Kensington StudioDock review: catering to iPad Pro-centric creatives

Posted:
in iPad edited June 28
The Kensington StudioDock is an all-in-one solution for power users who rely on their iPad Pro to get their work done by incorporating a magnetic stand, a bevy of ports, an Apple Watch charger, and two Qi chargers.

Kensington StudioDock
Kensington StudioDock


Apple seems to be taking the iPad Pro more seriously, upgrading it year after year with more powerful features transforming the device from a content consumption device to a content creation device. In that time, Apple brought USB-C to the tablet, iPadOS 13.4 delivered mouse and trackpad support. We also got support for external displays and split-screen apps.

Though Apple has been upgrading the device via software and hardware upgrade, accessories haven't evolved quite as fast.

We've seen countless USB-C hubs and a few keyboards with trackpads integrated, but otherwise, it's the same gear we see time and time again or perhaps borrowed from the Mac.

Kensington set out to do something truly unique with its StudioDock. It is the most unique and exciting iPad accessory to hit the market in years.

StudioDock design


Kensington StudioDock before magnetically connecting our iPad


StudioDock sets out to solve multiple issues while increasing the iPad Pro's functionality by a massive degree.

Just with StudioDock, you're able to replace a USB-C hub, two Qi charging pads, an Apple Watch charger, an SD card reader, a charger, and an iPad Pro stand. That's a lot to fit into one device, and as such, StudioDock isn't a small addition to your desk.

Depending on if you pick up the 11-inch or 12.9-inch model, this has a presence on your desk. Your iPad Pro magnetically attaches to the top, which has an angled edge to the top-left where the camera sits, and a USB-C connector on the right to power your iPad Pro.





Your iPad Pro will get up 37.5W of power when connected, significantly more than the 18W charger Apple includes in the box. It sits horizontal but also can rotate to portrait mode at any time.

The iPad mount sits on the StudioDock and can tilt up and down -- even enough to face backward to a certain degree. This can be great for collaboration as you can rotate the screen around for others to see, though it doesn't go quite far enough if the other person is sitting.

Kensington made the StudioDock primarily of aluminum, including most of the base. The finish exudes off a pleasant, premium feel in line with Apple's offerings. The shape of the dock even matches Apple's own Pro Display XDR stand to a degree -- though not as fancy.

On the front of the device are two Qi charging pads that are under a piece of heathered grey fabric with silicone edges. On the left pad is a ring that denotes it is used for smaller devices, such as your AirPods or AirPods Pro. That pad can achieve up to 5W of power and the pad on the right goes up to 7.5W for your iPhone.

That covers most user's devices already, but Kensington will also offer an optional Apple Watch adapter moving forward. This 5W Apple-certified charger clips onto the right edge and powers your watch at the same time as everything else.

Kensington StudioDock ports
Kensington StudioDock ports


Around the back are an assortment of ports to expand the iPad's abilities.

Ports include:
  • USB-C port with 15W of output

  • USB-A 3.0 port (3X)

  • 3.5mm headphone jack

  • Gigabit Ethernet

  • 4K HDMI 2.0

  • UHS-II SD 4.0 reader

  • Dual Kensington lock ports
Kensington StudioDock card reader
Kensington StudioDock card reader and headphone jack


Most of those ports sit around the back, with the SD card reader and the headphone jack on the right. The sole USB-C port sits on the left edge just below the power button.

An iPad-only workstation

A few of us at AppleInsider rely on iPads as our daily drivers. This means that we've cycled through a variety of different tools to get the job done. We've used USB-C hubs, docks, stands, cases, external input devices, and more. The ability to combine so many devices, so many chargers, and so many cables into one device is incredibly tempting.

Kensington StudioDock in portrait mode
Kensington StudioDock in portrait mode


There are several nice features that Kensington built-in. For example, rotating to portrait can be helpful for writing, editing code, or other tasks. When you do this with your Apple Watch on the charging puck, it rests against a slight lip, keeping it in place.

The iPad is, after all, a mobile-first device -- but the StudioDock is intended for a desk. So it doesn't get lifted, those lock ports come in handy.

All too many USB-C hubs skimp on the card reader's speed and include slow UHS-I card readers. UHS-II has a max speed of 312MB/s -- three times that of UHS-I. If you've ever imported a large batch of RAW images using a slow reader, you know how tedious and annoying it can be.

Should you invest in the Kensington StudioDock

There are a few aspects of StudioDock that give us pause. For example, how long will this last? A standard USB-C hub and a stand can last for many years, but StudioDock will only remain relevant as long as Apple keeps the iPad size relatively consistent. There's no obvious way to adapt a different size device.

