back to article Shopping for PCs? Ding, dong, the Dock is dead in 2017's new models

Yes, PC sales are now moribund. But someone's going to buy about 280 million of them this year. Lenovo, HP Inc and Dell look like being the ones to sell them to businesses, because all have rosy outlooks for PC sales despite the long sales slide across the industry. The Register therefore asked the three companies*, universally …

  1. hplasm
    Meh

    IIf wishes were donkeys...

    "...a brainless laptop that relies on an HP phone to push Windows 10 onto its screen."

    Powered by Unicorn farts and communicates by Rainbows.

  2. goldcd

    Or we can read this as

    Our new laptops won't fit into your existing docks, as we've done away with the connector. Buy new laptops AND docks this year.

    1. killakrust

      Re: Or we can read this as

      Even better, the existing Dell laptop range (7000) won't fit into the existing docking stations. The new Precision laptops had the bottom port moved further back, and now the docking stand has to be modified with blu-tack to move the replicator up about 60mm just so the 7510 will fit.

      I love my M4800 with dock, and am not happy to hear they are going to do away with the bottom docking method. It makes my life so easy. I just walk into the office and slap the PC on the replicator, and start working. Soon I'm going to be expected to fiddle with USB connections every time, FML.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Or we can read this as

        >Soon I'm going to be expected to fiddle with USB connections every time, FML.

        Just one USB connection. And at least it's the orientation-agnostic USB-C, so you can plug it in every time, not just on 50% of your attempts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Or we can read this as

          What about power?

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Or we can read this as

            There is a spec called USB Power Delivery that covers USB (including older USB 3.0 type A as well as USB-C) that allows power delivery up to 100Watts.

            Therefore, with this optional specification, if implemented (and i'd imagine it would be for business-class laptops that are expected to be used with docks) a single USB-C connector on a laptop can both receive up to 100W of power will still functioning as a USB 3.1 gen 2 data capable plus whatever other optional features are implemented.

            E.g. a single port could provide 100W power, 10Gb/s USB 3.1gen2 data and displayport video simultaneously - up to 1 metre (passive cables cannot be more than 1 metre long).

            Note that displayport, MHL, thunderbolt and HDMI are all optional USB-C capabilities (using USB-C Alternate Mode), and a USB-C port is not required to support all, or any, of those.

            See USB-C.

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Or we can read this as

          50% - I swear I get USB ports wrong 75% of the time.

          Out of the two possible orientations it's normally the 3rd or 4th attempt that sees them connect.

          The exception is in the office, where I have a USB connector with tape marking 'UP'

          1. m0rt

            Re: Or we can read this as

            "50% - I swear I get USB ports wrong 75% of the time."

            USB plug fits into the RJ45 of my Macbook 2012...

            I know this many times.

          2. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Or we can read this as

            50% - I swear I get USB ports wrong 75% of the time.

            Out of the two possible orientations it's normally the 3rd or 4th attempt that sees them connect.

            It's called Schrodinger's USB problem.

            "It's a well known fact that you must spin a USB three times before it will fit. From this we can gather a USB has three states:

            Up

            Down

            Superposition (neither up or down).

            Until it is observed, it will stay in Superposition. Therefore it will not fit until observed - except for in cases of USB tunneling."

            1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

              Re: Or we can read this as

              The statistics are wrong for it to be a superposition.

              My suspicion is USB plugs and connectors are manufactured in a space that's an orientable double-cover of Euclidean space. Think of them as having rotation and charge. When the charge on the connector and the plug are opposite, they'll connect; when they're the same, they repel and the plug won't fit even though a naive geometrical analysis suggests it should. Rotating a plug through 360 degrees flips the sign of the charge and solves the problem.

              By KK theory this is probably an extra hidden (compactified) dimension. So if we nuked a USB plug from orbit we probably be able to see the full 720 degrees.

          3. Guy Geens

            Re: Or we can read this as

            USB connectors should have a USB logo on the top side. Some of my cables have it, but not all. And the logo's that are there, aren't always easily visible.

            And then there are vertically-aligned USB ports. Where the "up" can be either left or right.

            Worst of all are the ports at the back of a desktop PC: it's hard enough to try and fit the cable blind without having to wonder if it should be turned over.

        3. Paul Slater

          Re: Or we can read this as

          33% - every one knows it can often take three goes to get the USB connection oriented correctly....

