Dock turns mini Win8.1 tablets into desktop systems


— 10:47 AM on August 4, 2014

Intel's Bay Trail SoC has enabled some seriously small Windows 8.1 devices. The Dell Venue 8 Pro and Lenovo Miix 2, for example, squeeze quad-core versions of the chip into slim 8" tablets that weigh less than a pound. They're pretty cheap, too, but their touchscreen interfaces aren't ideal for traditional desktop applications. Wouldn't it be great if you could attach a keyboard, mouse, and monitor and use them like normal PCs?

The folks at Plugable evidently thought so, because they've designed a Pro8 docking station that does just that.

The dock connects to either tablet via Micro USB and provides a bevvy of additional ports: four USB 2.0, two analog audio, one DVI-I, and one Ethernet. On top of that, it's capable of charging the tablet at the same time. Custom circuitry "simulates the signal of the stock charger" before switching the USB port into host mode to support devices.

There are some limitations, of course. The maximum resolution for external displays is 1080p, and the wired networking tops out at 100Mbps. Since everything shares a single USB 2.0 connection to the tablet, I wouldn't expect blazing performance from external storage. But the concept is pretty neat, especially since the tablet and external displays can be used simultaneously (although only in extended desktop mode—sorry, no cloning).

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter project, the Pro8 dock is being put into production. Finished units are expected to ship in November, and they'll eventually be available from Amazon for $90.

   
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