What Is a Laptop Docking Station, and How Does It Work?

A USB-C docking station and its connections

What Is a Laptop Docking Station, and How Does It Work?

Key Points

  • Docking stations have become essential for remote workers to improve productivity and manage cable organization.
  • The integration of USB-C technology with popular devices like iPhones has made docking stations a practical choice.
  • Reasons to buy a docking station include desktop organization, convenience, versatility, increased usability, as well as the ability to connect multiple displays and charge your laptop.
  • Docking stations also offer more ports and the ability to consolidate devices into one laptop.
  • Some recommended docking stations include the GVRIOY USB-C to Dual HDMI Adapter, TOBENONE Dock Stand Dual HDMI, and TOTU 12-in-1 Surface Pro Docking Station.

Since 2020, people have adapted their workstations for remote or hybrid productivity. This change has brought about the need for multidimensional products that improve said productivity. One of the remote workers’ biggest pet peeves is cable management, which is the art of carefully laying out cables in a way that avoids tangled messes.

Docking stations were like a pond in an oasis, making it possible to organize your cables effortlessly. Of course, most docking stations will achieve a similar end goal, but there are slight differences that become significant, depending on user preferences. You may be curious about docking stations and which is the right one for you, so we broke down the important details.

Some Background on Docking Stations

Many people use their laptops to replace their desktop computers. They only have one unit that they take with them everywhere, even if they spend most of their time working from home. Sometimes, these work-from-home situations require a bit “more” to reach their full potential. For example, connecting external monitors to your laptop can improve your screen space, since even the biggest laptop screens are significantly smaller than, say, an iMac desktop screen.

In their earliest stages of use, docking stations were set to each individual laptop model. For example, you could get one that would only work with your Lenovo Thinkpad. But if you had a Dell Latitude and you wanted to connect it, you would need to get a different model of docking station. These older laptops used a port on the bottom of the computer to slot right into a docking station.

While this style of docking station remained popular for quite a while — you can still find laptops with docking ports on the bottom — it has fallen out of favor with the advent of USB C.

docking station
Here is an older docking station for a Lenovo ThinkPad. Notice how it connects directly to the laptop’s motherboard via the port on the bottom.

The New Form of Docking Stations

Around 2014 or 2015, docking stations made major waves in terms of becoming more valuable for everyday use. This era saw technology become very minimalistic — thinner designs were taking over traditional, clunky machinery that people had previously gotten accustomed to.

These designs made nearly anything portable, give or take a few exceptions. People were interested in bringing their work with them while traveling or studying, so a laptop seemed more practical than the older concept of a “family computer.”

Recently, Apple announced that the newest iPhones will also be compatible with USB-C technology. Previously, nearly every other company had USB-C capabilities but Apple’s iPhones. Considering the fact the iPhone is one of the most popular smartphones on the market, this is a major deal. These changes make devices like docking stations an incredibly practical choice to include in your tech rotation. 

Regardless of whether you are a PC or Apple fanatic, the integration of USB-C technology with the most commonly used devices is a great development for portable workstations. Now, docking stations are almost a no-brainer.

Their development into the mainstream is similar to that of Bluetooth speakers with voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. Many people were skeptical naysayers when Alexa first hit the scene, but they quickly changed their minds when they recognized the value that docking stations could add to their overall productivity. More of these technological developments will appear over time, but docking stations will likely stay for the foreseeable future.

Reasons to Buy a Docking Station Today

There are so many reasons why you should buy a docking station, but we have condensed our list to the most important ones! Hopefully, we’ve got you excited enough to buy your first docking station, but it’s a good idea to think about your individual needs before making a choice. Looking at the benefits of docking stations can help you make an informed decision before you buy one for yourself.

Reason #1: You Can Be More Organized

One of the most obvious benefits of a docking station is desktop organization, though it shouldn’t be overlooked because of its apparent benefits. Sure, it’s “obvious,” but removing unnecessary cables from your workspace might help motivate you to be more organized and efficient.

