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Targus Universal Notebook Docking Station with built-in Video and Audio
Friday, May 18th 2005 by Chuck Brown, Assoc Editor

Have you ditched your PC anchor (desktop) computer and done what so many others have found to be the growing phenomenon of “desktop replacement” notebooks? I mean, who needs “PC Anywhere”, when you CAN TAKE your PC anywhere?

A big bad 3.4 GHz 17-inch notebook may be a desktop killer, but at around 10 lbs, it’s a back killer for day-to-day travel. So a lot of us have found a small yet powerful 3-1/2 to 4 lbs 12 or 14-inch notebooks make a lot more sense as our one computer. But what about when you’re at you main “home” place of use? Wouldn’t some of those desktop features be real nice to have?

Having a great set of 3.1 Speakers, a Microphone for conferencing, a nice big LCD Monitor, a comfy optical mouse, keyboard, your Ethernet connection and your favorite collection of USB 1.1 or 2.0 devices like a printer and scanner, is what every desktop user enjoys. But imagine how long all those peripherals would take to plug-in and unplug every time move your one and only computer that’s a notebook.

The obvious solution is a “dock” that allows you to quickly mate your notebook to all those peripherals with a single connection. While many notebook makers offer a proprietary dock, they aren’t universal with “any” brand notebook. What happens when you get a new notebook or maybe you’re family or business has more than one brand of notebooks you might use at this “home” location?
 

Targus has made universal docks, some very limited in features and now this one, loaded to the gills in capabilities. Alas Mac portable users, you’re still out in the cold as the Windows crowd rejoices. Targus has put a lot of thought into the feature set on this model, likely based on previous models feedback.

The name of the Targus Model # ACP50US specifically calls out its main attractive feature, “Targus Universal Notebook Docking Station with Video (and Audio)” While brand specific docks have had video and audio interfaces before, this is new for “universal” docks. Making this work with the kind of interface Targus uses isn’t easy and I cover that in detail later.

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I should mention that the ONLY plug-in interface between the Targus dock and the PC notebook it will be connected with, is a USB 2.0 cable. If your PC notebook only has USB 1.1, forget about using this dock, it’s just too slow. Note that most “proprietary” brand and model specific dock usually use a special embedded connector that mates with the back or bottom of the same brand PC notebook.

This is a very fast interface bus that may be as high as the notebooks system bus – 133MHz and higher. That means 1066 Mbytes/sec of data can move across a 133MHz connection. USB 2.0 is up to 480 Mbytes/sec in “optimum” situations when the processor isn’t “busy”.

But there are other goodies on this Targus ACP50US notebook dock that you shouldn’t over look. There are 2 powered USB 2.0 ports, 2 standard USB 1.1 ports, 1 Serial Port, 1 Stereo Audio 1/8-inch output, 1 Mono Audio 1/8-inch input port, 1 10/100 Base-T Ethernet RJ-45 port and 1 Video 15 pin D-Sub monitor port. Since the dock comes with it’s own AC power supply and an On/Off button, chargeable accessories can be left connected and charging even when the notebook is unplugged or turned off. This is an excellent feature.


Abundant ports and only one USB 2.0 connection to your notebook - click images to enlarge

You’ll need ot be running Windows 2000 with SP4 (Service Pack) or Windows XP with SP 1 of greater. We tested with both on two different Compaq N Series business notebooks. One runs a 1.6GHz Centrino (M – P4) and the other a full on balls to the wall desktop Pentium 2.2GHz P-4 processor.

You will need to install the Targus software before connecting the Targus Model # ACP50US dock for the first time and you should note that Targus has a newer version on the software on their site. Higher video resolution is the main feature of the newer software version, and it does work now up to 1280x1024 16-bit, but at a price. You can find the new Targus software here.

Connector Types:
- (1) Monitor/Video Port (15 pin D-Sub)
- (1) 10/100 Base-T Ethernet (RJ-45) Jack
- (1) Serial Port
- (1) Stereo Audio-Out Jack (3.5 mm for speakers
      or headphones)
- (1) Mono Audio-In Jack (3.5mm for microphone)
- (4) Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Ports (two Power Ports and two standard USB ports both are backward compatible with USB 1.1 devices and support transfers up to 480Mbps)



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