Me, my Hengedock and why I cannot recommend it

I own a 13″ Macbook Pro (mid 2009er version) and from the first day since I have it, I can say without alacrity that it’s definitely the best notebook that I ever had but there has always been one thing that annoyed me when I used it on an external display in “desktop mode” (with the macbook closed): Whenever I wanted to use just the laptop itself in with the build-in display, I had to unplug all the cables for display port, usb (x2), power and sound. That was really annoying especially if I wanted to plug it back to the external display. Since then, I was searching for a decent docking solution where I could just put in the macbook and take it out without having to fight with a horde of cables. This search lead me to Hengedocks. Now, after almost a month of usage, I must say that I am pretty disappointed.

Update: Make sure you check out my NEW review on the 2nd generation of Hengedock after reading this.

You might have heard about Hengedocks before. They are often mentioned in various Mac forums and their look definitely fits well to Apple hardware. The product videos on their own website suggests high quality. On top of that, Hengedocks seems to have heavy issues delivering the docks due to high demand. If so many people want it, they must be good! – That’s at least what I thought. So I tried to buy one.

After being on the waiting list for almost forever, I finally succeeded in purchasing one in England through the Amazon store. Seems like as if some clever company bought some of the docks and sells them now in the UK. So I ordered one and only after a few days it arrived here in Germany pretty quickly.

Installation and first impression

There was not much inside the package. Just the dock, a few screws, a special screwdriver, extension cables and the manual. Installation also is pretty easy. You basically have to plug-in a cable to your Macbook, then put the laptop into the dock, make sure it’s aligned correctly and then you fix the cable with one of the screws (which can leave a mark on the cable heads). Then you pull out the Macbook and you do the same again with the rest of the cables – one by one. This procedure seems to be important so that the Macbook is always in touch with the cable ports when you slide it into the dock. The manual also points out that it is vital for the health of both, the dock as well as the notebook, to not use force. If you ever have to push or pull hard at some point, you’re doing something wrong.

One important thing regarding the cables is that you must break off the clip at the ethernet network cable head, as described on the Hengedock website. If you don’t and you plug the Macbook into the dock, there is a chance that it will get stuck.

Another thing that kinda annoyed me is the incompatibility with the power supply cable of Apple’s 27″ Cinema Display. I was so glad when I bought the display believing that it could replace the standalone power supply cable of the Macbook but unfortunately it doesn’t fit into the dock. So I had to use the old original power supply adapter + cable from the Macbook. Disappointing, isn’t it?
For the new upcoming models of the docks, it seems like there are some adapters included to the package which should solve the problem. However, I don’t have one and to be honest: I don’t feel like importing a piece of plastic worth around 5 bucks from the US here to Germany.

Update: I asked Hengedock support if they separately sell those adapters. They don’t:

“Currently the MagSafe Adapter tool is not available to purchase separately – it comes included with all of the new generation docks with which it is compatible.”

After installing all the cables everything seemed to look alright, so I wanted to turn on the machine, but wait. How do I do that with the closed Macbook standing inside the dock? Simple answer: You can’t. So I had to pull it back out, open it up, turn it on quickly, close it (so it doesn’t go into standby mode) and then gently put it back into the dock. I could already see myself doing that at least once a day since I always completely turn off my Macbook during the night. For daytime, I simply wake up the computer from standby by pressing a random button on the keyboard.

After some seconds, Mac OS boots and I can see the desktop on my external display. Network also works and the power supply cable led turns red which means that it’s charging the battery now, so everything seems to be ok.

Four weeks later

Before I go into detail on the dock itself, you might find it interesting that I still haven’t head a word from my reservation on the original Hengedock website. I’m so glad that I ordered on Amazon since I really hate waiting.
Update: Now, about 2 months later, my pre-ordered Hengedock is available. Bit to late.

However, after using the dock for a while now, I can say that I am definitely a bit disappointed. The look is good and having a dock for my Macbook is definitely a relief, but there are more disadvantages to it than I initially thought.

First, as described before, installation is not as smooth as it could be:

  • Cinema Display power supply cable head doesn’t fit.
  • I had to destroy one of my ethernet cable heads in order to use the dock T.T – Not funny if you do that to long and thus expensive cables.
  • The screws that fix the cables into the dock leave a mark on the cable heads.
  • You cannot turn on the Macbook while it’s in the dock.

Another issue that I want to mention is audio support for headphones. There are extensions delivered with the Hengedock that you can plug into the Macbook’s audio port but they’re basically useless because if you do so, the internal speakers will stop working (and so do the external speakers of my Cinema Display which get their audio signal through USB) because the Macbook thinks that there are headphones attached to it – but actually there isn’t. It’s only the extension.
So, regarding audio, you have the choice: Either you simply cannot use headphones (which is the choice I took for the moment) or you’ll have to get some external speakers, and attach these together with your headphone to the audio extension through an Y-cable. That way, you have sound through both – speaker AND headphones.
As an alternative you could also use USB or Bluetooth-headphones.
Using the Apple Cinema Display together with “classic” audio-port based Headphones will not work though (at least, I see no way how).

Update: I forgot that you can actually choose the source and output for audio signal in Mac OS preferences :-)

Well, so after getting over these initial problems, I observed another critical issue. According to Hengedock, the dock is not supposed to scratch the Macbook but they do leave some marks to the surface. See the picture above where the red circles mark the parts where these marks occur.

