FEATURE REVIEW – Henge Docks Horizontal Dock

500636-5acf70732e3e9e0c2f604147eac3b5e8-medium_jpgIf you have a MacBook Pro and you’re looking for a docking station, I’ve got good news…

Introduction
I’ve been a portable computer user since the early to mid-1990’s. Back in the day of Windows 3.x, I got tight with a manager at a local Radio Shack and was able to purchase their early 8088, x286 and finally x386 before finally moving on to Dells and Toshibas. It’s been quite a journey.

Back during those early days, expansion options were limited to either an RS-232 compatible serial port or a parallel port. That was it. Token Ring and Ethernet networking was just getting started. IF a consumer based PC connected to anything, it was through a 300-1200 baud modem. 14.4k modems wouldn’t come out for another few years. The days of USB and SDXC cards weren’t even ideas or dreams yet. The internet, beyond research labs and connected universities, didn’t exist. Heck… AOL was the newest thing, and again… you connected via either an internal or external modem, and *70, was your best friend when it came to connection strings.

We’ve come a long way…

When I moved to Dell and Toshiba branded laptops, one of the biggest things that I got introduced to was the concept of a docking station. The idea of being able to connect cables, external drives, monitors, etc., to a stationary device that would quickly and cleanly allow you to connect and reconnect your computer to all of these external devices and cables really got my attention. It made it easy to take your laptop back and forth to work and the house. It also made it easy to take it to meetings where you could work and then come back and hook back up to your desktop resources without having to plug and chug all of your cables and other sources.

The clouds parted, the sun showed through… and cue the angelic music.

I had arrived.

Soon, I had a docking station for every laptop I’d ever owned – one at work and one at the house. It made bringing the work laptop home VERY easy, especially if they were either the same laptop, or the same series and used the same dock. However, the point is that my laptop(s) had a home and place to sit when I was at home and needed access to all of my peripherals and resources.

However, when I dropped Dell and Toshiba and other Windows based laptops for Apple and MacBook Pros, I also dropped support for my docking stations. Suddenly, I was back to plugging and chugging multiple cables in and out of my PC every time I wanted to get access to the internet, my monitor or other resources on my home network. That is, until now…

Now, thanks to Henge Docks, that’s changed. Now thanks to Henge Docks, the MacBook Pro has a home. Let’s take a look at its new home – the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro Retina and see how it looks.

Brief History
There’s good and bad here. If you remember, the Horizontal Dock has been a long time coming. There were a number of technical issues to resolve. There were a number of customers waiting. There were a few false starts; but here it is in a nutshell, from one of my last articles on this:

When I heard about the Horizontal Dock from Henge Docks, I jumped on early. There wasn’t much on the site at the time, and honestly over the next year or so (into late 2012 and early 2013), you couldn’t do much more other than sign up for an email list that got you on an internal pre-order list.

I honestly think I signed up like three times… That was partially due to the fact that so little information was available on the product, and there were large gaps of time in between the times that I checked.

During this time, there were many milestone and availability dates that came and went with little to no reported progress. In fact, looking back at it all, (and I’m certain I’ll say this more than once here) this has really been a 4-5 YEAR journey from the point of dock announcement to dock shipping and receipt.

However, in late 2014, we were told that orders would open up in early to mid-January 2014. At this point, you had a choice. Henge Docks announced their Early Adopters program.

With the Early Adopters program, users could, for an additional fee of $50, join the program. The Early Adopter program got you the Dock at least three months before everyone else and also got you access to pre-release versions of the Dock’s firmware as well as its desktop control app. The Dock would also have a limited edition, customized base plate identifying it as an Early Adopter unit, and (I think) would be numbered.

I ordered my Dock on 2015-01-14. Early Adopter units were scheduled to ship in March of 2015, with GA units (general availability) shipping in June. Both of those milestone dates came and went. The date for Early Adopter units was pushed to May, then July, and then (I think) August. All of those dates came and went as well.

