The best docks do two things well: power monitors and stay the hell out of the way. The Dell DS1000 is a $222 dock that doubles as a monitor stand to put your external display front and center. While it saves you from having to keep a separate docking station under your monitor stand, it can hold only one display and the ports can be difficult to reach.
Dell's dock uses Alt-mode over USB Type-C to send data, charging power and video over a single cable, without requiring a driver or software install. However, as with other Alt-mode docks, the video output doesn't always work as advertised, in this case failing to output to dual 1080p monitors from one of our test laptops. Overall, the DS1000 is a solid dock for someone who needs one 4K display, but less than ideal for those who need multiple monitors and use lots of accessories.
Because the DS1000 holds a monitor, it's far larger than the average dock. The base alone is 12.4 x 7.7 inches. The dock is constructed from gray and black plastic, with the exception of the part that attaches to the monitor, which is metal. The monitor arm sticks out of the base and stands 16.7 inches tall. A hole in the arm allows for cables to pass through with ease.
A number of cables are directly attached to the DS1000 and cannot be removed. On the left side of the base, is the DisplayPort over USB Type-C cable, a similar design to Dell's WD15 dock. In a rather poor design choice, cables with DisplayPort, USB Type-B and a female three-pronged connector protrude from the arm. If any of these cords cease to work, you may have to buy a whole new dock.
The dock ships with a VESA plate to attach the monitor. Dell states that the dock supports monitors from 19 to 27 inches, and specifically calls out its E-, P- and UltraSharp-series monitors. However, other VESA-compatible displays should fit.
The DS1000 was one of the few pieces of tech I ever had to read the manual to put together. Following the step-by-step drawings, I managed to attach the arm to the base, route the cables through the bottom of the arm and adjust a small hook on the cables to attach them to the monitor mount for easy management. Then, I was finally ready to attach the VESA plate to the monitor and connect it to the dock from there. If you work in a big office, chances are IT will take care of all of this for you. But if you're ordering one of these docks for yourself or a smaller business, you're on your own.
The DS1000 is a far less intensive build than the Humanscale M/Connect, which requires several different screwdrivers and forces you to crawl under your desk. On the other hand, that dock supports multiple monitors and has far more functionality. The DS1000, however, doesn't offer multiple monitor support. If you need multiple monitors and don't want several stands cluttering up your desk, the DS1000 isn't a good option.
Despite being far larger than most docks, the DS1000 doesn't have a greater number of ports than its peers. The right side is where you'll find two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone/microphone combo jack. The rest of the ports are on the back: the power jack, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, the Ethernet jack, VGA and HDMI outputs, and a speaker output.
I appreciated that the DS1000 maintained a legacy video port, as this will allow users to continue to use older monitors as secondary displays.
I found that the placement of the majority of the ports on the back of the dock was uncomfortable. Unlike a regular dock, which you can grab and move, the DS1000 is heavy and stationary, especially with a monitor attached. I found myself contorting my neck and arms to add and remove peripherals from the two rear USB 2.0 ports.
Using the DS1000 dock won't take a toll on your computer's performance, but you still have to be able to get it to work. The dock uses USB Type-C's Alt-Mode, which means this dock can deliver video to monitors without the user installing any software. We've found that some docks using this mode are finicky, and that was the case here.
I first tested the DS1000 with a Lenovo ThinkPad 13, and found that with the single monitor over DisplayPort, the dock output at 4K as promised. I was able to play 4K video on one monitor and type on the other with no lag at all. When I checked the task manager, the dock was providing no noticeable strain on the CPU.
My experience got dicier when I tried to add a second monitor. Neither VGA nor HDMI worked when I was also using DisplayPort, despite Dell's claim that the dock works on two monitors at 1080p. I was able to get VGA to work on its own at 1080p, but couldn't get HDMI to work. When I swapped out the DS1000 for a Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition, I was able to use two displays at once, so your experience may vary depending on your hardware and OS.
Both computers charged over USB Type-C, which meant I didn't need to have the charger plugged in behind my desk. Not all laptops with USB-C support charging over the new standard, though, so be sure to check before purchasing.
There is a niche that will love the DS1000: those who follow the clean-desk policy at their offices to the T and require just one monitor. They'll benefit from having their work front and center and the ability to utilize a number of extra ports.
It doesn't give you a lot of room to grow, though, and multimonitor docks like Humanscale's M/Connect are pricey, with the M/Connect starting at $489 thanks to its fancy adjustable arm. If you're using multiple monitors, you're probably better off using your own monitor stands and a cheaper dock, like our editors' choice Plugable USB-C Triple Display Dock ($179). Your desk may be a bit messier, but you'll have a lot more versatility.
If you want a combined monitor arm and dock, however, the DS1000 is more affordable than fancier options, but it isn't as adaptable or easy to use.