Back at CES 2011, Samsung showed us something that may have seemed a bit futuristic back then but which is now reality. They showed us a monitor that connects to your laptop wirelessly and on top of that, the monitor acts as a USB hub and the USB devices connect wirelessly too. Samsung calls this technology Central Station. You simply connect a small USB dongle to your laptop, take the laptop within the monitor’s range and your laptop automatically connects to the monitor and peripherals attached to it, wirelessly. You walk away and the monitor goes black. Pretty simple, right?

Background

During the last few years, laptops have become powerful enough for people to use as their main computer. Sales figures support this too. If we look at for example Apple’s sales figures, twice as many desktops were sold compared to laptops in 2002. However, during the recent years, laptops have stolen a huge portion of the sales of desktops, making the situation the opposite of 2002: laptops now outsell desktops by a two-to-one ratio.

While laptops can now offer performance sufficient for some real work, there is one thing that they cannot offer: screen real estate. Most laptops have around a 15” screen, but resolutions vary a lot depending on the model and price range (1366x768 at the low-end, and up to 1920x1200 in higher-end models). 22-24” monitors with resolutions of 1920x1080 have more or less become the standard for desktops and such monitors can be had for ~150$ nowadays.

Because laptops lack screen real estate, a laptop with a separate monitor at home has become a very common setup. This gives you portability when on the go and a desktop-like setup when at home with extra screen size/resolution. However, this kind of setup has one big setback in that you need to plug in a bunch of cables when you get home to use your external monitor and other peripherals. With a desktop, you just turn the computer on or wake it up from the sleep mode; there's no hassling with cables required. While you could call one lazy if it’s too much to plug in a few cables, you often end up either using the laptop on the desk with the monitor all the time, or you never plug in the monitor and it sits on the desk unused.

Laptop docking stations have offered a solution, but there are several shortcomings. First off, not all laptops have a design suitable for docking (Apple’s laptops come to my mind). Second, each laptop dock is only suitable for certain laptop models, so if you buy a new laptop you most likely have to buy a new laptop dock as well. A new dock will easily set you back at least $100, which is quite a lot for an ugly piece of plastic. Finally, many consumer laptops don't even have suitable docks, which rules out a docking station completely. 

This is where Central Station becomes interesting. You don't need to connect any cables and you don't need an ugly dock. Everything is wireless. 

Features and specifications
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  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    They probably compress the hell out of it. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Probably, but USB2 monitor adapters have always stank above very low resolutions (no smooth animation or video playback); unless they're offering a USB3 dongle this is unlikely to be usable.

    (Only offering USB2 data even with a USB3 level hookup isn't unreasonable since the video would need most of the bandwidth.)
    Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    I want a wireless hub, with built in usb dongle. But I wanna use it with whatever tv/keyboard/mouse/speakers etc I want. I don't wanna be forced into that rather mediocre Samsung display. Personally I like my 37" HDTV best for my bedroom. So if I could just set the laptop on the nightstand, grab my bluetooth keyboard/mouse or 360 controller or whatever and just start using it on my tv without having to fuss with cables that'd be great.

    You know what. I've been wondering when I'll finally ditch desktops all together. Being a bit of a power user and all. I think when the day that everything I want from a dock comes that will be the day I decide to never build another desktop again.

    Also hopefully by then EVERY laptop part is standardized and interchangeable like desktops are now, mostly. Seriously guys, it's not that hard to just certify a specific chassis for 55W TDP GPU and 45W CPU or whatever. Then people like us, who read sites like this all the time, could mess around with customizing heatsinks and fans and what not. Liquid cooling in a laptop? One day friends, one day:)
    Reply
  • SlinkyDink - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    You'll still need to connect the laptop for power, so might as well just plug in a mini display port instead.

    Apple has the right idea with it's recent patent showing a magsafe connector that has Lightpeak built in (just one cable for power, display, NAS, devices, etc)
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    If you have a laptop with long battery life, there may not be a need to connect the power cord every time. Apple's patents are always interesting but most of the time they never see the daylight. I think Central Station does have a market and a future. Like I said in the article, these are the first gen monitors so they left a lot to be desired. Reply
  • velis - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    For mentioning the 2560 resolution.
    I think review sites such as Anandtech should really push for resolutions because the manufacturers aren't listening to us enthusiasts.
    Given enough "demand" from review sites, there's bound to be a manufacturer that would take the plunge and try a decent high-res monitor so that we at least have a choice.

    Otherwise we'll be stuck with 1080p for years to come...
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    In this case, I actually understand the low resolution. Since it's wireless, there are bandwidth limitations. A higher res requires more bandwidth and might be that this technology isn't advanced enough to support 2560 resolutions. Otherwise I'm totally with you, we need more 2560 displays at better prices :) Reply
  • viktory - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Plugging in one VGA/DVI Cable, which is also standardised, is now too much to ask for? Not sold.

    I would like to see an open standard for video-out on phones running meego/android/ios.
    Turn your phone into your all-purpose computing device. That may sell some new monitors.
    Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    I've been talking a bit recently about the whole docking thing (Asus transformer & Padfone).
    So, how long until we just have our (super)smartphones doing all the work and just dock them to whatever size screen /peripheral is best for whatever situation?

    Gaming/DTP/Graphics etc will continue to demand high end desktops, but most people just browse the web (cloud computing anyone?) and process some words, so such technology would be brilliant.

    Oh technology, how I love you so!
    Reply
  • krackel - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    I have one of these and it uses UWB for the wireless connection which is way it doesn't suffer any interference issues with my WiFi or BT. The thing i like the best about it is the quick connect/disconnect time. Exactly as they described i use this for business and when i come in and out of my office it quickly and easily connects and disconnects allowing me to both use the monitor and quickly print something to my USB printer that is connected to the monitor. I don't do a ton of gaming or watching movies, but it works perfect for typical video clips and watching streams while I am working. Reply

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