At that point, I had already started a very frank dialog with Henge Docks’ CEO, Matt Vroom.

Matt… is an awesome guy. He was frank, open and as transparent as he possibly could be. Henge Docks had opened their Early Adopter Portal and at the time, it echoed in there. There was little to NO participation there; and honestly, in retrospect, it’s not surprising.

The Portal was designed to be a gathering place for Early Adopters to share views, usage, insight, suggestions, etc., about the Horizontal Dock. With the Dock behind schedule, there was no need for any activity about the dock.

Well, the dock is out now… and quite honestly, it’s one of the best things about my MacBook Pro.

Hardware and Pictures
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock is a really cool Thunderbolt dock. Unlike its Vertical Docks, the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock has a number of different ports, including AC Power.

Ports
With a number of different ports available, the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock provides for your future expansion needs

My Setup
Here is my Henge Docks Horizontal Dock in my office. This is set up as a “true” docking station and not as a dock that also incorporates the laptop screen as a third monitor.

DSC_8527 DSC_8528
My Horizontal Dock in front of my Thunderbolt Display and 27″ AOC HD Monitor I think I have all of my USB ports used, as well as my TB and MDP port. My HDMI, Audio 2 port and SD card slot are free
DSC_8530 DSC_8531
My Horizontal Dock without my MBP in it. Sliding my MBP in place/ putting it into the dock seems to have scarred it up a bit… A close up of the Docking Ring – No activity
DSC_8532 DSC_8533
A close up of the Docking Ring – Flashing Amber. The Dock is actually moving the ports into the closed position A close up of the Docking Ring – Solid Green: Docking Complete. Light is green… Trap is clean.

Please note that if you have your MacBook Pro in any kind of a shell case, you’re going to have to take it out to use it with the dock. It simply will not fit, will not allow you to close your MBP or won’t dock correctly with any kind of shell casing on your Mac. This is disappointing, but when I brought this up to Henge Docks, they said that the dock was impossible to manufacture and have work correctly with a case with so MANY different cases, case types, etc. on the market. Your MBP is going to have to get nekked before it climbs in the Horizontal Dock.

I was also a bit disappointed with the scarring that the dock received simply by sliding my Mac in the Dock. As you can see from the pictures above, its significant. While it doesn’t affect the Dock’s functionality in anyway, it is a bit concerning that a $400 dock mars so easily.

Early Adopter Program
The Early Adopter Program for the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock was designed to give early access to not only the Horizontal Dock, but the software that drives it – DockApp – as well. With it, you get any easy way to not only connect all of your peripherals, but a way to control that access.

With that access to the latest, beta versions of Dock App, you also got a straight line to Henge Docks’ development team. You got the ability to file bug reports and then communicate directly via email, calls or chat about those defects. It’s been pretty cool.

However, things have been VERY quiet out of Henge Docks lately. There wasn’t an update to Dock App in over three (3) months. There has only been one communication out of Henge Docks about Dock App in the last four (4) months. It had me wondering whether or not the Early Adopter Program is over or not. It’s really just kind of withered. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

It looks like Henge Docks has been working on the Horizontal Dock for the 13″ MacBook Pro. As of this writing, it should hit the streets in a few days. What’s going to happen to Dock App at this point, is still up in the air. Though I think we’ve really come to the end of the feature hunt.

Dock app gives you the ability to dock, undock and auto dock your MacBook Pro. There’s not much more that the app does. It will give you the ability to manage peripherals and accessories that you have attached to the dock, but when I say manage, I really mean,

  1. Choose your audio in/ out devices
  2. Disconnect devices from your Mac before you pull your MBP out of the dock so you don’t corrupt any data.

Don’t look for Dock App to do too much more. There’s not much more that it or the dock really can do, anyway. It’s a docking station. As cool as I think it is – and it is really cool – it’s not going to save the world.

Issues and Problems
Over the past few months, I’ve had a few different issues with the Dock that I’ve reported to Henge Docks via their Early Adopter Program website. All of those defects are now closed. Unfortunately for me, not all of them were resolved and some of them are still a bit of a niggling issue.

