Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 7: More Mobile Stuff

Targus Universal Notebook Docking Station

We've been fans of Targus products for some time, and have watched happily as they've branched out from notebook cases into what they somewhat euphemistically call the "accessories category". Actually, this is more of a catch-all for anything from Targus that isn't a case, rather than a meaningful appellation in its own right. A quick scan under this heading on their Web page shows entries that range from power devices - mostly chargers with special adapters of many kinds - to connectivity. It's in this latter category that you'll find the company's universal notebook docking stations, all kinds of multi-port USB hubs (with or without various other bells and whistles), plus WiFi scanners, various adapter cables, and more.

What makes the Universal Notebook Docking Station interesting is its use of what the company calls a "one touch" USB connection between the device and a notebook or tablet PC. A single USB cable suffices to connect an external keyboard, display, mouse, network interface, and so forth to your notebook or other mobile computing platform. It's also designed for the back edge of the notebook to rest upon, so that the notebook can benefit from the enhanced ventilation that elevation of the underside can often deliver. All this said, the one touch technology does require driver software, so you can use this device only on PCs running Windows 2000 (SP4 or greater) or Windows XP (SP1 or greater); presumably, Vista support can't be too far in the offing.

When you hook your notebook up to the Targus Universal Notebook Docking Station, here's what you in terms of ports, connectors, speeds and feeds:

  • Video: Supports primary video mode (external monitor or LCD serves as primary notebook display); extended video mode (use your built-in notebook monitor along with the external monitor); or mirror mode (the built-in notebook monitor and the external monitor both display the same information). Resolutions supported range from 640x480 at 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit color depths to 1280x1024 at 8-bit and 16 bit color depths. Sadly, Targus recommends playing back DVDs at VGA levels for best performance. The dock includes only a standard 15-pin D-Sub VGA connector with no DVI..
  • Networking: 10/100 Ethernet RJ-45 port
  • Audio: A 3.5 mm jack for stereo speakers or headphones, plus a monaural 3.5 mm input jack for a microphone.
  • USB: Four USB 2.0 ports; two powered and two standard.

A 6-foot USB cable is included to link your notebook to the dock, along with a driver CD and a user's guide.

The MSRP on this unit is $129.99 on the Targus Web site, but you can find deals as low as $90 on this handy-dandy little unit. With dimensions of 10.6" x 3" x 1.2" (269 mm x 76 mm x 30.5 mm) it's small enough to stuff into a sizable stocking, but big enough to wrap in its box and put under the tree. You decide where to put it, Santa!

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