Me, my NEW Hengedock and why it’s better now

In my previous review on the Hengedock for the 13″ Apple Macbook Pro, I wrote that I couldn’t recommend it due to some problems with cables and scuffs on the surface. Hengedock now sent me the new, 2nd generation of the dock, which comes with some improvements. The package arrived today after only 3 days from the US here to Germany (Wow, that was fast! I had to pay 35 EUR toll fee though – ouch!), so let’s have a look at the new, upgraded version.

As a reminder, the following points were criticized by me for the 1st generation of the dock:

  • Ethernet cable clip issue.
  • The screws that hold the cables leave a mark on the heads.
  • Power supply cable of the Apple 27″ Cinema Display won’t fit.
  • Audio-extension lets the Macbook think that headphones are plugged in.
  • You cannot turn on the Macbook while it’s in the dock.
  • All cables are fixed through screws. No way to easily (un-)plug them.
  • Plugging the Macbook in and out will leave scuffs on the its surface.

Package content

So, before I go into detail on these points, let’s have a look at the packaging, where almost nothing has changed. The wrapping looks the same. The inside consists of the dock, the manual, screws as well as a screwdriver and extension cables (2x usb, fire-wire, ethernet and audio).

Two new surprises are part of the improvements made to this version of the dock. One is a special ethernet cable, which has the usual clip on one side, and none on the other side (see picture below). If you can, you should use this extension in order to connect your Macbook to the network. If you don’t and use an ordinary cable, you’ll run in danger of your laptop getting stuck. The cable is not very short, but your ethernet port definitely shouldn’t be to far away from your desk. I had to break off a clip at the head of one of my 10m ethernet cables in order to reach my desk – and no, I don’t like wi-fi ;-). However, it’s quite nice that this special ethernet cable is included to the package now.

Besides the ethernet cable, there was another interesting accessory in the package: Three adapters (called “MagSafe Adapter Tools“) which finally make it possible that Apple Cinema Display users can attach their power supply cables to the dock, so you can leave your original power supply adapter in your bag. Pretty nice. However, it took me quite some minutes in order to understand how to use these adapters since the manual is not very precise here. You’ll have to first plug the power supply adapter into the Hengedock adapter tool from the side and then attach it directly to the dock by fixing it with a screw. You might have to try a few times in order to get the right position for it so that the Macbook’s power supply port perfectly connects to the adapter. Attaching the adapter tool first to the Macbook and then sliding the whole thing into the dock will not work.

What’s really sad about these MagSafe Adapter Tools is that you cannot purchase these alone without buying a whole new 2nd-gen dock:

“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.”

For 1st-gen owners, this is really bad news.

Installation

All “ordinary” cables can be attached to the dock as usual: First you connect a cable to the Macbook, then you slide it back into the dock. Finally, fix the cable head with a screw. Then, redo the same again for all other cables one-by-one. This way you can be sure that all the cables are correctly in touch with the Macbook ports. However, the issue with the (circular) marks on the cable heads still exists, as you can see on the picture below. The mark isn’t bad. It’s just cosmetic, but still, I’d prefer screws with some rubber on their tip so none of the cable heads get “damaged”.

Regarding the issue on the audio extension I wrote about in my last post, it came to my mind that you can easily choose the source and output of all audio signals through the Mac OS system preferences. Thus, you could simply attach the audio extension cable, which is delivered together with the Hengedock, to the Macbook and then choose in software where your sound signal should be delivered to.

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post was that if you often use the SD card slot, you’ll have a problem. As far as I can see, there is no easy way of getting a SD card into the Macbook while it’s in the dock (or am I missing something here?). You’d have to slide the laptop out, push in the SD card, use the Macbook with the built-in display and then put it back to the dock when you’re done. Alternatively, you could also lift the whole thing, push in the SD card though a slit on the bottom and then gently put it back on the desk. However, both solutions aren’t optimal I think. Some kind of SD extension would be really useful at this point since I don’t like moving the Macbook while it’s turned on (not good for the harddrive).