Kensington StudioDock qi chargers
Kensington StudioDock Qi chargers


Luckily, many pros will hold onto their iPads for years, and companies tend to hold on even longer, so it isn't presently clear how much of an issue this will be.

We'd like to see a few changes on a second-gen version, including a MagSafe charger rather than the half-as-slow Qi charger and more USB-C ports rather than USB-A. Otherwise, the onus is on Apple to do more with iPadOS, such as improved external monitor support.

But those quibbles aside, Kensington has done a remarkable job in creating a pro-level accessory. It feels like it belongs and does what we need it to do -- be it connecting SSDs, equipping a mic, or relying on an external monitor.

Pros
  • All-in-one design

  • Aluminum and fabric exude premium build quality

  • Tablet can roatee and tilt

  • Lots of convenient ports

  • Easy to dock and remove iPad

  • Fast charges iPad Pro

  • Can power all of your Apple gear

  • Perfect for Bluetooth keyboard and mouse

  • Can work as an easle

  • Ultra-fast UHS-II card reader

  • Good port placement
Cons
  • Gets very expensive

  • Apple Watch charger not included

  • Power cable is very bulky

  • Needs more type-C ports

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

The Kensington StudioDock runs $379 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and fourth-gen iPad Air model and $399 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro model at B&H Photo. Third-party sellers are also selling the dock on Amazon.com.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 6
    OK. Since you asked.  This is ridiculous, to the extent that the review screams sponsorship.
    Brushed aluminum does not mean Apple design, and the forced functionality and non modularity are not just generally questionable, but downright dumb in the case of the iPad Pro.
    Not even addressed here is the fixed height. This would be very tiring to use much with fingers. Awful if not impossible to use with the pen (biggest reason to choose iPad imho). Maybe if your standing and drag it closer to you, but that will suit a fraction of people a fraction of the time.
    There are great little USB-C mini docks for around $30 for all this connectivity (maybe 2 cheaper ones even better). That fit in your bag and go with you where you’ll likely be needing them!
    The other device chargers are far from
    elegant and have no place being cemented to this.
    When the power supply burns out, you get a book holder and a boat anchor, along with lost functionality everywhere, although you couldn’t move them or take them anywhere else anyway....
    yuck.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 6
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,581member
    Vermelho said:
    OK. Since you asked.  This is ridiculous, to the extent that the review screams sponsorship.
    Brushed aluminum does not mean Apple design, and the forced functionality and non modularity are not just generally questionable, but downright dumb in the case of the iPad Pro.
    Not even addressed here is the fixed height. This would be very tiring to use much with fingers. Awful if not impossible to use with the pen (biggest reason to choose iPad imho). Maybe if your standing and drag it closer to you, but that will suit a fraction of people a fraction of the time.
    There are great little USB-C mini docks for around $30 for all this connectivity (maybe 2 cheaper ones even better). That fit in your bag and go with you where you’ll likely be needing them!
    The other device chargers are far from
    elegant and have no place being cemented to this.
    When the power supply burns out, you get a book holder and a boat anchor, along with lost functionality everywhere, although you couldn’t move them or take them anywhere else anyway....
    yuck.

    I'll both agree and disagree with parts of what you wrote here.  First, I don't think the review screams of sponsorship.  It has an extensive list of cons, including price and lifespan (whether for durability or obsolescence).   I also don't think a power supply burning out is going to be much of a concern.  

    That is where my quibbles end, though.  Great point about the design.  It looks like a giant hunk of metal, which it pretty much is.  To me, though, it comes down to the latest add-on that is really trying to shoehorn the iPad into being a MacBook.  If you need ports, a keyboard, a trackpad and anything more than basic multitasking, buy a MacBook Air or even Pro.  The iPad Pro 12.9 approaches the cost of the higher end stock Air, and that's before you add a keyboard, case, or something like this for another $400.  The MB is more powerful than the iPad, runs MacOS and has about the same size screen.  Why would someone spend more...the touchscreen?  And with, say, a keyboard case...is the iPad really any more portable?  

