I consider myself pretty lucky because I ended up receiving both my Henge Docks 17″ docking station as well as my mini display port to HDMI cable that I ordered especially from Henge Docks (more on that later) on the same day.
I ordered this Mini Display to HDMI cable especially from Henge Docks because they make a cable that has a longer cable length from the mini display port to the converter. This allows the cable to freely exit the docking station. The standard Apple Mini Display cable can work but it looks like a traffic jam at the end of your dock with the fat converter taking up all the room.
I liked the overall styling of the box marketing on the outside and found everything neatly packed inside the box. The inside packaging seemed a little wasteful for my taste. I just don’t like extra plastic on the inside that I’m not going to use like the black plastic that held items in place as seen below. One good size box the size of the base length wise that was filled with a manual, allen wrench, dock screws, power connectors (chicklets) and all the necessary cables I could ask for; one cable for each of the connections I have on my mac including 3 USB cable extenders, 2 audio, 1 firewire, and 1 ethernet (mini display port not included).
The base dock looks very clean. It is well constructed and seems plenty sturdy. I was really surprised at how light in weight it was though. I would have thought the base would be weighted to help with support, instead, there is no extra weight at all. I half expected a good knock to the table might tip over the laptop but the fins on the dock are wide enough, and really sturdy that it would take a significant bump or push to topple it over. By significant I mean a drunk friend probably putting full weight into your table and moving it more than 5 inches instantly at which point most anything on your table would be a disaster too. If I were more concerned (California earthquakes and all) I could easily stick some picture frame gum on the bottom to help hold the dock securely to my desk or go full OCD and simply screw it onto the table putting some holes in the fins but I don’t really see the need to do that.
I began following the detailed instructions on how to assemble the doc. The power cable requires the right sheath over it (looks like a which chicklet that is included – 3 different ones for various magsafe connectors) so it fits snugly. I found it a little difficult to hold the cable in place with one hand while trying to maneuver an allen wrench with tiny screw into the doc as well as screw it in place to keep it secure. I did manage to take a picture with the allen wrench shown.
The rest of the instructions are all rather similar (repeat steps 1-5, etc). You’re instructed to feed the cable through the bottom of the doc, connect it to your laptop, seat your laptop onto the doc, tighten the screw to hold the connection in place, remove laptop and repeat steps. This seems like a sound principal because you’re making sure the cable connector is securely in your mac and once that mac is seated in the doc you should be fine right? Not as I learned later.
After making good work of the remaining connections and had everything ready I decided to test things out. Let me start by saying that I have two monitors on my desk, a Samsung T240HD (24″) and a Samsung 214T (21″). The 24″ is connected via HDMI cable (mini display to HDMI). The 21″ monitor is connected via USB using a Diamond BVU195 USB-to-VGA adapter. I have a bluetooth mouse and a USB external keyboard. My keyboard and other USB devices are connected via a Cyberpower USB hub.
I had put my laptop to sleep, put it in the dock and tried to wake it up via keyboard and mouse and could not get it to work. My Bluetooth settings on my Mac are specifically set to wake the computer from sleep. I hadn’t had any trouble with this before and even my keyboard would normally wake up the computer but it wasn’t working this time.
I had tried several different things to get it to work properly but could not. I decided to try rebooting the computer and quickly closing the lid and putting into the doc so that it would boot up in the doc. When I did that something happened to my HDMI connection. The computer did not like having the HDMI connection after the initial boot. I got weird video results on my 24″ monitor. My 21″ monitor was working just fine as a secondary display. To make matters worse, after a few moments of being on, the computer would go back to sleep. I was in full “WTF?” mode.
I decided to pull the laptop out and loosen the connections on the mini display and power, then I unplugged the USB extenders so I could essentially hook up my laptop directly to the original cables I was using. Now, even with the lid open or closed on the laptop, I continued to have HDMI problems. I could not get a picture on my monitor via HDMI any longer no matter what I did with combination of rebooting or inserting and removing mini display cable. I even powered off and swapped out the Henge Docks cable for my original Mini Display to HDMI I purchased a long time ago that had normally worked. It too wasn’t working. Whatever I did seemed to have permanently ruined me from using Mini Display to HDMI with my 24″ monitor. I had done some reading online and tried several suggestions to change the resolution or use Mirrored Display but it didn’t work. Grrr…. Most of the online help seemed to all say that once they switched from HDMI to DVI that their problems went away. I ran to the Apple store to pick up a Mini Display to DVI cable.
With the laptop still on the table with original connections, I swapped in the Mini Display to DVI cable on the Mac and used a DVI cable to the monitor. Everything seemed to work again just fine in terms of display.
