Disclosure: Some links on this page are monetized by the Skimlinks, Amazon, Rakuten Advertising, and eBay, affiliate programs. All prices are subject to change, and this article only reflects the prices available at time of publication.
A few weeks ago I mentioned a crowdfunding campaign for a new gadget called LEEF that looks like a laptop, but which is actually a smartphone accessory that lets you interact with your smartphone apps with a keyboard, touchpad, and bigger screen.
And in that article, I noted that this was hardly a new idea, but that most other devices of this type had been discontinued. Then the makers of one of those laptop docks reached out to let me know they’re very much still manufacturing and selling their hardware.
So I did a little digging, and discovered that laptop docks are still a thing that you can buy. The idea is certainly intriguing – rather than carry around two devices with completely different operating systems and trying to keep your data synchronized between them, why not just use your phone’s software for everything and just use a dumb laptop dock as an accessory when you need the bigger screen and keyboard?
It’s still a niche product category and I have no idea if there’s a future in it. But here are five current or upcoming models I found. Note that while they’re designed for use with smartphones, most should also work as external displays for laptops or other devices (like a Raspberry Pi or other single-board computers).
Available from AliExpress or the Uperfect website, this laptop dock features a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS touchscreen display, a 360-degree hinge that lets you fold the screen back for use in tablet mode.
Measuring 12.1″ x 8.2″ x 0.6″ and weighing 2.65 pounds, the Uperfect X is about the size of a thin and light notebook, and with an aluminum alloy body, it should have a somewhat premium look and feel.
Other features include a backlit keyboard with 84 keys, a touchpad, stereo speakers, mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio, and two USB-C ports, plus a microSD card reader and a 10,000 mAh battery.
UPERFECT also sells a couple of other laptop docks including the UPERFECT X Lite with a compact keyboard design and a 14 inch display, the UPERFECT X Mini with an 11.6 inch touchscreen display, and the UPERFECT Pro X, with a 15.6 inch 4K touchscreen display.
Omiodo laptop dock
While this model appears to be nearly identical to the Uperfect X, it’s sold under a different brand name and it does appear to have a few differences – it measures less than 0.5 inches thick, has a smaller 5,000 mAh battery, and has four speakers rather than two.
Available from AliExpress for $326, it also has a different set of product images, so it gives you a chance to look at this style of laptop dock from a few different angles even if you’re just window shopping.
Up for pre-order for $269, this model was introduced in January and it’s expected to begin shipping in March.
It also bears a striking resemblance to the models listed above.
The NexDock 360 is a convertible tablet-style device with a 13.3 inch, 1080p IPS touchscreen display and a 360-degree hinge.
The device measures 12.1″ x 8.2″ x 0.6″ and weighs about 2.6 pounds, and it a backlit keyboard, quad speakers, two USB-C ports (one for charging and one fore data, a mini HDMI input, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSDXC card reader. It has a 5,8000 mAh, 44 Wh battery.
NexDock has been selling laptop docks since 2016, but this is the company’s first model to feature a 360-degree hinge.
The newest entry on this list is also the most compact, featuring a 12.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS LCD display and a body that measures 11.4″ x 7.8″ x 0.5″ and which weighs just 2.2 pounds.
It’s also not expected to ship until May – the LEEF laptop dock is up for pre-order through a Kickstarter campaign for about $229.
Ports includes two USB Type-C (one for charging, one for data), one USB 2.0 Type-A, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The LEEF has an 8,000 mAh battery, four speakers, a full-sized keyboard with a US English layout, and a trackpad with support for multi-touch gestures.
There are also special function keys for turning smartphone charging on or off, enabling or disabling the trackpad, displaying your app library on the screen, and displaying the charge level on the screen.
This model features a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display a battery that provides up to 10 hours of run time, and in addition to a full-sized keyboard and touchpad, it has USB-C, USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI, and audio jacks and a microSD card reader.
It’s also the only model on this list with a built-in USB cable that tucks into the laptop dock when you don’t need it, and extends to connect to your phone when in use. The 2.8 pound laptop dock has a black aluminum body.
Miraxess is a French company and the Mirabook is only officially available in France at the moment, where it sells for 381€ (about $460).
The company first introduced the Mirabook with a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, the Mirabook laptop dock made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2018, where I got a chance to go hands-on with a prototype.
