I wanted a new laptop dock — here's why I bought a Steam Deck dock instead

A picture of a desk setup with an ultrawide monitor and a laptop docked in the Ugreen Steam Deck dock
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I swore things would be different this time around back when I bought my ThinkPad laptop late last year. Yet here I am proudly looking at it connected to one of the best monitors with a mechanical keyboard and even a trackball mouse all thanks to my new laptop docking station.

Initially, I had planned to only use it as a laptop but old habits die hard. Plus, I love putting new desk setups together, even when I’m not reviewing one of the best standing desks. This experiment also gave me a chance to dust off an old ultrawide monitor.

Recently, I’ve been looking at a number of different laptop docking stations online as they often come up in my feed. While I have used budget ones in the past, I prefer connecting a laptop to a monitor via USB-C like I do with my Samsung smart monitor. However, as this is an older ultrawide monitor after all, It doesn’t have any upstream USB ports. My ThinkPad may be really thin and light but unlike with the best MacBooks, it still has an HDMI port. As such, I didn’t really need a laptop docking station but I figured picking one up would give my latest desk setup a much cleaner look overall.

There are plenty of different types of docking stations available but which one you choose will depend on your needs and your budget. During my own search for a docking station though, I kept coming across ones that weren’t made for laptops and were instead designed for the Steam Deck. This gave me an idea and as you can see, it actually worked out. Here’s why I’m using a Steam Deck dock with my ThinkPad instead of one specifically designed for laptops.

Not your average docking station

The Ugreen Steam Deck dock next to a generic laptop docking station

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As they’ve become more popular, some laptop docking stations have seen a steep increase in price. For instance, the kind that support multiple monitors can set you back anywhere from $100 all the way up to $400. At that price, you might be better off picking up one of the best mini PCs for home and using your laptop at work or while out and about.

On the other end of the spectrum though, there are some very capable laptop docking stations that can be had for around $30. In the picture above, the one on the left fits this description. Despite its lower price, it served my wife well when she had to connect her laptop to the SMART Board at school or when she needed to plug in a device that didn’t have USB-C to her MacBook.

UGREEN Steam Deck Dock: was $56 now $37 @ Amazon

UGREEN Steam Deck Dock: was $56 now $37 @ Amazon
The UGREEN Steam Deck Dock is a 6-in-1 docking station for your Steam Deck made from aluminum. However, it's also compatible with the ROG Ally, iPhone 15 and any other device that can do video out via USB-C. The UGREEN Steam Deck Dock can output a 4K image at 60 Hz, a 2K image at 144 Hz and a 1080P image @ 240 Hz and it also supports 100W full-speed charging. It's currently discounted on Amazon but you can get it for just $30 right now on UGREEN's website.

The docking station on the left though is the UGREEN Steam Deck Dock ($56, Amazon) and it looks a bit different as it was designed with the Steam Deck in mind. However, it also works with the ROG Ally and several other of the best handheld gaming consoles. Instead of lying your handheld flat though, it has a built in stand so that you can prop it up vertically. There are laptop docking stations designed to hold your laptop vertically but most of them cost at least $100. 

Even though I don’t own a Steam Deck, I decided to pick up the UGREEN Steam Deck Dock as I wanted to see if it would be compatible with my ThinkPad. Fortunately, it works like a charm and it does have one major advantage over other laptop docking stations.

Easier cable management

The rear ports of the Ugreen Steam Deck dock

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Many laptop docking stations have ports on either side but that isn’t the case with the UGREEN Steam Deck Dock and other docks made for handheld consoles. Just like with the dock that comes included with the Nintendo Switch, all of its ports are at the back. Due to this, cable management is much easier and you don’t have cables going every which way on your desk.

Being able to prop up my laptop vertically and connect it to a monitor without needing a docking station and a separate stand was what initially made me consider using a Steam Deck dock with my ThinkPad. However, once I started thinking about running all the cables I’d need, having all of the ports at the back started making a whole lot more sense. 

On the back of the UGREEN Steam Deck Dock, there’s an HDMI port, two USB-C ports (one is for power), two USB-A ports for connecting one of the best PC game controllers and even an Ethernet port. Technically, one of the USB-A ports is on the left side of this dock but since I’m using it for the 2.4 GHz dongle for my trackball mouse, all of the cables I need are running neatly off the back of my desk.

Your mileage may vary

A close up shot of a ThinkPad laptop docked in the Ugreen Steam Deck dock

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After getting everything plugged in and all the cables tucked away, it was time to see if my ThinkPad could stand up vertically in a dock designed for a wider device like the Steam Deck or the ROG Ally. Much to my surprise, I was able to stand up my ThinkPad in the dock without it falling over.

There was some extra space though and I worried my laptop would tip over if I raised up my desk from a sitting to a standing position. A lot of times when putting together a desk setup, I find that there’s one thing I need to jerry rig in order to achieve the look and functionality I want. Things were no different here and while my laptop could be placed vertically in the UGREEN Steam Deck Dock, I cut a bit off of a rubber cable organizer and put it between the front of the dock and my laptop’s lid.

The piece was small enough that you can’t see it in the photo above and if I hadn’t told you about it, you might not even know it’s there. Although ultrabooks like my ThinkPad might take a bit of jerry rigging to get them to stay in place securely in a Steam Deck dock, this isn’t true for all laptops. For instance, with one of the best gaming laptops, you might not even need to do something like this as they are a bit thicker to accommodate all of their components.

My advice, measure the side of your laptop before you go shopping for a Steam Deck dock if you want to use it in this way. Likewise, you could buy multiple docks and return the ones that don’t work but you could also jerry rig things a bit to get your laptop to stay firmly in place when put it in the dock. Like with all DIY projects though, you’re going to need to do a bit of research first if you want things to go smoothly.

Docked and loaded

A laptop connected to a monitor and keyboard using the Ugreen Steam Deck dock

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The UGREEN Steam Deck Dock just arrived yesterday and I spent most of today putting this desk setup together and taking pictures. Still though, everything is working just fine so far and I’m not too worried about my laptop falling out of the dock now that I made one small alteration to it.

A lot of times, an idea like this comes to me and I just have to see it through for my own curiosity. I’m glad everything worked out or I’d be scratching my head wondering what to write about while stuck with a dock for a console I don’t even own. Besides a laptop, you could also place one of the best tablets or even one of best phones with USB-C video out in this style of dock to achieve something similar. 

While by no means is this a perfect solution, it cost me half what a laptop docking station with a built-in vertical stand would have. Plus, the cables from the dock are running neatly off the back of my desk which wouldn’t be the case with even some of the more expensive laptop docking stations out there.

Now though, only time will tell as to whether or not I keep my ThinkPad docked or decide to stick to my guns about actually using it like a laptop instead of just another desktop replacement.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.