With this setup, all cables are fixed into the dock. If you want to remove any of them now, you must loose the according screw and then unplug the cable. Reverse the procedure to put the cable back in. This concept annoys me sometimes a bit. A smarter solution where I can more easily unplug cables without having to touch a screwdriver would be welcome here. However, since I don’t move the cables to often any more (thanks to the spare MagSafe adapter that I have now), this is no big deal.

The dock

Having a look at the dock itself, I can say that not much has changed. The upper, front and back is the same as the 1st generation version. Only the bottom part got a slight modification. Instead of 4 single rubber feet, the new dock has 2 slim rubber lines. I don’t know why Hengedock changed this. Personally, I think that the 4 single stands give the whole dock more stability. The new solution tends to be a little more “shaky” but it’s no big deal as long as you don’t live in a zone under earthquake danger.

Does the dock scratch the Macbook’s surface?

Well, as I mentioned in my previous post, the dock leaves some scuffs on the Macbook’s surface which can be easily removed with a damp cloth. That’s what I observed after using the 1st-gen dock for almost a month.
Now, with the new 2nd-gen version, I don’t see any scuffs after about 1 week of usage. Ok, I didn’t remove the Macbook very often the last days, but there is not the slightest bit of scuffs so far. I can’t exactly explain why though. The material the dock’s made of seems to be the same. Maybe I learned to (un-)plug the Macbook a little more gently? I don’t know.

Does the Macbook overheat while it’s in the dock?

I once read in a forum that some people are concerned that the Macbook could overheat since it’s closed all the time while in use. At this point, I can definitely say: No, it will not. Using the Macbook in close state is part of Apple’s design. The laptop sucks in air from the keyboard area and blows it out on the back. There is no need to be worried. So far I didn’t have any overheating issues with my Macbook/Hengedock combo and I often push the poor device’s CPU to the limit :-)

Conclusion

So, with the new 2nd generation of Hengedock, would I recommend it?

Well, it depends. If you already own a 1st generation dock, the upgrade probably isn’t worth it. The most important changes are the new accessories (e.g. MagSafe Adapter Tool) and that’s it.

If you don’t own one yet, go and get it as long as:

  • you get the 2nd generation version.
  • you can live with cleaning the scuffs from time to time (if they occur at all!).
  • you don’t mind pulling the Macbook out of the dock in order to turn it on (that’s in the nature of a vertical docking solution).
  • you don’t need the SD card slot on a regular basis.
  • you won’t have to remove and attach the cables very often.

Besides these points I can recommend the dock now if you need a solid docking solution for your Macbook. The changes to the prior version are marginal but they totally make sense.

Wishlist

For the future, there are some points that I would like to see for Hengedocks:

  • The MagSafe adapter tool should be available for purchase separately.
  • The inner part of the dock should be covered with some soft texture so no scuffs occur.
  • The screws should have a small piece of rubber at their tip. That way, no marks will occur on the cable heads. Or even better: No screws at all so the cables can be attached and removed more easily and faster.
  • Some kind of extension for the SD card slot would be great so I won’t have to lift the whole dock whenever I need to put in a memory card in there.
  • A dock completely made of aluminium would be nifty :-).
  • A horizontal docking solution so I can use the Macbook in “open” state. That way I can use its internal display as an addition to my external monitor and I can reach the power on/off button without removing it from the dock (similar to the Thinkpad docking solutions (see picture below)).

Finally, I show you a picture of my desk. Looks quite tidy now… besides the 5472456 cables… *sigh* :-)

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.

HP Slate: The better iPad

The HP Slate looks as cool as the iPad, has more features like Flash-support or a built-in camera and offers a full operating system (Windows 7).

The iPad lacks support for Flash (No Flash videos, No Flash games like Farm Ville), has no camera (hello, video telephony?) and the worst of all: No full OS.
It’s basically nothing more than a big iPod Touch with all its limits.

I don’t know when exactly in 2010 the Slate will come out, but as long as it’s affordable, I’d probably buy it.

Sorry Apple, as much as I like your (real) computers, the mobile devices you build are a joke.

Getting rid of Samsung LCD’s weird noise

I own a Samsung LE40A558 LCD TV which does a strange whistling sound whenever I turn it on.
It doesn’t matter, where the input signal comes from (Scart, HDMI, whatever..), the noise is always there and it’s very penetrant.