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Or we can read this as

      I'm not sure about HP, but this is Dell's fourth refresh of their docking ports in twenty years which isn't too bad.

      They have to upgrade the ports at some point or we'd still be stuck with parallel, PS2 and SCSI on our docks rather than USB3 and GB ethernet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or we can read this as

        I agree I can remember 2 different dock type in the maybe 10 or more years which is pretty good. The E-series dock has been around for ages, our account manager told me last year that the dock as we know it is going.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Or we can read this as

          The contraption that Dell are selling instead of their docks make me think we've gone full-circle to a Spectrum with Interface 1 and Microdrives.

          Pity the person with their new flat wedgy MacBook Air-like Dell that I can't remember the name of. It won't even plug into Ethernet without the Interface 1 in the middle.

          1. Tom 64
            Pint

            Re: Or we can read this as

            > "MacBook Air-like Dell"

            The XPS 13? I use one daily, and yes there is no ethernet port.

            Have I missed RJ45? not even a little bit.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: Or we can read this as

              RJ45 depends what you do.

              If your use of the network connection needs high bandwidth or low latency, you will curse every device without an RJ45.

              Adapters on laptops are a curse. A bundle a extra bits - that all look very similar - will get forgotten, lost and broken.

              I can't count the number of times an important Macbook user forgot the Mac-to-projector adapter and had to do the presentation on a small screen...

              RJ45 adapters on laptops are even worse, as the RJ45 locks but the USB doesn't.

              Many applications can handle hotplug of the network connection, practically none can handle hotplug of the network adapter itself...

            2. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Or we can read this as

              It's a business range one, I don't think the XPSes ever had a dock connector.

    3. Ian Michael Gumby
      Boffin

      Re: Or we can read this as

      Dude, you must not have had to deal with a lot of Enterprises and their PCs.

      I've been in several major Fortune 100 companies where they have generations of PCs

      You have generations of power supplies, docs and even video cable connections.

      So this really isn't a new issue other than you don't need a dedicated port and that you can just use USB c connector.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or we can read this as

      maybe you're confusing DELL and HP enterprise kit with Apple consumer kit, which changes connectors etc every couple of generations!

    5. Shadow Systems

      For the USB "Which side is up?" crowd...

      To those having issues getting their USB cable connectors into the hole on the first try, I offer this as a potential solution.

      A common trick for us blind folk is to attach a "Bump Dot" (a self adhesive rubber puck the size of a #2 pencil eraser) to the "UP" side of the connector so it's orientation can be told simply by feel. Any device we regularly plug it into will get the orientation of the female part memorized so we know which side up the male end needs to be to be able to insert it on the first try.

      For the sighted folks the same can be done with a dab of Tippex covered in a dab of clear finger nail polish to "lacquer" it in place. Look for the white dot, orient the plug accordingly, & in it goes.

      You can also "dot" the plugs you frequently use said cables in, so that you never mix up the dot on the plug versus the dot on the recepticle.

      Hope that helps. Cheers.

      1. ThomH Silver badge

        Re: For the USB "Which side is up?" crowd...

        Just look at the cable: the side with the USB logo is up. Problem solved unless your cable cleverly carries the logo as black plastic on black plastic and/or your port is vertical.

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: For the USB "Which side is up?" crowd...

          @ThomH

          Just look at the cable: the side with the USB logo is up. Problem solved unless your cable cleverly carries the logo as black plastic on black plastic and/or your port is vertical.

          I have cables with no USB logo.

          I also have cables with the USB logo on both sides.

        2. dajames Silver badge

          Re: For the USB "Which side is up?" crowd...

          Just look at the cable: the side with the USB logo is up. Problem solved

          I have several different phone/tablet devices that I connect with the same mini-USB cable. About half the devices need it to be one way up, the other half require it to be the other. There seems to be no consistency at all, at least with the mini connector.

  3. teapot9999

    So just like Apple then!

    Everyone laughed when Apple did this, no everyone is doing it!

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: So just like Apple then!

      Unlike Apple they have not dumped USB-2 or HDMI.

      Yet.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Only one of their selected features caused any interest

    "more economical": does this mean cheaper or pay an extra £300 to save £50 of electricity?

    For me, thinner means more fragile, higher cost and extra status symbol bragging points for twits (can the screen be used as a mirror without using the camera?). If they had said the power brick was a USB hub with Ethernet and HDMI ports then that would have caused a sarcastic "well that only took 3 years". A feature that I look forward to would be to make the finger print scanner removable and a pre-paid envelope to send it straight for recycling.

