By September 13, 2010

Toshiba Dynadock V10 review

Toshiba Dynadock V10 review Does the Dynadock V10 really soups up your laptop and productivity as V10 engine transplant would pimp up a car? Or is the all-in-one gizmo more of a two-stroke Trabant with a huge rear-wing?

I wasn’t sure what to make of the Dynadock.

It functions as docking stations of the yesteryear but it doesn’t look like one and connects via the ubiquitous USB rather than some obscure proprietary port.

The device tries to be a Swiss army knife of computer connectivity. It’s essentially a 4-in-1 gadget comprising a USB audio interface, a USB hub, a USB-to-DVI and a USB-to-Ethernet adapters. Quite an entourage for a single USB cable it uses to communicate with the computer.

 

 

Toshiba Dynadock V10 Packaging and practicality

It’s nice. White box with a handle and a transparent window for the device itself. Inside, a thick multilingual manual, one installation CD, the Dynadock and the slide-in, slide-off stand, a USB cable, a power adapter and a DVI-to-VGA adapter.

There are more vices than virtues to the latter two.

First of all, the power lead is ridiculously short – 94 cm (34″ in old money) fully stretched from the end of the connector jack to the brick. An average desk is 75 cm tall which means that, while the lead does fall the distance to the floor, the Dynadock needs to sit close to the edge of the desk and you need to have a power outlet just below the desk. In my office it meant laboriously rearranging extension leads and general power distribution for our office equipment so I could get a surge protector to the only usable position – directly under the Dynadock.

Back at home, the Dynadock had to settle for a place behind an array of front-line devices such as laptop, external monitor and speakers and was accessible only because the said monitor stands and turns on a £4.99 “Lazy Susan”. It really took away the magic of having USB and audio ports readily available.

The other weird thing was, certainly on the British Isles, that the power brick had a EU plug. A small adapter for the UK socket is supplied, though, and it helps to rectify the short lead problem by some 2.5 cm (1″).

The inclusion of the DVI-to-VGA adapter would have been useful if you could actually plug it into the Dynadock. As you can see on the photo, pins are not quite where they should be…

 

Installation

I first connected the Dynadock to my office work-donkey HP Touchsmart (Intel 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM) running Windows 7 Home Premium. All drivers were automatically downloaded and I was ready to go in minutes.

The video part of the Dynadock is based on a standard DisplayLink driver, so no problems there – it’s essentially the same device as the Winstar adapter I tested the last time (http://www.tracyandmatt.co.uk/blogs/index.php/winstar-usb-2-to-dvi-adapter-review) supporting the full HD 1920×1080 resolution.

The network part is based on ASIX AX88772A USB2.0 to Fast Ethernet adapter and since I had no problem using the device as a USB hub and an audio interface straight out of the box, I assume it’s a pretty generic affair.

The installation process was equally straightforward on the Sony Vaio laptop, a more powerful computer (Intel i5 2.27GHz CPU), running Windows 7 Home Premium. Unlike the HP, the Vaio required a restart, though. I did most of tests on the Vaio.

Third to the party was a humble netbook, Toshiba NB200 running the XP Home. The Old Daddy from Redmond located, downloaded and installed all drivers, it just took a bit longer, but it wasn’t more than 10 minutes from plugging the USB cable to one of the net book’s ports to when everything started to work.

 

The glitch

I’ve already hinted at my reservations about the idea of routing video, audio, USB and Ethernet traffic via a single USB port and my fears were realized about 15 minutes into the test of the Dynadock with the Touchsmart in a very bizarre way.

In my review of the Winstar USB to DVI adapter I mentioned that the processors’ workload increases substantially when video is played in the full-screen mode on the USB connected external display.

Toshiba’s implementation of the USB to DVI technology behaved in the exactly same way but I was keen to see what would happen if I copied a large chunk of data to and from a USB thumb drive connected to the Dynadock. The video on the 19-inch display was, predictably, more jittery with data transfer in the background.

And then it happened. I was moving some files from the computer to a thumb drive and attempted to launch a movie while I had Firefox window running on the USB display.

The whole computer froze in a spectacular fashion. The first to go was the VLC player, which seemed to have triggered the whole thing, but before I could terminate the VLC in the Task Manager, the whole system went south. So I hard-reset the computer.

