I couldn’t have gotten through college without my laptop’s docking station. When I would return from the library with my Dell Inspiron 8200, rather than plugging in all my connections one by one—mouse, keyboard, external monitor—to my notebook, I had a Dell dock or port replicator on my dorm room desk. All I had to do was drop my laptop into the dock and I was up and running. Whether you’re a current HP notebook owner or a college-bound student looking to buy an HP, HP’s xb3000 Notebook Expansion Base is a solid docking solution. Though it has a larger footprint than most docks and is a bit pricer, the $249 station wraps quality Altec Lansing speakers and a laptop stand into one. Chunky, But Breezy Setup For the HP xb3000 to find a home on your desk, you’ll have to make a decent amount of room. The 12-pounder is definitely not the lightest or smallest dock, but this $250 base turns your laptop into a true desktop PC. High-quality Altec Lansing speakers and an adjustable stand for elevating your notebook are bundled in the package. However, those that also plan to keep an external monitor on a desk will be cramped for space. You could put the docking station on the ground, but that solution is less than ideal. Despite its large stature, the xb3000 was a breeze to set up; attaching an HP dv6500 worked instantly. Once the notebook is hooked up to the large connector, the expansion base can be tilted up to 45 degrees so the display is at eye level. The included wireless mouse and keyboard combo work right out of the box by plugging the wireless adapter into one of the dock’s six USB ports. Ditch the Desktop Speakers In addition to the six USB 2.0 ports, the xb3000 has an S-Video, composite video, analog and digital audio, and a LAN connection, as well as three headphone and two mic ports. The stand even keeps all your notebook’s native ports accessible. Built into the front of the dock are dual Altec Lansing speakers, which provided very loud playback of Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love.” When I watched an episode of Scrubs on Hulu.com, the sound came in as if I had an extra set of desktop speakers—full and surround. I also appreciated the touch volume controls on the front of the dock.
Smooth Navigation The ergonomics of the dock and the mouse and keyboard combo are just right. I was able to adjust the laptop to my eye level, and using the included mouse and keyboard, I was able to sit back and navigate to Web pages and write this post. Those looking to convert their HP notebook into a desktop PC in the comfort of their home will find a solution in the xb3000. However, its hefty size and its $249 price point may leave some buyers willing to plug in the extras every time they come home.