s not perfect by all means. Plugable does have a questionable design choice. A horizontal placement option could have been neat. Plugable also has slightly fewer ports than the other docking stations. The slight performance issues stem from power incompatibility between the docking station and the connected machine.