The 5 Best Docking Stations of 2022

Laptops are extremely handy, and their portability is more of a selling point than their sheer computing power. Even being able to bring your laptop to the couch makes it a great device compared to a 20-pound full tower titan. However, laptops also must make sacrifices in terms of power, versatility, and the number of ports and features they can have on them before they run out of space or become too cumbersome. This, in turn, can lead to some problems when you want to make the most of your device or connect to larger screens.

Fortunately, the tech world has a solution for these problems, and the docking station handles all of them with ease. Plugging their laptops into one allows users to connect to more devices, often charge their laptops, and have more efficiency in their daily lives. With the best docking stations and a little creativity, one can even use a docking station to enhance the laptop's base performance if it is plugged in.

Yet a quick search online will yield more options than you can go through yourself, and you might not even know what to look for at the start. Here is everything you need to know and some top selections for you to work from:

What to Look for from a Docking Station

While this short guide here might not be able to go over every minute detail, here is everything the average consumer should pay careful attention to when evaluating a docking station.

Type of Station

As it turns out, there are multiple types of "docking stations" to begin with. There may be universal docking stations to work with multiple types of devices or improve charging speed. Perhaps a docking station only works with a particular brand of devices or has a similar restriction. Some laptops may even come with their own docking station, likely negating the need to buy one new.

For reference and clarification, what we here are looking at are mainly laptop docking stations or notebook docking stations. Although we will say universal docking stations and similar devices can be incredibly useful and improve connectivity, some of our choices may have added functionality for other devices.

Types of Ports and Compatibility

How is your laptop or device going to connect to the docking station? What ports are used, and can your laptop connect in the first place? Will it use USB 3.0, USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, or Thunderbolt 4? As not all docking stations might be best for all laptops based on this measure.

Thunderbolt 4 is generally the fastest and most modern transfer method seen in laptops today, and most of the top docking stations on the market today use it, perhaps exclusively. You should easily be able to check if your laptop has it or not. While Thunderbolt 4 can support Thunderbolt 3 devices or Thunderbolt 2 devices, USB-C is not enough for the opposite, leading to poor charging or substandard transfer speeds. Thunderbolt 4 also allows for the transfer of data and allows for 40Gbps bidirectional bandwidth, which is more than most computers will need by far.

This means that compatibility with your devices can be an issue, depending on your devices' age and your peripherals. While tech, in general, has gotten better over the years about more expensive items, and there is an adapter for any occasion, avoiding complications is best. You will want to focus on creating the easiest and most efficient setup possible. Therefore, check whatever you can for compatibility, especially the more expensive items, and peripherals.

Yet outside of this, there are plenty of other ports to consider in a docking station, such as additional USB ports for basic peripherals, HDMI or other video ports in case you want to add more screens or even a projector to the setup, ethernet cables for a direct internet line, and anything else that could be missing or lacking in number from your laptop by default. Practically anything is possible, and there is a docking station that will have what you need here.

One last thought on this: just because you don't require a type of port now does not mean you will not find a use for it in the future. If you plan to get a new laptop in the next year anyway, it's best to start shopping for docking stations compatible with your current laptop and also the one you have your eyes on for the future.

Number of Ports

Now that you know about the types of ports, how many of each do you expect to need? While there are ways to expand the number of ports on a docking station or device, running beyond the intended number can decrease performance or stop it from working. The number of each should perhaps be your primary consideration when picking a docking station, seeing how they can dictate what you do with it.

Fortunately, all docking stations have the information readily available on product pages, boxes, and online storefronts. 

Speed and Functionality

How quickly does the docking station work with your computer? Does it allow for a direct ethernet input to maximize download speeds? What is the transfer rate between it and connected devices? You do not want to experience a lag between your laptop and any external screens or connected devices. Effectively, you need to consider how easy the docking station is to use and if you can expect any enhanced functionality.

Some of that will come from the type of connection (for example, the Thunderbolt 3 technology discussed earlier). Still, there may be other added technology or additional factors to take into consideration as well.

Your Individual Needs

Docking stations can be an interesting item to shop for because, as opposed to some computer components and other peripherals, there are many options and special use cases. While you may want the docking station with the most features or the best reviews, you will sometimes be in a unique situation. If this is the case for you, then we ask you to take the information presented on our top choices and think critically about how you can apply it. Don't just take general advice and assume it applies to you; we want you to get the right docking station.

The Best Docking Stations for 2022

Without further wait, here are our top docking stations for 2020, divided into five major categories. As opposed to a general top five, we wanted to simply find the best in class for every type of customer:

1. Best All-Around Docking Station: Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station

Starting with one of the best, let’s talk about the Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station. Plugable is one of the biggest names when it comes to docking stations, and with good reason: it feels like they have an option for just about everyone. And out of them, we think this model is the one most for everyone.

Yet what does it have? It has 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet port, a DVI and HDMI port (with an adaptor for the DVI port if you want another HDMI port), and audio in and out ports. Effectively, everything you might need for your setup. It might not have some of the 4K support the top-end docking stations have, but you have to ask whether your laptop could support that in the first place. It also might not support charging, but this model is meant to be stationary at a point where you would be able to charge your laptop and devices anyway.

Complete with a nice design that will fit on your desk and not fill up too much space, the docking station makes it a good fit anywhere. And with no compatibility issues to speak of, you can trust that you can get it for your setup without fear. 

Recommended for:

  • People who aren’t sure what they need from their docking station and want to cover all their bases.
  • People with above-average laptops that want extensive support and use several peripherals.
  • People who simply want something closer to a desktop experience when they are working or at their desk.

