Dock recommendations for a 2 year-old Macbook Prop?
January 13, 2010 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to make my "main computer" my 2 year-old MacBook Pro instead of my home-built desktop. How can I best do this? Does anyone have any dock recommendations for that MacBook Pro?

I figure the best way to get the use out of my expensive laptop is to make it my primary computer because, as of right now, it's not. I only use it on travel right now and it bothers me that I paid so much for it for that type of use. Also, my 4 year-old XP desktop is starting to have some wonky power issues that make me nervous (on top of the HDs being 4 years old). I think she's about ready to be retired.

I'd imagine the best way to do this would be buy a dock for my MacBook Pro and hook that dock up to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. I'd then get the desktop ease of use while using the Mac as much as I'd like to be. (Hopefully I don't get sick of using OS X 24/7 as opposed to just on travel.) On top of that, I can just un-dock it if I want to use it in my living room while watching TV like I sometimes do.

I have a lot of music on my desktop so I plan on making a server of some sort to play nicely with this docked MacBook Pro.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a MacBook Pro dock? I bought it in February of 2008. Keyboards, mice, and monitors are the easy part.

And if I buy a new laptop in a year or two, would I probably have to buy a new dock, too? Or are most docks usable with most laptops? How much does laptop size play into dock selection?
posted by decrescendo to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Apple doesn't offer any first-party docks. I use my MBP as my full-time work machine, and there's only 4 cables coming out of it (power, USB Hub, network, monitor). It's pretty manageable.
posted by Oktober at 11:11 AM on January 13, 2010


From the research I've done, docks for Macbook Pros are pretty expensive.

I recommend just hooking up all your USB stuff to a hub so you only have to plug in 1 USB device, and just plug that in and connect your monitor manually.

I do that every day, it works fine.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:12 AM on January 13, 2010


Apple doesn't offer any first-party docks. I use my MBP as my full-time work machine, and there's only 4 cables coming out of it (power, USB Hub, network, monitor). It's pretty manageable.

I suppose unplugging those wouldn't be too much of a pain if I wanted to take my laptop in the other room. The only other thing I'd plug in would be speakers of some sort and I'm not sure how they'd be hooked up.
posted by decrescendo at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2010


My husband and I have researched docks for the MBP several times in the 5+ years we've had at least one in the house, and we still haven't found one worth the money. We both just plug in direct with a hub for USB gadgets.
posted by immlass at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2010


Is leaving the lid closed on these Macbook Pros any type of issue? Have there been any overheating issues or anything?

Do any of you have your MacBook Pro on a stand while being plugged in or is that pointless?
posted by decrescendo at 11:26 AM on January 13, 2010


Speakers should just plug into your headphone jack. I do that, too.

While working during the day I have the following plugged in:

Power cable
USB Hub
External Monitor
Speakers (headphone jack)

I use a bluetooth keyboard and a Wacom Tablet that is plugged into the USB along with my external hard drive and iPod dock.

I also use this laptop riser from Griffin. I'm sure there are less expensive options, or even build your own, but I liked the shape of the Griffin one and didn't feel ambitious enough to build my own.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2010


I leave my laptop open while working so I effectively have two monitors. I keep my email and chat apps on one and work on the other.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:28 AM on January 13, 2010


At my office, I use a Macbook plugged into a Dell monitor, and a Bluetooth keyboard + mouse. The BT peripherals can wake the Mac with the lid closed (not sure if USB can). The only cables I use are the monitor and power cables. Works flawlessly.
posted by mkultra at 11:32 AM on January 13, 2010


When I get home I plug in an external monitor, the power cord, and a USB hub and it's just like a desktop. The laptop sits on the desk behind the monitor with lid closed. This solution works very well for me.

I have had overheating issues when operating with the lid closed, but only when running Windows Vista, and then usually only when a cat sits in the closed computer for awhile. I imagine one of those USB powered laptop cooling platters would fix this and I've been meaning to buy one for awhile.

The only annoying thing about undocking is manually unmounting all the external drives it sees via USB. Often I don't do this and just unplug everything on my way in to the office and it complains they've been improperly disconnected. It hasn't caused a problem yet.
posted by pseudonick at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2010


I'd get a USB audio out and a USB hub. Then you've got three things to plug and unplug: monitor, power, and USB hub, which has your speakers, keyboard, mouse, printer, external drives, etc. I did this with my mom when organizing her desktop setup. I had her buy another charger to leave at the desk and a hub. I used zip ties to wrap up all cables and tie them neatly together. She has just three things to plug in and now actually likes working at her desk, with everything orderly. The MacBooks and, at least recent MBPs, make this very nice because all the ports are on one side. When you plug USB into a sleeping MacBook it will wake up with the lid closed and, as long as the external monitor is plugged in, will keep the internal display off.
posted by 6550 at 11:39 AM on January 13, 2010


The only annoying thing about undocking is manually unmounting all the external drives it sees via USB. Often I don't do this and just unplug everything on my way in to the office and it complains they've been improperly disconnected. It hasn't caused a problem yet.

