Ten or even twenty years ago it was commonplace to find laptop docks, usually specific to the manufacturer of the computer and, normally, taking the form of a tray unit that fitted underneath the device with connector ports on a strip at the back. They sort of went out of fashion, but I've always had a hankering for a means of avoiding having to unplug all those cables when I want to take the computer on the road. Now comes the first really practical docking solution for MacBooks and unibody MacBook Pros, from a company called Henge Docks.
The white-plastic vertical docks are elegant and promise easy one-slide operation to dock or undock your laptop. All the necessary cables are fed through the bottom of the unit with the business ends poking up in the correct places. They are all held in place by a screw fixing, accessible from the side of the unit. Prices range from a very reasonable $59.95 (for aluminium 13-in MacBooks and $64.95 for the firewire-equipped 13-in Pros) while prices for larger models are not yet shown.
I've always been a fan of docks and the absence of a suitable solution for Mac portables has always irked me. For the first time, I've seen something I like in the Henge Dock. My only concern would be whether there could be any risk of damage to the computer's ports if the laptop is slid downwards on a slightly misaligned connector. But until I've been able to try one out for myself I have no way of being sure on this score. The docks are new and I have not yet seen any tests, but without a doubt we will get some soon.
Currently I use the excellent Griffin Laptop Stand which is a simple but effective aluminium-and-clear-plastic shelf to raise the laptop about six inches off the desk top. This places the screen of the laptop in optimal position to sit alongside a monitor, such as Apple's 24-in Cinema Display. Apple make connection as easy as possibly by providing one input cable with ends for Magsafe power, display and USB. But you still have to plug them in separately. Having to unplug everything is a disincentive to take the laptop out with you, whereas with with the Henge Dock it would be an easy decision.
Of course the big disadvantage of the Henge Dock, compared with Griffin's stand and similar products, is that the computer has to be closed before docking. It takes up less desk space, but you are denied the use of the second screen on the computer when it is used alongside a monitor. There's no doubt I have got to like the idea of having two screens with the sort of integration that Apple make possible. I routinely treat the Cinema Display as the main desktop and work area and park unused windows or reference windows on the screen of the MacBook Pro.
Despite this, I will give the Henge Dock* a try when I can get my hands on one. For many people it looks like the ideal solution.
* I see that the name Henge Dock comes from the concept of Stonehenge, the circle of vertical stones near Amesbury in Wiltshire. Somehow it seems appropriate.