These marks aren’t bad. Until now, I was able to polish them away with a soft towel but what happens after 2 or more years of usage? I can’t believe that this is good for the surface of the Macbook. The dock itself simply seems to be to tight and its plastic casing is just to hard. So whenever I put the laptop out or into the dock, I can already hear how it’s scratching. I don’t know how others think about this but: I don’t like it. Why didn’t they line in the inside with some soft texture? That would’ve made it easier to plug and unplug and there were no marks to the surface.

Update: As pointed out by Henge Docks CEO Matthew Vroom, the dock is made of a material which is softer than the Macbook’s aluminium. This makes it impossible that the dock can actually scratch the notebook. So, apparently actually the opposite seems to apply: The Macbook scratches the dock. This leaves some marks on the laptop’s surface, which can be removed with a wet towel (a dry one didn’t work well for me).

In a nutshell

To sum it up, I cannot recommend the Hengedock as a good docking solution for a Macbook Pro (13″). It looks good yes and you won’t have to manually (un-)plug the cables whenever you want to move the laptop but that’s all.

  • The problems with the cables (network clip, power supply doesn’t fit, no audio for headphones…) are simply annoying.
  • The fact that I have to unplug and open up the Macbook whenever I want to turn it on, annoys me even more (yes one could argue if this is Apple’s design flaw or Hengedock’s fault but still: It’s just annoying).
  • Basically you need all the cables that you fixed to the dock twice. Want to take the power supply adapter with you for travel? Forget it. Either you open the screw and take it out of your dock (have fun putting it back) or you simply buy a second one (they’re really expensive). This problem applies to ALL other cables as well.
  • The marks that occur on the Macbook’s surface are annoying.
  • Somehow I can’t get rid of the feeling that Hengedock started with a good idea but is still in some kind of “beta phase” due to some basic design flaws. Too bad that there is no real alternative.

    Update: Make sure you check out my NEW review on the 2nd generation of Hengedock after reading this.

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16 thoughts on “Me, my Hengedock and why I cannot recommend it

  1. Hi Timo,

    Thank you for your review, you bring up very valid points. Many of which we’re happy to report that we have addressed with the launch of our second generation docks after getting feedback from customers such as yourself. If you’d like to give us another chance, we would like to send you one of our new upgraded docks.

    All of our units are now compatible with all types of MagSafe connector, including the one included on your Cinema Display. We now include a tabless Ethernet cable so users no longer have to break off the tab end, which was a pain.

    The dock is constructed out of ABS plastic which is less dense than the aluminum surface of the MacBook, so permanent scratching is impossible and any scuffs can be wiped off with a damp cloth, should they appear. If you’re interested in our offer please contact our customer service at info~at~hengedocks~com.

    Matthew Vroom
    Founder and CEO Henge Docks, LLC

  2. I wish that I had read your review before purchasing my Henge Dock. I totally agree with your assesment. My dock broke when installing cables. The plastic partitions between the cables are too narrow to support the cables without cracking. I have had to monkey with my dock every other time I try to dock my Mac. Too much trouble. It seems like a good idea, but lacks in some very important engineering details.

  3. The dock is just a stand where you can put in your Macbook.
    There is nothing you can do with it that wouldn’t be also possible without the dock.

  4. I agree with Timo. I have the dock since a two weeks now and got similar impressions. I will not recommend it either.

  5. I agree and the customer service sucke! They will not refund my money because it has been more than 30 days. It took me that long to order cables. If you know anyone that would like to buy an unused Hedge Dock, I have two of them, the can contact me.

  6. Henge Dock will always work with some MBP’s ONLY. This is what they don’t tell you but first check the tolerances of your input suckets. Make sure they align perfectly before placing an order. Different manufacturing tolerances to socket alignment is the greatest and biggest downfall to Henge Dock’s design.

    They do mention this but not everyone can read it before buying!! Great concept but not fit for purpose!! Sorry!!

  7. I just purchased this docking station and so far – no luck getting it to work. Of course they don’t have a phone number or any support capability. I am thinking about stopping the CC charge

  8. Well, I emailed minutes after you posted this – no answer yet – I assume you went home. The reason I said no support was – you have no support@ email address. This might help eliminated confusion.

  9. Hi!

    I have almost all positive things to say about Henge Docks. I believe most problems can be avoided just by following the installations instructions properly. I do have one question, seems like the provided headphone jack has a problem to deliver true stereo – anyone else that has this problem?

  10. Has anyone found a solution for the ‘Cannot turn MacBook on while docked’ issue??

  11. Great design…lots of problems!
    I ha ve new Macbook Pro Retina and and new Apple 27″ Thunderbolt display.

    I bought the Henge dock, new model, and while it all looks great…it has a number of big flaws.

    The headphones wire doesn’t work, even after doing what Henge Recommended

    The wi-fi connection is poor….I finally hooked it up via etherent

    And the display sometimes doesn’t connect and I was told by Henge that the mini-display cables they supply doesn’t provide all the functionality of thunderbolt
    They told me to get an Apple cable but Apple doesn’t make a M-F thunderbolt cable

    So it still needs a lot of work…I am sorry to say wouldn’t recommend it

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