Best portable monitor: 5 pixel-packed panels to extend your laptop's display

Second screens for movers and shakers

More people are doing more with their computers these days, and that means a greater number of applications are in use at any one time, whether at home or at work.

Whether you’re a writer, graphic artist, coder or call center assistant, having a second display can give you more breathing space on the desktop to spread apps out and use them as they were intended.

Obviously, it’s easier to get hold of multiple monitors back at home or in the office, but what about when you’re out and about? Responding to demand, monitor makers have put out thin and light models that are just as responsive as their full-sized cousins while being slim enough to slip into a backpack.

We’ve picked out some of the best portable monitors, which use the latest in display technology, so that you don’t have to.

1. Packed Pixels

Retina wingmirrors for your laptop

Pixel-resolution: 2,048 x 1,536

Highly portable
'Retina' resolution
Completely lag-free
Text is tiny at higher resolutions
No USB-C option

Packed Pixels is a wingmirror-style monitor that can be fixed to the left and right sides of your laptop’s screen to give you two extra displays. While they can be used at their native 2,048 x 1,536 resolution for maximum screen real-estate, these 9.7-inch panels are best used in ‘Retina’ mode and with a single app maximised to fill the space in each.

Essentially, it’s like bolting an iPad Air 2 onto your laptop, and any app that you drag onto it – from Atom to Microsoft Word and Google Docs, Slack and Skype (you get the idea) – is rendered in crisp detail.

Because Packed Pixels uses DisplayPort (for video - USB-C also works using a converter) and a USB connection (for power), it’s completely free of any noticeable lag and serves up a buttery smooth experience. Slim, light, bright and supremely portable, it also comes with a soft carrying case for transportation.

2. Asus MB169C+

The first USB-C portable monitor impresses

Pixel-resolution: 1,920 x 1,080

Thin and light
Good viewing angles and picture
Uses single USB-C
Slightly too dim
Fiddly menu control wheel

The Asus MB169C+ isn’t quite as portable as Packed Pixels, but its 15.6-inch size makes using it feel more like using a regular monitor. It has a healthy pixel-resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, which is perfect for streaming full HD video, working with two applications side-by-side and even gaming if you have a sufficiently powerful laptop.

The MB169C+ is incredibly simple to use thanks to its USB-C connection, which uses a single cable to transmit video, sound and power. It also comes in a handy protective sleeve that doubles up as a carrying case. Asus’ portable monitor uses an in-plane switching (IPS) display, which brings decent viewing angles making it perfect for watching video with a friend.

3. Gechic 1101P

A great portable monitor for photographers

Pixel-resolution: 1,920 x 1,080

Great picture
Mounts to cameras/tripods
Well-connected
Bland design

Aimed at photographers who need a monitor to take on shoots, the Gechic 1101P features an IPS display like the Asus MB169C+. However, this one is smaller at 11.6 inches and more portable, allowing to be easily attached to a tripod or SLR camera while out in the field.

This full HD display supports 16.7 million colors which can easily be tweaked using the monitor’s onboard color temperature settings, allowing you to get it as close to your camera’s display as possible

The 1101P is also well-connected, featuring support for VGA, micro HDMI and mini DisplayPort. These make it suitable for a number of different use cases – from previewing photos and videos shot on a camera to being used as a normal portable monitor with your laptop.

4. Asus MB168B+

1080p goodness over regular USB-A

Pixel-resolution: 1,920 x 1,080

Thin and light
Good viewing angles and picture
Can hook up several of them
Needs USB 3.0 for full benefit

If you like the sound of the Asus MB169C+ but don’t have a laptop with a USB-C connection, then the Asus MB169B+ is what you need.

This one also connects to your laptop with a single cable, except it uses a regular USB-A port instead. It works with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, though you’ll experience noticeably more latency with the former due to its slower data transfer rate.

Still, it features the same alluring slim and lightweight design. Thanks to Asus EzLink tech, which offloads the graphics processing from the PC to dedicated hardware in the monitor, you can even hook up five of them if your laptop has enough USB ports.

5. AOC E1759FWU

A bigger portable monitor for streaming video

Pixel-resolution: 1,600 x 900

Large screen size
Built-in kickstand
Affordable
Not full HD
Average viewing angles

This portable monitor from AOC isn’t going to beat either of the Asus models on our list due to its comparatively lower pixel-resolution of 1,600 x 900.

However, its lower resolution means that it’s going to be less taxing on your laptop’s battery life. Taking that into account, and the fact that it’s the largest portable monitor on our list at 17.3 inches, and the E1759Fwu suddenly becomes an interesting option if you’re into streaming video on the move.

And, because it’s a few years old, you’ll pick it up for much less than competing portable monitors. With its thin and light dimensions and glossy black frame, it doesn’t exactly look archaic – it just isn’t as multi-talented as newer and flashier alternatives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.