    I have to admit that turning iPads into laptops has always annoyed me.  I recently bought an iPad Air 4.  I got a $15.00 flip cover case from Amazon.  It's a great device and the onscreen keyboard is good enough for basic typing.  If I really need to do writing, I'll use my MBP.  
  • Reply 3 of 6
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 452member, editor
    Vermelho said:
    OK. Since you asked.  This is ridiculous, to the extent that the review screams sponsorship.
    Brushed aluminum does not mean Apple design, and the forced functionality and non modularity are not just generally questionable, but downright dumb in the case of the iPad Pro.
    Not even addressed here is the fixed height. This would be very tiring to use much with fingers. Awful if not impossible to use with the pen (biggest reason to choose iPad imho). Maybe if your standing and drag it closer to you, but that will suit a fraction of people a fraction of the time.
    There are great little USB-C mini docks for around $30 for all this connectivity (maybe 2 cheaper ones even better). That fit in your bag and go with you where you’ll likely be needing them!
    The other device chargers are far from
    elegant and have no place being cemented to this.
    When the power supply burns out, you get a book holder and a boat anchor, along with lost functionality everywhere, although you couldn’t move them or take them anywhere else anyway....
    yuck.
    Lots to unpack here in your diatribe. 
    First, Apple single-handedly popularized the aluminum build. This very much feels like an Apple-inspired product from its design that is borrowed from the Pro Display XDR, to the use of aluminum, to the magic use of magnets to hold the iPad in place. While Apple doesn't have any heathered fabric products, the charging pad even feels like something Apple would do.

    Second, I have NO issues with the fixed height. This is for use at a desk in a studio or office environment. You can use your fingers but it is best used with a keyboard and mouse alongside the touchscreen. 

    Those $30 mini docks are typically garbage. Cheap chipsets, slower versions of USB, not even close to 37.5W of charging power, and often good amounts of plastic. If you tried to sell me on a $80-$100 one I would agree. But those are designed for portability rather than desktop use.

    The power supply also is also an off-the-shelf component. A simple LiteOn brick that can be replaced from Amazon for $20 and let you continue to use this thing for ages.

    Those portable USB-C hubs don't offer you a rotating stand, usually not Ethernet, definitely not a UHS-II card reader, for sure not two Qi chargers, and not an Apple Watch charger.

    If you want a portable USB-C hub, go for that. There are tons of options at any price point. If you want a desktop docking station then you're left with almost nothing but this.
    williamlondonroundaboutnow
  • Reply 4 of 6
    Do lots of people need to charge their watch...at their desk...while working...??? Filler Do people need 37.5w for charging? If your iPad is plugged in all the time to your station, why the extra watts? Filler You’d have to be using your phone a SHIT TON to need a dedicated charging pad built in. Filler it’s a neat idea, for a small market, for way too much money - like the MS Big Ass Table. All filler is added to jack up the price but the price doesn’t justify all the filler. And like the MS B.A.T., this will die and go away and no one will notice.
  • Reply 5 of 6
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 452member, editor
    chadney said:
    Do lots of people need to charge their watch...at their desk...while working...??? Filler Do people need 37.5w for charging? If your iPad is plugged in all the time to your station, why the extra watts? Filler You’d have to be using your phone a SHIT TON to need a dedicated charging pad built in. Filler it’s a neat idea, for a small market, for way too much money - like the MS Big Ass Table. All filler is added to jack up the price but the price doesn’t justify all the filler. And like the MS B.A.T., this will die and go away and no one will notice.
    Well... let's see.. Taking these one by one.
    The watch at the desk -- ABSOLUTELY! This is a big one, especially for me. A lot of people are using their Apple Watch for sleep tracking which means it needs charged some other time. While at my desk is PERFECT because my alerts come in on my phone or iPad, I'm not moving so not tracking steps or anything. It's also optional, so people who don't have a watch or don't need to charge it during the day don't need it.

    Charging speed. Why would you *want* it to be slower? If fast is an option, why take slow? And this is a docking station, so chance are it is coming out quite a bit. Going to meetings, taking home at night. I take mine out all the time to change positions, use in videos, start writing with my stylus, whatever. That's killing the battery each time so I want a fast charger so when I take it out next or at night it's properly charged. Just a differentiator between a premium charger and a cheap one. Who complains something is too nice and too fast?

    For the phone -- who doesn't have a charger on their desk? I know I have a wireless charger (before this), my wife does, and everyone here on staff at AI does. I don't know anyone who doesn't have a phone charger at their desk and this eliminates a dedicated charger and an extra cable.

    I agree it is for a small market, a market of pros who use their iPads regularly for work. Not everyone has an iPad Pro and not everyone who has an iPad Pro uses it enough to justify a desktop docking station. But there is a sizable market for this, even at that price tag. If you had a USB-C hub, a rotating iPad stand, a 37.5W iPad charger, an Apple Watch dock, a 7.5W Qi charger, and a 5W Qi charger you get fairly close to this in price. I'd say get to about $300 and that still ends up with multiple cables and power adapters. Not nearly as convenient. 
  • Reply 6 of 6
    I do not have an iPad-centric professional workflow and I am hoping to buy the Magic Keyboard with the next iPad Pro, whenever it launches. 
    However, I think this dock is really impressive. The only thing I'd want is adjustable height. Not everyone is built the same and being able to adjust the height would have been an ergonomic win. 
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