The $129 Targus Universal Notebook Docking Station with Video, an update to the company's Mobile Docking Station with Ethernet, adds a VGA port for connecting an external monitor so that you don't have to reconnect the monitor every time you sit down at your desk. This feature would be a great add-on if the VGA-over-USB experience were fluid, however video performance is so poor that we'd wager most people won't use it. While the dock's other features are adequate, we think you're better off with a less expensive USB-based docking solution, such as the Kensington Laptop Desktop USB 2.0.
The Universal Notebook Docking Station is 10.5 inches wide, 3 inches deep, and 1 inch tall, with rubber feet on the top that let you prop the notebook up and put the keyboard at an angle that's comfortable for typing. The dock connects to any Windows-based notebook with a USB 2.0 port, however, it's not plug and play. Before you can use the dock, you'll have to install the drivers on the included mini CD. Though the install was flawless and only took about five minutes, we'd prefer it if the Universal Notebook Docking Station didn't require drivers at all.
After the software is installed and the dock is plugged in, you have instant access to its array of connections, which include four USB 2.0 ports (two with additional power), VGA out, an Ethernet jack, a serial port, an audio out jack, and an audio in jack. Unfortunately, the Universal Notebook Docking Station's headliner feature is a total dud. Video performance on an external monitor is too poor to provide much utility. Moving windows on the dock-connected display is a jerky process that's reminiscent of using a remote terminal over a dial-up modem. Playing a DVD on the external display also failed; WinDVD 5 suggested our video device was too "limited" for video playback. Setting the external display to the lowest possible resolution--a paltry 800x600--failed to improve performance. Data throughput was good; when we connected a Crucial Gizmo Overdrive to the dock its write speed was 7.5MB per second (compared to 7.9MB per second when connected directly to our laptop). Using both the built-in Ethernet and audio jacks was flawless and transparent. We plugged in Ethernet and headphones and were streaming Johnny Cash from Download.com straightaway. We were a bit confused about Targus's inclusion of a serial port on the dock and were unable to test it, as we couldn't find any ancient serial devices lying around the office.