Titan TTC-G20TZ Docking Station Review
Reviewed by: airman
Reviewed on: February 15, 2011
Just like our desktops that seem to have almost turned into space heaters, the ever-increasing heat output from technology today also applies to our notebooks. Keeping these cool is the highest priority in taking care of them and that is why we have so much competition between manufacturers and all the cooling products on the market today. Titan is one of the manufacturers that is present in several different cooling lines, from its heatsinks, GPU coolers, hard drive coolers, and notebook coolers. Titan is also a manufacturer of console fans and even mobile power inverters. Titan's diverse presence in the market has brought itself to play a major role in what we see today.
In the spotlight today is Titan's TTC-G20TZ ADI docking station for laptops. This is a high-end laptop dock that is an all-in-one solution for cooling, inputs, and outputs. The ADI docking station offers VGA, LAN, and audio outputs, as well as four USB2.0 inputs, which are all driven from one USB port. I am a little skeptical on how all three would perform off of one USB, while also running four other USB ports, but that will be analyzed later in this review. This article with provide a full evaluation of the Titan TTC-G20TZ ADI dock beginning at its unboxing, looking at its interior and exterior features, and finished off by an intensive testing process.
The Titan TTC-G20TZ Dock is packaged in a white box with a handle on the top and an information flap on the rear. Opening this flap presents different applications and places that the dock can be used, with a three step process on how to set everything up. Step 1, plug in the USB connection; Step 2, switch on the fan; and Step 3, have fun with a widescreen monitor. Of course, this is highly simplified, leaving out the steps of installing software and plugging in all your devices.
Included with the Titan TTC-G20TZ is a USB2.0 cable, the power source, a software disk, and a user's manual. This particular package included a non-US plug, so I had to get an adapter to power it. Obviously this wouldn't be the case for when it arrives in the US. That small fact aside, it is a 5V power source that is rated at 2A. This will be responsible for powering the fan, USB ports, and the other components inside of the dock.
With the Titan TTC-G20TZ docking station out of the box, it feels very sturdy and its construction doesn't offer much concern of supporting even a large, heavy notebook. The next page will explore a close up look at the dock, along with the setup and preparations for testing the unit.
The Titan TTC-G20TZ has an egg-like shape with a flat, slanted front to accommodate a laptop. The rubber trim around the front mesh vent prevents the laptop from slipping while in use, and also prevents the transfer of vibrations to or from the laptop. The Titan logo on the front of the unit is a power button for the fan, which is a 92mm fan that does not have any listed specifications, such as speed or amperage. The front of the dock slants back at close to 45° in order to support the laptop. The rear of the dock is where the ports are located. The Titan dock boasts four USB2.0 ports, audio out and microphone jacks, VGA support, and 10/100 LAN. I'm not sure why Titan chose to put one USB port by itself and three others next to each other, but I'm sure the company has some reasoning behind it. The last two ports on the right are the USB input jack, which plugs into the computer, and the power jack.
Underneath and built in to the unit is a frame that can be flipped outwards and prevents the dock from falling backwards. Without it, the dock would surely tip over. It was quite difficult getting it to stay upright on carpet to take pictures of it without the stand! The label on the bottom of the dock contains the unit model number, power adapter voltage and current, the USB output power (standard 5V at 500mA), outline dimensions, and the fan dimensions. The serial number is also located on this label. A closer look at the rear of the dock shows the structure of the vents for the intake direction of the airflow. These vents do look somewhat impeding and could be a culprit for extra noise. I have not fired it up yet, so I can't speak of this for sure. With the stand flipped out, the dock seems very sturdy and well-balanced. There is a tiny tab on each side of the stand that allow it to "snap" into place, which will prevent the stand from falling out of this position when picked up to be moved or any other reason.
The software for the Titan TTC-G20TZ dock is very quick to install. The entire software CD only uses about 20MB, so it is fairly lightweight. The utility installs drivers for the audio, LAN, and VGA ports. After installing the software, I noticed a huge issue with the display — even without the dock plugged in. The video is very glitchy and flickers a LOT. Obviously this has something to do with the VGA drivers that the software installed, but I'm surprised to see that it affects the picture even without the dock being plugged in. This occurred at all resolutions, not just those that may not be supported by the dock. The picture will even freeze occasionally for about 10-15 seconds when calling on the software to do a function, and even at random. Very unimpressive! I am unable to gather a screenshot of this behavior, but I can make it very clear that something isn't right about it! I uninstalled the software, and this issue went away. After reinstalling, the issue came back. I tried this on another laptop and the issue was duplicated. Both laptops use an ATI Mobility Radeon video chipset, so it may be related to that, but I wouldn't imagine this to be the case.
As I stated, the software is simple. Once installed, a single icon named "Super Utility" appears in the task bar with several options. Now, all the information below is from Titan's user manual for the dock. The reason I say this is because I was unable to get these options to appear, only the ones pictured below! I restarted the laptop several times and reinstalled the utility with and without the dock plugged in. Nevertheless, I was unable to get anything extra to show up. Anyways, for the sake of explaining, these options in the user's manual include the display resolution and rotation, as well as the display mode. The first display mode is Extended, which simply extends the desktop to or from the built-in screen of the laptop. Mirror mode simply duplicates the picture on the primary monitor onto the secondary monitor. The mirror option brings out a sub-menu with normal and horizontal or vertical flip. The primary option will set the external display as the primary display, and the built-in screen of the laptop will be the secondary screen to which the display will extend. Selecting the "off" option does exactly that — it turns off the video output from the dock.
