Occupying a modest amount of desktop real estate, the 1.7-pound Advanced Port Replicator is portable enough for travel. When your laptop is connected, all of its ports and connections remain active, and you get access to the Advanced Port Replicator's five USB 2.0 and two PS/2 ports, as well as a number of other connections: serial, parallel, DVI, external monitor, S-Video, digital audio, headphone, modem, and a gigabit LAN connection. About the only things missing are an input plug for audio and a place for a built-in hard drive or modular drive. There's a modicum of security with a Kensington cable lock, and we appreciate the unique cable guides that help organize and keep unsightly wires corralled.
The Advanced Port Replicator's potential blossoms when it's mated with Dell's D/View Stand, which raises the notebook display to an eye-pleasing 10-inch height and which can be tilted up to 35 degrees backward. The notebook snaps in easily and sits more securely than either the Kensington Laptop Desktop USB 2.0 or the HP xb2000 expansion base. Likewise, the notebook releases at the press of a button, and thereÂ’s a lock button to prevent any accidental ejections. And you needn't shut down before you click in or out--the Inspiron 8600 worked just fine when we detached it. In our data-transfer test, the Advanced Port Replicator read data from our external hard drive at 76.7Mbps and read data at a competent 62.9Mbps.
Dell backs the Inspiron Desktop Replacement Bundle with a one-year warranty that's standard for most laptops and docks but short of the three years of coverage that IBM offers for it's X4 UltraBase. In addition to a complete user guide and a few knowledge-base entries, the company's Web site doesn't offer much in terms of support for the Desktop Replacement Bundle, so you may need to send e-mail or call the 24/7 support line in an emergency.