Recommendations for universal docking station?

Is there such a thing as a sort of universal docking station for laptop?

My daily driver is my almost-10-year-old thinkpad T420, but i also have another 9 or so year-old thinkpad t420 as well as a Dell inspiron 5000 series laptop…So while I’d like to use the docking station for my main thinkpad t420, is there a docking station that i can use for my dell laptop too? I don’t need anything fancy (like thunderbolt, etc.)…i just would like to connect a flat monitor to a docking station in order to enable my laptop to use an additional monitor (connecting a wider keyboard would be nice, but not needed too)…and then on occasion, maybe swap out my main thinkpad laptop for one of my other laptops…but still use the same docking station. So, is there such a thing as a basic but universal docking station?

Or, as an alternative…If there’s not such thing as a universal docking station, since i tend to buy enough thinkpads, is there a docking station that is best suited for thinkpads? (I’ve used enough docking stations at previous day jobs, but always paired with whatever work laptops I was given…but never had i ever purchased a docking station on my own, hence my naiveté.) Thanks in advance for any recommendations/suggestions!

1 Like

As far as I know there’s only 2 solutions for universal Linux docking stations that support video out.

  1. Any Type-C USB dock with an HDMI-out that doesn’t use DisplayLink (most don’t). Just make sure your laptop specs explicitly say the USB-C port supports video out as quite a few don’t.
  2. Any Type-A or Type-C USB dock using DisplayLink. Problem: DisplayLink has terrible driver support for Linux and only supports specific versions of Ubuntu with specific kernels. I’ve never successfully gotten a DisplayLink device to work though that was some time ago.

My recommended brands for docks (in order):

  • Tripp-Lite
  • Startech
  • Anker

As for Thinkpad specific docks, I know some models have them but it should obvious as there’ll be a long proprietary data port on the bottom or the back. Without that the only options would be above.

DisplayLink Resources:

Driver: Ubuntu Driver for Downloads Section | Synaptics
Install instructions:
Porting to other distros:

According to the changelog their driver officially support kernels 4.15 through 5.12 for Ubuntu 20.04 as of March.


Thanks very much for this info!!!
My machine is too old to have a USB-C port, but i’ll check out the DisplayLink stuff. Also, I’ll check out docks from those 3 brands. I’ve heard good things about Startech products in general, and i have direct and great experiences with Anker products (not docks of course). Thanks again!