CA Essential Universal Docking Station
This is a product with a name that says it all. It is universal, and it is essential. The CA Essential Universal Docking Station is designed as a reasonably priced workhorse that will help most people accomplish their work regardless of the device they start with. More ports, more connectivity, and up to three monitors depending on the configuration.
CA Essential Universal Docking Station Review
I have several docking stations around my office. Some stack upon my MacMini, increasing its ports and connectivity for my day-to-day work. One sits on my MacBook Pro, awaiting its calling to connect to a shared mouse and keyboard. With the CA Essential Universal Docking Station, Cyber Acoustics delivered a utilitarian docking station that will meet most basic business needs. Without Thunderbolt speeds or media ports, it will likely not meet the needs of creatives editing video or large image (size and quantity) projects, but it will certainly support those toiling with spreadsheets, crafting copy or engaging with enterprise apps.
What we like
- Less expensive than most comparable hubs
- Plenty of ports
- Up to 3 4K displays, depending on the source device
- TAA Compliant
As the review summary states, the CA Essential Universal Docking Station is a workhorse. At least, I treat it that way. Every laptop that has come in for review connects to this docking station to access its peripherals. It’s not too big, and it offers enough power. The 1 x 3.25 x 7 inches unit sits at the corner of my desk, above a pullout that acts as a platform for review laptops. It includes a mouse, a headphone transmitter, Ethernet, and a 1TB SK Hynix Platinum P41 SSD.
Although I primarily use the docking station for non-display peripherals, I have tested the dock with multiple displays, and it works well with the DisplayLink drivers. I tested it with two displays. Note that some devices come with DisplayLink drivers pre-installed, so depending on the device, that step may not be required.
As for the other connections, the CA Essential Universal Docking Station sports 3 HDMI ports, 4 USB-A 3.2 ports and 2 USB-C 3.2 ports. Unlike some units that leverage a USB-C port as the host port, the CA Essential Universal Docking Station offers a built-in USB-C cable for the host connection. The dock also supports RJ-45 Ethernet and a security slot.
Universal means UNIVERSAL, with the dock working equally well on Mac and PC. The hub works on the iPad Pro but is constrained by its display limitations.
I call it a workhorse because it just works. Every laptop I connect powers up, reports charging and takes advantage of the connected peripherals. Of course, that is what a docking station should do. The included 130W Dual Voltage AC Adapter powers the hub and charges the attached device.
Like many CA products, the $189.99 CA Essential Universal Docking Station is TAA-Compliant, which makes it easier for government agencies to buy.
The plain-wrap packing is OK but could be accompanied by fewer (or no) plastic bags for the environment and for ease of opening. The bag around the power cord requires a little struggle to give up its prize.
What could be improved
- Not a Thunderbolt hub (though it leverages Thunderbolt for video when available)
- No DisplayPort ports
- No media slots
- Only 96W (vs. common 100W de facto standard)
I would love to see the CA Essential Universal Docking Station include full support for Thunderbolt, but that isn’t its market niche. Thunderbolt docs cost more because of technology and licensing. Creatives will also miss media ports. Creatives may also miss Display port output.
It would be better for the power output to hit 100W rather than 96W. 100W Power Delivery has become the de facto standard for power output from docking stations. That this one maxes out at 96W, I’m sure, carries a fascinating technical tale. Practically speaking, most laptops don’t require more than 65W, which leaves plenty of power for the dock and non-powered peripherals.
CA Essential Universal Docking Station Review: The bottom line
While creatives with Thunderbolt speed requirements must look elsewhere, the CA Essential Universal Docking Station will serve most work-from-home or in-office needs. The solid number of USB-A and USB-C ports will support most use cases, from scanners to cameras, keyboards to headsets.
CA provided the Essential Universal Docking Station Review for review. Images courtesy of CA unless otherwise noted.
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