Dell laptop docking station buyer’s guide

Best docking station for Dell laptop models, and also those compatible with other brands

Dell laptop docking station
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This Dell laptop docking station guide will explain all you need to know about docking stations, both Dell made and other brands, and also list the best Dell laptop docking stations currently available on the market. By the end, you should know whether or not you need a docking station for your laptop, if it should be a Dell one, and if so, which model you should buy.

What does a Dell docking station do?

A docking station, whether it’s Dell-made or from a different brand, basically makes using a laptop in an office environment (one in your home or an external place of work) almost as seamless as if you had a desktop already set up. It is a hub that you connect your laptop to, which then branches of other connections to monitor screens and any other peripheral devices you have room for. You can then either use the laptop display in conjunction with the external monitors or close the lid and work as if you were using a desktop PC hooked up to the screens. Some laptops even have their own power supply, meaning you don’t have to plug in your laptop separately. All you have to do is plug in one connection between your laptop and the docking station and you’re all set up, ready to start working.

Our Top Picks

01
WePC Awards Best In Class
A light, portable and affordable Dell laptop docking station capable of 4k monitor support
Dell 3100 Ultra HD 4K triple display

Dell 3100 Ultra HD/4K Triple Display Docking Station

02
The ideal Dell docking station for E-series laptops, it features an impressive variety of ports
Dell E Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E seires

Dell E-Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E Series Latitudes

03
A premium Thunderbolt 3 docking station with audio jack

Things to consider when buying a Dell laptop docking station

Is a docking station necessary?

A docking station is not technically necessary: you could try connecting peripherals and monitors to your laptop via its existing ports, though you may run out of them fairly quickly. A USB adapter or other device could be used to expand the number of available sockets on your laptop, however, for a cheaper price. With a docking station though, you have the convenience of not having to individually reconnect each of your external devices every time you sit down at your desk. Some models also come with a dedicated power supply that may be able to power the laptop itself (depending on its power needs), or at least some of the peripherals. How much this is worth to you ultimately depends on both how complex your setup is, as well as your personal priorities. If you want the most convenient, time-saving experience at work / at home, particularly if you have a lot of monitors, speakers, external hard drives, and other peripherals and devices plugged into your machine, or if your laptop doesn’t come with many ports then a docking station could definitely be worth the money.

Different types of docking station

Standardized terminology when it comes to docking stations, doesn’t really exist which can be annoying if you’re trying to search online retailers to find what you want. Generally speaking, they are categorized by the ports and connection types they support. Besides this, different form factor / ergonomic types exist:

  • Lock-in / snap down style docking stations: these usually have pins that you align underneath your laptop and then clamp it down upon them, securing the connection. These are stationary docks that don’t tend to be particularly portable but do often have more ports and better power supply (though not always). This design is the older type and is gradually going out of favour for more ergonomically friendly designs but can still be very capable and offer good value. They come in two main sub-types:
    • Horizontal ‘block’ type docking stations: which lay flat on your desk and sit underneath the laptop. You can either use them with your laptop lid closed or open for an additional screen.
    • Vertical ‘book stand’ type docking stations: which elevate the laptop facing the user, bringing it to the same eye-level as a conventional monitor.
  • Separate plug-in style docking stations: rather than locking in place these docking stations simply connect via a cable, and tend to be smaller and more ergonomically friendly, some (though not all) being portable devices. They come in two main sub-types:
    • Horizontal: these may or may not be portable, and come in an array of sizes.
    • Vertical / tower type: these tend to not be portable.

Can all Dell laptops use a docking station?

The vast majority of Dell laptops, especially more recent models, can all use some form of docking station, though not necessarily all of them. Ultimately both need to have the same form of connecting ports, and different model docking stations are designed for laptops that support different type of connections.

Are Dell docking stations universal?

Dell laptop docking stations are, as you’d expect, designed with Dell laptops in mind, though this does not mean they can’t be used in conjunction with laptops from other manufacturers as well. Dell docking stations of the plug-in style almost always use a port type (USB-C for example) to connect to the laptop which is universal across all brands. Conversely, Snap-down / lock-in style docking stations may only be designed to fit the ergonomics of particular Dell models in order for the connection to be made. Whichever design you pick, you definitely need to double-check that the connections between your laptop and the docking station match.

Dell laptop docking station list

01
Dell 3100 Ultra HD 4K triple display

Dell 3100 Ultra HD/4K Triple Display Docking Station

02
Dell E Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E seires

Dell E-Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E Series Latitudes

03
04

In-depth Review

01
A light, portable and affordable Dell laptop docking station capable of 4k monitor support
WePC Awards Best In Class

Dell 3100 Ultra HD/4K Triple Display Docking Station

Dell 3100 Ultra HD 4K triple display

Type

plug-in

Ports

2 x USB 2.0 to 4 pin USB Type A, 3 x super speed USB 3.0 - 9 pin USB type A, 1 x headphone input and output 3.5 mm, 1 x network - RJ-45, 1 x DisplayPort, 2x HDMI: 19 pin HDMI type A

Power supply

n/a

Weight

0.63lb / 0.29kg

Editor's Rating
4.0/5
Pros

good for connecting multiple monitors

very light

audio jack

Cons

no USB-C ports

no power supply

This Dell 3100 Ultra HD/4K docking station might be lacking a USB-C port and additional power supply, but besides that it has a great array of ports and sockets, supporting up to a maximum of three 4K displays via 2x HDMI ports and 1x DisplayPort.

