With the explosion of popularity of high-performance, powerful laptops in recent years, there is an ever-increasing desire from computing users to use the same laptop computer at home or in the office as they do on the road. However, to conserve space, weight, and functionality, many of these sophisticated laptops must sacrifice in other areas. Many ports that are typically available on desktop computers that connect peripheral devices and extra hardware options are usually the first to be forfeited on laptops. In any case, with laptop hard drives growing to well over 80 gigabytes, RAM soaring to well over 1 gigabyte, and processor speeds that were unheard of only a few years ago, the need for an entirely different personal computer at the home or office is often a redundant notion.
Docking stations make it easy for the user to utilize the same system on the road, in the office, and at home – with expanded capabilities. A docking station can add the ports that are needed when not away from the home or office, such as ports for printers, extra USB ports, and even keyboard, mouse, and monitor connections. They can also house extra hardware options such as additional hard drives, CD/DVD-ROMs, expansion cards, and PC Cards.
Docking stations are typically released by third-party manufacturers to supplement very popular laptops. Large laptop producers such as Dell, Compaq, Lenovo, and Sony typically have the best chance of having a company produce a docking station for their products. Sometimes, the laptop manufacturer will produce the docking station for the laptop themselves. In these cases, this can be a large convenience for the consumer, depending on the quality of the docking station offered. This is because there are some times that the third-party manufacturers address "bugs" and problems that the original laptop manufacturer either doesn't catch or doesn't seem to find important enough to address themselves.
It is typically very simple to connect a laptop into a docking station. Some even run off the power of the laptop, but usually it is more efficient for the docking station to have its own A/C power supply. Docking stations are particularly useful for users that enjoy the added benefit of creating an extended desktop by adding another monitor. Typically, docking stations will allow for the addition of monitors with different resolutions than that of the laptop, making for a more pleasant user experience at home or at the office if the user opts for a larger monitor than what came equipped on the laptop. This is a common preference for owners of ultra-portable laptops whose screens are quite small to accommodate size and weight manageability for the road.
For the professional or student on-the-go, a docking station can be a perfect addition to their computing arsenal that will allow for increased functionality and convenience. When shopping for a docking station, the user should always take compatibility and performance into consideration in addition to price, as these factors can vary greatly and can determine the usability of the product.