Review: Henge Docks' Vertical Docking Station for Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2015
Henge Docks on Tuesday finally announced availability of its Vertical Docking Station for Apple's 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, introducing a new metal alloy chassis, tweaked cable installation and more.




After using the new Retina MacBook Pro dock for a few weeks, we can safely say Henge Docks' latest product is the company's best effort so far.

The new Vertical Docking Station is a rethinking of the firm's well-known vertical stand. A new metal alloy construction far surpasses the hard plastic composite used in previous designs, details like covered screws for cable installation and superior material choice make for one of the best laptop docking solutions we've ever seen.

For this review, we used Apple's late-2013 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and a metal edition Vertical Docking Station furnished by Henge Docks.

Design

Based on current composite Henge Docks designs, the Retina MacBook Pro Vertical Dock is extremely well made. Weighing in at 2.5 pounds, the dock is crafted from a high-density metal alloy that not only keeps the MacBook from tipping over, but matches the aluminum laptop's aesthetic.




The dock itself is basically a metal superstructure with a formed plastic cradle and strategically placed soft rubber inserts. Wherever the MacBook makes contact with the dock, a thick rubber material is there to ensure a snug fit and inhibit unnecessary movement.

As with other Henge Docks products, the Retina MacBook version is form-fitted down to cutouts for the laptop's feet. Special to this model are holes in the cradle that line up with the MacBook's side intake vents, as well as a rear slot for escaping hot air, allowing for optimal air flow even while under heavy load.




As seen in the photos above, the Vertical Docking Station carries over Henge Docks' typical styling cues, with two raised tongues gripping the MacBook on all sides to stop it from toppling over. A large base measuring 6 5/8 inches long by 6 3/8 inches wide keeps everything grounded, while tacky rubber strips run the perimeter to prevent from slippage.




With the Retina MacBook Pro's compact port layout, Henge Docks was able to consolidate cable inlets into a very small area. Covering the screws is a 3-inch long strip of rubber with an anchor that doubles as a screw-down for Apple's MagSafe 2 power adapter. The design not only hides unsightly screws, but protects them from damage and debris.

Finally, a hex tool is integrated into the base of the docking station for easy access when removing or installing cables.


In use

The latest Henge Docks are basically ready to go right out of the box. The appropriate plugs are installed in the correct slots -- two Thunderbolt, one USB 3.0, TRRS audio and room a slot for a MagSafe 2 cord -- meaning all you have to do is position the dock near a display or HDTV, run extensions cables and slip in a MacBook.




Inserting a MacBook is simple as the inner rubber sheathing serves as a guide to align the dock's plugs with the Pro's left-hand ports.

As mentioned above, we found the dock to be quite sturdy, especially given the new design's metal build. There was, however, a bit of wiggle room between the dock and laptop. We were able to rock the MacBook back and forth ever so slightly, though displacement was on the order of millimeters; definitely not enough to disrupt overall stability.

One of Henge Docks' strengths has always been cable management and the new made-for-Retina dock continues that heritage with cable-appropriate plastic adapter tabs for MagSafe cords and a new built-in routing system. Instead of having system cables spill out through a cutout in the back of the dock, the metal version employs a rubber organizer that keeps cords in their place.




Henge Docks includes two DisplayPort cables installed where the MacBook Pro's Thunderbolt ports are located, meaning users have to supply their own cables to gain full Thunderbolt capabilities. This was fine for our purposes as the dock was being used to connect to a non-Thunderbolt display. We did end up using the hex tool to swap out one of the DisplayPort cables to connect to a Thunderbolt server.




Because the HDMI output is located on the laptop's right side, enlisting the Henge dock for media serving duties is simple. We ended up placing the unit right next to our HDTV's input panel to have quick access to a short HDMI cable left dangling from the television.

To use the MacBook Pro while in clamshell mode, that is with the screen closed, the laptop needs to be connected to a power outlet. Running a MagSafe cable through the dock each time you use it can become tiresome, but unless you own two power cords, there really is no other option. Perhaps in future versions Henge Docks could design a break-free clamp, but for now users are stuck with the screw-in anchor.




We found the power cord's magnets were strong enough to hold the cable in place during use, but users who regularly dock their laptop may want to screw it in. This is especially true given the relative ease with which MagSafe 2 disengages.

Like past Henge Docks designs, dismounting the laptop is requires two hands. This shouldn't be surprising given the dock's snug fit, though we expected the added weight would help the situation. Not so.

Conclusion

Henge Docks is flexing its design muscle with the Retina MacBook Pro Vertical Docking Station. The new metal body is more sturdy than previous models, while the seemingly minor additions of a screw cover and cable organizer simply add to perceived build quality.

