Return of the Dock – A Guide to Laptop Docking Stations

12th January 2023
two monitors connected to a laptop via docking station

What are laptop docking stations?

The ongoing rise in laptop docking station popularity is both reasonable and undeniable: in the modern tech climate, professionals can require a multitude of peripherals, and so extra ports are a must.

Laptop docking stations offer a more efficient way of connecting multiple peripherals to your laptop, a critical solution for the fact that laptops seem to be getting increasingly thinner and their ports lesser. They can streamline your setup, making it tidier and more maintainable – just plug the docking station into your laptop, plug any peripherals into the dock (i.e monitors, keyboards, mouse, graphics tablet, ethernet cable), and you’re all set.

Not only that, but some docking stations, such as Sonnet Echo, can even offer extra storage in the form of built in SSD hard drives, which is particularly useful if you’re a high-end creative!

Join us now as we delve into the world of laptop docking stations, and hopefully help you to understand just how much they could help you!

laptop docks connected to laptop

Laptop docking stations are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace for myriad reasons, mainly being their convenience – they make connecting and disconnecting your laptop from your work setup much simpler and easier.

This creates a lot more freedom for both corporate employees and freelance workers alike – you’re able to hot-desk and work from wherever you choose, whilst still being able to enjoy a productive desktop-like experience.

Additionally, laptop docking stations are an excellent solution to cable management issues. Small and easily concealable, you can tuck the laptop docking station under your desk, creating a tidier working environment. Then, as you only need to connect one cable to your laptop itself – generally the usb-c/thunderbolt connector – you can easily manage your peripheral cables and connectors without them tangling and taking over your desk space.

Are laptop docking stations affordable?

The prices of laptop docking stations vary depending on their level of usefulness – at Hardsoft Computers, our prices range from £0.75p to £4.60 per week. When you think about how much you might spend a week on coffee, snacks or other little luxuries, this really isn’t too much of an expenditure at all!

Here is a comparison of the features and price points of some of the docking stations that we offer here at Hardsoft Computers:

Docking StationAlogic USB-C Dual Display Dock - MX2 LiteAlogic Dual 4K Display Docking Station

Alogic DX3 Triple 4K Docking Station
Price Per Week£0.75£1.25£1.75
ConnectionUSB-CUSB-CUSB-C
4K Screens Supported1 x 4K / 60Hz2 x 4K / 60Hz3 x 4K / 60Hz
5K Screens Supported---
8K Screens Supported-
USB-C Power Delivery85w100w100w
USB-C212
USB-A212
HDMI22-
DisplayPort--3
RJ-45111
SD Card
USPGreat all rounder for Mac and PC usersDual Display on M1/M2 ChipAllows Dual/Triple Display on M1 Macs

How can I decide which laptop docking station is best for me?

When it comes to choosing the right laptop docking station for your needs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choice; that’s why here at Hardsoft Computers, we have developed a nifty configurator to do all the hard work for you!

However, if you’re after a brief overview of the key features of each laptop docking station before making your decision, read on!

There are three main brands of laptop docking station that we currently offer here at Hardsoft Computers: i-tec, Caldigit and Sonnet. Each have their own advantages and specialties – there truly is a laptop docking station for every need! (Within reason, of course).

Firstly, we have our arguably most affordable range of i-tec laptop docking stations. We offer four different specifications: i-tec Nano 3x Display Docking Station, i-tec Dual Display Docking Station, i-tec Triple 4K Display Docking Station and i-Tec Universal Quattro 4K Display Docking Station (100W Power Delivery).

The first two are particularly good if you’re after something affordable and your needs are more basic: both are ethernet compatible, with a large quantity of ports, such as USB-A, USB-C, HDMI and Display Port.

While perhaps considered a lower spec, these laptop docking stations do still support 4k screens, with the i-tec Dual Display Docking Station even having the capability to support 1x 5k/60hz screen as well – perfect for your creative endeavours!

laptop docks with 4K

The latter two on our list – i-tec Triple 4K Display Docking Station and i-Tec Universal Quattro 4K Display Docking Station (100W Power Delivery) – are slightly on the more expensive side, due to some of their more desirable features.

For example, the triple display docking station has Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, which offers a data transfer speed of 20 gigabytes per second – twice as fast as USB-C. Thunderbolt connection also gives you the capability to daisy-chain your monitors, meaning that you can have one cable connected to your laptop docking station, and then use another cable to connect both your monitors together – and they will still both receive data from your laptop!

The i-tec Triple 4K Display Docking Station also has the capability to support 1 x 8K / 30Hz display, a feature not included in any of the other aforementioned laptop docking stations.

In comparison, the i-tec Universal Quattro 4K Display Docking Station (100W Power Delivery) may not have Thunderbolt connection or 8k display compatibility, but it does have something else that these other laptop docking stations do not: the ability to support 4x 4k/60hz displays.

This is particularly useful for those that require multiple, high-definition monitors for efficient workflow, such as perhaps, for example, a graphic designer or magazine editor.

It also features an SD slot, which is particularly beneficial for those working in photography and film – you can never have too many storage ports!

Not sure that i-tec is for you? Fear not: let me introduce you to the Caldigit laptop docking stations.

Here at HardSoft Computers, we offer two different types of Caldigit laptop docking station: Caldigit USB-C HDMI Dock and Caldigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub.

Aside from the obvious difference – the first laptop docking station has USB-C connectivity, the second Thunderbolt 4 – there are some key advantages to each of the Caldigit options. For example, the Caldigit USB-C HDMI Dock has ethernet and SD card ports, whereas the Caldigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub does not.

cal digit thunderbolt 4 element hub

Caldigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub makes up for what it lacks with other qualities; for example, the capability to support 1x 8k monitor or 1x 5k monitor. Additionally, the presence of Thunderbolt 4 connectivity is very beneficial, as Thunderbolt 4 requires a much stricter set of capabilities to be certified than Thunderbolt 3, while maintaining all the same features – and so is arguably more reliable.

One thing to keep in mind when considering a laptop docking station with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, however, is the spec of your device – TB4 requires PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) at 32gbps. This is double the minimum requirements for Thunderbolt 3.

Finally, we have Sonnet Echo laptop docking stations, the most high-end and advanced laptop docking stations that we offer. Of course, this is reflected in the price: we offer the Sonnet Echo Dual NVMe Thunderbolt Dock and the Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 4 Dock for £4.60 and £3.95 a week, respectively.

These laptop docking stations are an excellent choice for high-end creatives for a multitude of reasons; for example, the Sonnet Echo Dual NVMe Thunderbolt Dock offers extra SSD storage, a feature that none of the other laptop docking stations in this article possess.

While the Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 4 Dock doesn’t have SSD storage, it has multiple other features that add to its desirability – for example, TB4 connectivity. This laptop docking station also possesses the capability to support 4k, 5k and 8k monitors, as well as offering a multitude of ports: 4x USB-c, 3x USB-A, 1x ethernet and an SD card port.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sonnet Echo laptop docking stations, keep an eye out for a more in-depth blog about them which will be coming soon!

Hopefully this article has been helpful and you now have a better idea of what a laptop docking station is and what they could do for you – but if you have any further questions or queries, our expert team are always willing to advise.