HP USB 2.0 Docking Station
Author: Zahn Funk
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 09-18-2009
Provided by: DisplayLink

Docking stations for laptops have been around almost since the existence of laptops themselves. If you're not familiar with how a docking station works, these devices provide a quick, easy method of connecting external peripherals to a portable computer without having to plug in multiple cables and connectors to various ports on the laptop. The monitor, mouse, keyboard, speakers, network, printer, etc. are all connected to the dock, and then the laptop has a single connection to the dock, typically through a port on the rear or bottom of the notebook case.

The problem is that not all laptops have a docking port built in. Usually only the business class notebooks, which are often more expensive than their consumer grade counterparts, have provisions for connecting to a dock. Then of course there is the issue of compatibility. Most laptop docks are proprietary, not only to their particular brand but also often only work on a single model or range of models in any given series. Upgrade your laptop to a newer model? Have to buy a new dock. Switch to another manufacturer? Have to buy a new dock. And these things aren't cheap either, depending on the features the dock provides. Some devices are simple port replicators while others offer a variety of external bays and expansion slots for adding additional hardware capabilities to your laptop.

Hewlett-Packard or HP is a brand name I'm sure you've heard of before. They're the largest technology company in the world today, beating out other big-name competitors such as IBM, Sony, Microsoft, Dell, etc. Founded in 1935, HP originally manufactured various electronic equipment and did not enter the computer industry until 1966. In 2002 they merged with rival computer maker Compaq and have become the largest worldwide seller of PCs.

DisplayLink, on the other hand, may be a company name you're not familiar with. Founded in 2003 as Newnham Research, they developed a technology called NIVO or Network In Video Out, designed for low cost thin client displays over Ethernet networks. In 2006 they partnered with Kensington CPG, and launched their first commercial product, the USB 2.0 universal laptop docking station. DisplayLink's primary customers are, among others, notebook OEMs such as Lenovo, Toshiba, Sony and of course, HP.

Thus the product we have for review today, the HP USB 2.0 Docking Station model FQ834UT, is a universal laptop dock featuring DisplayLink technology. Although this device carries the HP brand name, its design allows it to work on just about any computer that has a USB 2.0 port. Freed from traditional docking station restraints of specific brands and/or models, the HP USB 2.0 Docking Station allows external connection of VGA, DVI-D, USB, SPK, MIC and NIC devices and shares these peripherals through one standard USB connection to the host computer.

Join me as I take a closer look at the HP USB 2.0 Universal Docking Station.

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