Every start-up home studio will run into one problem very early: a lack of ports on your PC or laptop of choice. Thankfully, USB docking stations are an easy and reliable fix.
Whether you’re setting up a little home studio for making music, streaming on Twitch, or editing video, there’s a few problems that stretch across many kinds fo creative media. Paramount is the declining number of inputs/outputs on laptops, and the growing number of devices you’re probably plugging into said laptop.
Macbooks, despite their huge popularity amongst creatives, are especially guilty of this – but thankfully there’s an easy fix. USB docking stations are simple devices that upgrade one port into many, and no contemporary home setup is complete without one.
Why do I need one?
The need for these are obvious. A Twitch or Youtube streamer, for instance, needs to plug at least a capture card, webcam, and microphone into their computer or laptop, and more advanced setups may require an AV mixer, multiple cameras, a second screen for live chat, or any other combination of devices.
Music producers will require a similar basic setup; likely an audio interface, microphone, and MIDI keyboard. But soon enough you’ll need a hard drive, or even an SSD if your laptop is having processing issues. And that’s not even covering the need for multiple instruments.
What a USB docking station does is expand your ports, meaning you’re covered no matter what you’re using – be it a decade-old Macbook Air or a high-end gaming PC. As an added bonus, most have power pass-through, meaning you’ll be able to charge multiple devices at once.
Inside Happy Mag our go-to USB docking stations both come from ATEN; the UH3239 Multiport Mini Dock and the UH3238 Travel Dock. Both are super reliable, won’t take up a massive amount of desk space, and clock in at less than $80 (often cheaper if you snag them for sale price).
If it’s just going to sit on your desk, the UH3239 is definitely the top option. It comes with six ports covering HDMI, SD and Micro SD, USB-C, and USB 3.2. Anything you plug into this bad boy should work across any major operating system, and it’s also capable of outputting 4K video at 30Hz if your HDMI cable and monitor supports it.
For creatives on the go, the UH3238 has some pretty attractive features. It’s only missing an SD/Micro SD input from the UH3239, but is built so that you can seamlessly plug it into your phone or the side of your laptop, making it quite sleek if you’re working outside of home.
You’ll also be able to output 4K video on the UH3238, but this time at a buttery smooth 60Hz.
Find out more about the UH3239 Multiport Mini Dock here and the UH3238 Travel Dock here.