    I just checked memory usage: 2GB installed, over half has no better use than as a cache for the SSD. I suspect that as usual I am not their target market.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nope

    Nope, Nope, Nope and Nope. Not for me. Bog standard PC (with Linux) please.

  6. Fazal Majid

    AMD Naples workstations

    What I am looking most forward to is AMD's 32-core/64-thread Naples server CPU, for use in my development workstation. I can exploit the cores doing parallel builds, but Intel's extortionate Xeon pricing means I am currently limited to 4 measly E3-1670v3 cores.

  7. Whitter
    Devil

    "... which it's agreed will intrigue business buyers this year"

    My marketing-speak dictionary needs an update it appears. Yet another extension to the "hope like hell sales go up but, in the likely case they don't, cover yourself by copying everyone else" category.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next push is Linux.

    Last year at this time, we did a wholesale upgrade of HPs to cheap £25 Taiwanese 120GB SSDs (I won't mention the brand, but they also do metal nano sized USB 3.0 flash drives). Sadly prices have since risen.

    A year later, no complaints - still going fine. Cheap and cheerful, a few moan, say they want a Surface Pro, but once they get the Surface Pro, you find them using their HP laptops a few weeks later, the fad soon dies.

    My next push is Linux. It'll be harder. Many of these I'm trying to convince are easily swayed by the Microsoft ads/marketing bandwagon. Windows 10 AU is pretty stable, but the downgrades/consumerisation of Windows Pro, Ads in File explorer.

    Em, sorry - no Microsoft, not for us.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shamefaced admission

    I'm buying an AMD Ryzen-powered desktop. Mainly because I'm a huge AMD fan and they finally have decent performance.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Shamefaced admission

      That's OK, as soon as the dust settlles, and the kinks have been sorted, I'll be doing the same (and I expect quite a lot of others will).

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Shamefaced admission

        > (and I expect quite a lot of others will).

        And those who don't (either invested in existing motherboards, or have workloads not best suited to the first crop of Ryzen) can look forward to cheaper Intel chips, now that AMD is a credible competitor again.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shamefaced admission

      I just get the feeling AMD won't meet demand, as per usual, they'll screw it up.

      Marketwise, an AMD iMac Pro could be the Kudos they need though, at this early stage.

      My doubt, is that Apple would believe AMD can supply in large numbers either but Apple are hedging the bets more, away from single suppliers i.e. Qualcomm. Apple have shown a tendency to use other suppliers, of late. This could be good news for AMD.

      I'm sure if the price is right, it'll happen.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Shamefaced admission

        Would be interesting if AMD went down a route similar to ARM and just did the design.

    3. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Shamefaced admission

      I already did. I have my Ryzen 7 1700X CPU sitting on my desk right now. The problem is, I have no motherboard and there are no upper-tier motherboards to be found. AMD correctly met demand; the motherboard makers did not.

      Where AMD screwed up was not giving the motherboard makers more time to test. People are reporting dramatic increases in gaming performance after a UEFI update. Windows 7 performs much better than Windows 10, meaning there is *SURPRISE* a confirmed bug in Windows 10. The initial reviews all said it is so-so for games, but great for everything else. I expect when the 6 core version is released, people will say it is great in games due to refinements in the UEFI and the Windows 10 bug solved.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Shamefaced admission @Wade

        "meaning there is *SURPRISE* a confirmed bug in Windows 10"

        Ryzen has been a bit problematic launch for many operating systems. ESXi 6.5a apparently gets a pink screen of death, and several Linux distros equally crash unless upgraded to the very latest kernel.

        My up-to-date Mint installation is at 4.4 and I could bypass the official repos and install the latest kernel but then I'd be in charge of keeping it up-to-date instead of the distro update mechanism.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shamefaced admission

      Why 'Shamefaced'? There a lot of us AMD fans out there - we don't buy Intel because they are too expensive for too little gain.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Issues...

    We went to "Universal" docks in our office recently.

    • I spend up to 15 minutes each day waiting for the drivers to load (different dock = new drivers),
    • have issues with dock/PC compatibility - docks work better with some PCs than others,
    • issues with the wireless keyboards and mice (especially disappearing receivers),
    • issues with graphics bandwidth over USB (might be alleviated when USB 3.1 becomes universal).
    but our management, in their infinite wisdom, decided that one size fits all... just like these manufacturers.

