How a docking station can transform your laptop

Tuesday, 30 June, 2020

The battle for supremacy between desktop and laptop computers has raged for decades.

Desktop computers are usually more powerful and versatile, with plentiful space inside their towers to host standalone peripherals like graphics cards and second hard drives.

Conversely, laptops are fully portable and can be used anywhere there’s WiFi. They’re also one-piece machines with no need for peripherals.

However, laptops are less comfortable to use because it’s hard to adopt an ergonomic typing posture when the keyboard is so close to the screen.

And so the arguments go on.

However, there is a way to combine key attributes of a PC or Mac with the portability of a laptop.

A laptop docking station could be a wise investment, particularly if you’re likely to be working from home more in future.

In the lap’ of the Gods

A laptop docking station is perhaps the ultimate example of not judging a book by its cover.

These bland plastic boxes are not objects of beauty, liberally punctured with USB, HDMI, PS/2 and Ethernet ports.

Collectively, these support an extensive array of peripherals – keyboards and mice, printers and monitors, speakers and scanners.

There’s usually a USB-C socket on the front of the docking station, intended to have a power lead permanently plugged into it.

When attached to a laptop, the other end of this lead instantly connects the computer to each peripheral it’s linked to.

Assuming relevant drivers have been installed, every peripheral will then spring into action.

Friends with benefits

One benefit of using a laptop docking station is the ability to instigate a two-screen setup.

This can be invaluable if your job requires a lot of on-screen data, like coding or accounting.

The laptop screen and a standalone monitor display separate content simultaneously, with peripherals like the mouse moving between one screen and the other as they’re repositioned.

Other internal components have their roles duplicated. You can still tap the laptop’s integral keyboard, or alternatively use a full-size external keyboard.

Since laptop trackpads are notoriously over-sensitive, an external mouse is an obvious addition.

Having all your peripherals plugged in out of sight tidies up desks and workstations, which only need one cable to connect to the laptop.

This is even easier than charging an iPhone, since the industry-standard USB-C leads can be inserted either way up, unlike Lightning or conventional USB 2.0 connectors.

While it’s linked to the docking station, the laptop runs on mains power while simultaneously charging its internal battery ready for use elsewhere.

Best of all, docking stations support Ethernet connections via broadband routers or Powerline adaptors, improving data transfer speeds and removing WiFi interference.

Their only real drawback is the additional cost of buying extra hardware. Docking stations generally cost between £100 and £200.

Even so, that’s a small price to pay to enjoy desktop-style practicality on a laptop computer.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!