Toshiba Advanced Port Replicator III
The $199 Toshiba Advanced Port Replicator III delivers a lot of dock for the dollar. It can be used with a truly wide variety of Toshiba's business and consumer notebooks. These include the Satellite Pro 6000, 6100, M10, and M15; the Portege 4000, 4010, M100, M200, and M205; and the Tecra 9000, 9100, A2, S1, M1, M2, M2V, TE2000, TE2100, and TE2300. Unfortunately, the Advanced Port Replicator III's versatility is also something of a curse: while it's compatible with all of these notebooks, it's not a perfect fit with any of them.
Of all the docks and the port replicators we've seen, the Advanced Port Replicator III offers the most complete assortments of ports. It's the only one that provides a FireWire connection, although it's an unpowered four-pin plug, not the desktop-standard powered variety; this means that external hard drives or camcorders will need their own power source. The Advanced Port Replicator III also offers four USB 2.0, two PS/2, audio (input and output), DVI, external monitor, parallel, serial, modem, and LAN connections. Oddly, it lacks S-Video and composite-video plugs, found on a few other more basic docks, and it will not accommodate a hard drive or a modular bay for an optical drive or an extra battery pack. It will, however, charge the docked notebook.
It's not easy to hook up a notebook to the Advanced Port Replicator III; you need to make a couple of fairly precise adjustments, and it's particularly frustrating because while the dock itself has alignment markings, the notebooks do not. Once your notebook is docked, the setup is rock solid, sitting evenly on rubber feet. Although it canÂ’t raise a notebookÂ’s screen to eye level (as many of its competitors can), the Advanced Port Replicator III gives the back of the keyboard a 7-degree boost, which makes for more comfortable typing. The handy release button works like a charm. The Advanced Port Replicator III has a Kensington cable lock, which is nice to have, though it isn't a serious deterrent to theft. We found this dock to be the speediest of the bunch, reading data from our external drive at 77.9Mbps and writing at a decent 61.6Mbps.
The Advanced Port Replicator III's one-year warranty is standard for the industry, but it's a step down from IBMÂ’s three years of coverage. Toshiba provides excellent online resources, however, including updates to the manual as well as firmware updates for notebooks that have problems docking. The company's tech support is available 24/7 online or via a toll-free number.