    This is about increasing their profits not about making things more usable for the consumer.

    AC because I don't know if any of my management reads The Reg but if they do they will know it is their workplace I am talking about...

    1. H H

      Re: Issues...

      Issues with the wireless keyboards and mice (especially disappearing receivers)

      Yes! Exactly! What's up with that?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What will I be buying this year? Nothing.

    My early Core i7 Desktop runs Win7 just fine and I have absolutely no plans to replace it in the near future.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Similarly. But hey, when this old computer of mine does eventually keel over, the kinks will have been ironed out of many of the emergent standards and features outlined in the article.

      It's been years since Sony first released a VAIO laptop with an external Thunderbolt GPU - it is only now that this looks to be on the edge of becoming mainstream. Such a set up would suit me very nicely, but I'm in no hurry. Every year I hold off, the more mature stuff becomes.

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      just fine

      "My early Core i7 Desktop runs Win7 just fine"

      The overclocked i7 920 in my main desktop is just over 7 years old now. The latest Kaby lake with a bit of overclock would get close to doubling single thread performance which is the criteria I have use to judge a processor upgrade worthwhile since 4.77Mhz 8088s.

      So finally when it is just about time to think of a PC upgrade I won't because Win 10.

    3. Youngone Silver badge

      Also, any PC sellers that think they're going to sell new stuff because the users want 4K video or USB-C must be drunk.

      That's not how it works.

  12. Stese

    Optional... apparently

    I've always liked the use of Docking stations with Laptops.

    You put the laptop on the dock, power it up and you are ready to go, as if you had a desktop workstation... no fumbling with multiple cables, power etc.

    Can USB-C power a Laptop as well as provide connections for 2 screens, and other USB based devices... cos I can stand to plug in one cable at my desk.

    1. Douchus McBagg

      Re: Optional... apparently

      I currently run a Dell mobile precision 5510 lappy connected to their WD15 dock. it uses USB3 protocol on a USB-C physical hole, so only able to drive 1x 30" at 2560x1600 off the DP port, or two 24"'s daisy chained at 1920x1200. you can get a third on there, but the res is seriously compromised as not much bandwidth left.

      the TD15 dock again runs off the USB-C port, but talks thunderbolt, so more bandwidth hence can drive 3x 4k res screens. i have this on order ATM.

      the dock from what i can figure provides 130 watts of juice to the lappy, and has provision for 60W for itself (130W output for the laptop charger, 180W for the WD15 dock. the TD15 runs a 240W power pack)

      so yes, one cable. power, gig ethernet, usb2/3, hdmi/vga/displayport, audio jacks.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Optional... apparently

        >I currently run a Dell mobile precision 5510 lappy connected to their WD15 dock. it uses USB3 protocol on a USB-C physical hole, so only able to drive 1x 30" at 2560x1600 off the DP port,

        I seem to recall that to drive a 5K monitor over USB-C, Apple had to go with AMD mobile GPUs. https://9to5mac.com/2016/11/16/macbook-pro-why-amd-gpu/

        Something to do with number of video streams and DP 1.2 vs 1.3 or somesuch.

        1. CandlePower

          Re: Optional... apparently

          Try getting your WD15 dock to work properly with Bitlocker. See if you have any hair left after that.....

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Optional... apparently

      >Can USB-C power a Laptop as well as provide connections for 2 screens, and other USB based devices... cos I can stand to plug in one cable at my desk.

      Yes*

      * USB-C only describes the physical connector and a way of it describing what else it can do. Not all USB-C ports carry Thunderbolt. Not all Thunderbolt is created equal. Be careful about which cables you use. Do not dispose of in fire. Your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments.

      Example: The LG 5K monitor (5120 x 2880 resolution) connects to a Macbook Pro with only one USB-C cable, and it provides 85W to the laptop, whilst providing 3 USB-C ports at 5Gb/s. Power, video, storage, peripherals in just one cable.

  13. inmypjs Silver badge

    "business machines will offer a 7th-generation Intel Core CPU"

    "but you can have Windows 7 if you ask nicely"

    So how does that work when Microsoft and intel will not offer support for 7th gen processors on Win 7?

    1. Bluehand

      Re: "business machines will offer a 7th-generation Intel Core CPU"

      HP have told us that there will be no WIndows 7 support for new machines beyond mid 2018. Their latest G3 desktops models support Sky Lake and Kaby Lake, but Windows 7 is only supported on the Sky Lake versions. Enterprises take note: you WILL need a Windows 10 desktop offering by mid 2018...

