The Box and Goodies -
The box that the Lenovo dock came in was unfortunately covered with the shipping label envelope. Removing it was tricky and still left a ton of residue on it. Even with this you can get a good idea of what it looks like, in a word; boring. I was more than a little disappointed by the box. It has a decent picture of the dock and a diagram that shows you, in very basic terms, what you can do with it. However, the boring orange and white colors really make this hard to get excited about.
Inside the box in a recycled cardboard insert is everything you need to get connected and running. Notice that there is no drivers DVD-ROM. This is because you will always want to head to DisplayLink’s website and grab the latest one.
The Lenovo USB 2.0 Dock -
The Lenovo dock is shaped like a fin; this actually brings back memories of a failed product by Motorola. This was a cable modem that had a similar shape. But, as these two products have nothing to do with each other it was a fleeting memory. The outer shell is made of glossy black plastic (nothing too exciting). The front has two USB 2.0 ports and a speaker/headphones port right above the microphone port.
The back is where all the fun stuff is. You get a lock port, 10/100 LAN, DVI-I, and an additional two USB 2.0 ports. The B port down by the power port is to connect to your laptop, tablet whatever. Lenovo also gives you a pretty decent base to slide this onto so you can have it standing up.
As for how this device works, well to break everything out Lenovo is using a USB port replicator. This replicator allows for the four USB ports but also provides for additional hardware resources to be tied to it. The Display adapter is run through this (and also goes through DisplayLink’s software and hardware) as do the audio extender and the 10/100 port. Normally we would have torn this product down to see what is inside, but this one has to go back to Lenovo so we will have to leave it unopened. If we get the chance to pick one of these up we will be sure to add this description into a later article.
So how do you test the performance of something like this? It is a single USB 2.0 port that is subdivided in hardware and software to allow multiple devices to work through it. Well you do what we always do; we test it like it would be used. So we connected this to our Asus EEE Slate and then hooked up a set of speakers, a 1TB USB HDD, a 450Mbps Wireless adapter, and a Samsung 120Hz 22-inch monitor. From there we wrote this article and tinkered around with a few more items (that is how we found the Netflix issue we reported on recently). Do how did it do?... read on to find out.
Ease of Use -
Um.., the Lenovo USB 2.0 Dock was and is exceptionally simple to setup. All you have to do it connect it to your laptop/tablet and you are all set. Windows 7 will let you know that it needs to grab some drivers from the internet and will get them all installed. You will want to head over to DiskplayLink’s website and grab the updated driver from them, but that is more for stability and performance than anything else. After that you can connect and disconnect devices if you want and they will show up on your system quickly.
Here the Lenovo loses points, it is not a good looking product. It gets even worse looking as you connect more devices to it. It ends up being a fin shaped mass of cables and connections. It is better left out of eyesight. Of course being unattractive does not impact its performance. Just makes you not want to put it out in the open.
Dock Performance -
The dock performed very well. We had no issues at all with it on the performance side of things. There were some quirks though; when we were connected to the dock we found that we had to log into our internal e-mail server when normally we do not have to do that (when using the built in adapter). It was very odd to have this happen and it was something that did not seem to make sense. The account is an internal Exchange account it is connected to the log in account. The only thing that I could think is that the driver translation creates an issue where the domain does not see the account or interrupts the domain account long enough to force that login. Nothing else seemed to be affected though. As we mentioned the other performance metrics were excellent.
With a USB 2.0 Drive attached directly
With a USB 2.0 Drive attached to the Lenovo Dock
The video connection was also very good. It is not gaming quality and when we tried the connection did get rather angry with us and went blank. We were able to watch video and even work with large image files but there was no real gaming, at least not 3D gaming. The LAN port was, unfortunately, a disappointment, we were hoping for GBe but Lenovo only put in a 10/100 port. This was done because of the limited bandwidth (relatively) available with USB 2.0. If they had dropped in a GBe port, well we are pretty certain that when you were moving large files you would lose performance in the other attached objects.
Value is another very subjective topic. What is expensive to some might be a deal to others. You can look at this topic in multiple ways. One is raw price and the other is what you get for the money. Each is accurate and both are correct ways to look at price/value. We tend to look at features, performance and real-property when we discuss value. However, we also take into account the raw cash cost of the item. We found the Lenovo USB 2.0 dock online for $50. When you consider what you get (audio adapter, four extra USB 2.0 ports, video adapter and an extra 10/100 LAN port) it is not a bad deal; at least not if you have a tablet or another device with limited USB ports. On the other hand if you already have some of these then the dock’s usefulness does tend to diminish. The only thing extra feature that I can see if offering is the ability to shift the display over and close the lid on your laptop. Is this worth $50? That one I will leave up to you.
The Lenovo USB 2.0 dock has potential, it can bring some nice extras to your tablet, laptop or netbook. It lacks a few things though. I would have liked to see a Gigabit network adapter instead of the 10/100 one that it comes with. I would also have liked it to be a little more low-profile and less of an eyesore. On the other hand (when you leave off those two things) you do get what is advertised; a docking station/ port replicator that will let you enhance any tablet you might own (with the exception of an Android or iOS based one). To put things plainly if you have a tablet or you need to add a better video adapter (or another monitor) to an existing laptop or netbook then this might be $50 well spent.
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