The 10 Best Laptop Docking Stations

Updated June 07, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

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We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Today’s laptops are convenient, but what happens when you have some serious work to do? Enter the docking station. Sometimes called port replicators, they connect an array of peripherals, including monitors, keyboards, and speakers, to create a productive desktop environment. As when purchasing any hardware accessory, read all the technical specifications carefully to ensure compatibility. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best laptop docking station on Amazon.

10. Microsoft Surface Dock

If you love your Surface tablet but desire a desktop experience, the Microsoft Surface Dock might be just what you need. It has two SuperSpeed ports on the front and two on the back, and 2 Mini DisplayPorts can each add an additional monitor.
  • includes a proprietary magnetic cord
  • has one audio output
  • dual hdmi requires active adapters
Brand Microsoft
Model PD9-00003
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Elgato Thunderbolt 3

Ultrabook and MacBook users love the Elgato Thunderbolt 3, which is equipped with a 4K-ready HDMI-out and accommodates a second display with the right adapter. The USB slots can charge multiple devices, even when your computer is turned off or disconnected.
  • audio jacks handily located on front
  • thunderbolt 2 version also available
  • rather pricey for so few connectors
Brand Elgato
Model 10DAA4101
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

8. Plugable UD-3900

Although it's a considerably older release, the Plugable UD-3900 is a great way for the budget-conscious consumer to add impressive functionality. It offers dual video feeds, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet connection, and separate input and output audio jacks.
  • includes passive dvi-to-vga adapter
  • enables resolutions up to 1440p
  • no type-c or 4k capability
Brand Plugable
Model UD-3900
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Toshiba Dynadock

If you're particularly concerned about a quality listening experience, consider the Toshiba Dynadock. Its 5.1-channel surround sound functions through both the 3.5-millimeter and HDMI plugs, the latter of which supports 1080p playback.
  • more superspeed ports than most
  • takes up very little desk space
  • 2k maximum dual-monitor resolution
Brand Toshiba
Model PA3927U1PRP
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

6. Plugable 60W

The Plugable 60W is designed specifically to work with late-model Apple products, which are known for their relative exclusivity when it comes to supported peripherals. Unlike some others, its type-C connection can transmit up to 10 gigabits per second.
  • dual-display-ready on newer macs
  • also compatible with recent dell pcs
  • requires usb-c input
Brand Plugable
Model TBT3-UDV
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. LandingZone Dock

Owners of Apple's most popular portables should strongly consider the LandingZone Dock, which turns the MacBook Pro's meager selection into a cornucopia of plugs and power delivery. This one fits the standard 13" release, though other versions are available.
  • capable of 4k video at 60 hertz
  • fully powers the laptop and devices
  • works only with specific models
Brand LandingZone
Model LZ016A
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

4. CalDigit TS3 Plus

Sporting a whopping total of 15 expansion jacks, the CalDigit TS3 Plus pumps up to 40 gigabits per second using the powerful Thunderbolt 3 standard. Thanks to its internal heat sink, it delivers maximum performance with no worry of it ever overheating.
  • remarkably small footprint
  • the capacity to charge most devices
  • among the most costly choices
Brand CalDigit
Model pending
Weight 3 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Startech Dual 4K

One of the most expensive and feature-rich options, the Startech Dual 4K is offered in 4 different configurations, from a pocket-sized dongle perfect for travel, to a solid and desk-worthy device that offers a powerful 85 watts of total charging capacity.
  • uses the power delivery protocol
  • works with windows and mac os
  • up to six usb 3 ports
Brand StarTech
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

2. Targus Travel

From a company that's been around since the birth of mobile computing, the Targus Travel lets those on the move take full advantage of the incredible might of today's smallest PCs. Its Type C pass-through allows full use of peripherals while quickly charging your laptop.
  • weighs under a half pound
  • supports vga-out for older displays
  • 60 watts of dynamic power delivery
Brand Targus
Model DOCK412USZ
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Targus 180USZ

Those who prefer to invest in the most cutting-edge technology should take a look at the Targus 180USZ. It's notable for its extensive software and hardware compatibility, such as the rare ability to drive the iconic Retina 5K display.
  • displayport and dual hdmi outputs
  • also works with android and linux
  • side-mounted audio and data inputs
Brand Targus
Model DOCK180
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Total Connectivity At All Times

Computers are smaller, faster, and more integrated with our lives today than ever before. Direct evidence of this can be found in the high performance and utility of today's most advanced portable devices. Tablet PCs, for example, are gaining popularity in gaming and VR applications thanks to the increased power of their state-of-the-art chipsets. More people than ever in the history of personal computing are ditching desktop boxes and going fully mobile, with lightweight ultrabooks able to approach the performance levels of high-end desktops from just a short time ago.

