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Kool Toolz: BookEndz

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Kool Toolz

Kool Toolz: BookEndz

by Dennis Sellers


Laptops are great, but those who use them as their primary computer probably connect them to an external monitor, printer and other devices when they're at home or at the office. That can mean lots of peripheral connecting and disconnecting, as well as cable clutter. The BookEndz Docks (http://www.bookendzdocks.com/) are designed to deal with this problem. In fact, BookEndz' product line includes docking stations for Apple laptops dating back to 2000.

As this article was being written, BookEndz was accepting pre-orders for docking stations for Apple's "unibody" MacBooks and MacBook Pros. The station for the 17-inch Unibody MacBook Pro will ship later this year. Pricing is US$159 for 13-inch docking stations, $299.95 for 15-inch docking stations, and $319.95 for 17-inch docking stations.

The docking stations are designed to eliminate cable confusion and damage to connectors. Once the peripheral devices are plugged into the BookEndz Dock, they can remain in and the portable can be connected or disconnected as needed. An "ejection system" ejects the laptop.

For example, the 17-inch docking station replicates all of the connectors and ports from the sides of the 17-inch MacBook Pro and routes the connectors to the back of the dock and manages the new MacSafe Power Connector. The dock allows for all of the peripheral devices normally connected to the sides of the MacBook - Power, Ethernet, Modem, Video, FireWire 400 and 800, USB, Audio In, Audio Out - to be plugged into the back of the dock, and remain plugged in, independent of the computer. Additionally, the dock includes a powered USB hub for a total of five USB ports rather than the standard 2-3 found on Apple's laptops. There are also full-size VGA and DVI ports.

This means that taking the computer from the office or the home, or moving it from one room to another, doesn't require disconnecting and reconnecting several devices. However, you must use your MagSafe power supply to power up your MacBook Pro. The dock doesn't supply power (Apple doesn't license the MagSafe technology to other companies), but it does have a feed-through slot to house the MagSafe Connector.

Using a BookEndz Dock with your laptop involves a few simple steps. First, place the BookEndz Dock on the flat surface on which you'll be using it. Plug all of your external devices into the? station (video monitor, network, printer, etc.).

Shut down your laptop and close the LCD screen.

Move the release handle on the BookEndz Dock to the vertical position. Place the laptop on to the BookEndz Dock. Make sure that the ports of the MacBook Pro align with the connectors of the BookEndz Dock. The connectors mate with those on your laptop and allow you to dock and undock with your external devices. Once those ports are lined up push the left hand side of Docking Station into the ports on the laptop.

Restart your laptop and allow your peripheral devices to boot-up.

When you're ready to travel with your MacBook or MacBook Pro, shut down your laptop and all external devices and close the LCD screen. It's not necessary to unplug them from the dock.

Move the release handle to the vertical position. The BookEndz Dock will undock from your laptop.

The BookEndz's male connectors have a noticeable bit of flexibility, which concerns some folks about their durability. This looseness is designed to allow the connectors to align with their respective female notebook sockets, even sockets that might be slightly off. However, you should certainly dock and undock your laptop with care. Don't go yanking it loose from the BookEndz. Also, the first few times you use the BookEndz, make sure everything is lined up perfectly. After that, it's a little smoother to use.

There have also been comments that the design of the BookEndz is a bit unwieldy. However, considering the very purpose of the docking station, that's probably unavoidable.

After all, the BookEndz' purpose is to "transform" your laptop into a desktop computer. For those who carry a laptop between home and office, two of the docking stations might be a convenience worth paying for. It's a matter of how often you connect and disconnect your Apple laptop from several peripherals and accessories. If you'll be docking and un-docking your laptops several times a day, the price tag will be worth it.


Dennis Sellers is a long time journalist. He started in the newspaper business, but has been in the online journalism business for the past 15 years. He's the editor/publisher of Macsimum News (http://www.macsimumnews.com)

 
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