If you have a complicated setup with a lot of moving parts, like multiple monitors attached to your laptop computer, this is an even greater selling point. The idea of minimalistic setups isn’t for everyone, but organization really should be!

docking station ports
All of these USB ports will keep you organized and productive. Don’t worry about unplugging one device to plug in another — you can keep everything plugged in at once so you don’t lose anything.

Reason #2: They Are Convenient

You don’t need to be a work-from-home or hybrid employee to reap the benefits of a docking station. Many offices have adopted docking stations to their cubicles or desks, adding convenience and a clean look to their space. Plus, if you are a hybrid employee, an office docking station and a home docking station really emphasize the productivity element. 

You can stop working at the office, unplug from the docking station, take your laptop home, and plug it into your docking station there so you can get right back to work. Your manager will love your productivity.

Reason #3: Your Laptop Is More Versatile

Docking stations don’t need to be reserved for office use. You can use them in workshops, eliminating the risk of losing your devices while you are multitasking. Some docking stations have a flexible arm that allows you to swivel your device for optimal viewing. For example, if you’re a tattoo artist, you can use a docking station to pull up your reference image while you complete your client’s art piece.

Reason #4: It Increases Usability

Most docking stations are designed with usability in mind. They are intended to have a minimal learning curve, with most people having the capacity to use them straight out of the box. Of course, some docking stations may be more complex, but you can buy an entry-level one that won’t even require you to use the instruction manual. Most try to use new tech without reading the directions, anyway!

Reason #5: You Can Plug in More Displays

Why have one monitor to display your work when you could have two, three, or even four? The possibilities are endless with a docking station. You may be able to link your laptop computer to one monitor using an HDMI cable.

But, then, you’re limited to just one extra screen. A docking station won’t have this limitation. There are multiple ports on docking stations, so you can increase the number of displays to suit your needs, regardless of how much you need to see while you’re working.

docking station display ports
This docking station showcases an array of ports like VGA, DVI, and DisplayPort. You’ll have plenty of choices for connecting more displays.

Reason #6: You Can Charge Your Laptop

Docking stations don’t just make everything look pretty. You can also charge your laptop while you use it and connect it to external monitors. These days, docking stations are also “smart,” just like all of your other tech! You should be embracing smart tech already, but if you aren’t, it’s time to get on board because it’s not going anywhere. Smart docking stations will charge your laptop computer’s battery fully without damaging the battery itself.

Reason #7: You Can Consolidate Your Devices

With a docking station, you won’t need to have a desktop and a laptop. Instead, you’ll only need one laptop because you can connect it to multiple different monitors, effectively turning your laptop into a desktop.

You don’t need to buy the fanciest laptop on the market to make the most out of your overall dollar spend, either. Any laptop computer made within the past 10 years or so should be powerful enough to handle these simple upgrades.

Reason #8: You Get More Ports

A great laptop can be demoted to “good” status if it doesn’t have enough ports for your liking. It’s an unfortunate trade-off; you can’t add more ports to the laptop itself after you purchase it, unlike other upgrades that might otherwise be dealbreakers.

Docking stations increase the number of ports on your laptop without you needing to buy an entirely new laptop. For example, your laptop might only have one single USB port, and you need a USB as well as a USB-C. A docking station could be your best solution.

USB C docking station
More minimalist docking stations like this USB-C device are popular for MacBook users. The small size allows you to stow them with your laptop without adding much weight.

The Best Docking Stations

At this point, you have enough information to make a solid decision when buying a docking station. However, you might still not know exactly which one you’d like the most! These options are great for a number of reasons and, hopefully, at least one is a good match for you.

GVRIOY USB-C to Dual HDMI Adapter

Our Pick
USB-C to Dual HDMI Adapter
  • 7 ports (3 of which are USB ports)
  • Data transfer rates up to 480 Mbps
  • 100W input and 87W output 
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02/23/2024 01:10 am GMT

This 7-in-1 docking station is made for your productivity. Its extensive compatibility makes it possible to connect to the most popular devices without any external software or other downloads. It offers rapid charging for your laptop and fast data transmission.

Plus, it’s a wonderful option for anyone who might be on a tight budget. The docking station is one of our most budget-friendly options, coming in at under $50 on Prime. You’ll find this option very similar to a USB hub. It is a close cousin, but the addition of multiple different ports like USB and HDMI makes it much more powerful.


