HP 3005PR

The HP 3005PR is a smart and practical dock, built around the DisplayLink DL3900 chip. It adds quite a few connectors to your computer, with a total of six USB ports (two USB 3.0), audio, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and DisplayPort. The latter two can even be used at the same time. See all technology buying advice.

A port replicator is nothing new. It's an easy way of adding more connectors to your computer via USB 2.0. The more advanced models often have an audio and monitor port, in addition to the USB ones. This new HP 3005PR USB 3.0 Port Replicator goes even further, with a USB 3.0 connection and lots of ports. See also: How to get the best price on tech.

The little box has a pretty basic design. It's a black cuboid bar measuring 22 cm x 2.5 cm. Both the front and the back have connectors, which is practical if you have it sitting on the table. You can run the bulk of your cables from the back, and then you have two easily accessible USB 2.0 ports left on the front.

If you want to attach a fast memory stick or external drive, you need the back side. Personally we probably would have designed it the other way around. Aside from the two USB 3.0 ports, the back also has two USB 2.0 ports, putting the total at four.

The HP 3005PR (H1L08ET) also has audio in and out. While most laptops have their own audio connector, it's certainly useful. If you have the replicator sitting on your desk you can keep headphones or speakers connected to it, without having to unplug them from your laptop each time you sit down.

Another practical addition is the ethernet port. Especially if you're the proud owner of an Ultrabook that often don't have one anymore, this is great to have if your wireless network isn't the fastest. The HP 3005PR has a gigabit netwerk port. Many USB 2.0 models have Fast Ethernet, which is 10 times slower.

HP 3005PR: monitor ports

The HP 3005PR adapter has two monitor ports: HDMI and DisplayPort. The latter is very interesting because it allows you to connect a 2560x1440 monitor. We tried this, and it works. It's also possible to connect two Full HD monitors, but it's too bad that HP did not include any adapters for other monitor ports.

Installing the HP 3005PR is relatively easy. Windows 7 drivers are included on the built-in 128 MB USB stick that appears when you connect it to your computer. The included USB 3.0 cable is only 50 cm long, which can be limiting depending on your setup. HP did not yet have Windows 8 drivers, but the standard ones from DisplayLink work fine.

The hardware consists of a DisplayLink DL3900 chip, which is used frequently in similar docks. The DL3900 is the most high-end model in the DL3X00 series from this manufacturer that specialises in smart USB devices.

The theoretical maximum transfer rate of USB 3.0 is 625 MB/s, but that's not enough if you use every single port at the same time. To minimise the impact of this bottleneck, DisplayLink has implemented compression. If you only have a few windows open on the monitor connected to the HP 3005PR, you won't notice anything. But if you play Full HD video and the other ports are also in use, then you can tell that the image quality is affected. Your computer will also be under heavier load.

If you have a light processor such as the Sandy Bridge-based Intel 2357M in the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX3A-R3001V, you will quickly run into the limits of the processor if you put a heavy load on the HP 3005PR. We had a processor load of more than 90 percent when playing Full HD video while also transferring data via USB 3.0 to an external hard drive, and from a fast NAS via the gigabit port to the computer. The computer also suffered from sluggishness.

You can clearly see that the bandwidth to the network and USB ports is squeezed under heavy loads, and that the transfer rate is diminished. When we tried the same setup on more powerful laptop, the Lenovo U410 with a dual-core Intel Core i7 3517U, the processor load was about 60 percent.

In both cases the demand on the processor is pretty significant, and the DisplayLink chip is limited in the graphics department. Playing Full HD video worked, but also starting up 3DMark06 to measure the performance did not.

To read the rest of this review, go to Hardware.Info.