ThinkPad Dock II

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IBM ThinkPad Dock II

The IBM Dock II (Model 2877) is the most feature-packed dock IBM sells. In addition to supporting all the features of the Mini-Dock, the expansion capability of the Dock II can transform 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 II does not support as many Thinkpads as the Port Replicator II or Mini-Dock.

Features

  • everything the ThinkPad Mini-Dock has
  • 1x half-size PCI card slot
  • 2x additional PC Card slots
  • 1x Ultrabay 2000 slot

Pros & Cons

  • Positives: Expansion capability
  • Negatives: Cost ($399), internal fan is loud, large, less compatible
  • Compatibility: X20/30, T20/30/40, R50/R51 and A20/30 Series notebooks.(does not support the A21e/22e, R40/40e, R50e or X40/41).
  • Warranty: One Year

PCI Slot

Note this is a Half Height, or 'low profile' slot. Separate brackets are required for low profile PCI cards. Normal cards will not fit.

Many use the half-size 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 II, and is a feature that few other docks have. The Dock II does not support AGP or PCI Express. The Ultrabay 2000 slot can be used to connect other IBM peripherals, such as second hard disks or CD/DVD drives. Potential owners of the Dock II are often concerned about compatibility and recommendations of video cards. See the compatible video cards list below for more information.

Dock II owners: anybody tried to shoehorn a larger card in? What are the dimensions? Anyone have pictures?

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 PCI 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.

The IBM T42 with the ATI 9600 chip can drive the Dell 24" 2405FPW at 1920x1200 using DVI by using ATI Catalyst drivers.

Recent IBM drivers (e.g. 2005 Aug 11 release, version 8.133.2-050525a-024243C-IBM) now also support 1920x1200@60Hz through the dock DVI port. For example, T42p and Dell 24" (2405FPW).

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.

Hot Swapping

It is unknown whether hot swapping is fully supported. Check the thinkpads.com forum for more information.

Noise/Heat

Since the Dock II has been reported to be 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 video card increases the heat inside the dock, and may likely have a fan on board as well, meaning it will increase the noise level. While adding one of the below video cards is likely well within the thermal limitations of the dock, you should take into consideration the noise and heat it may add.

Anybody care to add some anecdotal information about this here?

TV Tuners

ok

Compatible Video Cards

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

Card Chipset RAM DVI Ports Max DVI Res TDMS Compatibility Price
Matrox Millennium P650 Low-Profile P650 64MB DDR 2x 1920x1200 Unknown Unknown $219.95
PNY Quadro NVS 280 PCI Nvidia Quadro 280 64MB DDR 2x (reqs cable) Unknown Unknown Unknown $157.99
NTI Xentera GT2 ATI Radeon 9000 64MB DDR 2x Unknown Unknown Unknown $213.91
NTI Xentera GT4 ATI Radeon 9000 x2 64MB DDR x2 4x Unknown Unknown Unknown $448.95

Audio Cards

Other PCI Cards

Ultrabay 2000

In contrast to the Full Dock I the Full Dock II has a full featured (= hotswap capable) UltraBay 2000 slot.

Note to T4x owners: UltraBay 2000 is an older Ultrabay technology, not compatible with the UltraBay Slim in the T40/T41/T42/T43 lineup. Many UltraBay 2000 accessories are available on Ebay.

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
...

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 resolutios up to 1280x1024. Read our page of information on how to solve these troubles.

Supported ThinkPads