You’ll need a recent laptop for compatibility, and it’s not a given
If you own a 12th-gen or better laptop, you stand a good chance of being able to take advantage of this compact, cheap USB-C docking station. But it’s not guaranteed.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: Cyber Acoustics DS-1000 Essential Laptop Docking Station
Unfortunately, Cyber Acoustics’ DS-1000 Essential Laptop Docking Station can be seen as a trap for the unwary: It’s a true USB-C docking station, and that’s not always what you want.
If you buy this dock, you’re wading into a mess you may not be aware of. Put simply, this dock is likely to achieve what it sets out to do if you use a laptop with a 12th-gen or 13th-gen Core chip inside: power two 4K displays over just a generic USB-C port. (We haven’t tested this dock on a laptop with a Ryzen chip inside and USB4.)
USB-C peripherals have traditionally fallen into two categories: Thunderbolt docks, which simply blast 40Gbps of data across a USB-C cable; and DisplayLink-powered USB-C docking stations, which can be used with a laptop with a USB-C port, but not necessarily Thunderbolt. DisplayLink, now owned by Synaptics, uses a proprietary method of data compression that requires dedicated driver support to approximate the experience of a Thunderbolt dock.
We’ve tended to ignore a third option: a laptop with a USB-C cable that supports what’s known as HBR3 with DSC. This high-bitrate option uses its own compression techniques in conjunction with the DisplayPort standard, but it needs support by the laptop processor, the GPU, and the dock. This solution is plug-and-play, though, so you should know instantly if it works.
The bottom line is that HBR3 with DSC claims to offer similar performance to what DisplayLink offers (4K60 output to two displays), but support has been inconsistent. Our experience with 11th-gen Core laptops has been that HBR with DSC support is a crapshoot, but 12th-gen and 13th-gen hardware are supported and offer consistent, successful experiences—especially if your laptop falls under Intel’s Evo laptop brand, which undergoes further testing.
So, do you want to deal with all that? Assuming you do, well, CA’s DS-1000 delivers with the right hardware.
Mark Hachman / IDG
This slim plastic dock measures a hair over six inches wide and about three inches deep. It lacks a stand, and warms rather sharply under load. But it packs a pair of HDMI ports on the rear, four 5Gbps USB-A ports on the back, as well as gigabit ethernet. The USB-C cable, measuring about 2.5 feet, snakes out from the side of the dock. (CA’s manual and documentation is lousy, by the way, so we’re not quite clear what HDMI port technology it uses.) On the front is another USB Type A port and a USB-C port, too.
The latter USB-C port can be used to charge your smartphone, as it puts out 6.7W of charging power, or enough to fast-charge a smartphone. Otherwise, this is a powered dock, and it will supply 90W of charging power to your laptop, too.
Our test laptops use Thunderbolt 4 connections. Our 12th- and 13th-gen laptops did fine on both a dual 4K output as well as one 4K and one widescreen 1440p display. On an 11th-gen laptop, the DS-1000 could only manage 4K at 30Hz, rather than 60Hz—which is what CA promises, actually. This was the case for an 11th-gen laptop with Thunderbolt 4, and a second laptop with just a USB-C port. Both laptops included discrete GPUs.
(Are we cheating to use a Thunderbolt 4-equipped laptop? We don’t think so. Remember, this dock is $189, relatively cheap for even a budget Thunderbolt dock—which this isn’t. If you can save some cash, why not?)
Streaming 4K60 video via YouTube across the integrated ethernet port worked flawlessly, with just a handful of dropped frames. Those increased when we flipped between tabs on the other display, or moved the window around. There wasn’t any lag while moving windows around on either display, and we noticed no stuttering at all, even when copying data from the laptop to an external SSD.
We still wouldn’t recommend this dock for gaming, though.
We’re not formally recommending the Cyber Acoustics DS-1000, because of its compatibility issues with older hardware. But if you’re willing to invest the time (and let’s face it, Amazon’s return policy) this is a relatively inexpensive docking station that can be used in an office or home office.
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