Notebooks used to be an expensive luxury that only top executives could afford. Now, for work use, they are the preferred platform – being bought by students and families everywhere. They are great for saving space and with wireless technology, you can put them on almost any surface and just get working.
However, they aren’t perfect. One such problem is when using them for extended periods of time. The angle of a notebook display is particularly low and can cause neck problems. While notebook keyboards are never particularly comfortable to use for long periods. In fact one notebook that I used had an incredibly sharp edge that caused me very bad RSI as it was digging in to my wrists.
An external keyboard and mouse seems like an ideal solution for the RSI issues, but doesn’t help with neck problems. Using an external monitor is not only an unnecessary expense, but a waste, as most notebooks these days ship with exceptionally good displays. One solution is to use a dock specific your notebook, but these can be incredibly expensive. But Port suggests we use its Ergostation, which is universal and will fit any notebook.
The Ergostation is made entirely from plastic, but it’s a fairly sturdy build. Once on a desk, it is as solid as you can expect from any adjustable stand. The button at the front allows the angle to be adjusted.
It is indexed at four different heights. Using this in combination with adjusting the angle of the notebook screen, you can get the viewing height/angle just right. I found that it didn’t always click into the slots, but I can imagine that this wouldn’t happen too often. Once you’ve found the right height, that’s exactly where it will stay.
The dock is powered, but the power block is pretty badly designed. It has a European plug that is plugged in to a UK adapter. But this adapter leaves the main block at 90 degrees to the plug – not the best of solutions, especially if you’re using a four-way extension cable or double adapter.
The back of the device shows us why external power is needed.
As you can see, it’s a four-port powered USB 2.0 hub. A cable is provided, which will plug in to any available USB port on your notebook. With this in place, you can plug in a keyboard, mouse, printer, or even another USB hub (should you have too many devices).
Here it is in use. I was using a particularly high chair, hence the angle.
I found the overall experience with the Port Ergostation pretty good. Having an adjustable height of the notebook display made a huge difference to my working ergonomics. With a USB keyboard and mouse connected, after a while, I completely forgot I was even using a notebook.
The first thing I started to miss, was port replication of RJ45. However, there is always the option of using wireless, or in fact a USB 2.0 Ethernet adapter. Of course, once you’ve plugged in an external hard drive and DVD Writer, you might start to find yourself being bottlenecked by the fact you are sharing the bandwidth of a single USB 2.0 port though.
Other docks also have replication of displays. This is useful, as you can have a second display constantly plugged in to it. Then by docking, you can have two displays at your disposal.
This is an excellent dock and it’s universal status makes it a good investment. If you have several notebooks, or change them often, it makes sense. At £44.99 including VAT, this is quite a lot for what is essentially a stand and a USB hub. However, compared to the official notebook docks that tie you into a brand, it’s not very much at all.
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