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Hands-on with the Kensington USB 3.0 Docking Station with Dual DVI/HDMI/VGA Video (Giveaway!)

The popularity of Apple's MacBook Pro and Air laptops is one of the reasons that Mac sales have increased while PC sales are waning. But if there's one thing that the laptop experience is lacking, it's a plethora of USB 3.0 and video ports. Kensington's USB 3.0 Docking Station with DVI/HDMI/VGA Video (Model sd3500v, US$199.99) has been around for a while to help out PC laptop users; the recent availability for OS X drivers for the DisplayLink hardware inside the unit now gives MacBook owners a piece of the action.

Design

The Docking Station is a slim vertical black tower that's unobtrusive on any desktop. On the front of the unit are a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports as well as connectors for a pair of headphones and a microphone (or headset). Like many a good bar, all the action is in the back -- there are four USB 3.0 2.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet adapter, a DVI port that can be used for VGA or HDMI output with included adapters, and a separate HDMI port. All of this port activity requires some power, so there's also a 5V AC adapter included that plugs into the back of the unit.

Handson with the Kensington USB 30 Docking Station with Dual DVIHDMIVGA Video Giveaway!

The unit has a good, solid feel. Since it's made by Kensington, there's a standard Kensington lock port on one side as well so the dock won't "walk away" from your desk over a weekend.

Functionality

The best way to test a multi-port docking station of this type is to hook it up and play with it. Prior to connecting, Mac users will need to download and install the free DisplayLink USB 3.0 for Mac OS X driver.

Plugging the docking station into power turns on a blue indicator light on the front of the tower, while connecting a USB 3.0 cable from your MacBook to the dock illuminates a small green USB indicator light.

From this point on, you can start plugging in your choice of devices. I tested the docking station with a VGA connection to an external monitor, and was able to drive that monitor at 1920 x 1080 while my MacBook Pro happily supported its own Retina display. For even more fun, I plugged in an old VGA monitor while driving the external monitor via HDMI. The three displays (built-in, HDMI, VGA) all worked properly, although resolution on the old, cheap VGA monitor was a bit off -- that's more of an issue of the monitor and not the docking station.

I plugged in a variety of USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices -- hard drives, flash drives, even a printer -- and all worked like a champ with the docking station. If you need one less video port (for instance, you may already have a mini-DisplayPort to HDMI or VGA adapter that you want to use), Kensington also sells a model (sd3000v) that has a single DVI port and adapters for VGA or HDMI priced at $169.99.

Conclusion

For MacBook Pro or Air owners looking for a way to easily connect an array of monitors and USB devices to their laptops with a single plugin, the Kensington USB 3.0 Docking Station with Dual DVI/HDMI/VGA Video is a compact and high-functioning peripheral.

Pros

  • Compact vertical design takes up very little desktop space
  • Two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and four "regular" USB 3.0/2.0 ports provide a lot of expansion capability
  • Theoretically, using the two ports on this device as well as the two Thunderbolt ports and HDMI-out on the MacBook Pro, you can drive up to five external monitors (note, this was not tested...)

Cons

  • None to speak of

Who is it for?

  • Owners of USB 3.0-equipped MacBook Pro or MacBook Air notebooks who want a fast way to connect multiple monitors and devices

Giveaway

Our review unit is up for grabs for one lucky TUAW reader. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
  • The entry must be made before May 28, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected and will receive a Kensington USB 3.0 Docking Station with Dual DVI/HDMI/VGA Video valued at US$199.99
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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