With slick improvements to an already solid design, Henge Docks' Vertical Docking Station is an easy recommendation for Retina MacBook Pro owners who regularly use an external display or connect their machine to an HDTV.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

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Pros

  • Sturdy and aesthetically pleasing build
  • High quality materials
  • Precision crafted

Cons

  • Very slight wobble when laptop is installed
  • Difficult to disconnect with one hand
  • MagSafe 2 solution could be better

Pricing & availability

The new Henge Docks Vertical Docking Station for Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display is available now from the company's website. The 13-inch and 15-inch metal edition is priced at $119, while a composite Glossy White version can be had for $89.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27

    I don't understand why you would not want to look at the best display on the market after paying for it.

     

    To each their own, I suppose.

  • Reply 2 of 27

    I wish Henge would get moving on the docking station that adds ports; it's been announced as "coming soon" for almost a year.

  • Reply 3 of 27
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member

    My understanding has always been that the MBP shouldn't be run with its lid closed. Heat issues, etc. 

  • Reply 4 of 27
    kozchriskozchris Posts: 209member

    The MacBook Pro with Retina has fans that are not designed to work in this vertical configuration. I had a book arc and the fans make a clicking noise when your setup is like this. After swapping my new machine for another brand new MBP and seeing the same problem the issue escalated all they way up through to the Apple hardware team. After research they confirmed that there is an issue with the fans in this configuration and that there would be NO fix.

     

    If you don't mind ticking in an otherwise quiet room then you are good to go. It drove me nuts though so now I run in a dual monitor configuration.

  • Reply 5 of 27
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,460member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

     

    My understanding has always been that the MBP shouldn't be run with its lid closed. Heat issues, etc. 


     

    Not sure about the newer models, but on my 2010 MBP, the fans are actually completely blocked until you open the lid.  So running it closed would be an overheating problem waiting to happen.

  • Reply 6 of 27
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 808member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

     

    My understanding has always been that the MBP shouldn't be run with its lid closed. Heat issues, etc. 




    Absolutely true.  Yes, it has clamshell mode.  No, you should NEVER use it.

     

    I've seen more than one MBP cooked because somebody thought it would be a good idea to use it with the display closed.  It works fine for a few years, but eventually the heat gets too much for it to handle, and the processor goes into permanent slowdown mode, you start getting kernel panics like crazy, and it's new logic board time.

  • Reply 7 of 27
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 808member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MachineShedFred View Post

     

    I don't understand why you would not want to look at the best display on the market after paying for it.




    Oh, and that too.  This is an incredibly stupid idea.

     

    Want a computer with an external display only?  Buy a Mac mini.  That's what it's designed for.

     

    Want to dock your laptop?  Get the Thunderbolt display, it's only two cables to hook up, and use your laptop with the screen OPEN.  Mac OS X handles multiple screens beautifully, always has.

  • Reply 8 of 27
    ssalbssalb Posts: 13member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DarkVader View Post

     



    Absolutely true.  Yes, it has clamshell mode.  No, you should NEVER use it.

     

    I've seen more than one MBP cooked because somebody thought it would be a good idea to use it with the display closed.  It works fine for a few years, but eventually the heat gets too much for it to handle, and the processor goes into permanent slowdown mode, you start getting kernel panics like crazy, and it's new logic board time.




    I've always run my MBPs in clamshell mode and have never had any heat related issues at all. My last two, core i7 and C2D in the previous Hedge Dock. This is at home and at work. At work we probably have 30 or 40 users with MBPs running in clamshell with 27" external displays. Never an issue and some of these systems have been running closed for years.

  • Reply 9 of 27
    rmb0037rmb0037 Posts: 142member
    darkvader wrote: »

    Absolutely true.  Yes, it has clamshell mode.  No, you should NEVER use it.

    I've seen more than one MBP cooked because somebody thought it would be a good idea to use it with the display closed.  It works fine for a few years, but eventually the heat gets too much for it to handle, and the processor goes into permanent slowdown mode, you start getting kernel panics like crazy, and it's new logic board time.

    Ok I must be misreading this article. I thought they were talking about the RETINA models...the ones where heat is dispersed out the back and the sides of the laptop...
  • Reply 10 of 27
    gustavgustav Posts: 826member
    FYI, Apple fully supports clamshell mode:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3131?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

    However, when using a docking station, you should know where the vents are and make sure they are not blocked.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    paulmjohnsonpaulmjohnson Posts: 1,380member

    Well for me it's because at my desk I have two Thunderbolt displays, so the Macbook Pro is used to power them when I'm at my desk.

     

    I do that with the screen closed on the MBP.



    Doesn't seem to cause any problems.

  • Reply 12 of 27

    Is there some benefit to all those cables? "Hubs" like the Elgato and CalDigit use a single Thunderbolt cable to provide multiple ports - audio, USB3, HDMI and a second, daisy-chained Thundebolt port. Seems like it would be easier to have only one connection (plus power) trying to line up with the computer chassis instead of three, especially when one of those three is a relatively fragile 3.5mm plug.

     

    Then again, since those hubs cost $300 I guess it would drive up the price of the dock.

