As I work in multiple offices of different clients, and with multiple laptops, I purchased myself a USB 3.0 -based docking station a year ago. My colleagues and clients keep asking about my opinion and experiences with such a docking station, so I will shared more details in my dev blog.
My problem one year ago was that I had three simultaneous projects, each of which needed to be worked upon using a dedicated laptop. In total, I would have needed three different docking stations at home alone – one for HP Elitebook, one for Lenovo T450S and a third one for an older Dell model. And each time I would update my laptop – say buy a newer Lenovo model, i would need, possibly, to purchase a new docking station. Made no sense.
I did not use a docking station for many years due to this dilemma, but being a mobile developer, I then finally needed a device capable of allowing me to connect to three external displays, the mouse, keyboard, preferably a LAN connection. And my headset (USB or 3.5inch) needed to be connected to the docking station as well.
After some googling I stumbled upon an inexpensive USB 3.0 docking station in Amazon, the I-Tec USB 3.0 Dual Docking Station, which seems still to be sold on the market.
I installed and used the docking station for all my three different laptops. The surprising thing was that I experienced hardly any issues. On one of the laptops I lacked an admin account, so the docking station would only work with a keyboard and mouse until I got the admin privileges and the DisplayLink drivers installed.
The docking station uses DisplayLink technology, so before starting to use the docking station, I recommend you to download the latest drivers from their site. They have Windows, Android, Mac, Chromebook, Ubunto drivers available, at least.
The problems? Not that many!
During the last year the problems with DisplayLink have been:
- The connection to the docking station is easily disturbed because of the USB 3.0 cables little tolerance for movement. Not sure if this is because of the supplied cable.
- When using the docking station with WebEx, desktop sharing works properly only on the non-displaylink screen. If you are using a laptop, then only the laptop screen can be used. Otherwise your DisplayLink-based screen will start to pixelate badly.
That is basically all the bad I have to say about the docking station so far. I have two of these at the moment, and both are working well with a ‘mileage’ of one year.
Number of displays? Three at least
The most important feature for me was to have at least two simultaneous external displays through the docking station. That works flawless. In addition to them, I have connected a third external display to my Lenovo T450S through the display port.
I hear some people complaining about the docking station as ‘it does not work’. Based on the feedback on the forums, it looks to me as if those problems are not directly related to the hardware itself, but to the user’s missing skills to:
- Install the proper drivers, or update them.
- Update the system BIOS.
- Troubleshoot driver issues.
As the device is heavily reliant on the success of e.g. the Windows driver installation, many things can go wrong such as not having the correct privileges, not updating to the latest driver version, etc.
All in all I can recommend the docking station for development work. I have not tested it with gaming, except with Baldur’s Gate 2, which is not a graphic-intensive game, so not easy to review the docking station with.
Update January 2017
After installing the Anniversary Update on my Windows 10 desktop workstation, Windows uninstalled the DisplayLink drivers and replaced them with new ones. Since then the USB docking station has become useless with my workstation as Usb devices flicker on-off-on-off, and the two connected displays follow in suit. After some minutes, I get a blue screen. But my laptop with the Anniversary Update installed still works great.
As my desktop workstation has three display ports I all now utilize, I have given up on using the Usb docking station together with the workstation. I only use it with the laptop, which still works great. After all, the display seems to work better directly connected to the lame GT710 graphics card of my workstation.