A brief product review by Bobulous.
The Targus Mobile Docking Station with Video is a port replicator for laptop users. It allows a user to take their laptop away from the desk, but leave their monitor, keyboard, mouse, network cable, USB devices, speakers and microphone all connected to the port replicator on the desk. Then, on returning to the desk, the user only has to join the laptop to the port replicator with one USB cable (and plug the laptop power cable directly into the laptop if its battery gets low).
The same product is also known as the Targus Universal Docking Station with Video.
First off, I was shocked to realise that the Mobile Docking Station with Video does not actually have any PS/2 ports. All of the other Targus docking stations that I've seen come with PS/2 ports, but this model does not. This is a bizarre omission, seeing as Targus have gone to the trouble to include a serial port. I haven't known of any desktop-based serial-port-connected hardware for many, many years. PS/2 ports, however, are still used by a large percentage of keyboards and mice.
Before connecting the Mobile Docking Station to the laptop, you need to install the drivers that come on the supplied CD. Then you must reboot, and connect the Mobile Docking Station to a USB port on your laptop without any hardware connected to it, so that Windows can finish the installation of the Targus software. Once that's done, you can shut down, connect an external monitor to the back of the port replicator and boot your laptop.
Once Windows has loaded, something ought to be displaying on your external monitor. In my case, the external monitor was being used to extend the desktop area. I wanted to use the external monitor as the primary display, but choosing this option in the Targus software failed every time. In the end I had to go to the Display properties in Windows Control Panel and play with the settings until the external monitor became the primary display.
With the external monitor as primary, I switched to the maximum resolution of 1280×1024 at 16-bits colour depth. I have to say that it didn't look as awful as I'd expected. The fine edges of text had become ghosted, and colour gradients banded into discrete colours due to the limited 16-bit colour. But it was a nicer image than I'd expected over a USB cable.
Trouble becomes apparent when you start to use the mouse. With nothing happening on screen, the mouse pointer moves as smoothly as you'd want it to. But as soon as the on-screen image is changing, the mouse pointer begins to stutter and jerk. Even a page with a single line of changing text caused the mouse pointer to spasm to such a degree that it was difficult to bear. Moving across a web page with reactive links causes the mouse to feel like it's moving through treacle. This problem is purely the result of too much video information being sent over a USB cable, and the resolution and bit-depth affects performance directly:
Even having downloaded the latest drivers from the Targus website, as their support FAQ suggests for improving video quality, doesn't help. The mouse pointer remained as jerky as ever.
Another way to upset the mouse is to connect other devices to the USB ports on the back of the Targus device. Plugging a USB memory stick into one of the ports and transferring data to it was enough to cause the mouse to stutter and lag. This sort of responsiveness isn't enough to make it impossible to use the mouse, but it is enough to make you really wish you didn't have to. Someone who works in the creative arts would abandon their work in despair if they were lumbered with this sort of setup.
On the plus side, the network connection worked without any complaints when the network cable was connected through the port replicator.
The Targus Mobile Docking Station with Video is a product designed purely to make working with a laptop more convenient, reducing the number of cables that need to be disconnected and reconnected down to two. However, the lack of PS/2 ports is a poor decision, especially to make way for a serial port. And the poor display responsiveness would surely drive a frequent user mad. While the idea of video over USB is interesting, it doesn't work in this case.