I had connected everything back up to the docking station and tried to get things working again, but had a problem. Once I could get to a place where I could wake up the laptop and get it to display on the screens the laptop would almost immediately go back to sleep. This time I was getting video on the 24″ monitor so I know that the Mini Display port cable was working just fine now.
By now, I realized that there must be some alignment problem on the docking station – i.e. some cable is sticking out too far and preventing the power cable from really seating on the Mac. If the Mac isn’t running on connected power it will not show video to the external display, on battery power, the Mac will go back to sleep.
Sigh. This was a little frustrating so I decided that I would start over from scratch. I would loosen up all the screws just enough so that the screw was flush with the wall and the cable could come out easily. I didn’t take the screws out completely. I started with just the power and placed it in the doc. I put the Mac on my lap (DVD side down) and put the doc on top of the Mac. While doing this, I was looking squarely down the bottom of the doc and I could see through the vent that when the doc was seated the battery light would go on. This was my indication that the doc was getting power to the Mac. Once I could see that, I secured the screw in place on the doc.
While I was holding the laptop and doc this way, it occurred to me that it would be much easier and faster if I didn’t remove the laptop at all and just feed the cables through the bottom, secure into the mac, and tighten the screw already still in the doc. I did this for all the other cables and it took me half the time it did following the directions. I’d recommend other people give this method a try. You just have to be sure you’re not rocking the doc between cable inserts, always make sure it’s seated.
Once I got that done, everything worked just fine. I could take out the laptop and put it back. The computer would wake up fine and the displays were working just fine. I think during my original installation I may have tightened one of the USB cables a little too high in the dock causing it not to connect to the power properly. Also, it’s possible that the too tall USB may have prevented a good video and additional USB connections which is why my keyboard wasn’t working.
This is where I disagree with the instructions because if you do this upside down you can see the battery light indicate to you that the power is connected and then easily install the other cables. I think by taking the laptop out and putting it back in with the cable you could easily tighten a connector a little high as I did without realizing.
I’m still stumped about the HDMI problems I had but everything works going DVI. I’d probably recommend to people not to use HDMI for monitors but only for television connections if you’re hooking up to an entertainment center. Even so, I’ve still read about HDMI problems online so it may be wise to research in advance. Now that I know the regular Mini to DVI cable works, I’m ordering the lengthier one from Henge Docks to clean up the back of my doc.
During the install, the two audio cables that are provides are unique to each other so only one cable fits into the audio-in connection on the dock, and the other for headphone connection. However, the other ends of these two cables are identical with no visible means of distinguishing one from another. I doubt you want to accidentally hook up your speakers into the audio-in so be sure to mark end of the cable for safety. I think maybe a sticker or something from Henge Docks would have been helpful here.
I do notice that as I put the laptop in and out of this dock that I’m getting some very faint scuff marks on the outside aluminum shell. So far, it’s nothing that I haven’t been able to wipe clean with a damp cloth. There are no sharp plastic edges or burrs anywhere to make any kind of deep scratches from putting this thing in and out of the dock on a regular basis, but I think you have to reasonably expect a certain degree of wear on the outer shell if you use a dock like this. There is no additional free room if you want to put a cover on your Mac and use this doc, nor do you have the room to put some felt inside the doc to prevent the light scuffing. The fit is incredibly precise and with good reason.
I can see how the this type of design would really lend itself well to laptops smaller than the 17″. To take the laptop out of the dock you really have to put one hand squarely on the base to hold it down while using your other hand to pull it out of the base. I’m 6’4″ and have some pretty big hands but I find it a little challenging to pull out the laptop with a single hand since there is no grip between your hand and the laptop shell. You don’t want to rock the laptop in and out or you risk damaging the dock ports. This task would be easier with a 15″ or smaller (and lighter) laptop that you have easier control over your surface area grip. I think a good solution for this problem is to keep a mouse pad or silicon kitchen pot holder around so you can firmly grip the laptop while pulling it out of the base. It might sound silly, but I’d hate to loose my grip and risk my Mac hitting my hardwood floor. It’s just a thought.
I have to say, even with my install issues, I’m very impressed with the Henge Docks docking station. The cables they provided as well as everything else in the box seem to be of the highest quality. Everything is very sturdy and safe looking. Even as I look at my finished picture above it seems as though this thing is top heavy, but it’s really not. I now get to enjoy a lot more room on my desk.
I would highly recommend this docking station to other Mac owners. I can easily see the appeal of having more than one so you can move your laptop from your desktop location to your entertainment center. In the meantime, I’ll gladly just enjoy more free space on my desk.