While the models listed above are current, smartphone laptop docks have been around for a long time — Motorola was probably the first company to introduce one, but the company discontinued the Motorola Lapdock years ago. The Superbook is no more. And while you can still find the HP Elite X3 lap dock available from retailers that have a few in stock, it’s no longer sold by HP.
So I do still wonder if there’s really enough demand to sustain companies making these products. But the fact that NexBook and Miraxess are still at it after several years suggests that the answer might be yes… as long as you don’t need to sell millions of devices to consider your product a success.
This article was originally published February 19, 2021 and last updated November 30, 2021.
I’ve been really looking to buy one of these for a couple of weeks now, including my small bit of research. The Nexdock 360 seems to be the top of the line for the devices noted, so I will likely go with it even considering the delivery issues … this is a nice to have item, not a requirement so I can wait for the better quality unit.
The way I see most of the complaints from users in this blog have to do with the few and relatively small inconsistencies with the way these things work, but you’ve got to remember there is no processor in the lapdocks to intervene with cleaning up these issues, as has been noted elsewhere the Nexdock is not much more than an external screen with a keyboard and trackpad thrown in to complete the package. I would happily buy a Chromebook to meet my needs for about the same money if they could do the same things, but they can not take HDMI input from a phone or small computer, nor easily provide their keyboard and touch-pad to the guest host (phone or small computer such as Raspberry Pi).
I like to tinker in my tech hobbyist room with multiple Raspberry Pis(3’s and 4’s), a Bee-Link small PC, and multiple older machines that allows me to use a NexDock as a second screen etc. Looking forward to taking delivery as soon as they can ship it out.
Well said, sir. That is why I love the idea of lapdocks in general as you can connect multiple devices at one time. That is something normal laptops cannot do.
While I adore this kind of gadget for getting the most out of your hard-earned snartphones, very few smartphones support HDMI ALT video output especially on midrange smartphones. Also, I’d rather have a lapdock with detachable screen like the UPERFECT X Pro and the Alldocube Expand X. Shame that no lapdock brands can emulate ASUS Padfone Docking Station idea in 2021, it’s a completely slick idea way ahead of its time.
I purchased the Uperfect X through the AliExpress link in this article. That was a mistake. The unit had a blue halo around the screen, which is mentioned on NexDock’s website as the reason for their latest delay. After a week the touchscreen stopped working. I strongly suspect it was a counterfeit. I sent it back, but it took almost a month to get my refund. I then purchased directly from UPerfect’s website. I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and absolutely love it. My phone is simply sitting on the table next to the lapdock, and is conveniently available when I need my fingerprint. Other than that I don’t look at or touch it. The touchpad is indeed awful, but there is a key to turn it off. The first thing I do when I power up is turn on the keyboard backlight and turn of the touchpad. I use a small bluetooth mouse instead. This has been an amazing experience, and I far prefer to work this way than with a cheap laptop, chromebook, or tablet. This is not a seperate device with its own apps and data, this is an extension of my phone. This comment would have been quite laborious to type with my phone, but was a piece of cake with the lapdock, while enjoying a cup of coffee and a muffin at a comfy table. This thing is big enough to get the job done, and small enough to carry around in my backpack. I can’t say enough good things about it.
I still would have preferred the NexDock, because it was supposed to have an SD slot, but I got tired of waiting for it. My order was 6 months old by the time I cancelled it. So thankful that I cam across thos article.
Sorry to hear about your experience with the first unit . I’ve added a link to the Uperfect website to the article.
Thanks for adding that link Brad. I’m still using this unit on a daily basis, and still loving it. Wish I had this years ago. Takes a while to get used to some of it’s quirks though. There’s a few apps that just plain don’t work, but it’s very few. The MyVerizon app won’t resize in DEX. I use BlueMail for my email, and in DEX the minimize/maximize/close buttons are somewhat hidden. They are there, and work, but you can’t see them. There’s an option to use your phone as a touchpad. But I also found a setting to use my phone as a second screen, and a setting to let my mouse cursor move from the display to the phone screen. I like that setup a lot.
what about this?
Great for desktop use, but not exactly portable.
I have several lapdocks at this point: a NexDock 2, a NexDock Touch, and an HP Elite x3 lapdock.
