Samsung Central Station: The Future of Laptop Docking?by Kristian Vättö on June 14, 2011 11:30 PM EST
Samsung claims Central Station is based on their own technology but unfortunately we don’t have any further details of what this technology holds inside. The technology shouldn’t, however, interfere with WiFi or Bluetooth so you don’t have to worry about messing up other connections. Samsung promises USB 2.0 speeds over the wireless connection so that would be a maximum of ~40MB/s in real world, which is quite a bit faster than what you currently get with 802.11n.
Update: As noted in the comments, Samsung uses UWB (Ultra-wideband) for wireless connection. It's the most suitable for small range connections which explains Central Station's 5 feet range. Some laptops even have UWB built-in (e.g. Samsung 9 Series) so they can connect to Central Station without the USB dongle.
CNET ran a couple of tests on their review unit and it turned out to be okay for videos and gaming. There was definitely a loss in quality but CNET claims that it’s not very noticeable and most users won’t see the difference. It’s quite obvious that these monitors aren’t a gamer’s choice anyway due to the price and poor panel type, but it’s good to see that it can manage such tasks if needed. I was actually fairly surprised to read that it can do any gaming or movie playback as I was expecting stuttering, especially with HD movies and any serious gaming. As it handled gaming okay, day to day tasks should run without a hiccup. Unfortunately we don't have a review unit (yet) so we cannot do our own extensive testing of the performance and Central Station in general.
At $449 for 23” and $599 for 27”, Central Station is dangerously close to being overpriced. While it’s not too expensive for someone who really wants the features on offer, it’s not cheap enough for the mainstream audience. As mentioned earlier, a similar 23" display without Central Station can be had for around $150 so you could buy three such displays for the price of the 23” model. However, if you need a laptop dock as well, the price might not be so bad since a good dock will easily be over $100, and there are laptops that don't even have a docking option. In that case, Central Station is only $100-200 more expensive, but you get a wireless docking station that can be used with future laptops.
The biggest market for Central Station is clearly people who move their laptop a lot but still want a big screen when at their desk, with a fast and seamless connection method. I would expect business users to be a big market as they usually don’t need gaming or movie playback capabilities but often move their laptop around. Imagine that you are working on a document and you have to leave to a meeting very quickly. You just grab the laptop in your hand and leave; no need to undock or disconnect cables. You come back and after a few seconds, you can continue to work on your spacious monitor. Before Samsung updated their product page with full specifications, it actually mentioned two separate models for business use but the updated page has no reference to them.
It will be interesting to see whether other manufacturers will follow Samsung and come up with something similar. If there is a decent market for something like this we could see some degree of competition, which should provide more options and better prices. I’m pretty sure Samsung is already working on bringing Central Station to their TVs, but the range needs to be extended for such use. I also hope there will sooner than later be a monitor with 2560x1440 or 2560x1600 resolution that will support Central Station or equivalent technology. 1080p is okay but if I’m going to pay $150 more for the 27” model I'd want a higher resolution. I would rather pay $999 and get a nice resolution as well (though the bandwidth required to transmit 2560x1440 without lag could be too much).
All in all, Central Station is a very interesting concept and it seems to be something that we will hear about in the future. These are the first monitors to support it so they won't please everyone, but this is definitely a good start.