The weird thing is that, if I google this issue, a decent number of people seem to have a similar problem (but not the same).
For example: My TV’s noise does not come from the speakers, while most users complain about exactly this problem.

After calling the Samsung support hotline (14 Cent a minute – WHEW!), I finally found the solution: A firmware upgrade.

Just go to samsung.com, download the latest firmware and follow the instructions. That’s it.
For me, this fixed the noise.

For German users: The firmware is not available on the German Samsung website. Go to samsung.at instead and check there.

For German KabelBW-users: Austria’s Samsung website seems to have a problem with the KabelBW network. I always got a timeout when trying to connect to the server. A proxy server (doesn’t really matter which) solved my problem.


Update: It seems like the noise volume only got lower through the firmware upgrade but it’s not completely gone. If I use an external digital DVB-C receiver and connect it via a SCART cable, the strange sound is still noticeable. HDMI and antenna cable seems to be ok.


Update II: Ok, the firmware upgrade didn’t help at all. I called the Samsung support again and they sent me a technician who did a measurement regarding the noise. 34.9db. Samsung only repairs stuff like this if it goes above 35db. Great.

Finger weg vom Amilo SL 3260W

Er sah nicht schlecht aus, die Bildqualität war für einen TFT akzeptabel und der Preis absolut in Ordnung.

Inzwischen, ca. ein Jahr später, bin ich schlauer.

Seit ich mein neues Macbook Pro an den Monitor angeschlossen hatte, flackerten immer wieder grüne Pünktchen über den Bildschirm. Keine Pixelfehler. Die Pünktchen blieben nicht an einem bestimmten Fleck.

Natürlich habe ich sofort das neue Macbook und den MiniDisplayPort-auf-DVI Adapter unter Verdacht, denn das Problem tauchte bei meinem alten Macbook AIR, sowie meinem aktuellen Windows PC nicht auf.

Tagelanges rumgefricke mit Kabel-tauschen, Adapter-tauschen sowie im-Apple-Store-rumhängen-und-Supporties-nerven brachte nichts.

Irgendwann jedoch fand ich nach stundenlangem Googeln die Lösung: Mein Fujitsu Siemens Amilo SL 3260W Monitor hatte einen Fehler, der aber nur bei neueren Grafikchips auftritt. Da soll mal einer drauf kommen. Abhilfe schafft wohl nur ein Firmware-upgrade.

Also bei Fujitsu-Siemens angerufen und reklamiert. Immerhin ist ja noch Garantie drauf. Man versprach mir ein Austauschgerät, was mir zugeschickt werden würde. Das alte Gerät sollte ich im gleichen Karton zurückschicken.

Ich hatte schon Geschichten über den schlechten Support bei dem Verein gehört, hoffte jedoch, dass alles gut gehen würde.

Heute, ganze 4 Wochen später brachte mir ein etwas gestresster GLS-Mann einen Karton mit einem Monitor. Den Alten soll er gleich mitnehmen, sagte er.
Doch moment. Statt einem schwarzen 26-Zöller von Fujitsu schleifte der gute Mann einen 19-Zöller von Viewsonic an. – WTF?

Also, Annahme verweigert und wieder bei der Fujitsu Hotline angerufen. Nach der Schilderung meines Problems gleich weiterverbunden worden. Eine genervt klingende Frau nahm meine Reklamation entgegen und versprach mir das Problem weiterzuleiten…

Mein Fazit jetzt schon: Nie wieder Fujitsu Siemens !!

Update: Der neue Monitor ist da. Diesmal der Richtige. Angeschlossen. Defekt (Alles was auf dem Bildschirm schwarz sein sollte ist rot). Beim Support reklamiert. Ein ostdeutscher Sachbearbeiter verspricht mir einen neuen Monitor…

Update II: Das inzwischen 3. Ersatzgerät ist endlich gekommen. Funktioniert einwandfrei und auch die neuste Firmware scheint installiert. Sehr schön.

Main Fazit:
– Der Monitor ist gut und günstig solange man Aussicht darauf hat, einen mit der neusten Firmware zu kriegen.
– Der Fujitsu Support ist eine einzige Katastrophe.