10 essential accessories to supercharge your Ultrabook

10 Ultrabook accessories

7. USB 3.0 Hard Disk Box 2.5in

It is a no-frill hard disk drive enclosure that comes with an SATA connector and is compatible with all mainstream operating systems.

This is Sandberg's 2.5-inch USB 3.0 caddy, an unexceptional, uncluttered and unambitious piece of kit with a relatively affordable price tag (just under £35 [$60] at Amazon).

The empty case uses a non-standard cable for connection, which is a shame, but if you can live with that, then you've got yourself a good deal.

It uses aluminum as the main material, which improves heat conductivity and gives it a nice finish. Its slightly oval profile means that it is not advisable to lay a couple of them one on top of another.

Such an enclosure is ideal for those looking to recycle an old internal laptop hard disk drive or if you have a spare one looking for a second life.

I didn't manage to test it but there's no reason why it should be a disappointment. Also Sandberg backs this product with a five-year warranty, something that makes it stand out from the rest of the competition.

8. USB 3.0 docking station

The prevalence of ultra-portable laptops means that docking stations are often offered as optional accessories by most vendors at the point of sale.

However, not only do they tie you as these, more often than not, come with a proprietary connector, they are also more expensive.

Many independent vendors like Startech and Lindy have compelling alternatives. The latter stocks a USB 3.0 docking station that comes with a bewildering array of front and rear connectors.

Physically, it is a tall rather than flat model, one that is white rather than the more conservative charcoal color of its competitors.

Connectors include four USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, DVI, LAN, HDMI and audio ports which should be more than enough for most users.

Installation is remarkably easy, though you will need to install the latest Displaylink driver. After that the user only has to plug a single USB 3.0 cable to his or her laptop.

Lindy's solution is not perfect though. It is a vertical peripheral which means that, although it has a much lower footprint, connecting devices could cause it to topple down.

Then there's the fact that you still have to connect the power supply unit to it and it is unfortunately not 4K compatible.

10 Essential Accessories

9. USB 3.0 Dual Head Graphics Adaptor

The arrival of USB 3.0 was seen as a boon for bandwidth-hungry applications like file transfer. However, an unlikely beneficiary of the new technology was display.

With up to 5Gbit/s, daisy-chaining high resolution monitors suddenly became feasible, relatively affordable and painless to install.

Startech has come up with a nifty little box called the USB 3.0 dual head graphics adaptor (USB32HDDVII) which allows two monitors to be connected to your computer, offering the tantalizing option of having three monitors running concurrently on a laptop.

The online retailer quotes a suggested retail price of well over £100 but shipping around means that you can get one for just over £75 ($125) from Dabs.

That little box is actually pretty powerful. It comes with a DisplayLink DL3900 chipset, 1GB of RAM and a DVI-I and a HDMI connector.

The maximum resolution for each display is 2048 x 1152 pixels and it does support audio on the HDMI output. The product is compatible with USB 2.0 although USB 3.0 is what you need to get an optimal performance.

You can connect up to three adaptors to your PC which allows up to six displays to be used at the same time (plus anyone connected to the actual graphics module/card).

Speaking of installation, it is always advisable to download the latest Displaylink driver. It is regularly updated and might help to solve any nagging issues you encounter. Sadly enough, it doesn't support Linux distributions.

10 Ultrabook accessories

10. Mini DP to VGA, HDMI and DVI-D adaptor

If you have only one mini DisplayPort output (like on the Apple MacBook Air) and want to connect it to a display through a standard size port, then it might be worth considering the Lindy Mini DisplayPort to HDMI/DVI/VGA adaptor (currently on sale at Novatech for just less than £30 [$50]).

The device comes handy to connect mDP-equipped devices with legacy monitors, television or projectors without the need for any additional investment in cables or converters.

You can only connect one port at a time and the adaptor supports 5.1-channel audio over HDMI. Note that it does source its power from the host (your laptop in this case) which means that it will drain your battery.

The Lindy adaptor is about the size of a Tic-Tac box with a white glossy finish and a 15cm lead; it doesn't need any driver as it is truly plug-and-play.

Note that you can also plug it in the Thunderbolt port and that the maximum resolution supported is full HD (1920 x 1080) @60Hz.

Using it was seamless. Like most accessories in that feature, it didn't require us to install any drivers or restart our device.

10 Essential Accessories

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.