Port replicators are gaining popularity, filling the void left by Ultrabooks, which make compromises when it comes connectivity. USB 3.0 version of these laptop docks is particularly appealing as they don’t have to be tied to a specific notebook model, and they generally meet user expectations for performance, largely thanks to significant increase in bandwidth provided by USB 3.0.
These USB laptop replicators are commonly powered by DisplayLink – specifically the DL-3500 IC if the model is USB 3.0. However, they are hardly different from each other. ASUS VariDrive, also powered by the same DisplayLink’s top-of-the-line IC, stands out from the crowd with a built-in 8x slot-loading DVD burner in additional to a 3-port USB 3.0 hub; HDMI, VGA output; gigabit Ethernet. Its video processor can drive resolution at up to 2048 by 1152 (16:9). It’s worth noting that the VariDrive can let a Ultrabook’s GPU renders 3D to reduce CPU usage, offering a big leap in gaming capability.
With VariDrive, you can also turn and twist the optical drive section to transform the dock into a kick stand. The unit itself is wrapped in a 15mm wafer-thin metal chassis to match ASUS’ arsenal of Zen Ultrabooks. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the VariDrive will work with other brands of laptops and tablets. Despite the fact that the VariDrive’s distinctive design makes a nice impression, not having Blu-ray onboard seems odd.