ThinkPad Dock

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ThinkPad Dock

IBM ThinkPad Dock

The IBM ThinkPad Dock (Model 2631) transforms a regular Thinkpad into a full blown workstation with multiple monitors (PCI video card), higher fidelity audio (PC Card audio), and additional storage Ultrabay 2000. These expansion features are not supported by all Thinkpads, therefore the Dock does not support as many Thinkpads as the Port Replicator, Port Replicator II or Mini-Dock.

Features

  • everything the ThinkPad Port Replicator has
  • 1x Full-size PCI card slot
  • 2x additional PC Card slots
  • 1x Ultrabay 2000 slot

Pros & Cons

  • Positives: Expansion capability
  • Negatives: internal fan is loud, large, less compatible
  • DVI pass-through on the Dock is only supported with ThinkPad A20p, A21p and A22p models.
  • Compatibility: X20/30, T20/30 and A20/30 Series notebooks (does not support the A21e/22e).
  • Warranty: One Year

PCI Slot

Many use the PCI slot for peripherals like secondary video cards, TV tuners, audio cards, etc. This is considered by many to be the highlight of the Dock, and is a feature that few other docks have. The Dock does not support AGP or PCI Express. Potential owners of the Dock are often concerned about compatibility and recommendations of video cards. See the compatible video cards list below for more information.

Video Cards

The PCI slot is most often used for installing video cards to allow for multiple monitors. This feature is especially useful for anyone that requires visualizing a large amount of information, including stock brokers, artists, etc. Due to the slow PCI bus, gaming is generally not improved much by external cards. One of the chief concerns of low profile video cards is whether they support the monitor setup you desire. As more monitors these days are LCDs, quality DVI support is essential. Additional concerns include driver support, ability to hot-swap (add or remove the thinkpad without rebooting), and noise/heat.

Quality DVI

One way to work around the limitations of the docks DVI pass-through port is to use a PCI graphics card which features a DVI port. Note that while this probably will work, the performance of the PCI graphics accellerator will be poor because of the limitations of the interface.

Widescreen Support

Unofficially, *good* DVI transmitters can support 1920x1200 at 60Hz which is a newer widescreen (16:10) resolution used in monitors such as the Apple Cinema Display 20" and 23", Dell 24" 2405FPW, HP L2335, and others. However, not all DVI transmitters can push this resolution, due to poor signal quality from cheap manufacturing or weak TDMS transmitters. If your transmitter cannot push this resolution, you must use a 'reduced blanking' option (through your video card driver) or create a custom timing through Powerstrip with slower refresh rate, both of which can reduce performance especially in fast refresh-sensitive work (reduced blanking less so though). For more information on TDMS transmission, see the DVI Compliance Testing article at Tom's Hardware.

Apple's 30" Cinema Display, with a 2560x1600 resolution, requires what is known as Dual-Link DVI, a technique of piggybacking 2 DVI connections into one physical DVI plug. This is not to be confused with a card having 'Dual DVI', or two physical DVI ports. Very few video cards support Dual-Link DVI, and they are usually very expensive. No known PCI cards exist that support Dual-Link DVI. There is hope for users of large displays though - newer TDMS transmitters, such as the SiI 1172, can push 225MHz and above through a single link, which is enough to drive 2560x1600 at 55Hz, enough for most work. These transmitters have not yet made it to many video cards - only Asus' V9999GE card is known to use one.

Compatible Video Cards

This is a list of the most popular low-profile PCI video cards used with the IBM ThinkPad Dock.

Card Chipset RAM Ports Max DVI Res TDMS Cooling Compatibility
ATI Radeon 9200 ATI Radeon 9200 128 MB DDR 1x DVI, 1x VGA, 1x TV-Out Unknown Unknown passive working

Ultrabay 2000

The ThinkPad Dock has a UltraBay 2000 slot, which is not hotswap capable.

The docks IDE interface is a CMD 648, so you should enable the according kernel option (compile it into the kernel if loading as a module doesn't work), if you want to use anything else than a floppy in the docks UltraBay. Note that the interface will most likely be ide2 and ide3 then, so the docks UltraBay drive will be hde.

PC Card Slots

TODO
...

Noise & Heat

Since the ThinkPad Dock is a bit noisy, some people have taken to unplugging the fan inside (or possibly replacing it). While this likely voids your warranty, it may be necessary if you really want it quiet. Adding a PCI card (especially a video card) increases the heat inside the dock, and it may have a fan on board as well, meaning it will increase the noise level. You should take into consideration the noise and heat it may add.

DVI pass-through

LCD monitors are getting larger and higher-resolution. Currently, DVI based on 165MHz TDMS transmitters can only (officially) support 1600x1200x32 at 60Hz, which is the resolution of your average 20" non-widescreen LCD. IBM's driver support for this resolution through DVI ports on docks has been inconsistent. Also in Linux you might experience problems even with this resolution and IBM officially states that the pass-through DVI port only supports resolutions up to 1280x1024. Read our page of information on how to solve these troubles.

Supported ThinkPads