  • Reply 13 of 27
    peshpesh Posts: 1member

    I wonder if the connectors that come with thunderbolt display will work?  Mainly, the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 power adapter?

  • Reply 14 of 27
    nikon133nikon133 Posts: 2,600member
    I don't understand why you would not want to look at the best display on the market after paying for it.

    To each their own, I suppose.

    I agree. Plus, it will not let you use laptop's screen together with external monitor.

    I'd find horizontal solution, where you slide laptop into fixed ports' connectors, or you slide connectors into fixed laptop, much more preferable. Something like what HP did with new dock for their Elitebook 840 and 850 ultrabooks.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    georgeip5georgeip5 Posts: 225member
    So that's what an Android users charging dock looks like?
  • Reply 16 of 27
    Thank you for the great review! We're so excited this dock is now available!
  • Reply 17 of 27
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,738member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

     

    Is there some benefit to all those cables? "Hubs" like the Elgato and CalDigit use a single Thunderbolt cable to provide multiple ports - audio, USB3, HDMI and a second, daisy-chained Thundebolt port. Seems like it would be easier to have only one connection (plus power) trying to line up with the computer chassis instead of three, especially when one of those three is a relatively fragile 3.5mm plug.

     

    Then again, since those hubs cost $300 I guess it would drive up the price of the dock.


    You'd still need all those cables from the Elgato or CalDigit Thunderbolt hubs anyhow. The hubs need their own power source too.

     

    The Henge Dock just has dumb passthrough connectors, no additional power source is necessary, kind of like a poor-man's hub, and priced that way. Hopefully it's engineered in a way that won't put too much lateral stress on any given plug. 

     

    I have last year's MacBook Air, and I occasionally think about buying a CalDigit hub since I only have the one Thunderbolt connector and can't output to an external monitor and use wired Ethernet at the same time. I'll probably wait until I buy 1.) the next Mac mini (whenever that will be) with a Thunderbolt connector, and/or 2.) a Thunderbolt monitor. 

     

    The Henge Dock looks like it is designed specifically for one model, you can't use it with other MacBook models. I tend to stay away from accessories that will only work with one specific model. The only exception is an aluminum vertical stand for my trusty Mac mini, but it was something like twenty bucks, not $120 that the Henge Dock commands.

  • Reply 18 of 27
    rufworkrufwork Posts: 130member

    "Henge Docks' Vertical Docking Station is an easy recommendation for Retina MacBook Pro owners who regularly use an external display"

     

    What a puff review.  Look, if real estate is a huge issue on your desk and you have a single monitor, the HengeDock makes some good sense. Or if you don't mind shelling out this kind of cash to have a HDTV box, maybe, as the review remarks, but then I'm not sure you don't just buy an Apple TV and mirror the display.

     

    Otherwise, as others have pointed out, you're wasting the retina screen that makes the MacBook worth buying.

     

    I have a HengeDock.  I also have a crowded desk with a kvm switch.  It's a possible use case, and I noticed that the Mac I used tended to be the Mac I had -- the HengeDock made my MacBook kvm friendly.  But that's a horribly specific use case.  This review doesn't feel supported by serious usage or someone considering price.  3 stars maybe, for great execution of a flawed design.  But 4.5?  Madness.

  • Reply 19 of 27
    jlanddjlandd Posts: 873member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rufwork View Post

     

      This review doesn't feel supported by serious usage or someone considering price.  3 stars maybe, for great execution of a flawed design.  But 4.5?  Madness.


     

    I've viewed the Henge vertical docks with puzzlement, as I could never figure out, if it's not giving you new ports, what their value for the price was.  Reviews never seemed to say enough to change my mind.  Then here's an AI review and I think "OK, great, now I'll learn about what's so good about this thing".  And it doesn't say anything, unless I'm missing it somehow.  It doesn't say what it does and doesn't do!   It talks a lot about the design and blah blah, and if you pore over every word one may figure it out by virtue of what isn't said.   Am I missing a sentence that says "This basically holds your laptop vertically and just gives you pass-throughs of your existing ports.  Thunderbolt in is Thunderbolt out." ?

     

    I can appreciate certain situations where the cable management might be helpful, as rufwork has, but I've got everything used and don't feel the need to add a widget to my desk that makes me close the lid just to work.

     

    4.5?  For a solution in search of a problem?  I don't get it.  Like I say, I have no doubt it has proven useful for some people, but the glowing reviews I've seen that don't point out that it's for cable organization and not for port addition and adapting just make it seem like Henge is spending more on PR than anything else.

  • Reply 20 of 27
    r00fusr00fus Posts: 245member
    I'm looking forward to their horizontal docks, esp. at my 2nd office (i.e., living room corner desk) where I don't have a monitor.

    I spend 50% of my time on the laptop display, even when I have 2 other monitors (i.e., @work) b/c it's retina and my company won't shell out for retina external displays.

    http://hengedocks.com/pages/horizontal-mac-dock
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