The Dell Latitude 6430u (HD+) that I just reviewed came to us with an optional extra, the Dell Wireless Dock D5000 ($269.99 list, $187 when bought with Dell Latitude 6430u), which is just what the name indicates: a wireless docking station. It’s the first laptop dock to support WiGig, a standard for high-speed data transmission over short distances.
As Dell has assured us that some of its future laptops will be compatible with the dock, and because WiGig technology has a lot of potential, we decided to review the dock separately. It performed well in our testing, and anyone buying the 6430u would do well to consider getting it as an accessory.
If you want the dock, though, be sure to get it when you buy the laptop. Not only will you save money, but also the potential aggravation of adding and configuring the WiGig card yourself.
The D5000 in Action
To use the D5000, all you need to do is to turn your laptop and the D5000 on. When you buy the 6430u along with the dock, the software is already installed, and the laptop should automatically connect with the dock. There is a pairing button on the dock to facilitate connection, but I was usually able to connect without having to press it.
According to Dell, the range of the dock is up to 10 meters (32.8 feet), and it came close to matching that in my testing. To achieve that, though, I had to follow a couple of suggestions from the manual: I had to make sure that the front of the dock was facing at me, and that the laptop itself was facing the dock. (When I positioned myself between the dock and laptop, I lost the connection even though I was only six feet away.) If you bring the laptop back into range, it usually reconnects automatically, but it could take some time to do so. Once in a while I couldn’t get it to reconnect without a reboot.
The D5000′s ports include three USB 3.0, an HDMI 1.3, a DisplayPort; an Ethernet port, and a combo mic/audio in/out jack. A HDMI to VGA adapter is included in the D5000′s packaging.
As a test, I copied a 2.1GB folder from an external hard drive over a USB 3.0 connection to the Latitude 6430u. When the cable was connected directly to the laptop, the transfer averaged 32 seconds. With the cable connected to one of the dock’s USB ports and the dock was about a meter away from the laptop, the transfer averaged 51 seconds. I increased the distance to about 10 feet, with no decrease in speed.
I also streamed hi-def video to a display attached to the dock via an HDMI connection, and noticed no lag or connection artifacts—except that it did take about five seconds to reacquire the video on the monitor after moving out of, and then back into, range. You could simultaneously hook displays to both the HDMI port and DisplayPort at once, plus a third to the 6430u’s own HDMI port.
We also tested the dock with a USB dongle for a Dell wireless keyboard and mouse plugged into one of the D5000′s USB ports. The D5000 can connect to a wired network through its Ethernet port and pass the networking connection to the laptop.
WiGig? Why Not.
The WiGig protocol (aka 80211.ad) has promise as a high-speed short-distance wireless, and the Dell Wireless Dock (WiGig) D5000 is a good product to showcase it. More important, it’s a useful accessory for the Dell Latitude 6430u, particularly for users who need extra USB 3.0 ports or to connect to multiple external displays. As of now, though, the 6430u is the only laptop the dock supports, and you’re best off getting the dock at the time you buy the laptop, as retrofitting the 6430u with the WiGig card may be a tricky proposition. WiGig may soon become a commonplace standard, and hopefully the dock will support other laptops—and ones from other manufacturers as well—over time.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc