November 2020 Ian Chiu
Portable monitors have popped up left and right in recent years. They can easily double your Windows desktop without cluttering your “real” desktop. The upgrade process is also as simple as plugging in a USB-C cable, which carries both video and power with ease.
In general, their screen sizes range from 12 to 15 inches diagonally. Anything smaller will strain your eyes, and anything larger than 15 inches would make the monitor heavy and bulky. Another advantage of mobile monitors is their relatively smaller size and lighter weight compared to their desktop counterparts. This makes them ideal companions for anyone who needs the portability and productivity value of a second monitor in a tight workspace.
Without further ado, here are five USB-C monitors that should meet the demands of those who work from home, on the front line in the office, or both.
Lenovo ThinkVision M14t
USB-C monitor with touchscreen and USB PD passthrough
Secondary mobile monitors have become an indispensable tool for business travelers to maximize their productivity on the go. It should come as no surprise that these wearable displays also get a touchscreen, as this represents the next logical evolution. Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14t is one of the first to jump on the road.
The 1.5 lbs. matte black ThinkVision M14t has a 14-inch IPS capacitive touch screen with a top glass layer. Along with the 10-point touch functionality, the M14t turns into an extra-large tablet when paired with a touch-friendly operating system such as Windows 10 and Android. For the latest mobile platform, touch interactions make a world of difference. A 4096-level pressure-sensitive stylus included with the package is useful for signing documents and taking notes, but the monitor may struggle to keep up with the screen response required for accurate drawing.
Lenovo has carefully added a folding base, which supports the screen to stand upright in portrait mode. Plus, there’s a USB-C power pass-through port, so you can use a USB Power Delivery compatible power supply to power both the monitor and charge the laptop (up to 65W) or Android smartphone at the same time.
Mobile pixels TRIO
Portable monitor that piggybacks on your laptop screen
Mobile monitors in general aren’t exactly designed for ergonomics and quick deployment. Mobile Pixels is trying to change that with TRIO. What sets the TRIO apart from the rest is its integration with a laptop. It comes with a slider that sticks to the back of a laptop screen with magnetic adhesives, so the TRIO can be semi-permanently attached to your laptop.
Once installed, the slider allows you to extend the 1080p panel to either side of the laptop. (You can choose from 12.5- and 14-inch displays.) From there, you can even rotate the display 270 degrees to the back of a laptop in what Mobile Pixels calls it a presentation mode. You also have an option to make the jump to a three-screen setup with a second TRIO screen clipped to the back of the first device.
TRIO’s ability to adjust to the optimal settings according to preference has always been a strong point of the Mobile Pixels line-up. This makes setting up multiple monitors on the go less of a hassle for business travelers. Keep in mind that the pack adds an extra 1.5 lbs. for carrying your laptop, not to mention the strain it puts on the laptop screen hinge when the TRIO is deployed. Note that Mobile Pixels reportedly uses DisplayLink chipsets so the TRIO is forward and backward compatible with USB-C and USB-A laptops, respectively.
Lap dock with built-in display for your Samsung DeX compatible smartphones
If you like Samsung’s DeX, Android Q desktop mode and the like, you may want to know that NexDock Touch can transform your smartphone into a fully functioning PC. At first glance, the NexDock can easily be mistaken for a Windows laptop. You’ll find a 14-inch narrow bezel touchscreen, a fully backlit keyboard and large trackpad, as well as an extensive range of ports. Heck, there’s even a built-in quad speaker setup.
However, the matches end because there is no CPU or storage in the device. That’s why everything is done on a compatible smartphone that extends the interface via USB-C to the NexDock’s touchscreen. A 60 Wh battery under the keyboard supplies both the NexDock itself and the connected smartphone with power. In a technical sense, the NexDock Touch is a USB-C docking station with an impressive array of integrated functions, so you can get some work done without a “real” laptop. Plus, the built-in monitor works just as well if you connect the NexDock’s USB-C to a Windows or Mac. Touch screen capabilities on desktop operating systems are still awaiting confirmation.
The NexDock Touch is not for everyone. You need a smartphone with desktop mode that can fill the NexDock’s 14-inch screen with a Windows-like interface. Games as well as productivity apps, including MS Office and Adobe Lightroom, will inherently see the most benefits on the dock’s massive touchscreen. As niche as NexDock Touch may sound, it will redefine the product category for years to come.
Asus ZenScreen Go MB16AP
Portable USB-C monitor with huge built-in battery
Asus ZenScreen Go MB16AP 15.6 ”IPS display is the third iteration of the company’s range of portable USB-C monitors. Although the MB16AP is almost the same as last year’s MB16AC, with improvements such as a narrow bezel and the introduction of USB-C to receive both video signals and power from a laptop. What sets the MB16AP apart from its predecessor and all other USB-C mobile monitors is the integrated 7800 mAh battery.
When fully charged, the USB-C monitor has enough power to power itself for four hours before needing to take up the precious laptop battery. Most importantly, the MB16AP runs on its own, so it can finally work with smartphones whose USB-C port will never have enough output for a 15.6 ”monitor. Asus claims that the MB16AP will work right out of the box with Samsung Note 9 and S10 through the phone’s DeX full screen desktop mode. It would be a welcome change if Nintendo Switch – also with a full USB-C – also works in the same setup as mobile gamers will rejoice at the news.
The monitor itself is an IPS panel with a brightness of 220 cd / m2 and a contrast ratio of 800: 1. It also comes with an in-house Blue Light Filter with 4 different settings that promise the emission of blue light with a whopping 70%. The included software allows automatic rotation, but only on Windows. The MB16AP also brings back DisplayLink for compatibility with older PCs without the latest USB-C ports. However, if you have a choice, DisplayPort over USB-C always delivers better video quality than DisplayLink over USB-A, as the latter involves lossy compression during video output. Finally, Asus protects the ZenScreen MB16AP with a three-year warranty, which is essential for a productivity tool for business travelers.
Mobile 15.6 ″ IPS monitor comes with a handy smart cover
AOC’s I1601FWUX extends the long history of USB monitors business. The latest version has a 15.6 ″ IPS anti-glare panel with native 1920 x 1080 resolution. The switch to IPS from TN panels delivers more vivid colors, a higher contrast ratio (700: 1) and a much better viewing angle (up to 160 degrees). ) than other previous models. The response time of 5 ms is comparable to that of the Lenovo and Asus offerings.
The 1.8 lbs. USB-C monitor can also be aligned with the contents of the screen with the orientation of the monitor. Since it doesn’t come with a built-in kickstand, a foldable smart cover takes its place to keep the screen in portrait or landscape mode. Please note that this version of the portable AOC monitor has opted exclusively for USB-C; therefore, make sure that your laptop’s USB-C port is DisplayPort 1.2 capable. The I1601FWUX is backed by a three-year warranty.
We will be adding more USB mobile monitors as they become available. In the meantime, if you come across something cool that you’d like us to include on this list, let us know in the comment section below.
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