Today I received my new Docking Station to be used with my MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015). I ordered it to be able to only attach a single cable (next to the power cord) to my MacBook and have display, network and sound available.
Belkin USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Station
The station is not a new product, but at the moment the price is unbeatable compared to other products designed to be used especially with a MacBook. If you take a look at the Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express-HD-Dock which offers nearly the same specifications (but including Thunderbolt) for almost three times the price, buying the USB 3.0 version is the most rational decision. My decision was faced regarding my intended use, to be able to work on the external displays and not for gaming.
The following ports are available:
- 1x SuperSpeed USB 3.0-Port (Typ B),
- 2 SuperSpeed USB 3.0-Ports (Typ A),
- Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Ports (Typ A),
- 1 RJ45-Gigabit Ethernet-Port,
- 2.1 Sound Port (Out-, Input)
- Kensington Lock
- 1x DisplayPort,
- 1x DVI-I Port
As you can see, you do not only have the display and ethernet ports but also 4 USB ports. Two of them are using the fast USB 3.0 standard and one of these is providing 2.1A output to be able to charge your tablet or mobile phone as fast as possible.
Scope of delivery
- Belkin USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Stand
- 1,8 m 5V/4A Power Supply,
- Upstream-USB 3.0-Cable
- DVI-I/VGA Converter
The dock is not only a port replicator but includes a fully working graphics- and sound-module. The display port will be provided by the DisplayLink technology. With this setup you are able to use 4 additional displays on your latest mac, two of them connected directly to the MacBook (Thunderbolt, HDMI) and the other two connected via DVI and DisplayPort to the Belkin Dock. I know it is possible to use display-chaining provided by ThunderBolt but displays with a Thunderbolt port are way too expensive.
Most of the functions are working out of the box. That means your are able to use the Gigabit Ethernet Port and the sound-module without installing any additional drivers. Only the graphic-adapter needs the installation of a driver provided by the DisplayLink interests group. You can download it from here. Be sure to always use the latest version. At the moment I am using 2.5 Beta 2 because with some older version I experienced problems plugging in and out of the Dock would result in a system freeze. This problem is solved within the newest version.
Advantages and Disadvantages
One of the biggest advantage is the price of about 90€. You will get a fully featured docking solution for you MacBook or any other UltraBook. It look tremendously good, is well made and provide a stable stand for your book.
I can’t see any real disadvantage, but you should be aware of, that the DisplayLink technology uses you CPU to provide the power to render the image on the external Displays. This means you have a constant load of about 3-5% for the DisplayLink process. The next thing you should know is, you can’t compare the graphics adapter with a modern Nvidia GeForce card, you won’t be able to play games on a display attached to the dock because it is not able to rendern a suitable frame-rate. But nevertheless it is no problem to watch movies or anything like this.
Using the Docking Station via USB2 is possible but not recommended. The problem is, that USB2 only provides 480Mbit/s transfer-rate. The combination of Gigabit Ethernet, one Display Port and the sound module results in loosing frames-per-second, which makes it almost impossible to use. But as the name already said, it is designed for USB3 and not USB2.
To face a final conclusion it is way too early, but the first impression couldn’t be better. You will get a pretty good looking docking station with a lot of features to an very affordable price. I would definitely recommend buying the Belkin USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Station.
There will be a new post in a couple of weeks where I will write about the daily work with the station and provide you with more information about advantages and disadvantages.