2. Best Performance Docking Station: Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station

What if you have a high-end laptop that simply demands the best? In such cases, you will want an Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station for the ultimate experience and setup. Do you want 90W of power delivery? This one can deliver. Do you want amazing display capability? You got it. Transfer speeds can read 40Gbps, all the while you use the USB ports for whatever peripherals you need. Unless you have an excess of peripherals, this is the docking station that provides performance.

For ports, the Anker Apex has 11 total, including 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, relatively unheard of in other docking stations. Others include an SD card reader, 3 USB-A Gen2 ports, a USB-A port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and an audio combo jack.

Note, however, that this docking station is currently selling for $300 as of this writing. That is more expensive than some laptops in and of themselves. This is a heavy investment to make for your workstation, and it deserves equal consideration. Yet for the excellent features, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and the knowledge that this docking station will last you a long time, it might be the right investment.

Recommended for:

  • You have an ultrabook or high-end laptop and want to give it a docking station that provides the proper support.
  • You want a docking station that will last you for years and multiple laptops to come.
  • You have a 4K or even an 8K monitor and want amazing picture quality while providing additional ports and peripheral options for your laptop.

3. Best Budget Docking Station: Plugable US-3900H

Not everyone has the budget for the two docking stations listed above, and that’s ok. There are still plenty of options on the market that can and will be right for you. Of them, we think you should check out the Plugable US-3900H first. It doesn’t have a Thunderbolt Port or USB-C option, but not every laptop has them, meaning that the best docking station for those computers doesn’t need them.

This model has quite a few ports, and you can count on it having a DVI port, an HDMI port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, and 2 USB 3.0 ports. Audio input and output ports make listening to music easy, and a Gigabit internet port lets you stream what you’d like on your laptop. With easy setup and plug-and-play features, this is a simple yet effective choice for many.

Unfortunately, coming at a low price gives it a few downsides. Charging is lacking on the dock, not providing much extra for when you need to recharge on the go. Similarly, there isn’t 4K support, so you won’t be able to make the most of your nice screens. For older laptops and people with older 1080p screens, however, the US-3900H can be an excellent choice that will save you some money.

Recommended for:

  • You don’t have a Thunderbolt or USB-C port on your computer.
  • You don’t plan on using the docking station often, instead, you want it as a backup plan.
  • You aren’t sure whether a docking station is for you and want to give one a try.

4. Best Portable Docking Station: Hiearcool 9 in 2 Laptop Docking Station

Sometimes you don’t need a docking station that will blow you away, so long as you can carry it with you wherever you go. Yet we think the Hiearcool 9 in 2 Laptop Docking Station will impress you nonetheless, all the while fitting in your laptop bag alongside your peripherals wherever you go.

And while it is portable, don’t make the mistake that it can’t compete with the best in the business. It is excellent for MacBook Pros and high-end laptops, allowing for a 4K@50Hz triple display setup, which is more than most people will need. And there’s no need for additional software or equipment. What you see is all you need, and it’s an easy setup for those times when you only have a few minutes to get going.

As for ports, there is a 1GB Ethernet port (great for when you can get a direct connection), and 2 HDMI ports for additional screens. There are two SD slots, one 100W USB C PD charging port, and 2 USB-A 3.0/2.0 ports as well. You might be thinking you want more USB ports, and we understand that, but we think the portability and additional ports make up for this. It also doesn’t hurt that this docking station is affordable, costing about $65 as of this writing.

Recommended for:

  • People who travel often but want a better setup than those available from just their laptop.
  • People who might bring their laptops between several office locations.
  • Those who have a powerful laptop that wants to make the most of it on the go.

5. Best Docking Station with Additional Functionality: Plugable USB3.0 and USB-C 7 Port Charging Hub

Plugable makes the list one last time with the Plugable USB 3.0 and USB-C 7 Port Charing Hub, a simple yet effective station. Designed to work with practically every device you can think of (with the right drivers even older systems will work just fine), this can mean you can feel safe having one of these on hand.

Essentially, it will give your laptop an extra 7 3.0 USB ports, allowing for some of the fastest speeds USB can offer. It won’t allow you to copy your computer to a flash drive in seconds, but it will handle basic file transfers, and peripheral inputs, and connect to your phone well. It is a 60W power adapter. And that’s about it. It works well, allows for 5.0 Gbps transfers, and includes the basic cables you need to get started.

While it may not have some of the more expensive and higher-quality ports to provide maximum speeds for your laptop, it will provide the basic functions for you and give you a place to rest your devices. If this is what you were looking for when it came to a docking station, you’ve found the best option for you.

Alternatively, you might want to have one of these for a spare laptop or around the home, while you keep your main docking station for your own usage. If someone is just doing basic browsing, they can use this while you get to your real work.

Recommended for:

  • People who want a community charging station as much as they want a docking station.
  • People who may not want an expensive docking station but would like something to help them charge their laptop and devices on the go while providing some additional functionality.
  • People who would like to have a docking station and charging hub available for guests.

Conclusion

A docking station isn't necessarily a purchase you might think of at first. Still, the more you think about it, the easier the realization comes that with one, you can turn your laptop into something just as effective as a desktop for basic functions. Doing so can improve your productivity and allow you to enjoy the features, peripherals, and other benefits that come from expanded access. We hope that you find something for yourself among the products listed above and that you enjoy your purchase to the fullest.

InternetAdvisor Team

We are passionate about aggregating large, accurate data sets and providing it all to our users in an easy-to-use format. Simply put, shopping is easier for the consumer when he/she knows all available options. We are not beholden to any single provider and therefore are dedicated to transparency and giving you unbiased information on all providers.

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