The unfortunate common thread with the NexDocks (and from what I hear, the other Chinese lapdocks that seem to be from the same ODMs) is the awful touchpad. They claim “multi-touch gesture” support, but while that’s technically true, it’s… misleading. The touchpad firmware interprets gestures and translates them to keystrokes and mouse wheel events. This means, among other things:
Two-finger scrolling is choppy and not very sensitive (it’s interpreted as discrete mouse wheel events)
Pinch-to-zoom is choppy (it’s interpreted as, I believe, ctrl + and ctrl -)
Palm rejection is nonexistent (though I’ve heard the UPERFECT X seems to improve on this, so it’s possible this has is better in the more recent lapdocks)
The HP lapdock’s touchpad is miles better – the OS actually sees it as a touchpad rather than a mouse, it supports multitouch as you’d expect, etc – but newer Samsung devices don’t seem to like to connect to it. Works great with Linux phones though.
I never tried out HP’s lapdock solution, but I do have a Microsoft Lumia 950 and also the larger 950 XL of which both models have Continuum support and it’s crazy to think how Microsoft got everything right on the first attempt, including wireless Miracast connection.
As a Lapdock and Superbook owner, I’m waiting for these devices to take over the universe. No need to pay for a new screen and keyboard and case in order to update the insides … just buy a new phone. Think of the waste we could keep out of our landfills if you weren’t buying this whole package every time you want to upgrade. Not to mention, better for the budget when you only have to replace one device on a regular basis. What’s not to love??
The reason this dream will probably never come true is the manufacturers wouldn’t be happy with lower sales. But I can hope!
I for one am in love with this idea, but I’m still waiting on my Nexdock. Considering canceling the order and getting the UPerfect X.
Currently I supplement my phone with an 8″ tablet. The problem I sometimes run into is that the tablet is an older version of android and not all of my apps will work on it. Also, I have about 20 browser tabs open on each device.
I see a lot of comments about your phone “dangling from your laptop as you move about.” Well, your doing it wrong. Your phone is your pocket laptop. When you’re moving about, unplug and stick it in your pocket. Need to quickly respond to an email? Pull your phone out and send the email. Need to compose a more detailed response? Find a table and chair, plug your phone into your lapdock, and pound away at that keyboard. I think it’s the perfect solution. And when you update your phone, your laptop is not left behind.
I’m definitely hoping to see Windows Phone making a comeback and Linux smartphone make a real traction. They definitely have true potential for smartphone as a PC, especially the former since Microsoft now has Windows on ARM.
Nice idea, but I think it’s better to spread my data between multiple devices for redundancy. All my data on one phone that can be easily damaged or stolen? Single point of failure? No thanks!
The answer is called backing up.
Cloud Storage. I have almost no data on my phone. But it’s all available to my phone, my wife’s phone, both of our tablets, both of our laptops, etc.
If you have an external hard drive or a USB stick, you can back up all of your important files on them. I use them to do just that since I never trust cloud storage, especially when you have places with poor or no internet connection.
I agree with most viewers.
These are a little dumb because they already occupy space, they don’t boost the performance, they don’t provide other features/lack alternate OS, and the dangling part is too clunky. The best implementation that never happened was with the 2018 Razer Phone 2, with its JungleCat gamepocket, and the Project Linda lapdock. Too bad Razer stopped manufacturing all three things as soon as they announced it 🙁
I still think the best implementation has not been done.
The phone and the dock needs to be sold together, not separate, or nobody’s going to buy the dock (cheapskates) and people are going to use that as an excuse to say the phone did poorly and the dock flopped. That is the first (important) point. Second point is the phone needs to be large but not oversized, and something similar to the ZTE Axon 7: flagship specs, flat display, 16:9, slim bezels, front-firing stereo loudspeakers. The phone would be perfectly symmetrical, except have four shoulder pads (volume, power, camera/bonus) on one side, and on the other is a Headphone Jack and USB-C (ThunderBolt 4 ?) port. This part would slide into the dock, making the phone become the “laptop’s trackpad”. The phone would also get access to higher voltage and thermals, to really push the CPU and Speakers. Whilst the dock itself will power its own dGPU. The dock won’t have extra storage, that would be done with the huge (1TB ?) flash of the phone supplemented with a microSD slot. The dock won’t have a different OS, instead it’s the same OS, however there would be User Interface changes to make things better for that form-factor. Now the company would be able to take this laptop-dock, and re-engineer a new dock without the screen and keyboard, so that it could be used like an eGPU for people to use with their TVs and Desktop Monitors, like a Nintendo Switch. The laptop-dock itself wouldn’t change yearly, it would be compatible with successor devices for at least 5 years, and over-time they would build spare part stocks, people could later buy extra docks separately, and there would be a program for people wanting to upgrade their phone whilst keeping their lapdock. And lastly, they will build a thousand of these which won’t be to sell, kind of like a business write-off expense and these would be to ship to selected developers, reviewers, and influencers to generate some community guerrilla marketing goodwill.