The other main option available from the Titan software, which I WAS able to get to appear, is the "Multi-Display Control Panel", which allows users to assign key combinations that will move the active window on the screen to different monitors. The software has the ability to move a window between 12 displays! Why? I don't know. Having 12 displays would require massive amounts of hardware and software configurations, so I'm not sure why Titan decided to make the software capable of that. Regardless, it's a cool feature that can assist other "keyboard ninjas" in the world to move their windows around without having to touch the mouse. That aside, without the dock plugged into a monitor there are still a couple of options that don't really apply. It still has Identify Monitors, Multi-Display Control Panel, and Display Settings, which only brings up the video settings from the Windows control panel, but it also has a checkbox labeled "Fixed Position." The user's manual doesn't mention anything about it, so I don't really know what it's for.
When powered up, the button on the front remains off. The fan does not need to be on for the unit to function, which is nice due to the noise. The Titan dock can operate at two speed levels, low and high. Low will make the button illuminate green, and high will turn the button blue. At high speed, the dock is quite noisy and doesn't feel like it moves a lot of air either. The fan is pointed frontwards towards the back of the laptop and there isn't really a lot of directional flow. I can feel the airflow around the mesh, but it's not much at all. The back of the dock is definitely impeded by the construction of the vent, and I'm sure this has something to do with it. We'll see how this affects the temperatures momentarily. Anyways, as far as the power this dock is capable of, I am curious. I'd like to see how USB transfer through it compares to straight off of the laptop, as well as LAN speeds and sound quality. I will be testing all these aspects on the Testing & Setup page.
1x 15-pin DB15 VGA
1x 3.5mm audio output
1x 3.5mm for microphone
4x Hi-Speed type A USB2.0
1x Connector type B USB 2.0
1x 10/100Mbps Ethernet RJ-45
Supported display resolution
Up to UXGA 1600x1200, WSXGA 1680x1050
Primary, Extended, Mirror
92 x 92 x 25 mm
0°, 90°, 180°, 270°
- Compact and stylish design
- Double monitor display
- Plug and Play Connectivity
- All-in-One docking station
- Media and entertainment interface
- Uniquely designed for cooling
All information provided courtesy of Titan @ http://www.titan-cd.com
Testing and Setup:
Testing of the Titan dock will involve applying a load simulated by Prime95, using small FFTs. Both idle and load temperatures will be recorded. Load temperatures will be the maximum value displayed in CoreTemp after running three threads in Prime95 for one hour, and idle temperatures will be the minimum recorded value by RealTemp with no computer usage after one hour. The temperature values for each of the three cores will be averaged and displayed in the graphs below. The ambient temperature is held at a constant 22.5 °C throughout testing of the dock, as well as without the dock on a desk. USB and LAN transfer speeds will be tested in SiSoftware Sandra. The test laptop is a Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4036 — the specifications are listed below.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X3 P820
- Memory: 4GB DDR2 generic brand
- Video Card: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200
- Hard Drive: 320gb Seagate SATA 5400RPM
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
- Ambient Temperature: 22.5 °C
Lower is better
Lower is better
Higher is better
Higher is better
The audio and video quality didn't seem to be any different than directly from the laptop. The speakers I used are a set of Logitech X-540 5.1 surround speakers. I ran frequency sweeps to listen to the frequency response, music, and an action clip from Terminator 2. Obviously the dock isn't capable of 5.1 surround sound, so I did not test for this! The flickering that appears on the built-in screen of the laptop did not appear on the monitor that I hooked up, so that does confuse me! After the headache of this software and the way the dock cools, I am ready to wrap up this review.
OK, so the Titan TTC-G20TZ laptop docking station is what I'll phrase as "neat." It offers just about all the functions that a proprietary laptop dock will, with the exception of things such as charging the laptop or housing a disk drive. These proprietary docks can cost hundreds of dollars, so this would be a cheaper alternative. However, I must state that something is terribly wrong with the software as packaged! My laptop screen did not default to the native resolution and caused major flickering and freezing when moving windows around and even while just idling. I will offer this as a freak occurrence, because both laptops that I tried this on were AMD/ATI-based. Even if this issue is isolated to just AMD/ATI laptops, this still represents a HUGE market in which this problem could occur. Regardless, it makes it almost unusable with the "SuperUtility" installed! I also could not get the pictured options in the Titan manual to show on screen! These options would have been helpful, like changing screen rotations and display type (mirrored, extended, etc) on the fly. Once it's set, I could imagine that it wouldn't be changed a whole lot, but I was unable to gain access to these options at all.
The next thing I have to say is that the dock doesn't really do much for temperatures. It did help by a couple of degrees, but I was hoping for more. Not only did it not make a big difference in temperatures, the fan is certainly audible and could be distracting to some — especially at full speed. Be it that it would be a much less expensive alternative to spending hundreds on a proprietary dock, it can certainly use many improvements until it'd be something I'd use!
- Less expensive than proprietary docking stations
- Provides an active cooling solution where proprietary docks rarely do
- Did not impact USB or LAN transfer speeds terribly
- Fan is quite loud, especially at high speed
- Software caused flickering and hanging of video signal
- Could not get access to documented features in the software menu