Belkin has seen a need to fill a gap -- the gap where notebooks don't have the option of associated docks -- to make it quick and easy to convert from mobile to desktop warrior.
Looking like it rolled out from Apple itself, the white pod-like casing sits on a silver stand, and would look at home next to any marginally fancy set-up in a modern apartment. Unfortunately despite the Apple inspired design, the software is made available only for Windows XP and Vista machines. Diagrammatic LEDs on the front signify power, when the notebook is plugged in and when the Ethernet connection is active. A high density rash of ports populates the back of the device to connect your laptop to your stationary gear.
The High-Speed Docking Station connects through a single proprietary cable, which is far too short for our liking, and one of the few gripes we have with the system -- this is a trend that continues with a far too short power cable, resulting in some interesting cable gymnastics in terms of positioning a laptop comfortably between your accessories and the Docking Station.
The proprietary cable then plugs into an Express Card which in turn plugs into your laptop, and after one of the longest driver installs we've had to endure, everything is set to go.
The multitude of ports on the back mean that Belkin's product is ready to hook up to almost anything. DVI, VGA, 10/100 Ethernet, USB, Optical SPDIF, 5.1 sound over 3.5mm and an audio line-in are supplied, everything communicating back to the laptop over the single proprietary cord. An additional two USB ports on the top of the device brings the total to five, although their positioning is somewhat awkward.
It has its own sound and video chip, meaning that even if your notebook is underpowered in these regards, the Belkin will do all the work for you. This is great on the audio front, expanding your capabilities to 5.1 sound, but the video chip could use a bit more power -- it had issues running video full-screen at any resolution larger than 800x600. We wouldn't attempt gaming on it either, better to just pass the monitor signal directly from the laptop and use the onboard graphics. For general applications and business productivity suites however it should be fine, offering resolutions up to 1,680x1,050 in primary mode (the external monitor is the only one on), extended mode (your desktop stretches across the notebook screen and the external monitor) and mirror mode (what's shown on the notebook is shown on the external monitor).
If there's one strength of the unit, it's that it "just works". Plug it in, and away it goes. It's easy to use and Belkin's supplied software is simple and useful. The question is whether it's worth the AU$349.95 -- not a question of value, as considering the hardware packed in it's quite an impressive price (and no doubt will be cheaper on the street) -- it's more whether there's a market. We just can't shake the feeling that plugging in an Express card and one cable at AU$349.95 can't stand up to taking the time to plug in a couple more cables for the grand price of free.