Build a quality product, at a reasonable time, market it wisely, and make it consumer-friendly… that’s how you pull this off successfully.
Well, it’s cheap so that’s the selling point. Someone who occasionally needs a large screen could use this. But I see your point. It would be better to dock the phone via insert to be part of the laptop utilizing the phone as an extra screen or trackpad. However, using Samsung Dex tells me overheating would frequent problems. Then there a battery problem as well, 4 hours is not enough for a day trip.
Perhaps they can utilize and match this with an e-link color display for both the phone and the screen.
No, you don’t want the two devices tied together, then you have to replace both. You want a dumb Lapdock that can be used with any phone and all you upgrade is the phone.
Nope, after purchasing the Motorola Lapdock, I absolutely do NOT want a laptop-type device that is limited to use with a specific or limited number of phones. The whole point is that the laptop-like device does not have to be replaced every time you replace the phone, which cuts expense and waste piling up in landfills. The only one benefitting from “matching” phones and lapdocks are the manufacturers who get to sell TWO new products every couple of years instead of just one.
I’d find these more useful if they had multiple docking options:
1. Completely inserted into the laptop dock so you can carry the laptop around like any other laptop without worrying about a dangling phone or it sticking out if you’re using some sort of side attachment. For example, act as a touchpad and fully locked in.
Wireless connection for short use periods where you wouldn’t kill your battery much.
Side attachment like those you can by and stick on where the phone is a second monitor or just the phone interface.
A full desktop OS while docked.
– The install a desktop Linux distro and VNC into it thing isn’t a good enough experience for me to be worth doing. Feels more of a “hey look what I can do” thing than something I’d use regularly.
It feels like a good integrated solution is most likely best done by the phone maker themself but I’m not sure that’d be worth it for them. Otherwise, it feels like the people buying these are connecting it to their RPis or other headless devices more than their phones which probably is also a small market.
Wow, my 1, 2, 3, 4 and bullets were all stripped away except for 1 and a single bullet. Oh well.
Ooh this gives me “the ideas”. Besides dockable 2nd monitors to sit on top of your 30-40 inch widescreen monitor to handle portrait mode (curved monitors would complicate things tho), direct strap on tablets & smartphones to sit on top of laptops monitors to mirror that same “portrait” effect, without needing that complicated rotating of monitors…you arent going to rotate a 21:9 34 in monitor, forget it. Instead of totally dumb terminal, laptop could evolve to require a phone’s cpu. Phone would have certain processing capacities on its own, but laptop itself would have even more — say like fpga, A.I. processors, and graphics processing capacities and of course, a controller that could manage all of this like sending off processes akin to Folding @ Home to your phone & so there is synergy & higher performance than could be packed into a small laptop form factor, course that’d benefit from super high speed data & power cable. Trayed docks are also good because they separate the cooling needs and provide a source of power & charging, your phone might work up a sweat, yes even with latest chips.
Somebody might say what kinda person uses this? scientists and engineers on the go.
I think a non-negligible part of the cutomers for those products are in fact hackers that want to have a versatile display / keyboard / etc. combo for their pile of SBCs.
It’s not a very appealing format to need a cable and have the phone laying apart from the laptop. It defeats the point of the very well contained laptop form factor. Docking the phone in place of a touchpad or even putting it on a hinge attached beside the screen would help (functionally, this should provide a second screen, not a mirrored/duplicated screen). Hard port or wireless would help too.
I don’t think any company is making up for in universality what they’re losing in clutter.
They make magnetic mounts to have the phone sit beside the screen. You could also have it mount on the back so it’s like the phone isn’t even there.
The reason I carry 2 devices around is because they have different OS’s. Android and iOS (even iPadOS) just don’t cut it.