Yeah that was the one thing that cropped up in my mind. I'm not sure how upset OS X gets with unplugging harddrives before properly "ejecting" them. However, I don't think I'd have that going on because I plan on having a server somewhere with some sort of backup solution.
posted by decrescendo at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2010


When you plug USB into a sleeping MacBook it will wake up with the lid closed and, as long as the external monitor is plugged in, will keep the internal display off.

So I take it the Macbook will stay on if you plug the monitor in before you close the lid? If you did it the other way around would it be smart enough to wake up when it sensed a closed lid and a newly plugged-in DVI monitor connection? Or does it just wake up to a new USB connection?
posted by decrescendo at 11:42 AM on January 13, 2010


Leaving the lid closed is fine. They're designed to work that way too.
posted by chairface at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2010


It just wakes up to USB. So what I do is take my sleeping, closed MacBook, plug in the power and monitor and then plug in USB. That wakes it up with the lid closed and keeps internal display off. But it won't stay on if a monitor is plugged in and/or USB is plugged in and then you close it. Closing it puts it it sleep, regardless of what's plugged in.
posted by 6550 at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2010




So I take it the Macbook will stay on if you plug the monitor in before you close the lid?


Not exactly. When you operate a mac in Clamshell mode, closing the lid puts the mac to sleep and clicking the mouse wakes it up.

But in my experience, this is sort of flaky. My co-workers 15 inch macbook works fine like this, and he doesn't seem to have any problems. On the other hand, my 17" MBP will not wake from the USB mice/Keyboards that I have here. It also won't detect the monitor until I log in and do "Detect Monitors". It's annoying as hell.

The docks linked above are junk, IMO. We had 4-5 of them at my last job, and they were universally reviled - flaky, and the connectors were flimsy and did not always line up. It was less trouble to just plug the devices in.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2010


I have as my only computer a 15" MBP, bought in August. At work (it's a work computer) I have one of Apple's fancy new monitors. Into the monitor is plugged in a keyboard and an external drive.

So, I come to work with my laptop (on, asleep, in my bag). I take it out of the bag, set it down on the desk and plug in two cables: (1) an ethernet cable, and (2) the power/display/USB cable that comes from the monitor (one cable with a squid-head with three little tentacles). The computer screen immediately shows up on the monitor, just the way I left it. I then click my wireless mouse to wake up (connect via bluetooth) the mouse.

Now I'm set up to work (or, apparently today, to read AskMe).

Going home, I go to the finder, unmount the external drive, unplug all the cables, pick up the laptop, and put it in the bag.

Easy peasy. I would recommend this setup to anyone.

Oh--if you plug in the external monitor with the laptop open, then it does monitor spanning, instead of mirroring. However, if you need to for some reason (your mouse flakes out), you can after the computer is plugged in, open it up. Then it does mirroring, and you can control what you see either from the mouse on the laptop or from the external mouse. I've been doing this every work day since August, and I've had only a single day where something went hinky and I needed to reboot.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2010


I don't use a dock. I connect an external monitor and keyboard to the MacBook. I open the MacBook to turn it on. Once it's going properly, I close the lid, and the MacBook and monitor instantly go to sleep. A quick tap of the space bar wakes them both up and I'm good to go.

For me, all USB devices (4) go into a hub that goes into one USB port. All audio (speakers and headset/mic) go into a Y adaptor on a Griffin iMic, which goes into the hub. So after working away from home I plug in the following:

- monitor cable
- USB hub
- power cord
- Ethernet cable

It's not bad.

I haven't had any sign of overheating. I shut the Mac down at night.
posted by PatoPata at 1:02 PM on January 13, 2010


Oh, and the Mac is on a slightly raised platform (two strips of cork), which might be why it doesn't get too warm.
posted by PatoPata at 1:03 PM on January 13, 2010


The monitor leahwrenn mentions is this one:
24" LED Cinema Display

Plugging in the one tentacular lead gives you monitor, power, USB, audio in and out and iSight. Shame about the price, but you get that.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2010


Leaving the lid closed is fine. They're designed to work that way too.

This is how I've used my MBP (and TiBook before that) for years. Get to work, pull out the laptop, and plug in the power, network, monitor cable, and usb hub, in that order. When the USB hub is plugged in, it wakes up and away I go. I use an old IBM serial keyboard with a serial/USB adapter. Strangely, it's when I remove the power (at the end of the day) that it chooses to go back to sleep.
posted by lex mercatoria at 1:45 PM on January 13, 2010


I'm not sure how upset OS X gets with unplugging harddrives before properly "ejecting" them.

It'll throw up a modal dialog about it, but it won't damage any filesystems unless you're writing to it at the time.
posted by mkultra at 2:45 PM on January 13, 2010


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