HP xb2000 notebook expansion base
It's heavy and takes up more desk space than any other setup we evaluated, but the $250 HP xb2000 notebook expansion base is a fairly complete docking solution that will turn your laptop into a true desktop PC. The 12-pound xb2000 incorporates high-quality speakers, a wireless keyboard-mouse combo, and a bay for a high-capacity hard drive. It's also compatible with a half dozen different HP Compaq notebooks (HP Pavilion models zx/zv5000, dv1000, zd8000, and ze2000, as well as Compaq Presario models M2000, R3000, X6000 and V2000).
Once the notebook is hooked up to the xb2000's large connector--something of an awkward operation--you'll still have access to your notebook's keyboard; this came in handy when we wanted to use the Pavilion dv1000's QuickPlay feature. The expansion base can be tilted up to 45 degrees backward, and you can also adjust the height between 6 and 10 inches so that the display is at eye level. On the downside, we found the whole setup somewhat wobbly.
At the base of the xb2000 sit a pair of Harman Kardon speakers, with a prominent thumbwheel to control volume and a mute button. If you're already using one of HP's multimedia notebooks that features Harman Kardon speakers--the Pavilion zd7000, zd8000, or dv1000, for example--the speakers are overkill; if not, you're sure to get richer sound than you'd get from your system's built-in speakers.
The xb2000 lacks a few connections; if you require a parallel, serial, PS/2, or DVI port, look elsewhere. All of the most common inputs and outputs are present, however, including three USB 2.0 ports, S-Video, and composite video, analog and digital audio, as well as modem and LAN connections. Unlike many other docks, when connected to the xb2000, all of your notebook's native ports remain active and accessible. The expansion base also accommodates an optional $200 160GB USB hard drive; it's easy to use--it simply shows up as the next available drive letter when the system is docked--but it also requires its own AC adapter, which is included. The optional hard drive is perfect for backing up your system, archiving files, or stashing the flotsam and jetsam of your digital life on the road. The xb2000 moved data more quickly than average, reading at 74.3Mbps and writing at 66.6Mbps.
It's easy enough to add an off-the-shelf wireless keyboard and mouse to any docking station, but the xb2000 expansion base includes a Logitech set that was comfortable enough to use for on-the-lap typing; the Logitech keyboard can also awaken the machine from standby mode. All of the xb2000's varied ports worked well, though connecting the laptop to the dock's connector proved awkward.