Although, at least for me personally, I can see those Linux-based smartphone OS’s eventually being feasible for these docks if they can offer effectively the same OS as their desktop distro equivalents. However, I’m not sure if that is a large enough market to target either.
You can run desktop linux distros inside android with anlinux or userland, both on fdroid. You can then access a full desktop environment using a VNC viewer.
I wouldn’t consider that a good experience but I guess VNCing locally to a desktop distro and the issues related with that would be good enough for some people.
I use a launcher app to make my phone look and feel like a desktop interface when docked. The Snapdragon 865 is more than powerful enough for the average use case and there are plenty of productivity apps on android for getting work done.
That is why Samsung and Motorola came up with a software that allows you to use DeX and Ready For respectively on PC. Ngl, that is actually a brilliant idea.
Better yet, a better version of the Superbook … a dumb terminal with screen, battery and keyboard that can be used with any phone or mini computer OS.
First one was Palm Foleo, but it as cancelled.
I’m not sure how the Palm Foleo qualified as “the first one” when it never shipped. The Motorola Atrix 4G’s Lapdock did ship. It was also the first smartphone with a fingerprint reader. Apple purchased the company that provided the fingerprint tech and incorporated it into their phones.
The Celio Redfly actually shipped in 2008. I think that might make it the first….
Well, that certainly makes the Redfly the earliest true product that I’m aware of.
I’d love to be able to justify buying one of these but my only phone with video output is a pinephone, and I might as well carry a pinebook pro since that’ll have more power. Maybe if I had a really expensive phone and needed a 4G connection on the go… or maybe if it were easier to get a linux dev environment running on an android phone.
The mistake these devices make is not supporting wireless operation.
When I’m out, I don’t want my phone dangling from the device. When I’m home, I’m not going to use it. It needs to be a bluetooth keyboard/touchpad and a Miracast display. The USB connection should be optional and perhaps allow using the display’s battery to charge the phone. Or charge the phone wirelessly when left on top of the closed, folded display while the display itself is charging via a USB-PD adapter.
I just stick my phone to the side of my nexdock 2 with one of these magnetic side mount thingies. That’s an obvious problem for the ones with 360 degree hinges though, so for those you can use these. The magnetic paddle accessory that nexdock was planning would be the best (it sticks to the nexdock magnetically) but that never materialized.
I believe the Superbook had a miracast dongle built into it though, so it’s not out of the question. That’s how it could connect to any phone, it also came with a custom desktop launcher app for phones (sentio desktop).
Personally, I only bought the nexdock 2 because it had HDMI input, since that increases the versatility dramatically. And I’ve tried using it with a miracast dongle in the hdmi port; there’s noticeable lag when using miracast. No lag at all over usb-c.
I’ve used my buddy’s Nexdock Touch with my OnePlus 8T and it works great. I’m backing Leef because I’m not a fan of the 360 and I want a USB type A port if I can’t have a full size HDMI. I plan to mainly use it for typing heavy workflows at home and as a second display when at work. Can’t wait.
No WiFi? No Deal!
The WiFi comes from your phone, so it’s irrelevant to put a WiFi radio on a lapdock.
I think the technology isn’t quite there yet. Yes, they could something like blue tooth, but that’s another source of battery draw. More importantly, it may have too much lag especially if there is touch input screen.
No market for these. A business traveler is not going to take a laptop dock for their smartphone. Size is important, and might as well have a real laptop if you are going to carry around an empty case the size of a laptop.
It would be nice to see a good home docking solution for smartphones.
No market? Sorry, you are wrong. While I always use my Windows machine for any workflow involving memory-intensive softwares, I do bring my phone and my lapdock when travelling light. After all, I have no problem working on Office-related work with my lapdock.
You may do that, but “you” are not a market.
For this price you could get a decent Chromebook, a starter Windows 10 laptop or a decent used enterprise model of a laptop.
They should be priced $150, $200 at top, to be a thing.
No Chromebook is decent below $400. You’d be lucky to find one with at least 4GB RAM, 128GB storage, and Intel Core CPU at that price. It’s the same story with entry-level Windows laptops.
Still very expensive for a keyboard+screen… if they were under 200$ it would be ore attractive but they are all priced greedily over 300-350 $ which is just too much for many including me.
Comments are closed.