Andy: Good Morning Charlie Brown. I have a laptop that I use at my desk and then take with me when I go home or to another work location. Every time I come back to my desk I have to plug in a bunch of cables for the network, the charger, the external monitor. It’s a real pain to do this every time. Any way to make it easier to reconnect to all these things when I come to my desk?

Charlie: Hi Andy. This is a common request from our clients and others and there are several solutions.

Andy: Well let’s start with my home laptop. It’s a plain and simple laptop.

Charlie: The Plain and Simple laptops usually have some USB ports on them. They may also have network ports, video ports, maybe HDMI or Display Ports and a power adapter plug. Lots of ports to connect. Actually, sometimes they only have the USB port and you wish they had more ports so you could connect a second monitor or a wired network connection. For this type of unit the Port Replicator is just the device to use. These units connect to your laptop through a USB cable and everything goes through that one cable.

Andy: Everything goes through that one USB cable?

Charlie: Yep!! And that makes it critical that you choose the right port on the laptop to use for the connection. Because there is a lot of data going through the cable you want to use a USB 3 port on your laptop. This USB port usually has USB SS on its label and may have a blue connector. The Super Speed will make the performance of all your external devices better.

Andy: I have seen laptops with docking connectors. How do they work?

Charlie: They work about the same. You set the laptop on the docking station and it connects through a special connector on the bottom or side of the laptop. All your external devices and power adapter are plugged into the docking station. Usually you have to purchase a business class laptop to get the docking connector on the laptop. The docking stations may have more option connectors on them than the Port Replicators.

Andy: And what do these Port Replicators or Docking Stations cost? Where can I get one that is right for my laptop?

Charlie: Port Replicators can start at about $75 and go higher depending on the feature set. I have seen them as high as $300. Docking Stations start at about $150 and go up from there. Again, the more features available on the port Replicator/Docking Station, the more you can expect to pay. I should mention that these devices are also available for MAC books too…same features, same price range.

Andy: If you are looking for a way to make connecting external devices to your laptop think about a Port Replicator or Docking Station. I know Charlie Brown can help you get a unit that will work with your laptop…Give them a call. That’s Charlie Brown at PC Applications, 533-6510, or visit their web site