Our Pick
  • 4 USB ports
  • 11 expansion ports
  • Perfect for highly productive tasks with Ultra HD image and video output
  • 65 watts
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02/23/2024 01:13 am GMT

Luxury docking stations completely change the game if you’re looking to spend a little more on convenience and appearance. Not only is this device stunning, but its capabilities make it worth its weight in gold (or, rather, chrome). Its impressive 65W power supply is a good enough selling point for us, but it also comes with 11 different ports. It even has a card reader interface, making it a real powerhouse.

What makes this docking station particularly interesting is that you can just drop your laptop in — closed — and still keep using it. Compare that to the docking stations that require you to plug them in but keep the lid open, or bottom-mounting docking stations. This is a unique alternative that gives you plenty of benefits.

TOTU 12-in-1 Surface Pro Docking Station

Our Pick
TOTU 12-in-1 Surface Pro Docking Station
  • Supports internet speed up to 1 Gbps
  • Max. 92W fast charging for your laptop
  • Extend laptop screen to a 4K monitor (up to 3840x2160 @30Hz)
  • Supports a resolution of 1920x1080 @60Hz with VGA
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02/23/2024 01:13 am GMT

The need for simplicity is one of the top reasons people buy a docking station in the first place. TOTU’s 12-in-1 docking station is affordable, simple, yet powerful. It is very small — at least when you compare it to other options, looking a bit like a portable charger for your smartphone that you would take to a concert or music festival.

Though its name is the “Surface Pro” Docking Station, it is also compatible with Type 3 laptops like MacBooks 2016 or later. You can gain access to a host of additional ports like VGA, Ethernet, and HDMI. So, it’s perfect for connecting your tiny laptop screen to a larger external display.

Why You Might Not Want a Docking Station

Though docking stations are a newer technology, people might be concerned about the fast-paced movement in tech. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to keep up with all the new tech; average users tend to just give up beyond yearly smartphone upgrades.

You can find docking stations that are compatible with nearly every computer on the market, but there’s still a looming possibility that you will get one that expires quickly. For example, if USB-C technology is replaced by something else within the next 5 years (this is unlikely), it’ll render your brand-new docking station relatively useless, especially as you upgrade your laptop.

Otherwise, there are several budget-friendly options for docking stations, especially on Amazon. However, you may take the plunge and buy a docking station that you only end up using some of the time. People who will use their docking station daily, or at least weekly, are the most compatible users. Take into account how often you would really use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I buy a laptop docking station?

Docking stations add convenience and cleanliness to your workspace. As we migrate to remote and hybrid workforces, portability is key. You can consolidate everything into one space and manage your cables effortlessly without needing to buy a second computer.

You can keep one laptop to take with you wherever you work. It can also enhance your productivity by giving you the potential to use multiple monitors. For personal use, docking stations are great for laptop gamers who don’t want to switch over to a desktop PC.

Are laptop docking stations still a thing?

Of course laptop docking stations are still a thing! They are a relatively new technology, though it feels like we have had them in our lives for a long time now. Their extra convenience factor has made them such a staple in the workforce; however, people worry that they might be a dying art.

That couldn’t be further from the truth — laptop docking stations are simply improving with other technology, keeping up with the fluctuations. They may change shape in the near future, but they certainly aren’t going anywhere. Laptop docking stations are here to stay.

Are laptop docking stations expensive?

Some are, but some are very affordable! There are some laptop docking stations that are luxury items, costing hundreds of dollars. Certain docking stations are also “smart” technology, which might make them have a higher price point.

Otherwise, a lot of different docking stations will cost under $50, and you can find them on Amazon. It’s worth it to shop around to find one that’s within your budget. You might find that you don’t need to sacrifice any desired qualities, like the number of ports you want, to get a good deal.

Do docking stations power laptops?

Many laptops do charge the laptop. But you’ll need to make sure that the docking station you pick has this capability if you need it. Many docking stations that plug in with just a USB C port do not charge your laptop. Larger docking stations that require external power or your laptop charger to run are also capable of charging your device.

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