I like my thin and light Ultrabook as much as the next bloke, but there is a price to be paid for this slick form factor: lack of ports. You might only have a couple of USB 3.0 ports and most thinner notebooks lack a LAN port for wired connectivity. And there’s no way that you’re going to find one of these thin-and-light machines boasting a DVI output.
Effectively elevating your laptop to near desktop-like connectivity is the Diamond Multimedia DS3900. It’s not just any old docking station; Diamond is referring to it as an “Ultra Dock” and you can tell right away that they mean business.
One Dock to Rule Them All
Now, let’s get one thing clear. The Diamond DS3900 is a dock, but your notebook doesn’t actually latch onto it in any way. Instead, the connection is done through a single USB 3.0 cable. From that solitary connection, your Ultrabook, laptop, or even your MacBook can gain access to all sorts of additional functionality. However, in order to gain access to all of those ports, the DS3900 does require its own power source and the AC adapter is provided (along with the USB 3.0 cable).
Given the design, the DS3900 is likely best suited to stay put at your home or office with all of your accessories already connected. It’s probably not as well suited for life on the road, because it’s not necessarily all that compact and the reason why you got a thin-and-light notebook in the first place was to reduce on the clutter.
So Many Ports, So Little Time
Going around to the back, you’ll find an additional four USB 2.0 ports for your printers, scanners, keyboards and other more permanent fixtures. I appreciate the separation between the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, since it’s far easier to remember which is which compared to when they are side-by-side. Below the USB 2.0 ports is a Gigabit Ethernet port for wired networking.
What’s neat is that the DS3900 effectively takes the full functionality from the Diamond DV100 and shoehorns that in too. Using DisplayLink Technology, you can power two additional monitors via the HDMI and DVI ports. If your laptop already has an HDMI-out, that means you can effectively have a four-monitor array, including the display on the laptop itself.
Stand Up, Stand Out
While I was a little turned off by the glossy black plastic exterior for much of the casing, the DS3900 does come with a great aluminum stand. The dock easily glides and locks into place, taking up a very small footprint on your desk. I found it both the most functional and most fashionable to use the DS3900 in this vertical orientation, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t lay it flat to use horizontally should you prefer.
But Does It Work?
The short answer? Yes. Yes, it does.
I initially ran into some issues while testing the DS3900 at LANcouver 2013 earlier this summer. I was using the DS3900 to connect the GC1000 game capture device, as well as some other peripherals. I was having particular trouble with the LAN connection, but it seemed to be a situation isolated to that event.
When I tested the LAN connection back home on my own network using the TRENDnet TEW-751DR router, it worked just as you’d expect it to work. And that’s really the great thing about using a dock like this: the USB ports act as if they are a part of your notebook, just like the LAN port. The DVI and HDMI ports are the only exception, as those require the DisplayLink software, but the installation and configuration process was as seamless as could be expected.
MEGATechie Ultra Combo or MEGATechie Combo Breaker?
Considering that the DV100 Dual View adapter sells for around $70 online, the Diamond Multimedia DS3900 Ultra Dock at around $100 to $130 street price sounds like a pretty great value. You won’t get the ultra high performance of a more powerful graphics card, to be sure, but you can run two external monitors, get your laptop onto a wired network, and connect up to six USB devices all at the same time. If you want a lot of functionality, this is certainly one way to do it. And you can still have that thin and light notebook for the road.