Review Price free/subscription
Toshiba DynaDock DVI Universal USB Docking Station
It's not every day that I get exited about something as potentially boring as a docking station, but then, considering the DynaDock is from the maker of the eminently stylish Regza 40ZF355D, it's hardly surprising. Not only has Toshiba given it stunning looks, but it also has some unique tricks up its sleeve that should make it rather special.
Docking stations in general are an interesting conundrum. They tend to be rather large and quite heavy, and more annoyingly, proprietary to a specific make or even model of laptop. Now there are two good reasons for this: connectivity and bandwidth. The cynic in me thinks a third reason might be so manufacturers can charge more for proprietary products that you have to purchase from them, but to be fair, making a good and versatile universal dock can otherwise be a challenge.
In terms of connectivity, to replicate all the ports on your laptop (and ideally add a few more), a universal dock would normally require you to plug cables into at least some of those ports, somewhat defeating the whole purpose of using a dock in the first place.
There are two versions of Toshiba's sleek and slim unit available: the VGA and substantially more expensive DVI version (which comes with a VGA adapter). Of course we are reviewing the superior DVI model, which not only offers a digital connection but one that is HDCP enabled to boot. Together with its support for 7.1 virtual audio channels through S/PDIF, this version of the DynaDock ought to be pretty accomplished as a home entertainment extender, theoretically having all the elements in place to handle Blu-ray. In this respect it certainly goes far beyond most, but do keep in mind that you'll want to run movies at 720p rather than 1080p, as the dock's maximum supported widescreen resolution at 24-bit is 1,680 x 1,050 (1,600 x 1,200 in 4:3).
Despite all this entertainment oriented functionality, it's nice to see that Toshiba hasn't left business customers out in the cold, with the addition of a legacy RS232 serial port for those ancient devices some offices still use. Having gone this far, one might argue for the benefits of a printer port too, but that's just being greedy. Instead, the DynaDock offers six USB 2 ports (two of which are powered), microphone and headphone connections, and a 10/100Mbit Ethernet port. Frankly, we can't think of anything more we'd want.
The thing that makes this dock so special is that it achieves all of this, including video, over just a single USB 2 connection. The DynaDock manages this is by using an extraordinary little technology - which frequent TR visitors might already have read about in our Samsung SyncMaster 940UX monitor or the widescreen LG Flatron L206WU reviews - called DisplayLink.