Why did you buy your netbook? It was the portability, right? And at the time you were fine with sacrificing some of the functionality a full-size notebook would afford, such as an optical drive, larger hard drive, and more than three USB ports. But sometimes you need those extra amenities. Enter the Apricorn Aegis Netdock: for $179, it delivers a DVD burner, 500GB hard drive, and four USB connections. It may lack a few ports when compared to some competitors, but this dock is a good value.
Design, Features, and Models
At 6.3 x 5.8 x 2.1 inches and 1.2 pounds, the Aegis Netdock isn't much larger than the Toshiba Dynadock V (6.1 x 3 x 1.3 inches; 9.9 ounces); it could easily slip into a messenger bag. It sports a sleek, glossy black-and-red exterior that picks up fingerprints, but not overly so. On the front is the DVD drive opening, while the back houses four USB 2.0 ports (two of which will power external devices even if your netbook is turned off). The Aegis NetDock also comes with a vertical stand for placing it upright on a desk (we think this is the most elegant and convenient way of using it). Still, it would have been nice to see some extra audio jacks or a DVI/VGA port, as with the Dynadock V.
Nevertheless, this dock has a few great features of its own. The CD/DVD drive lets you watch movies and rip CDs and DVDs. The device also has an auto-on/off feature that powers the dock on when its in use, and off when it's not, even if you have it plugged in. The Aegis Netdock also comes with some useful software: BurnAware (CD/DVD burning), Microsoft SyncToy (synchronization software), and VLC Media Player. Apricorn doesn't bundle any backup software, which seems like a missed opportunity for a notebook accessory in this price range.
In addition to an optical drive, the Aegis NetDock houses a 5,400-rpm, 500GB hard drive, which can be swapped out by simply removing a single screw and sliding off the top case. Since the hard drive in most netbooks is usually 320GB or smaller, most will appreciate all the extra space the NetDock provides. Apricorn also sells a 250GB model of the Aegis Netbook for $149, and one without a hard drive for $89.
Setup and Performance
Unlike such docking solutions as the Toshiba DynaDock V or Warpia Easy Dock, the Aegis NetDock requires no driver installation process: just plug in the dock's AC adapter, connect it to your netbook via the included USB cable, and you're good to go. We plugged in a wired mouse, keyboard, and external hard drive to the NetDock, and our Toshiba mini NB305 recognized the peripherals almost immediately.
Next, we popped in a DVD of Aeon Flux. Windows Media Player in Windows 7 Starter Edition had trouble playing the movie since it lacked the proper codecs, but the NetDock's included VLC Media Player software let us watch Charlize Theron's ass-kicking antics in no time.
To try out the speed of the NetDock's hard drive, we copied over a 4.97GB mixed media folder. The NetDock's 5,400-rpm drive wrote this file from our mini NB305 in 7 minutes and 11 seconds (11.8 MBps); read speeds weren't much faster at 18.9 MBps. When we ran our LAPTOP Transfer Test (duplicating the 4.97GB folder) on the NetDock's drive, it achieved speeds of just 8.2 MBps, which is abysmally slow. To put this in perspective, in our tests the Buffalo MiniStation reached 28.6- and 21.9-MBps read and write speeds, respectively. (To be fair, we completed our NetDock testing on a netbook, whereas the MiniStation was connected to a much more powerful Lenovo ThinkPad W510.)
If you're looking to expand the capabilities of your netbook or ultraportable, the Apricorn Aegis NetDock might just be the ticket. Combining four USB ports, an optical drive, and 500GB of built-in storage, it's quite the value at $179, even if the hard drive is slow. Plus, if you want to bring your own storage, you can opt for the $89 hard drive-free version. While other docking solutions such $79.99 Toshiba Dynadock V or $149 Warpia Easy Dock let you hook up a larger monitor, we like that the NetDock lets you play your DVD collection, keeping it from obsolescence just a bit longer.