Which docking stations for Chromebooks are best?
The low cost, small size and streamlined operating system of Chromebooks come together to make them some of the most convenient laptops you can buy. One of the few things they lack is a wide selection of ports, and the best way to overcome that is with a dedicated docking station. There’s a decent range of options, from standalone docks with integrated charging to pocket-size dongles suitable for use on the go.
The best high-end docking station for Chromebooks is the Wavlink 848 4K Docking Station, which has plenty of ports to choose from and requires just a single cable to your laptop for both power and data.
What to know before you buy a docking station for a Chromebook
Most don’t include a power supply
Premium docking stations for full-size Windows laptops often draw power from a DC adapter plugged into the wall and distribute it to the PC via a USB-C cable and the Power Delivery protocol. There are some Chromebook-compatible docks with that feature, but most low-end and midrange laptop docking stations call on the user to supply a USB-C charger.
Good power supplies are available
The good news: the vast majority of Chromebooks draw just 65 watts or less, which means you don’t have to go all out and break the bank on a suitable power supply. The Anker PowerPort III Pod Lite is just about the most compact, affordable choice if you’re OK with only one charging port. If you’d prefer to have extra USB charging outlets, great (although more expensive) models include the baseline Anker PowerPort III with two Type-C ports and the high-end PowerPort Atom PD 4 that adds a pair of Type-A ports.
You’ll need a cable, too
It’s also important to pick out a reliable USB-C cable that’s certified for up to 100 watts of USB PD charging. While it’s not super common anymore, it is still possible to damage sensitive electronics with a faulty USB-C cable. As long as you stick with a dependable brand, you should have no problems. The Uni USB-C cable is one of the most economical choices and the Anker Powerline III Flow is a premium option with soft-touch insulation and a few colors to choose from.
Chromebooks are limited in terms of external monitors
Unlike Windows PCs (and some Macs) that can drive multiple external displays, most Chromebooks are limited to just a single secondary monitor. One workaround for this is to find a hub or dock that includes what’s called a DisplayLink chipset, which basically serves as a standalone graphics processor and lets even hardware-limited Chromebooks use more than one external display. This USB hub from UtechSmart is one example of such a hub.
There are a couple of issues with that method, though. First, some Chromebooks (particularly those that run on Arm as opposed to Intel central processing units) don’t offer consistent compatibility with DisplayLink chipsets. Second, the DisplayLink hardware ends up sending much of the load to the laptop’s CPU, whereas the graphics processing unit normally does all the display processing. And Chromebooks have pretty limited processing power to start with.
What to look for in a quality docking station for Chromebooks
USB-C Power Delivery
This is a must-have for any modern laptop dock. Now a mature and fully realized technology, USB PD charging lets docks deliver power and data using a single cable, greatly increasing convenience.
Plenty of USB ports
Even some high-end laptops suffer from having too few ports. Make sure the dock or hub you select has enough ports to accommodate all the devices you need to use. In particular, pay attention to which USB sockets are Type-A and Type-C, to make sure you can still use all your devices with your new hardware.
A number of other features are standard on laptop docking stations. Most have an HDMI output, which works perfectly with modern TVs and PC monitors. More rarely, they sport DisplayPort connectors (specifically for modern PC monitors) and VGA or DVI connectors (for older monitors). Some users need hardwired Ethernet ports for speed and security while others need SD and microSD card readers for storing media such as images.
How much you can expect to spend on a docking station for Chromebooks
The most affordable USB-C hubs for Chromebooks start around $30 and the best models cost in the $200 range. You can spend as much as $300-plus on a premium laptop docking station, but it won’t be a worthwhile investment for most Chromebooks.
Docking station for Chromebooks FAQ
What’s the difference between a hub and a docking station?
A. Not much. Typically, hubs are small dongles with a low price and no built-in power supply, while docking stations are usually larger, meant for stationary use and often include a DC power supply. With that said, there’s a decent amount of crossover between the two, and there’s no need to get hung up on the specific terminology as they basically serve the same function.
Are these docking stations compatible with other personal computers?
A. Yes. Most of today’s docking stations work with Windows and Apple computers and the majority also work with Chromebooks. One of the only differences you’ll see is how those computers deal with multiple external displays. Windows does a generally good job handling two or more external monitors, macOS sometimes runs into issues on newer hardware and Chrome OS is limited to a single external display at any given time.
What’s the best docking station to buy for Chromebooks?
Top docking station for Chromebooks
What you need to know: It’s a full-featured dock that boasts 65 watts of USB Power Delivery charging.
What you’ll love: Unlike many docks, this offers integrated charging so you don’t need to use your normal power supply. It also has a gigabit Ethernet jack, five USB expansion ports and a convenient vertical design that saves desk space.
What you should consider: It’s awfully expensive for a Chromebook peripheral.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top docking station for Chromebooks for the money
What you need to know: It’s about as compact and affordable as multiport adapters get.
What you’ll love: With three USB passthrough ports, standard and microSD card readers and an HDMI output, it has the most basic expansion ports that most people need. At its price, it’s a hard bargain to pass up.
What you should consider: If you need an Ethernet jack, it’s not for you. Plus, you’ll need to supply your own USB-C charger.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This one’s engineered to add expansion ports while also improving your laptop’s ergonomics.
What you’ll love: It’s designed to rest underneath the back of your laptop and support it at an angle, which many users find to provide a more comfortable typing experience. In addition to plenty of USB ports and two SD card readers, it offers your choice of DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA video outputs.
What you should consider: It’s a bit too wide for smaller Chromebooks and lacks Ethernet connectivity as well as integrated charging.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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