Docking stations differ primarily in the integrated connection options. Depending on the manufacturer and model, not all connections are always available, so you need to consider in advance which connection types are important for your project. To find this out, you should first look at the functions of the individual connections. Then you can decide which connection options your docking station should have.
This is a normal USB port that has been standard for many years. HighSpeed USB ports provide a high data transfer rate and are sufficient for most accessory products such as external hard drives, webcams or WLAN sticks. Most laptops only have two USB ports, making it impossible to connect the external hard drive, printer, mouse and keyboard, and monitor all at once. With the Docking Station, however, you only use one USB port on your laptop, giving you the flexibility you need to work with your laptop.
The successor to USB 2.0 is backward compatible, so you can connect today's 3.0 devices to a 2.0 USB port and vice versa. USB 3.0 achieves a data transfer rate of 5 Gbps, up to 10 times faster than its predecessor. However, most peripherals don't need this high data transfer rate, so a 2.0 port is usually sufficient when you want to connect two devices.
The 3.5 mm jack connector allows you to connect most computer boxes, headphones and similar devices with the necessary AUX connector. If you want to use a higher quality product, such as home cinema systems or hi-fi amplifiers, you should look out for a 6.35 mm jack plug. Alternatively, you can purchase a suitable adapter, which can convert a 3.5 mm connector into a higher quality port.
Visually, there is no difference between the microphone port and the headphone port. However, the impedance and levels of the microphone port are usually much lower. Most laptops and computers use unbalanced 3.5 mm jack connectors for this purpose, which are perfectly adequate for the private use of dictation machines, headsets and other microphones. Professional microphones, on the other hand, require XLR connectors or a 6.33 mm connector.
The VGA connection was used for decades for image transfer from the PC to other devices. However, it has long since been increasingly replaced by better connection options and will, therefore, be discontinued in the future. On laptops, the blue port is usually found next to the USB ports or near the power supply. You can recognize the so-called Sub-D connector by the 15 small pins in the inner part, which is flanked by a screw on the left and right. It is not always possible to guarantee a high-quality image transfer with this connection. Furthermore, VGA connections are only conditionally suitable for the transmission of image signals in high resolution. Therefore, most docking stations currently do without a separate VGA interface.
The DVI port is also used to transfer analogue video signals from the computer to the monitor. It looks similar to the VGA port, but also transmits digital image signals in high resolution. The interfaces are divided into DVI-A (analogue ports), DVI-D (digital ports) and DVI-I (combined analogue and digital ports). The latter represent the standard.
The HDMI connector is a digital interface mainly used to transfer high-resolution and copy-protected audio and video files. It is the successor of the SCART connection and thus establishes a connection between playback and playback devices. So you can use an HDMI cable to connect game consoles, the TV receiver, Blu-ray players and laptops with TVs, speakers, beamers and monitors.
SD cards are a further storage option alongside external hard drives and USB sticks. An SD card is a digital, particularly small and flat storage medium. It is mainly used in camcorders, digital cameras and MP3 players. The microSD card, which is only the size of a fingernail, is mainly used to expand the memory in tablets and smartphones.