You walk into a room with your laptop and your external monitor automatically lights up, ready for you to multitask. That’s the beauty of Samsung’s Central Station. But that’s not all this highly versatile peripheral does. The Central Station doubles as a dock, allowing users to connect and charge up to four USB devices. You even get an HDMI port for plugging in entertainment devices like game consoles or an Apple TV.
Samsung offers two versions of the Central Station, both of which provide 1080p matte displays. The $449 C23A750X features a 23-inch monitor with 250 nits of brightness, while the 27-inch C27A750X bumps up the brightness to 300 nits and costs $599. We tried out the 27-inch version.
We gave the Central Station a quick test drive using a Toshiba Portege R835 notebook, an Iomega hard drive, and a pair of Dell speakers. Check out our first impressions below, along with a walk-through video and gallery.
What We Like:
Easy set-up: Samsung includes a tiny USB dongle that plugs into the side of your laptop that communicates with the Central Station using a proprietary ultra-wideband connection. First, you’ll need to install the included software, which includes a connection manager. We were up and running in less than 10 minutes.
Connects and Charges Four USB Devices: The Central Station includes two USB 3.0 ports on the left side and two more USB 2.0 ports on the right, making it easy to connect USB drives, smart phones, cameras, tablets, and other gadgets. Plus, Central Station will continue to charge your gear when you walk away with your laptop. Other connections on the dock include Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, and audio.
Smooth Full HD Performance: The 27-inch version of the Central Station we tested delivered a detailed and stutter-free picture when we streamed a 1080p version of the Green Lantern trailer on YouTube from our laptop to the display. We also love the glare-free matte finish. The Central Station didn’t flinch when we transferred a bunch of files to our Iomega drive connected to the dock while we streamed the video.
Reconnects Quickly: This is what we love most about Central Station. When we left the room and came back in (the device has an advertised range of only 5 feet), our notebook re-connected to the dock within 5-10 seconds. We were ready to get back to work in no time.
Adjustable in More Ways Than One: The Central Station’s dual-hinge makes it pretty easy to adjust the height of the display, whether you want it at eye level or on an even keel with your notebook. Plus, four Magic Angle settings on the device can help you compensate for the light based on how you decide to position the monitor.
What We Don’t
Need Wired Connection for USB 3.0 Speeds: Although we haven’t performed our official transfer tests yet, we could tell that the Central Station was taking a while to transfer 5GB of files from our laptop to the hard drive connected to the dock. If you want USB 3.0 speeds, you’ll need to connect the included USB 3.0 cable from the back of the Station to your notebook. That’s extra clutter.
Speakers Not Included: We wish Samsung included speakers in the base of the Central Station or on the frame. You’ll need to plug external speakers into the audio jack on the dock.
Pricey: Right now you can pick up a 27-inch, 1080p Samsung SyncMaster display for just $299, or $300 less than the Central Station. You’ll need to decide if all the extra things the Central Station does makes it worth the splurge.
Outlook: Although it commands a premium, we love the convenience, versatility, and performance that the Samsung Central Station offers. Check out the video and gallery below and stay tuned for our full review.
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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