Multifaceted ArmadaStation II docking station is pricey at $799

Multifaceted ArmadaStation II docking station is pricey at $799

With a name that evokes images of the 'Star Wars' galactic empire or 15th century Spanish warships, Compaq's ArmadaStation II promises to be an overwhelming force, and it does not disappoint.

The docking station for Compaq's Armada 7400 and 7800 notebooks has just about every docking feature imaginable, from built-in 10Base-T Ethernet'not just an RJ-45 jack'to an infrared port to a battery charger.

It's difficult to imagine any single agency, let alone one person, ever using many more than half of its features, which is one reason I wonder about its price: a steep $779.

Still, the ArmadaStation II provides a new portable-computing experience.

You insert the notebook by guiding it along a grooved tray, and the ArmadaStation II's motorized mechanism completes the last movement in the docking process. There's a mechanical alternative in case of a power failure.

If you use the included monitor stand, which supports up to 55 pounds, the whole getup looks a bit like a carport and is about as attractive.

You can turn it into a floor tower with the optional ArmadaStation Tower Stand, priced at $99.

There are two slots for any combination of PCI or ISA boards, two PC Card slots and replication of all standard ports.

The one modem and two Universal Serial Bus ports are pass-through ports, which means they simply provide the exterior connection for circuitry on the notebook.

In addition to the standard half-height drive bay, the ArmadaStation II has room for a MultiBay device'a floppy, CD-ROM or DVD drive designed to also fit in a multipurpose bay in the notebook'or a battery pack to be recharged. You can convert the half-height drive bay into a second MultiBay.

Security consists of a key that prevents anyone from removing the notebook or anything in or on the base of the docking station. You can also tie down the ArmadaStation II with an optional cable lock.

I docked and undocked an Armada 7400 several times, using the station's Ethernet, modem, keyboard, serial and VGA ports, each time without incident. Still, Compaq's documentation rather ominously warns you to save and close files and applications before docking.

You can leave the notebook on if it's running Microsoft Windows 95 or 98, but such hot docking won't be possible with Windows NT notebooks until the next major upgrade, Windows 2000, arrives next year.

Mother ship connection

All told, the ArmadaStation II is a big, multifaceted mother ship that envelops your notebook and takes care of its needs. With a monitor hooked up and mounted on top, the notebook truly becomes what PCs are sometimes euphemistically called: a CPU.

You can find the ArmadaStation II's specs at www.compaq.com.

'David Essex

inside gcn

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