Docks Big and Small

**DISCLOSURE: Demo unit provided for review.

When I work from home, I want it all. I want to have dual 24” screens with my external mouse and keyboard, I want to connect my external hard drives, keyboard and mouse, as well as my wired headset and microphone. I want to connect my computer to my router by cable. Why do I want to do all of this? Because I want my laptop to work like a workstation; I want to leverage the power and the speed that my very expensive laptop offers. Of course, if I had Bluetooth devices, I would not need six USB ports, plus the 3.5mm jacks for the speakers and microphone… but I don’t, so I do.

Here’s the problem: Most modern laptops do not come with all of these connectors, and rely on external docking units (more accurately, port replicators) to connect all of these devices. My Dell Latitude 7300 has two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB-C port, and an HDMI connector. My Surface Laptop 3 has one USB 3.0 port, one USB-C port, and a 3.5mm jack. So no matter which I am working on, I will need a port replicator.

I have written before about the Juiced Systems BossDock (see article1 and article2). I still use it, and I still love it. When I am sitting at my desk at home, it offers me everything that I need, all connected to my corporate laptop (the Dell) through a single cable.

With that said, there are times when I do not want to work from home. Whether I am on the road working from a client site, at a café (less likely in the age of the coronapocalypse), or at my local cigar lounge (much more likely in the age of the coronapocalypse), I welcome the freedom that mobile computing offers me. I still want to be able to connect some of my external devices though – external hard drives, possibly a keyboard, mouse, and headset, and of course I still want to be able to connect to a wired network when the option is available.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Tampa to deliver a course. I knew that I would be in the same room for the entire week, and so I brought my BossDock with me… including the power adapter and the USB-C – USB 3.0 cable that connects it to my laptop. Knowing that I would be sitting in the same room all week, and knowing that I had to pay for my checked luggage anyways, it made sense. Would I do all of that to go to the cigar lounge or Starbucks? Of course not… so I might have to sacrifice some of the ports, right?

Wrong. The Juiced Systems NovaHUB is a self-contained portable hub which not only has all of the ports I might need to work from anywhere (2x USB-A, 1x USB-C (power), 1x USB-C (connectivity), HDMI 4K, Gigabit Ethernet, and an SD Card reader), it is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket (120x55x17mm), and that includes the USB-C cable that connects it to my computer, and folds neatly into the hub when not connected.

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When going portable, the rule is that smaller is better, and less is more; rather than taking my Dell power supply with me, I can charge my laptop by plugging the NovaHUB into a power source for up to a 100 watt delivery. I hope that this throttles down, because I know that many power supplies over 65w will not work on airplanes. I’ll make a note to try it the next time I fly (not likely anytime soon).

Sitting at my cigar lounge, I was able to work comfortably with several peripherals attached, which is really the goal of a portable hub. I have not tested it to the fullest degree that some other reviewers have – my needs when I am on the road are not excessive, so being able to plug a headset, external hard drive, Ethernet, and HDMI monitor did not tax the hub. For full disclosure, I do not charge my laptop with it.

The one scenario where I had issues was running my Windows to Go through the NovaHUB. However, Windows To Go is no longer a supported technology, and it was never supported through any hub or docking station.

Smaller laptops means fewer ports. A reliable and portable port extender is a great way to mitigate that issue. I give the Juiced Systems NovaHUB a big thumbs up for its functionality and performance.

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