To my astonishment, the USB display kept on displaying the frozen scene. I hoped it would go away later in the booting process but it didn’t. I logged in, it was still there. I did the restart again, to no avail.

Seriously, you have a better chance to see a snake down on its kneels than that.

I took two photos with my phone to document the phenomenon (the screen, not the snake).

Unplugging the USB cable from the PC didn’t work. Unplugging the Dynadock from the mains did… and the world was nice again. Still, I abandoned thoughts of replicating the issue. And after all, watching movies at work belongs among activities that are usually frowned upon. I also decided not to test the Dynadock on my Mac. It’s not officially supported and given what happened on the Touchsmart, I wasn’t ready to take chances.

 

Genesis

With the Dynadock set up on my Vaio, I enjoyed a triple HD setup (one display connected via the laptop’s HDMI port, second via the Dynadock, the third screen was the laptop’s display).

I also routed the audio and network through the Dynadock. Again, no issues there.

Bar one… the output can be very, very loud. Windows defaulted its audio routing to the Dynadock in all installations and the Win 7 installations had the “Loud” option in the device’s control panel selected by default. I found out the hard&loud way when I connected the headphones – despite having the Windows volume set to about 30% and with the iTunes volume slider in the middle. Mind, I was in a heavy metal band but this really hurt.

On the bright side, unlike the output on the Touchsmart which produces flat and distorted sound at any level, the Dynadock fared MUCH better.

The device worked as advertised although routing video and other data simultaneously via a single USB port does affect the transfer speed.

For example, I was playing a divx movie on the HDMI screen while I copied a 15GB chunk of 22 divx movies from an external portable USB drive to the Vaio’s HDD. It took on average 10 minutes and 30 seconds. When I moved the movie playback to the USB display, the same chunk took 15 minutes to move. Mind, the two external displays are identical.

Routing the Internet traffic using all the bandwidth the BT could get from my line didn’t seem to affect the performance in any measurable way.

Video playback in a full-screen mode was a bit jittery during the data transfer but watchable although the cursor moved rather reluctantly sometimes.

The processor utilization on the Vaio never went beyond 50% and in all test there were almost full 2GB of memory left.

The only downside was that the Dynadock sometimes failed to wake up the monitor that was on stand-by although it was properly identified by Windows’ Control Panel. Disabling and re-enabling the USB monitor in the Control Panel did the trick.

 

Revelation

Although I used all of the device’s interfaces for several days without issues, I still failed to see its purpose.

Yes, it multiplies the ports and/or adds functionality to some computers but in any scenario I considered some ports were obsolete. If you have a near-portless ultraportable such as MacBook Air, chances are you have another computer. On the other hand, you certainly don’t want to travel with a rather bulky Dynadock and its power-brick to add a few USBs to your machine.

Most laptops sport both audio in and out, they have video out and missing network ports are rare.

But then I got it.

I unplugged the Dynadock from the Vaio and plugged it to the Toshiba netbook.

Which meant that I could access everything attached to the Dynadock. Internet, external hard-drive, extra screen, audio came from the big desktop speakers.

Sure, the little machine had problems running the full HD display over the USB. a full-screen movie was unwatchable and the machine became sluggish even by netbook standards…

But there was this sheer convenience of hot-plugging and unplugging a single USB cable… I know, it’s stating the obvious but I was genuinely surprised by the revelation.

Normally, I would have to attach a USB keyboard, audio, display, etc. separately. I did it many times after I took my laptop to a press event and then went to plug everything back, one cable at a time.

I can see the Dynadock deployed in any environment where a single post is shared by several employees who have their own laptops. Or when one regularly works with several machines or just needs both the USB video adapter and a USB hub.

There are drawbacks, sure, as the USB-to-DVI cannot substitute a dedicated video port in all tasks and if you don’t mind several cables, individual components would probably do the job better, if you ever need them.

But as far as office work convenience goes, the Dynadock is certainly appealing, albeit to a limited audience.

 

Review by: Kristian Klima, World Business Press Online

Posted in: Laptops, Reviews
Tags:

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
Loading Facebook Comments ...

Post a Comment

No Trackbacks.

https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/surgical-face-masks