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Please recommend a Laptop + Docking Station setup that can drive 2 high-res external monitors

Posted on 2014-01-05
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Last Modified: 2014-01-09
I'm looking for a fast laptop (I7 Mobile with 8GB ram, big mother SSD and hard drive) that I can dock in two separate offices to two 2560 by 1440 pixels displays (I'd settle for dual 1920 by 1080) and a wireless keyboard / mouse combo.

I want to be able to dock it without having to open the lid to work on the dual monitors and keyboard.

I would never (very rarely) want to use its built in display panel so display size is not an issue but I do need a device that can drive two external monitors.

I'd also prefer to run Win 7 Pro / Ultimate as it's a development rig and I have some Win 8 issues with some obscure tools that I'm still dependent upon. Running Win 8 would not be a deal-breaker though.

Finally, I want it yesterday.

Can anyone suggest a product line for me that is well suited to the docking setup that I have described?

PS: I've looked at micro towers (the Tiki from Falcon NW for example) but they won't fit in my carry-on case, otherwise they seemed like a good solution. Perhaps they manufacture smaller, high powered brick PCs?

Thanks!
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Question by:ou81aswell
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 100 total points
ID: 39758238
I have a ThinkPad X230 with Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit and a slick bright LED screen and it weighs just under 3 pounds. I get 4.5 - 5 hours out of the battery.

I have a dock with it (for home office use) that has video and HDMI out. The X230 has another video out. So it should drive two monitors. Check to be sure. The video setup has settings for 2 monitors.

I put a DVD reader writer in it also and it has lots of USB ports. It has its own power supply. And yes, you can leave the lid closed - it has a power button.

I use the dock to load recovery DVD's to rebuild the X230 with Windows 8 before loading Windows 8.1. It all worked.

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:swiftcristal
swiftcristal earned 100 total points
ID: 39758246
For the dock, I recommend the Targus Universal DV Dock:
Link

For the Laptop I would suggest the Lenovo Ideapad G series or the Toshiba Kirabook line.  If you're willing to spend even more, you can get the qoismo x70/75 with 500gbs of ssd and 1tb of hdd storage.  I personally use a kirabook connected to a 29 inch ultrawidescreen monitor.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39758264
@ou81aswell - If you choose Lenovo, I recommend ThinkPads. They continue to be top of class and do not let me or any of my clients down and have not for years. Then get the Lenovo dock to go with it.

... Thinkpads_User
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Joe Winograd, EE MVE earned 300 total points
ID: 39758303
A product line well-suited for you is the HP EliteBook 8000 series. I have the 8460w:
http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/quickspecs/13959_na/13959_na.PDF

But my 8460w is now obsolete – its replacement is the 8470w:
http://www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/workstations/8470w.html

I have the NZ223AA 230-watt Advanced Docking Station:
http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/quickspecs/13449_div/13449_div.PDF

The dock has one VGA connector and two DisplayPort/DVI-D connectors. I don't know if it can support 2560x1440, but I can tell you that I'm driving it right now on two 1920x1200 monitors (not 1080, but I'm sure it can support the lower res of 1080). I've had it connected via the two DVI-D ports; via the two DisplayPort ports; and via one DVI-D port and one DisplayPort port. All of these setups work perfectly. The DisplayPort ports carry audio, too – just like HDMI ports (in fact, the two monitors are HDMI). I'm even using an active adapter so I can utilize the laptop screen (1600x900) as a third monitor, but, of course, you don't have to do that – just close the lid, if you prefer.

The CPU is a Core i7-2630QM at 2GHz with four cores. I have 16GB in it, but if you want just 8GB, that's fine, of course. I have a 500GB Crucial m4 SSD, which was the highest capacity SSD at the time, but I'm sure you can put in a 1TB SSD if you'd like, such as the Samsung MZ-7TE1T0BW or the Crucial M500 CT960M500SSD1.

In terms of needing it yesterday, you should go with the 8470w, 8570w, or 8770w, all of which are current production (my 8460w isn't, although you might find a good deal on a new/open-box unit somewhere, such as Amazon, eBay, or Newegg). The second digit signifies screen size – 8470w is 14", 8570w is 15" (15.6), and 8770w is 17" (17.3).

You need to be careful about which Advanced Docking Station you get. My NZ223AA works with the 8460w, but it may not work with the 8n70w product line. However, I'm sure HP has an Advanced Docking Station with two DisplayPort/DVI-D ports that will support two external, high-res monitors on the 8n70w line.

You also need to be careful with the OS version. My 8460w came with W7 Pro 64-bit, but the 8n70w may come with W8. The good news is that I saw this at the HP link above for the 8470w: "Windows 7 Professional 64 (available through downgrade rights from Windows 8 Pro)".

Btw, you don't need the Advanced Docking Station to drive two external monitors – the standard Docking Station will do it via the VGA port and either the DisplayPort or the DVI-D port. In fact, you don't need a dock at all! You can drive two monitors via the VGA port and DisplayPort right on the laptop itself. Here's an EE article that I wrote about this:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Laptops_Notebooks/A_6770-Dual-External-Monitors-on-the-HP-EliteBook-2540p.html

This was for an HP 2540p, but it's also true for many HP laptops, including my 8460w.

As a disclaimer, I want to emphasize that I have no affiliation with HP and no financial interest in it whatsoever. I am simply a happy user/customer. I have three 8460w laptops sitting on two Advanced Docking Stations and one standard Docking Station, and have been very pleased with all of this hardware. Regards, Joe
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Author Closing Comment

by:ou81aswell
ID: 39769166
Thanks. I have looked at the HP stuff and discovered that I can get my existing HP I7 Envy 17" to drive 2 external monitors with the lid closed. This will work for now so I'm no longer in the position of needing it yesterday. It was interesting to see what docking option$ are available from HP. There's quite a bit of a $ premium placed on an HP laptop with a docking port (my Envy doesn't have one).
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39769189
Thanks for the update and I was happy to help.

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39769564
Glad to hear your HP Envy can do it! As mentioned earlier, so can my HP EliteBook, both the 2540p and 8460w. I'm guessing most HP laptops can do it without a dock, as long as the laptop has dual video ports, such as a VGA and a DisplayPort. Regards, Joe
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