If you’re a laptop user, you likely know how working on a single, compact monitor can stifle your productivity. Luckily, portable monitors have become an affordable and effective way for laptop users to bring a secondary display with them wherever they go. Here are some top-rated options we recommend.
Why buy a portable monitor for your laptop?
Portable displays work like regular computer monitors and come in many sizes, with most models being tailor-made for on-the-go use. They’re used by programmers, artists, graphic designers, and gamers, as well as by anyone who’s been papered by their secondary display and can’t go back to the single-monitor life. Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable portable monitors to choose from, so you can benefit from a dual-screen display even while using your laptop at your favorite coffee shop.
What should you look for in a portable monitor?
- Screen: With a wide range of sizes available, the size that’s right for you depends on the way you intend to use your portable monitor. Larger screens may give you a better view, but they can also weigh more and take up more space when you’re on the go. Bigger is not necessarily better. Screen resolution and color performance are widely ranging, too, so always check those in the product features. Keep in mind that mobile monitors tend to be dimmer than desktop monitors, so it’s important to look at the brightness rating as well.
- Connections: Some portable displays include mini HMDI ports, allowing you to easily connect them to game consoles and media players, while others use USB ports. USB-C ports power the monitor directly from a connected device and allow data and video to flow through as well, while a USB-B port will require separate cables for data and power delivery. Simplicity is crucial to the portable monitor experience, so look closely at how a monitor connects to the device you intend to use with it.
- Design: A portable monitor should be fairly rugged to ensure it can survive the rigors of on-the-go use. It should also be easy to stand up so that you can use it beside your laptop without a hitch. For this reason, almost all portable monitors sport a built-in stand that can be set up in a pinch. However, stand durability tends to differ amongst different brands and models, so be sure to do your research if you intend to select a monitor that’s built to withstand some use and abuse.
What functionality should you look for in a portable monitor?
While most portable monitors offer similar functionality, some definitely stand out from the pack. For instance, some portable monitors can auto-orient the display based on the monitor’s positioning. Other portable monitors come equipped with a built-in blue light filter to help protect your eyes. Some even include integrated speakers, while others leave them out so that they can employ more slim design. Whatever your needs, be sure to check out what special features your new portable monitor brings to the table.
Lepow Portable Monitor
This 15.6-inch full HD screen is compatible with a wide range of devices.
Pros: This monitor, with its 15.6-inch, full HD resolution screen, offers a crystal clear picture no matter which device you hook it up to. Thanks to its mini HDMI and USB-C ports, this monitor can connect to just about any other device, from PC and laptop to smartphones and Switches, PS3 and PS4 and Xbox One, and more. This makes it equally useful for travel, gaming, or work. The two built-in speakers provide superior, more immersive sound, and the IPS screen protects your eyes even after hours of use.
Cons: There are quite a few reports of finnicky USB-C ports and random connection losses that are worth thinking about. While some of these issues are undoubtedly the cause of subpar USB-C cables, it seems that this portable monitor’s connection ports might take on a little more damage than anticipated after a year or two of steady use.
Bottom Line: Although this portable monitor’s ports have given some issues, it’s still easy to see why so many have nothing but positive things to say about this versatile portable monitor from Lepow. Whether productivity or play is your main prerogative, this monitor’s gorgeous display is built to impress.
KYY Portable USB-C Laptop Monitor
This portable monitor offers a refresh rate and picture that's perfect for on-the-go gaming.
Pros: Featuring an impressive 60-hertz refresh rate that will do your Xbox One and PS4 justice, the KYY Portable USB-C Laptop Monitor offers a mini-HDMI port to quickly connect your console of choice. Its 1080P display offers stellar colors and vivid details, and it even comes with a scratchproof smart cover to help protect your investment. This monitor also stands out for its incredibly stable stand, making it a great choice for gamers seeking a rugged and portable monitor for on-the-go gaming.
Cons: Unlike some portable monitors, this one doesn’t exactly make it easy to tweak its settings, so sometimes seemingly simple operations like increasing the volume of its speakers can be a chore. Speaking of speakers, this product’s sound is definitely one of its major weak points.
Bottom Line: While this is an excellent (and affordable) portable gaming monitor, it’s also a great buy for those who want a second display to browse the web or watch videos on. That being said, it’s not without its weak points, so those seeking stellar sound should look elsewhere.
Lenovo ThinkVision M14
This monitor boasts a 14-inch screen that impresses in terms of brightness and color rendering.
Pros: The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 is a full HD portable monitor, but what sets it apart is its 300 cd/m2 brightness and near 100% sRGB color coverage, which provides exceptional image quality and superior brightness when compared to many portable laptop monitors. This product is 4.4 millimeters thick and weighs 1.31 pounds, making it one of the sleeker options available at its price point. It also comes equipped with two USB-C ports, so it can connect to most newer laptops, including the MacBook Pro.
Cons: This portable monitor lacks a mini-HDMI port, so it probably won’t be able to connect to your preferred video game console. Also, it’s a little bit more expensive than comparable monitors out there, which may leave some wondering how much they’re paying for the Lenovo branding.
Bottom Line: Thanks to its sleek display and reliable build quality, this slim portable monitor from Lenovo has a lot to offer. It really excels in regards to the little things, so you may find that its stand, USB-C ports, and general build quality are better suited for everyday use than other budget-minded portable displays.
ASUS ZenScreen MB16ACV
This convenient monitor effortlessly switches between landscape and portrait mode based on its positioning.
Pros: Featuring a unique kickstand design that allows you to quickly change your monitor’s orientation between landscape and portrait mode, the ASUS ZenScreen MB16ACV automatically senses its orientation to simplify life for the user. This portable monitor also stands out for its display, which is incredibly easy on the eyes thanks to its anti-glare design and effective blue light filter. Factor in this monitor’s ionic silver antibacterial treatment and tripod-mountable design and you have a premium monitor that’s surprisingly affordable given all that it brings to the table.
Cons: Although using this monitor’s built-in kickstand is incredibly simple, it’s probably not the most rugged portable monitor stand on the market. Additionally, while the MB16ACV’s one USB-C port keeps things simple, it isn’t ideal for gamers since it won’t accommodate any modern consoles.
Bottom Line: While this isn’t the most versatile portable monitor you will find, it’s still a great pick for business-oriented users who are looking for something easy to use. As such, if you’re enticed by the prospect of a portable monitor that offers similar functionality to a tablet (save for the touch screen, of course), this product is your best choice at its price point.
EVICIV Raspberry Pi Touch Screen Monitor
This is a small Raspberry Pi-compatible monitor with a sensitive touchscreen for easy scrolling and selecting.
Pros: If you’re on a tight budget, are in the market for a smaller second monitor, or are looking for a monitor with a touchscreen, this portable model checks all those boxes. The HD touchscreen is highly sensitive, allowing you to swipe and scroll and zoom with ease. However, it’s unique in that it’s designed for use with your Raspberry Pi, which allows you to get creative with how you use, power, and customize your device. Despite this, it’s compatible with most devices and media players, from PCs to Macs to Xbox to Switch and much, much more.
Cons: Although this product is very highly rated, there may be screen burn-in, which is never a good thing, even for monitors at this price point.
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for an affordable touch screen monitor to play around with your Raspberry Pi, then this is the perfect product for your next project. That being said, don’t expect it to sport the performance or longevity of a $300 portable monitor.
Whether you require a secondary display to boost your productivity, or just need a reliable screen for mobile gaming, investing in a portable monitor is a great choice. However, not every model is as versatile as you’d think. For this reason, it’s imperative to do your research in order to end up with a product that exceeds your needs.