Laptops enjoy a special favor due to their portability and the fact that they favorably compare to desktops when it comes to processing power. But where a laptop fails miserably is in the lack of ports for expandability — we’re talking about you, new Apple MacBook Pro, but also many PC laptops as well. This lack of ports makes sense if portability is the issue, but if you’re going to plop a laptop on a desk with a monitor and expect it to compete against a desktop, then you’d better have a docking station to make up for the differences. but not just any docking station will do — what you’ll be needing is IOGEAR’s Thunderbolt 2 Docking Station.
The Thunderbolt 2 Docking Station (a.k.a., #GTD720) doesn’t try to upstage the laptop, so don’t expect a flashy chassis. Instead it’s a solid stainless steel design that’s sleek and unobtrusive. What’s contained in this unassuming looking dock makes all the difference: the ability to connect up to 10 devices including dual displays all at the same time. So yeah, let’s break it all down.
A single Thunderbolt cable goes from the Docking Station to the laptop (which better have a Thunderbolt 2 port/tech or this isn’t going to fly). The first thing that better be done is to plug in the power supply to the wall outlet so the Docking Station has power. It’s going to need this in order to power the USB port on the front that “eats” up a lot of juice for fast-charging whatever’s plugged into it. And since this USB port doesn’t rely on the laptop, it’s always “live” regardless of whether the laptop is or isn’t. Also on the front is an optical digital line input with 5.1 surround sound digital audio capabilities. Oh, and a 20th Century analog headphone jack is there too.
But with the laptop awake, the speed ports for sending/receiving data are now ready to go. USB 3.0 for fast file transfer speeds and two of them. That’s good, but the two Thunderbolt 2 ports are even better to have (what with their ability to reach speeds of 20 Gbps and the ability to be daisy chained to up to 6 devices). And for those counting, Thunderbolt 2 is 4X times faster than USB 3.0, which makes it 40 times faster than USB 2.0 and 25 times faster than Firewire 800 (remember this?).
Now one of the main advantages to using a laptop as a desktop replacement is that a larger screen (i.e., monitor) becomes available. With the Thunderbolt 2 Docking Station in place, that gets dialed up to 11 since there’s a HDMI port for use, support for 4K Cinema resolution and the Thunderbolt port is backwardly compatible with the Mini DisplayPort. This Dock can also support either HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, but not both. So for practical purposes you can connect a HDMI display and a Thunderbolt Display and have them functioning simultaneously.
And while working off wireless is always cool, having a wired connection (I.e., Ethernet cable) can sometimes make for a more stable signal or a cheaper one if the hotel provides a plug but charges for Wi-Fi. Since an Ethernet port has long been retired from laptops, trust IOGEAR to build it into this dock.
The Thunderbolt 2 Docking Station supports 4K UHD video output and high-speed file transfer at the same time — if only for this, it would be worth paying the $249.95 retail. But when you consider how it transforms the laptop into a desktop workstation, the mind starts to boggle, even as the creativity and opportunities for what can now be done expand. So if you’re looking to make your laptop do double duty as a desktop, here’s your high-tech, low-effort solution.