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Dell Revamps Business Docking Stations With USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US

The docking station has long been a mainstay accessory for business notebooks, and one of the primary features that differentiate them from consumer machines. For users that are constantly moving from the office to the road, and in an environment where time is money, having a dock on your desk connected to an external monitor, keyboard, mouse and Ethernet makes life so much easier. To get connected to everything, you only have to take the laptop out of your bag, place it on the dock, and you’re ready to work.

Despite the convenience of the dock for business users, there are two problems with them. The first, which has always been a problem, is that each OEM's docking solution is proprietary, and worse, often model-specific. The other problem is that as business-class notebooks have become slimmer, many of them turning into Ultrabooks, it has been a challenge for OEMs to incorporate docking station connections into their design. HP redesigned its docks to work with a slim side connector, but other OEMs compromised on machine's thicknesses to still fit dock connectors, or simply dispensed with them entirely.

With the advent of USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3, we are about to see a total revolution in docking station solutions for business-class laptops. Dell has announced two new docks, the Dell Dock and the Dell Thunderbolt Dock, which will eventually supplant its standard E-Port Replicator as the standard docking solution for all its machines.

Although these new docks don’t work the same way (in that you place your notebook on top of them), they still offer the same level of convenience, leveraging USB Type-C cables to allow for a single connector for power input, display and data output. What’s more, these new docks will work with any brand of notebook that have the compatible ports, because they use industry standard connectors.

Interestingly, probably due to the large number of E-Port docks already in use at its customers, Dell has decided to continue to use its old docking solution for (most of) its new Latitude 5000 and 7000 series business notebooks. Currently, only the new Latitude 2-in-1s, Precision Workstation notebooks, consumer XPS notebooks and Thunderbolt 3-equipped versions of the new 15-inch Latitude 5000 support these new docks. However, the range of compatible models will grow, with most of Dell’s 2017 notebooks supporting them.

Dell Thunderbolt Dock

This dock is Dell’s “ultimate docking solution” and uses Intel’s 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C technology. It can drive up to three Full HD displays or two 4K displays, while at the same time providing power and data connectivity to the attached notebook all with a single cable.

Dell Thunderbolt Dock TB15 Specifications

Display ConnectionsVGA, Thunderbolt, Mini DisplayPort, DisplayPort, HDMI
Number of Displays Supported3
Max Resolution Support5120 x 2880 @ 60 Hz
USB Ports(2) USB 2.0
(3) USB 3.0
Thunderbolt 3 Port(1) USB Type-C
Audio/
Headphone
(1) combo
(1) speaker output           
NetworkGigabit Ethernet
Dock ConnectorDell Docking Station Connector
AC Adapter Options180W/240W
Dimensions5.7 x 5.7 x 2.05 inches (145 x 145 x 52 mm)
Weight1.63 lbs (740g)
System RequirementsPC's equipped with Display Port over USB Type-C
PC's equipped with Thunderbolt 3
Operating SystemsMicrosoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows 8; 8.1, 10, Ubuntu 14.04 SP1 (PRTS), RedHat Enterprise Linux v7.2 (PRTS)
Systems ManagementWireless vPro supported by the Notebook, Tablet, or Workstation
Docking Cable Type USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 (.5m)
USB Type-C Universal (PRTS)
MAC AddressPass-through MAC Address
WarrantyIf purchased as a tied laptop accessory, the Dell Thunderbolt Dock will share the system warranty. If purchased as a customer kit, 1-year standard warranty

Advanced exchange (AMER/APJ), Next business day exchange (EMEA)

Thunderbolt 3 is a higher-end connectivity option that does add to the cost of hardware, so even when Dell expands compatibility of the new docks to more if its product range, don’t expect to see support for the Thunderbolt Dock on lower-end offerings.

The back of the Thunderbolt Dock shows a wealth of connections -- two USB 2.0, three USB 3.0 (two on the front, one on the back), VGA, Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C), Mini DisplayPort, DisplayPort, HDMI and Ethernet. There is no connection option we can think of that has been missed.

The Dell Thunderbolt Dock will be available beginning January 28, 2016 at $299.

Dell Dock

The lower-end dock just uses Display Port over USB Type-C to connect to a compatible notebook, so is not able to support as many external displays -- only up to two Full HD monitors or one 4K display. It still uses a single cable for power, data and display connectivity, but because it does not rely on Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 technology, it's compatible with a wider range of hardware.

Dell Dock WD15 Specifications

Display ConnectionsVGA, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI
Number of Displays Supported2
Max Resolution Support3840 x 2160 @ 30Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz
USB Ports(2) USB 2.0
(3) USB 3.0
Audio/
Headphone
(1) combo
(1) speaker output           
NetworkGigabit Ethernet
Dock ConnectorDell Docking Station Connector
AC Adapter Options130W/180W
Dimensions6.1 x 4.3 x .83 inches (155 x 110 x 21 mm)
Weight.93 lb (420g)
System RequirementsPC's equipped with Display Port over USB Type-C
PC's equipped with Thunderbolt 3
Operating SystemsMicrosoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows 8; 8.1, 10, Ubuntu 14.04 SP1 (PRTS), RedHat Enterprise Linux v7.2 (PRTS)
Systems ManagementWireless vPro supported by the Notebook, Tablet, or Workstation
Docking Cable Type Display Port over USB Type-C (.8m)USB Type-C Universal (PRTS)
MAC AddressPass-through MAC Address
WarrantyIf purchased as a tied laptop accessory, the Dell Thunderbolt Dock will share the system warranty. If purchased as a customer kit, 1-year standard warranty

Advanced exchange (AMER/APJ), Next business day exchange (EMEA)

One thing that the Dell Dock has over its bigger brother is that is it quite a bit smaller, measuring only 6.1 x 4.3 x .83 inches (155 x 110 x 21 mm).

Connectivity-wise, it has only three video outputs, VGA, Mini DisplayPort and HDMI. We would have preferred to see a full-sized DisplayPort instead. It has the same five USB Type-A ports as the Thunderbolt Dock, two 3.0 ports on the front, and one 3.0 and two 2.0 ports on the back.

The Dell Dock will be available beginning January 28, 2016 at $199.

Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware and Tom's IT Pro, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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