      1. Sixtysix

        Windows 7 / 7th-generation Intel Core CPU

        Oh trust me, I have taken note - we'll be bulk buying (laptops) later this year to ensure Win7 enterprise support until after 2019.

        My Win10/Server16/365 strategy is "Nope, not interested, planning starts late 2018" much to the apparent surprise of everyone who calls and thinks I should give them shedloads of cash to help with migration.

        Unsurprisingly Microsoft are not happy with me, my suppliers cannot understand my position, but critically the business refuses to update the applications / intergrations it chooses to run which hamstrings my options.

        Devil / deep blue / hard place... pick two and climb between - IT will be "blamed" anyway.

        AC for obvious

  14. breakfast
    Pint

    Cue Beavis and Butthead

    "Bottom docking" heh heh

  15. Colabroad

    Single cable dock

    Whilst it's propriety, Microsoft, and about as evil as you can get without a fruity logo, I actually love the dock of the Microsoft Surface fondlePCs, it's a single magnetised connector that gives a pair of Thunderbolts, 4 USB 3.0s (I think), Jiggabit Ethernet, and a 3.5mm audio jack. We gave them to most of the senior managers here (we ordered 10, it's a small company) and they greatly prefer them to the old style docking stations. Saves on deskspace too as most of them prop them up against the wall with the keyboard cover closed.

  16. Stevie

    Bah!

    Still pushing the mindless drive to thinness over function in the portable market, though.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thunderbolt to carry video is nice in theory

    But monitors with a Thunderbolt input are pretty much non-existent outside of the Apple realm. Hopefully now that HDMI 2.1 removes the reason for DisplayPort to exist, the now useless DisplayPort input on monitors can be replaced with a slightly less useless Thunderbolt input.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Thunderbolt to carry video is nice in theory @DougS

      "But monitors with a Thunderbolt input are pretty much non-existent outside of the Apple realm."

      That is true, but I don't think Thunderbolt equipped monitors are that important. Having a TB input would be pointless without the monitor also acting as a dock with lots of ports, or powering the computer via the TB cable.

      I've been dabbling with a couple of HP laptops with Thunderbolt docks. The TB cable has the bandwidth for 4x USB 3 ports, 2x DP 1.2 ports (4K), GbEthernet and such. I see it just as a replacement for earlier side/bottom docks but when you are mobile (not docked) - the same port can be used for regular USB-C devices or whatever TB devices there are on the market. The bandwidth still is 4 times that of USB 3.1 gen2, TB carries things like PCIe protocol, so you could have e.g. external PCIe cards attached to your laptop. It can also supply power unlike HDMI.

      HDMI 2.1 is going "ludicrous speed", but the standard isn't even published yet and we're years away from seeing it in consumer electronics since for most people the HDMI 2.0 standards are already "enough". (no 640k quotes, please!). The new tech required for it will probably be quite expensive for some time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        HDMI 2.1 will be in TVs next year

        It will be published in a couple months. HDMI 2.1 is required for 120 fps 4K, which LG has already demonstrated last fall and almost certainly will be present on their 2018 OLED product line.

        I personally wouldn't buy a 4K TV without 4Kp120 support, doing so would be as dumb as all the early adopter idiots who bought 4K TVs that didn't support HDCP 2.2 and now find they can't watch any 4K programming from cable/satellite providers. ESPN has gone on record saying they feel a higher frame rate (currently they broadcast 720p60 in the US) is more important for sports than higher resolution, so they will probably be an early adopter of this. In fact, given their conspicuous lack of any 4K channel at all yet, I wonder if they may launch at 4Kp120 on day one, and leave it up to providers to downgrade the signal to 4Kp60 for viewers who don't have proper equipment.

        If Thunderbolt 3 ports at 40 Gbps can be cost effectively added to laptops, I don't see why HDMI 2.1 ports at 48 Gbps should be a problem.

  18. Rattus Rattus

    Physical connections are so 2016. When are we getting a high-bandwidth NFC of some kind and an inductive charging pad, all on a flat thin base to sit your laptop on?

  19. DiViDeD Silver badge

    A Laptop is not a PC

    Sorry, but if you can't fit a kick arse graphics card, water cooling, cold cathode lighting and a small family of immigrants inside the case, then it's a piece of junk, not a PC.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021