Being a laptop-only user has it’s ups and downs. I can take my machine anywhere I go: home, a local coffee shop, or the office, but I’m limited by battery and I/O ports. The Retina MacBook Pro has the greatest screen I’ve ever seen, but it’s only available on my laptop. More often than not, though, I’m extremely happy that I have a machine I can get work done on, regardless of my location.
To complement my laptop-only ways, I’ve had to develop ways to obtain the benefits desktop users enjoy. Things like being able to plug into Ethernet and USB ports are considerations required of computing nomads like me, and I’m sure these things will become even less prevalent in the next couple of years. The Satechi Aluminum Mini Docking Station has helped me gain these benefits while having a small footprint and looking great.
The Aluminum Mini Docking Station (herein referred to as the ADS) is a device that allows your MacBook to obtain the I/O seen in the Mac Pro and the iMac. It contains its own external power and plugs into your machine via a high-speed USB port.
Through that connection, you get many benefits, including 4K HDMI video output, DVI output, 4 USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The experience is purely plug-and-play, and I didn’t have to install any additional software (thanks to things like USB, Ethernet, HDMI, and DVI being protocols). This resulted in a fantastic out-of-box experience.
The ADS is designed to take up minimal space, only requiring ~5 inches on each side and about 3 inches of clearance. It sits inconspicuously and neatly tucked underneath a wooden monitor stand I built with materials from Home Depot. Satechi offers the ADS in three colors as well that perfectly match the current colors available in various MacBooks: Space Gray, Silver, and Gold.
I had concerns coming into this endeavor. I was worried that the video output would be poor, or that the USB ports wouldn’t provide enough power to my HHKB Professional 2, Sensei Raw, or attached external hard drive. I was wrong.
There are only a few instances where I can recall the ADS leaving a little more to be desired. Firstly, I feel that my 518s sound better when plugged directly into my MacBook Pro as opposed to the docking station. There was a very faint hiss I could hear while using my headphones through the ADS that isn’t there when using them with my MacBook Pro. If I had to guess, interference is the culprit. Another letdown may or may not be the ADS’s fault. My gaming headset, the Logitech G930, frequently lost connection when plugged into the ADS. This has happened when the headset is plugged directly into my MacBook Pro, but only once or twice. It happens daily on the ADS. Lastly, the ADS has a blue LED light that turns on when it’s plugged in, and it can get a little bright. However, I have the ADS tucked away such that I only see the illumination, not the light itself.
Overall, the Aluminum Mini Docking Station from Satechi is very nice, and worthy of the $150 price tag. It’s provided me with a way to obtain a desktop feel while using a portable machine permanently. Couple that with the small footprint and design aesthetic to match the MacBook lineup, and you’ll see that Satechi has met nearly every need of a user like myself.
Pros: Many I/O options available, small footprint, looks right at home with Apple’s MacBook lineup.
Cons: Faint hissing while using the 3.5mm headphone jack, gaming headset frequently dropped connection when connected.