6 Cool Targus USB 3.0 Dock Features For On-The-Go Productivity

Universal Docking

Today's power users have discovered the productivity benefits of working with two monitors. So using the laptop's screen as a third monitor could make workers even more productive. But who wants to connect and disconnect all those cables every day?

Targus has a one-cable solution that works with virtually any laptop, including Apple's. Starting at around $170, the Targus USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station funnels the signals of multiple monitors and nearly a dozen I/O ports through a single USB 3.0 connection to the laptop. And for non-Macs, this clever device can even recharge the battery, letting you leave your laptop's own power supply at home.

Compact, sturdy

The laptop luggage pioneer Targus released a major update to its innovative docking solution in May, adding support for Apple MacBooks as well as Windows 7 and Windows 8 Pro laptops and tablets. When CRN performed an initial review last month, the CRN Test Center found the Targus to be a solid, sturdy solution that was easy to set up and worked mostly as advertised. The compact unit acts as a tilt stand for laptops; a heavy rubber strip keeps the laptop from slipping. The Targus USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station with Power lists for $219.99 and charges Windows machines that run on a maximum of 19 volts and 90 watts. There's no MagSafe adapter, so MacBooks will have to use their own charger, and the unit without power is recommended here. List price: $169.99. Both models are covered by a three-year warranty.

Versatile, Adaptable

The Targus Docking Station provides DVI and HDMI video output ports. Both can be used simultaneously at resolutions up to 2,048 x 1,152. Also included are DVI-to-VGA and HDMI-to-DVI cable adapters, which should be adequate for connecting in most two-monitor situations. The price of the dock also includes a USB 3.0 host cable. There's also a power supply, and on powered units, there's a short "jumper" cable plus tips for adapting to a variety of laptop power connectors. More on those later.

Ports In A Storm

From left to right, the rear panel is home to one of two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports, power input and output ports, the USB 3.0 host port, HDMI, DVI with analog support, Gigabit Ethernet and three USB 2.0 ports. The right-most of these (plus another on the side panel) is compliant with the USB battery charging 1.1 spec for charging battery-operated devices such as tablets and cell phones. Additional ports not in view are audio in and out, a second USB 3.0 port and a Kensington lock port.

Windows drivers are included on disc. For MacBook, visit the Targus driver page, where you'll find software for Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.6.8, 10.7.5, 10.8.3, plus links to video and Ethernet drivers for Windows 7 and Windows 8. The driver installs in a couple of minutes.

Adaptive Solution

Wrapping and unwrapping a laptop's power adapter every time you hit the road isn't particularly hard, it's just a nuisance. So it's hard to understate the convenience of having an alternative means of energizing. Though not highly original or even high-tech, the Targus charging solution is elegant. For laptops and tablets that draw up to 90 watts, a short cable connects on one side to a power output port and on the other to a tip that adapts to your laptop. A flip-up cover hides the extra tips needed to adapt to dozens of laptops from major manufacturers, keeping the tips handy and the dock universal. A key chart helps to match laptop makers with their corresponding tips.

Sounds Good

Laptops work through the dock as if they were connected directly. A slight performance lag on displays is barely noticeable and worth the added convenience. Optimum viewing resolution will vary from one machine to another. Our test MacBook (running Mountain Lion) worked best at 1,680 x 1,050, despite a monitor that's usually set at 1,920 x 1,080. There are other known issues with Mountain Lion, including an inoperable audio output jack and intermittent blank screen when returning from sleep. Return from sleep worked fine, but audio was inoperable. We're told that Apple and DisplayLink are working on this.

The Targus USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station with Power is a one-cable solution for today's port-shy ultra-portables and tablets that's easy to install and gives well-connected power users a quick and easy way to hit the road and quickly return to productivity. It's also a low-cost hedge against the obsolescence of proprietary docks. Drivers are backward compatible with Targus' original USB 3.0 docking stations introduced last year.