Whether you take your laptop everywhere or always leave it in the house, you want to have the best possible experience when your machine is sitting on your desk. With a universal dock, you can attach your system to multiple monitors and a wide variety of peripherals with extra USB ports. Depending on your needs, you can find budget docks that will output to dual HD monitors over standard USB, or more expensive docks that have support for USB Type-C and for 4K monitors that will work not only with your current laptop, but also your next one. If you only need a few extra ports, consider a USB Type-C hub. And take a look at our ports guide to learn about all of the ports out there and which ones you need.
Best Cheap Dock - Plugable UD-3900 Dual Display Universal Docking Station
They say you get what you pay for, but Plugable's UD-3900 gives you a lot of performance for under $100. It supplies full-HD support to two monitors, and has all the ports that the vast majority of users need. If you don't have a 4K monitor on your desk or a USB Type-C port on your laptop, this will support everything you have today at a low price.
Top Dock Overall - Plugable USB-C Triple Display Dock
Using the Plugable USB-C Triple Display Dock (UD-ULTCD) feels a bit like living in the future. It works with all of the newest standards, including USB Type-C for charging and external displays, along with support for a 4K monitor. It's oriented in a vertical position, so you can't keep the dock under your laptop or monitors, but its performance and support for three displays simultaneously makes the Triple Display Dock our top choice.
The Humanscale M/Connect 2 is something you're more likely to see in your office than your home. It's a full-scale ergonomic solution with USB Type-C for charging (and a USB Type-A adapter, if you're not ready for the new standard just yet) and supports dual 4K monitors. It's clamp design allows you to keep the majority of your cables under your desk, allowing for a neat workspace. It starts around $300, though you'll have to pay more for a monitor arm to attach to it.
The one downside to a dock is that it takes up space on your desk, but Targus' DV1K-4K docking station is easy to tuck away. The small, well-built dock is designed to fit under your laptop, sporting a nonslip surface to keep your system from sliding down. The dock is also small enough to fit under your monitors, if you prefer. The DV1K-4K supports one 4K monitor and has a ton of USB 3.0 ports, making it a strong choice for power users.
Most businesses have USB 3.0 laptops now, but will want something with USB Type-C for the future. Look no further than Dell's new D6000 universal dock, which has a built-in adapter to easily switch between the standards, so you can connect it to just about any laptop. It can go up to 5K on a single screen or handle up to three 4K screens over USB Type-C.
Considering Plugable's other offerings, we weren't surprised that its Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is excellent. It's the best we've tested so far, with a reasonable price, the ability to be used both vertically and horizontally and a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter in the box. It charges a laptop while powering up to two 4K displays or a single 5K monitor and has a few extra USB 3.0 ports for legacy peripherals.
Andrew joined Laptopmag.com in 2015, reviewing computers and keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter @FreedmanAE.