As the world gradually moves into a post-COVID, pro-hybrid working era, more and more businesses have been acquiring laptop docking stations as desktop PCs are slowly phased out. More powerful than USB hubs, demand for these peripherals are still high in 2023.
- Collin Probst, B2B Editor, Hardware
The best laptop docking stations can make your laptop much more comfortable and convenient. They can instantly expand the functionality of your laptop, adding more ports and allowing you to connect external monitors - all while charging your laptop.
Docking stations can be particularly useful for remote workers and anyone who has now found they are working from home a lot more. These handy peripherals, like USB-C docks, can turn your laptop into a feature-packed desktop replacement.
With docking stations, though, you can have the best of both worlds. You’re able to chuck your laptop in a bag for meetings and other outings but connect it up to a dock to turn it into a desktop computer setup back at the office (or indeed at home). That way, you can easily link the notebook to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer and so forth.
With this guide, we’ll dive into all the best laptop docking stations, comparing everything from power and style to cost and connectivity to give you everything you need to stay productive and turn your trusted laptop into a fully-featured work machine.
Make sure you check out our guide to the best laptops as well, where we highlight the top devices, money can buy.
Best laptop docking stations of 2023 in full:
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StarTech already makes some handy equipment for those that use Thunderbolt and USB technology to its limits.
Being slightly late to the Thunderbolt 4 party, StarTech has created a dock that delivers maximum user flexibility and enough charging power to handle the most demanding laptops.
With 96W of power available for the host system and 15W each for the three Thunderbolt downstream connections, and more for triple USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, this dock is hardly underprovisioned.
The designer aimed to make it sufficient for the needs of every user, irrespective of if they need to connect displays, storage, or any other peripherals.
The only catch to this flexible approach is that additional cables or adapters are needed to connect displays over Thunderbolt technology, adding extra expense to what is already a very pricey option.
A stylish and well-considered design, the StarTech Thunderbolt 4 dock is excessively priced, and other makers, like OWC, deliver much the same connectivity for a fraction of the price.
Read the full review: StarTech Thunderbolt 4 Dock
The unique feature of this ORICO docking bay is that it can take M.2 SSD drives and make them available to any connecting alongside all the other peripherals that this dock can accept.
However, you don’t get the same performance as an internally connected NVMe drive over Thunderbolt, and the two slots can’t be used for NVMe PCIe drives, as the second slot can only accept an M.2 SATA SSD.
The best speeds are likely to be around 2750MB/s reads and 1500MB/s writes, irrespective of the M.2 NVMe drives installed in this dock.
It might be more of an issue because the charging limit for connected laptops is just 60W, making it suitable for only thin Ultrabook designs that don’t have discrete GPUs onboard.
With a high MSRP and a collection of use caveats, the ORICO Thunderbolt 3 M.2 Dual-bay Docking Station might be playing to something of a niche interest group, even if it is beautifully made.
Read the full review: ORICO Thunderbolt 3 M.2 Dual-bay Docking Station
If you’re willing to splurge on the docking station, Corsair’s TBT100 is an excellent option with a host of ports that will let you connect up to two 4K monitors, two USB-C devices, and a UHS-II SD card reader to start. It also offers 85W charging, ideal for 15-inch laptops and smaller ones. That’s while keeping things slim in the form factor department.
It's a nice-looking piece of kit, with the Corsair designers having added a subtle curve along the top to avoid the common laptop dock pitfall of looking like a swimming pool diving brick.
It’s not a perfect dock, and Corsair’s quality control could be better as some users have experienced intermittent disconnections. Still, those without issues have a robust docking station ideal for multitasking.
Read the full review: Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Vava's minuscule docking station is still a joy to use. It remains my docking station to this day, two years after I reviewed it. Other than its affordability, its plethora of ports in a tiny footprint (it can be shoved under your laptop) makes it a game changer. I liked the fact that it comes with its own power supply unit as well as two card readers (great for those looking to owing a video editing laptop or looking to use a laptop for photo editing). Just bear in mind that it does have limitations: it can only provide 65W of power for compatible laptops (not a deal breaker), the connecting USB cable is a tad short in our view and is not replaceable - which makes the whole unit useless if it is damaged. The inclusion of USB 2.0 ports (yes, 22-year old USB 2.0 ports) is also perplexing to say the least.
- Read the full review: VAVA 12-in-1 Dual 4K VA-DK004 docking station (opens in new tab)
What is a laptop docking station?
A docking station is a piece of hardware that allows a user to convert their portable laptop into a desktop computer by adding more ports to it. Don't confuse it with a USB hub which is typically more limited in scope.
It works by allowing a user to connect their laptop to other hardware typical of a desktop PC, including a monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and external drives. While this, naturally, reduces the portability of your laptop, it does offer the significant advantages provides by a desktop computer, including more comfort and increased visibility provided with a larger screen.
And with docking stations as easy to unplug from as they are to plug into, they provide a laptop owner with the best of both worlds.
How to choose the best laptop docking station for you
Before deciding on which of the best laptop docking stations to go for, you'll need to consider a number of features and functions provided by those on this list.
Laptop docking stations provide a variety of connectivity options and ports, and some even come with the advantage of being able to charge your laptop whilst it is plugged in. For those with a shortage of socket space, this could swing the balance.
Design tends to vary between upright or horizontal, though there are some in this list that show an additional aesthetic flair that may be important to some who take pride in the look of their home office. Lastly, you'll have a budget in mind so make sure to take that into account when whittling down your choices - prices can contrast wildly.
The best laptop docking stations: How we test
We've taken into account a number of key factors in order to whittle down to our list of best laptop docking stations. Given how often you'll be plugging your laptop in and out of the docking station, ease of connectivity is a must, and we've listed all accompanying ports with each station, and noted where some docking stations offer more choice over others. A robust build is another fundamental aspect, and we've noted those that seem built for endurance.
Although it is of course subjective, we've also considered design and style, along with other bonus features such as whether the docking station charges your laptop at the same time. Finally, we also made where docking stations boasted versatility between laptops, versus those that have been designed specifically for certain brands.
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