Waking from Sleep
I can’t help but shake my head on this one… Not because of anything that Henge Docks has or hasn’t done, but largely because waking from sleep is a portable computing issue that goes back as far as laptops have had batteries.

The bloody things just don’t wake from sleep like they’re designed to do each and EVERY time they wake from sleep. Something (nearly) always gets in the way and mucks it up. The fact that I’m running into issues with the Dock when my Mac wakes from sleep doesn’t surprise me.

The most common problem is that none of the video comes through to my two (2) monitors. OR video will only go to my Thunderbolt Display and not to both it and my HD display coming through my mini display port, port.

I also have issues with audio sources after waking from sleep. I installed Boom 2, and for some reason, if I have my MBP on and undocked and then sleep and dock the computer, my audio source is still identified as “Boom 2 Device,” but no audio comes through. If I change it to the audio port with my external speakers, audio comes through. If I change it back to Boom 2 after that, enhanced audio comes through. I’m not certain what is going on, but it’s clearly a wake/ sleep issue…

Docking Indicator
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock comes with a motorized dock. When you place your MBP in the dock, the dock itself will align and insert all of the connectors into your ports by itself. There is a dock indicator light ring on the right side front of the dock. When you put your MBP in the dock and it lights up green, it will auto “close” as all the ports are correctly lined up. It flashes orange while it moves everything into place and then flashes green again when it’s done and its correctly got all the inserts in all the ports. If there’s a problem, it will flash orange and then “open” so you can pull the MBP out and reseat it.

There’s a known issue – or at least there was a known issue, Henge Docks says its fixed – where the ring continues to flash orange even after the dock is closed and everything is correctly aligned. This is still happening on my dock.

To fix this, Henge Docks says that you should – with your MBP OUT of the dock – unplug the AC power from the dock and let it sit for a few moments. Then, you should plug the power back in and put your MBP back in the dock. The problem should be gone. If it persists, Henge Docks says you should recalibrate your dock (by docking and undocking your Mac 5-6 times in a row. After that, it should be fixed. If the problem persists, rinse/ repeat the above process until its gone.

This usually works for a while, but the problem always comes back. However, I have yet to have a situation where the functionality of the Dock is impaired because of the indicator light.

System Sounds vs. Standard Audio
I’ve had this problem since the Dock arrived. I’ve also logged a bug on this, but Henge Docks couldn’t replicate it.

Some system sounds won’t go through the correct audio port and instead go through PC speakers instead of the desktop speakers plugged into the Dock. This is usually the Mac’s system “thunk” sound that occurs when you, for example, press the audio “up” button past the last available “up” point, or my Mac generates some other minor audio cue sound.

Conclusion
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for both 13″ MBPr and 15″ MBPr sells for $399. While that’s a bit pricey, even for a Thunderbolt dock, it’s a GREAT docking station. It’s got

  • Two (2) audio ports
  • One (1) SD card slot
  • One full sized HDMI port
  • Six (6) USB 3.0 ports
  • Built in wired Ethernet
  • One (1) Mini Display Port
  • One (1) Thunderbolt 2 Port (supports up to 3 displays connected via TB2)
  • Kensington Lock support

I’ve been looking for a good docking station for my Macs for a while and honestly, this one should last me for the lift of my Late 2013 15″ MBP and beyond, provided they don’t’ change the ports or port alignment on any new MBP I would need to buy in the foreseeable future.

This was money well spent.

The Dock allows me to hook a lot of external devices to my Mac without having to plug and chug all of the cords on and off. It provides power to my MBP which means I can put my 85w charger back in my bag.

If you were on the fence about getting this dock for yourself, you can safely jump down. This is the dock you were looking for; and most definitely the dock you want for any compatible MacBook Pro. It was a LONG wait for me, but it was one that was definitely worth it.

I love my Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina, and I’m certain you will too once yours arrives and you have it setup and running.

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