Price: From $379.99
Ports: 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen1, 3 x USB-A 3.2 Gen1, 1 x HDMI 2.0 video, 3.5mm audio, UHS-II SD 4.0 card reader
Supports: iPad Pro 12.9-inch and iPad Pro 11-inch/iPad Air (2020)
Wireless charging: 2 x Qi wireless charging (iPhone 8 or later, AirPods/Airpods Pro), option Apple Watch Charging module.
There’s no denying that iPads are becoming genuine laptop replacements thanks to mouse and trackpad support and the powerful A14 Bionic chip. The thing is, Apple’s tablets need the right accessories to make them true replacements for more professional use.
Enter Kensington’s StudioDock: the best iPad docking station around. Not only does it come with USB 3.2 Type-A and Type-C ports, but it also magnetically mounts an iPad onto a sturdy stand that nails the Apple look, offers Qi wireless charging for iPhones and AirPods and supports 4K monitors for good measure. Apple’s Magic Keyboard may bring the iPad closer to being a laptop, but this turns the tablet into an actual desktop setup.
However, if you aren’t that deep into the Apple ecosystem, some of the StudioDock’s key features won’t be fully utilized, which only magnifies the expensive price tag attached to it. Some of the best docking stations around aren’t nearly as expensive, though they don’t offer as many features.
Kensington’s StudioDock is a unique docking station many iPad Pro and iPad Air users will be delighted with, but is it a true desktop setup replacement or is it more inclined to be a handy second-screen? Let’s find out.
Kensington StudioDock: Price and availability
The StudioDock is currently available only in the U.S.. And if you’re familiar with Apple’s exuberant pricing, then you won’t be too surprised to see Kensington’s iPad docking station priced at $379.99. That’s only if you have an iPad Pro (11-inch) or iPad Air (2020).
The docking station is also compatible with an iPad Pro (12.9-inch), but this bumps up its price to an unfortunate $399.99. There are definitely more affordable docking stations for iPads out there, but to be fair, those don’t come with the list of extra features the StudioDock offers, including a stand for the iPad.
My StudioDock also came with nearly every country-specific adapter for its power pack, including for North America, Australia, Japan, U.K. and Europe.
Kensington StudioDock: Design
The StudioDock has Apple written all over it — right down to its silver aluminum chassis. Although, it’s more of a throwback to Apple’s thicker days. The docking station is made of a bulky but sturdy stand that has a lot of heft to it. I’m a fan of its base’s thick, round corners, which offer a platform to place your iPhone and AirPods for wireless charging. Its LED indicators on the front are a nice touch, turning green or red depending on the battery status of the connected devices.
The grey-threaded material for the Qi wireless charging is also quite stylish and breaks up the pure silver aesthetic while outlining the placement of the AirPods’ charging case (which I don’t have yet). Note that this wireless charging pad only works with AirPods and AirPods Pro; I tried charging Apple’s Powerbeats Pro only to see a red blinking light.
The stand itself leading up to the magnetic iPad holder conveniently sits at eye level, though I’m disappointed that it isn’t height-adjustable. Depending on your seat or desk height, it may not completely match the ergonomics of your setup; an adjustable stand would have fixed that.
That being said, the magnetic holder where the iPad connected to (via USB Type-C) has a 120-degree adjustable hinge. This meant I could easily change my iPad’s angle, and even adjust it from portrait to landscape mode. I’m not one to draw, but I can imagine this feature coming in handy for professional artists, or for those looking at stock charts or browsing the web.
The magnetic holder also leaves space for the camera (so you won’t have to worry about scratching it), as well for the Apple Pencil and an optional magnetic Apple Watch charging module (coming sometime in mid-2021), which pleasantly sits alongside the iPad. The StudioDock is a true central hub for the Apple ecosystem.
Kensington StudioDock: Ports and connectivity
You’ll find a majority of the ports at the back of the StudioDock, along with a few extra ones at the side.
The iPad connects to a USB-C output, which I found doesn’t easily slot into the device. The iPad is difficult to adjust in the magnetic holder so it can be tricky to connect the cable.
Along the back, you’ll find three USB 3.2 Type-A ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and Gigabit Ethernet port and a jack for the power cable.
Along the left side of the docking station, there’s a USB 3.2 Type-C port below the power button, while the right side has a 3.5mm audio jack and a UHS-II SD 4.0 card reader.
Kensington StudioDock: Performance
Right off the bat, the StudioDock offers USB-C charging for the mounted iPad at 37.5W, which is, as Kensington puts it, 108% faster than the Apple charger.My iPad Air (2020) came with a 20W USB-C charger, and the StudioDock definitely charged it faster. As for the Qi wireless charging, the iPhone gets up to 7.5W, while the AirPods and Apple Watch get up to 5W. That’s not wicked fast, but they’ll charge at around the same rate as any Apple charger. All-in-all, the docking station is ace at keeping all your Apple devices charged.
The station is also capable of outputting 4K (3840 x 2160 resolution) at 60Hz, meaning it can support one 4K monitor. You’ll find other docking stations can now support multiple 4K monitors. However, the iPad itself counts as a touchscreen monitor and, depending on your needs, this could be a major plus. This turned my iPad into a fully capable second screen (although only for screen mirroring).
I had no problem connecting keyboards and mice to the iPad, even with my wireless (via USB-A connectivity) Razer Naga Pro. Along with the SD card reader and Apple Pencil attachment, these connections turned my iPad into a desktop setup, allowing me to make the most out of the tablet. I loved using it. The headphone jack worked just fine too, although if you have AirPods, it probably won’t get too much action.
The StudioDock is a unique docking station. Technically, it’s an overpriced dock for those who don’t have an iPad Pro or 4th-gen iPad Air. If you do though, along with an iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch, this turns into the best docking station for an Apple ecosystem/desktop setup. It even has the Apple aesthetic for good measure.
It doesn’t have the most ports, but there are enough to create an iPad-centric workspace or secondary system. It could certainly be used as a replacement desktop setup thanks to Apple’s millions of apps optimized for iPadOS, and keyboard and mouse support, along with the StudioDock’s USB-A/USB-C ports and SD card reader.
Having an Apple Pencil makes it even better for professional artists who use an iPad daily, especially since you can adjust from portrait to landscape mode with ease. However, these are all accessories that you need to already own to make full use out of the StudioDock — which is already pricey in itself. Overall, the StudioDock is a fantastic addition to the iPad for those willing to spend a pretty penny on a hub for your Apple ecosystem.