Working on a laptop when you’re on the road is fine and all, but you have to admit, it’s a whole lot less convenient compared to a multi-screen setup. Having that second screen allows you to extend your workspace, after all, allowing you to keep tabs on more things at the same time.
While packing your external monitor in the office is out of the question for most folks, a portable monitor is another story altogether. With its compact size and travel-friendly form factor, a portable display gives dual-screen aficionados a viable way to enjoy the same convenience on the road.
Most people choose a portable monitor that’s the same size as their laptop’s display – it makes the dual-screen setup feel most natural, after all. However, there are good reasons why you may want to choose a different size, depending on how you actually use a secondary display.
Here are some of our favorite portable monitors today.
Lenovo ThinkVision M14
This 14-inch 1080p portable monitor has one of the best display panels on the list, with a brightness far exceeding those on many other offerings in the category. This makes it especially useful when you work on the road in daylight, as it makes everything onscreen easily visible even in brighter surroundings. The wide folding base allows you to stabilize it on nearly any surface, all while allowing you to tilt the monitor in a variety of angles. We love the fact that they added a large bezel at the bottom, by the way, so the actual panel is a bit higher and more likely to be in line with your own laptop’s display, making switching your focus between the two feel a lot more seamless.
The biggest knock on the M14 is the connectivity option, which is restricted to USB-C, so it won’t be usable for people with laptops that don’t have one available. It has two USB-C slots, by the way, which support both DisplayPort and USB Power Delivery. This means, the monitor can use power from your laptop’s battery. Alternatively, you can also plug in a power adapter into one of the monitor’s USB-C slots for power and have it charge your laptop at the same time. Convenient.
Asus Zenscreen Go
This 15.6-inch portable monitor has a built-in 7,800mAh battery, allowing you to use it without cutting short your laptop’s own battery life. The battery holds enough juice to power the monitor for up to four straight hours, too, so it should hold up for as long as most laptops can go without having to plug in to an outlet. It uses an IPS panel with 1080p resolution, a 60Hz refresh rate, and wide viewing angles, so it’s pretty good for a portable display option, although the colors aren’t quite as vibrant as the better options in this list.
The monitor comes with a folio cover that doubles as its stand, with options for mounting it in either landscape or portrait, making it excellent for users who need a tall and narrow display. There’s also a hole in one corner, which you can use to prop it up on a table using a pen. It supports both USB-C and USB-A connections, too, making it compatible with the wider range of laptops out there.
If you like this model, but prefer a touchscreen, by the way, you can check out the Asus Zenscreen Touch.
AOC has three variants of this monitor: one with USB-C and micro-HDMI, one with USB 3.0, and one with USB-C. We’re opting for the USB-C version for this list, as it’s increasingly becoming the standard among the newer class of laptops. Do note, the USB-C slot needs to support DisplayPort over USB for it to work. At any rate, all three are, pretty much, the same, although you’ll need to choose the exact one that’s compatible with your laptop’s available ports.
The biggest upside for this mobile display is the price: it’s literally half the price (or less) for many monitors in this list. Despite the affordability, it gets you a 15.6-inch 1080p IPS panel that’s reasonably slim (0.35 inches) and lightweight (1.8 pounds). While the full HD resolution is sharp enough, the colors are quite dull, which, let’s be honest, won’t be an issue for most folks who will probably use a panel like this for work. Bears to keep that in mind, though, if you plan to use the portable display for watching movies or playing games. Like many options in the market right now, it also has a dual-purpose stand cover that can prop it up on either landscape or portrait orientation.
Asus ROG Strix XG16AHPE
While you can use any of these monitors for gaming, if you want the best performance, you’ll need a proper display that’s been fine-tuned for high-paced gaming action. That’s exactly what you get with this 15.6-inch Asus ROG model, which combines a 1080p resolution, a 144Hz refresh rate, and 3ms response time to give you a capable gaming display. It’s compatible with Nvidia G-Sync for smoother game visuals, while built-in stereo speakers with an onboard DAC delivers satisfying sound beyond what you’ll normally get with mobile displays.
As far as gaming goes, it doesn’t disappoint, with plenty of brightness and vivid colors compared to most portable panels, while an integrated battery allows it to spare your laptop battery from draining for up to three hours. The monitor comes with a smart cover that doubles as its stand, with options for both landscape and portrait use, so you can use it for traditionality productivity tasks. It has a tripod socket, by the way, in case you have a tripod and want to use it to mount the screen, all while being compatible with USB-C, HDMI, and even USB-A, so you can use it with any computer.
This 15.6-inch portable display has a built-in full-width stand that allows it to be used in both portrait and landscape, making it versatile enough to support how you work. It’s exceptionally bright compared to most portable displays you’re going to see, with excellent contrast ratio that makes everything look clear onscreen. It doesn’t have the best color reproduction, though, so that might make it tougher for graphics professionals. For everyone else, however, it’s an excellent display.
It supports both USB-C and HDMI, with a USB-A adapter thrown in, so you can use it with, pretty much, any computer. There’s a second USB-C slot, by the way, so you can plug it into a power source to charge your laptop as well, along with a 3.5mm jack and even built-in 0.8W stereo speakers.
Desklab 4K Touchscreen
While a 4K portable monitor sounds overkill for most folks, we can imagine graphic designers, 3D modelers, and other multimedia professionals who might need one when they’re working on the road. So far, Desklab’s 4K panel is the best one we’ve seen in the category, offering full 3,840 x 2,160 resolution while using just a single USB-C connection for the power and display. It’s also one of the brighter monitors we’ve seen, while also having decent color reproduction, making for an overall attractive option if you need a 4K panel on the go. Do note, it has quite a reflective glass panel that could be problematic if you’re working in a bright space, so you’ll want to use it away from daylight as much as possible. It has an odd smart cover that uses adhesive instead of magnets to attach to the monitor, but it does get the job done, so we’re not complaining. Overall, we’re impressed at how thin and light it is for a 4K panel and a touchscreen one at that. It’s also on sale right now, putting the price just a tad higher (instead of much higher) than the 1080p offerings in this list.
Stand Steady SideTrak Portable Monitor
Unlike most portable displays out there, this 12.5-inch panel is designed to attach magnetically to the back of your laptop’s monitor, making it feel like an actual extension of the laptop display, rather than an external panel. Even better, it can be folded on the back of the laptop, so you can keep it there the entire workday, eliminating the need to set up each time out. It comes with 1080p resolution, making it suitable for most modern applications, although it’s far from the brightest display you’re going to use, making it a little tough to use if you’re outdoors. Color reproduction looks good, though, making it perfectly suitable for most types of work tasks. For connectivity, it supports USB-C, but comes with a USB-A adapter if that’s all you have available.
Is it the best portable monitor out there? Heck, no. Is it uniquely convenient? Definitely, with the back-mounted design making it feel like a natural part of your laptop. Do note, you’ll want to remove it from your laptop if you plan to go on the move, as it does put some weight on the external housing, which, depending on the laptop, may or may not cause issues with the built-in screen.