Imagine bringing your notebook to work, setting it down on a desk, firing it up, and having all of your USB accessories (storage drives, keyboard, mouse, printer, etc.) connect to your system within seconds—but without the aid of pesky wires that can quickly become a snakepit. Kensington looks to declutter your workspace with its Wireless USB Docking Station, the world’s first certified WUSB-enabled docking station that can stream the content of any device plugged into it to a notebook up to 15 feet away. It not only makes up to five USB devices wireless, but it also comes with an audio output and DVI port for cutting the cord between your notebook and your speakers and monitor.
Design and Setup
Measuring 6.3 x 4.2 x 2.1 and weighing a light 0.8 pounds (1.4 pounds with the AC adapter), the all-black mini-tower with adjustable antenna offers five USB 2.0 ports, one mini-USB, and a DVI port. Kensington supplied us with the Wireless USB Docking Station and a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 that were ready to go out of the box, but setup, according to the enclosed documentation, is as simple as installing the software from the bundled disc onto a 32-bit Windows Vista or XP WUSB-enabled notebook, and entering a PIN number (located on the bottom of the device) when prompted. A Kensington rep said establishing the connection between the Wireless USB Docking Station and a PC takes less than 20 seconds. After firing up the notebook and plugging the hub into an outlet, we noted that the two began connecting in just over 10 seconds.
Testing the Wireless USB Connection
We tested the Kensingtion dock with a variety of USB-powered equipment. We plugged in a PNY Attaché thumb drive (filled with 3GB of mixed media), a SanDisk Sansa View, and an SD Card (plugged into a SD Card reader) into the Kensington Wireless USB Docking Station; each was recognized as quickly as they would when plugged directly into a PC. We were able to load the Sansa View with music, dig through the flash drive’s 3GB of media files, and transfer images from the SD Card without a hitch. Unfortunately, the Dock doesn’t ship with a Wireless USB dongle for systems that lack built-in support for the technology.
The 3GB folder of mixed media was also used to test Wireless USB’s transfer speed. We were able to copy the folder from the PNY drive to the ThinkPad T61 in an agonizing 8 minutes and 22 seconds—a paltry rate of 6.1 MBps—even with the hub position less than a foot away from the notebook and within line-of-sight, which should bring optimum performance. Transferring the same folder back to the PNY drive plugged into the Kensington Wireless USB Docking Station took an even more excruciating 13 minutes and 20 seconds, which translated into a molasses-slow 3.8 MBps.
When we moved the notebook out to 10 feet away, the hub wrote data at 4.5 MBps, while it read at 3.0 MBps. This dropped to 3.9 MBps and 2.7 MBps, respectively, at 13 feet. When we plugged the USB key directly into the ThinkPad T61, we saw read and write tests using a standard USB connection produced marks of 17.2 MBps and 10.0 MBps, respectively. Clearly, the Kensington Wireless USB Docking Station isn’t designed to transfer large volumes of data quickly.
We tested the hub’s range by connecting it to a 19-inch monitor using a DVI cable, pressing the DualView button on the front of the device that placed it in Clone mode (which duplicates everything that we do on the PC onto the monitor), and slowly moving the T61 away. We lost connection 14 feet from the Docking Station, which jibes well with the device’s rated 15-foot range. While 14 feet isn’t very far, it should be more than enough if you’re working in a small office environment.
Pressing the DualView button once again took the Wireless USB Docking Station out of Clone mode and into an extended desktop, where we were able to drag documents effortlessly across from one display to another, which expanded our available screen real estate. It can display up to a 1600 x 1200-pixel resolution with a 4:3 external display, and 1680 x 1050 with a widescreen display, but the visuals were a bit blurry.
The Wireless USB Docking Station let us stream home videos and music from the ThinkPad T61 to the external monitor without a hiccup (even from 13 feet away), but audio wasn’t fed through the notebook’s speakers by default. We had to right-click on the notebook’s volume icon, enter “Playback Devices,” and select the internal speakers to have audio flow through the ThinkPad T61. The dock also includes a headphone jack, which produced clear audio through our Sennheiser HD202 cans. Streaming MP3s and Slacker tunes were crisp and played back as smoothly as they would on a notebook.
Currently, only a handful of systems such the Dell Latitude E6400, Fujitsu LifeBook A6210, and Lenovo ThinkPad R500 have wireless USB technology built-in that would enable owners to use the Kensington Wireless USB Docking Station. Depending on how you intend to use it, it’s a compelling solution. Multimedia mavens, or those seeking a way to transfer large amounts of content quickly should stick with connecting devices directly to their notebooks. However, the Kensington Wireless USB Docking Station is a fine choice for those looking to prevent their computing area from being overrun with cords, and who want to extricate their laptop from a desk without having to unplug half a dozen peripherals.