The capabilities of today's home computers are truly impressive. Peripheral devices of nearly endless variety can attach via USB cable. Network and video data protocol has been standardized to the point of using a single type of ethernet or HDMI connector on every modern modem and television. Digital storage increases in capacity and speed as we speak. But the slickest ultralight laptops and fastest tablets just don't have the physical space for all that tech.

And there are some situations where a 15-inch screen and a couple USB plugs just aren't going to get the job done.

For those instances, we turn to docking stations, often referred to as port replicators. These handy devices connect directly to your portable computer and offer a wide array of capabilities, mainly serving as sophisticated types of breakout boxes adapted for use with end-user computers. The expanded availability of today's most common adapters liberates super-thin notebook computers cursed with a limited port selection. As you'll see while searching for the right choice for your desk, there are (unsurprisingly) a lot of different features in the field.

The Benefits Of A Dock

Different docks are constructed to suit varying needs. Some styles stand upright on your desk, and some are designed to sit underneath your notebook computer itself. In that vein, some of the more involved models feature built-in fans to improve airflow and reduce temperature, increasing the performance and reliability of your machine. A select few models even have on-board chargers, so you won't even have to bend over and plug in your laptop's power adapter when you want to drop anchor and connect with your peripherals.

A number of popular laptop brands produce dedicated docks that fit with individual models of their computers. These are great choices if they're available. They often provide a sturdy physical base to add a heavier, desktop-like feel to your workspace, which can help you remain comfortable and focused when working for long periods of time. They can sometimes be a little pricey, but they're usually worth it.

While many people use wireless internet throughout their homes for both their laptop and desktop setups, this does have its drawbacks. When streaming HD video or connecting with your fellow gamers and racking up the frags, the latency and interference over the 802.11 band simply won't cut it. A wired connection to your modem is usually the best option in these cases. And the vast majority of docking stations do provide a physical ethernet plug.

What Can These Things Do?

The simplest types of replicators don't offer much in the way of bells and whistles. These are sometimes designed with specific uses in mind, such as web or video connections that a laptop can't otherwise accommodate. For that reason, they don't offer a huge improvement in connectivity like more comprehensive units do. While the basic style may have limited functionality, there's little chance of a bandwidth bottleneck forming between the adapters, ensuring the consistent throughput needed for things like live video streaming.

If your model of laptop doesn't have its own dedicated dock produced alongside it, you can look to a large selection of universal docking stations. In addition to providing easy access to physical network and video ports, a lot of these offer additional helpful features. Some units support multiple ultra-HD outputs, splitting your video among multiple high-res monitors or TV screens. A few such units even include on-board graphics and audio processors that can take over for underperforming laptop GPUs and support full 5.1-channel surround sound from a previously stereo-only computer.

In addition to the common HDMI port and a smattering of USB outlets, some docking stations offer more specialized i/o ports, like DisplayPort, mini DP, and even old-school-style PS2 connectors for use with legacy hardware.

Many models communicate using USB-C technology for optimum speed between the dock and your laptop. This is especially important when looking at models with a large number of different ports communicating with the docking unit's chipset. For that reason, some high-end stations incorporate dynamic technology that throttles bandwidth and prioritizes data across the device's connections, keeping the information flow smooth and preventing interruptions. This way your laptop can, for instance, reliably read a 4k video file from an external hard drive, process that video, and transmit it over HDMI through your docking station without experiencing any hiccups or loss of video quality.

Also, there's one very important note for Apple users: be certain of the capabilities of the docking station you choose, as some of them simply will not work with Macs. Others will work but with only partial functionality, as some features may be disabled. So, if you're hoping to connect your Macbook Pro on the fly, it's best to find a dock designed for your brand.

Whichever model you choose, it's sure to streamline the way you and your computer interact with data, media, storage, and playback devices, whether you're working hard at the office or unwinding at home.

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Last updated on June 07, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

A traveling chef, musician, and student of the English language, Chris can be found promoting facts and perfect copy around the globe, from dense urban centers to remote mountaintops. In his free time he revels in dispelling pseudoscience, while at night he dreams of modern technology, world peace, and the Oxford comma.

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