A Docking Solution for a Non-dockable Laptop

This post is a little bit different from my usual blogging topics, but I’ve been pretty impressed with the solution so figured I’d blog about it for my fellow geeks.

As many of you know, I have a Asus Zenbook, one of the new Ultrabook class machines, designed to be ultra light and fast.  It’s the closest thing to a Macbook Air that well isn’t a Mac, and runs Windows 8 natively. Asus even has touch screen version of it if you desire that.  I just plain got tired of hauling around my various Lenovo W5xx’s, they were beasts, powerful but heavy.  So I went with a lightweight solution and I remote home to server for demo’s or when I need a powerful lab setup.

One of the drawbacks to a lot of the Ultrabooks is that they don’t really have a classic docking solution. I can’t snap it onto a docking station and get my dual monitors and hardwired Ethernet etc.  So what I’ve done for the past year or so was, set my laptop on the corner of my desk, plug in my power supply (bought a spare one so I didn’t have to always use the one in my bag), plug in my VGA adapter, plugs in my HDMI cable, plug in a USB hub.  So that was a minimum of 4 cables plus an adapter and a hub.  Not horrible, I could do it all on the same side of the machine, but still not ideal, and sometimes the VGA adapter would work itself loose and then I’d loose a monitor.  Plus the VGA monitor just never looked as good as the HDMI one.

The Docking Solution

So I’ve been looking at these USB 3.0 universal docking stations that use DisplayLink technology.  What I ended up purchasing was a Pluggable UD-3000 and a Pluggable USB 3.0 to HDMI/DVI adapter.

The Pluggable UD-3000 connects to the laptop via a single usb 3.0 connection and gives you 4 usb 2.0 ports, 2 usb 3.0 ports, a dvi connection and a gigabit ethernet. Pretty cool.

The Pluggable HDMI/DVI adapter plugs into a usb 3.0 connection and gives you another monitor. I believe you can have up to 6 monitors with Windows 8, and with a few of these you can have whatever you need.

Setup and Configuration

I plugged the HDMI/DVI adapter into the UD3000 via one of the usb 3.0 ports and then hooked up my DVI monitor and gigabit ethernet. I plugged the keyboard/mouse into 2 of the usb 2.0 ports on the back.  Then plugged the single usb 3.0 connection to my laptop.  After a few minutes everything installed and was recognized, very plug and play! The devices do come with a drivers disk, but I had already downloaded the drivers from the Plugable website ahead of time.

You’ll have a new icon in the system tray image and if you click on the properties of that, you can configure the audio/video setup (shortcuts to windows controls for those devices) and some additional options on the devices.

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Final Thoughts

All in all a very nice solution for the price and the performance is excellent.  I did have to update my usb 3.0 drives on my laptop, otherwise I had some sluggishness with the keyboard and mouse. However after the driver update those issues disappeared.

I’m personally a use Amazon Prime guy, so I purchased both items from Amazon.

Plugable UD-3000 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station $129

Plugable USB 3.0 to HDMI / DVI Adapter $64

if you have a laptop that doesn’t have an actual docking station solution, and you have usb 3.0, I would recommend you look into one of these, works really well for me thus far and it was still cheaper than what a typical docking station would cost you.  Think I paid like $220 for the last Lenovo dock I bought.

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