The device also comes with a dedicated 3.5mm audio jack, and is very light and easily portable, as well as being compact and unobtrusive on the desktop.

02
The ideal Dell docking station for E-series laptops, it features an impressive variety of ports

Dell E-Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E Series Latitudes

Dell E Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E seires

Type

Snap down / lock-in

Ports

2x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0, 1x VGA, 2x DVI-D, 2x Display Port, 1 x Serial, 2 x PS/2 Connectors, 1 x Parallel Connector, 1x mouse port, 1x Keyboard, RJ-45 Ethernet Port, Microphone in, 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Power supply

240W

Weight

2.3lb / 1.04kg

Editor's Rating
4.0/5
Pros

massive amount of ports & cables

audio jack

security cable slot and lock

Cons

limited compatibility with different laptops

large and ugly

The Dell E-Port Plus Advanced Port Replicator for E Series Latitudes is a girthy bit of kit, and not as nice to look at compared to some of the newer Dell docking stations on this list, however, what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in functionality and value for money, and it’s not even that heavy.

It supports five USB ports in total (2x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0) as well a VGA socket, 2x DisplayPort and even 2x DVI-D ports. This is not to mention the whopping number of other peripheral ports available, the RJ-45 Ethernet socket, and the 3.5mm audio jack.

To power all these potential devices, the Dell E-Port Plus Advanced has its own dedicated 240W power supply.

The only real downside of this machine is the relative lack of compatibility with a wide number of laptops. As the name suggests it’s designed with the Dell E Series laptops in mind, though is compatible with a range of others, just not as many as we’d like. Make sure you double-check in the product listing to check if your laptop will work in conjunction.

03
A premium Thunderbolt 3 docking station with audio jack

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt Docking Station

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt docking station

Type

Thunderbolt plug-in

Ports

1x USB-C 3. 1 (Gen 2), 1x USB-A 3. 1 (Gen 1 with power Share), 1x combo Audio/headset, 1x audio out HDMI type A, 1x Thunderbolt 3

Power supply

130W

Weight

3.47lb / 1.57kg

Editor's Rating
2.5/5
Pros

Thunderbolt 3 support

audio jack

Cons

very expensive

heavy

The Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt Docking Station is a chunky customer. It’s by far the heaviest Dell laptop docking station we have here and is also very expensive, but you do get access to Thunderbolt 3 support. Besides this it has one USB-C 3.1 port as well as a USB-A 3.1 socket, an HDMI port for a monitor with audio out, and a 3.5mm audio/headphone combi-jack.

The power supply supports up to 130W of devices, and you do get a well-built piece of kit for your money.

04
A heavy Dell laptop docking station with a large number of ports and 180W charge

Dell WD15 4K Monitor Dock

Dell WD15 4K Monitor Dock

Type

USB-C/HDMI/VGA plug-in

Ports

3x USB 3.0 SuperSpeed, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB-C with Mini DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x RJ-45 Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm audio jack

Power supply

180W

Weight

9.48lb / 4.3kg

Editor's Rating
2.5/5
Pros

lots of ports including audio jack

180W charge

Cons

very heavy

DisplayPort capped at 60Hz output

The Dell WD15 4K Monitor Dock not only comes with a good array of USB ports, including three USB 3.0 SuperSpeed sockets, two USB 2.0, and one USB-C port, but also has multiple options for 4K monitor output.

The USB-C port also doubles as a Mini DisplayPort connection, though unfortunately this is capped at a 60Hz max refresh rate. Besides this though you get the usual HDMI and VGA ports, which have no such caps, allowing you to support three 4K monitors in total. A RJ-45 Ethernet socket and 3.5mm Audio Jack round off the selection nicely.

You also get 180W to power any external devices, though the downside is that the docking station is by far the heaviest selection on this page, coming in at a whopping 9.48lb. Certainly not easily portable.

Is a HP laptop compatible with a Dell docking station?

Some HP laptops will be compatible with Dell docking stations, it really just depends on the models of both. Plug-in style docking stations with universal adapter types like USB-C are the most likely to work together with HP laptops, whereas those lock-in designs which are made to mate with certain Dell models are unlikely to. Be sure to thoroughly check the specifications of both to make sure before you buy.

Final Word

This has been our Dell laptop docking station guide. We hope that it’s helped you make your choice as to which product is right for you, or at the very least, illuminated the magical world of docking stations that bit more. Do also have a look at our other laptop articles for all brands, including laptop how-to articles.

The Author Who Worked On This Article

Technology Writer
at
WePC
From halcyon days playing Sonic 2 on the Megadrive, to trying to work out how to make the ‘TOASTY!’ man appear on Mortal Kombat 3, many of Aaron’s fondest childhood memories are associated with gaming. He regrets nothing. First getting into PC gaming through exposure to Drug Lord 2.0 and then the original Half Life, he has been a fiend ever since. If you need to know anything about gaming laptops, he’s your guy.

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