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Having access to a second work monitor is a godsend. It provides a quick and easy way to divvy up your workflow tools, allowing you to spread documents, applications, and other programs between two screens. But what if your job duties or hobbyist exercises find you primarily on-the-go? You can’t exactly carry along a second monitor with you. Or can you?
That’s where a portable monitor comes into play. Designed for sleekness, simplicity, and durability, portable monitors utilize HDMI, USB-C, and other common audio/video connections to interface with whatever mobile devices you’re using to provide you with an excellent second-screen experience.
How We Choose the Best Portable Monitors
A quick web search for portable monitors is going to pull up hundreds of results. With a myriad of options to select from, how does one know what criteria to pay attention to when numerous products are scoring four-star reviews?
At Spy.com, reviewer feedback is always a major consideration when vetting through the devices for inclusion in any of our roundups. But when it comes to portable monitors, these are some of the important points we keep in mind when picking and choosing:
- Design and Screen Size: When we think of portable displays, easy-folding bases that allow you to toss the monitor into a travel bag at a moment’s notice are often a must-have. But while most folks looking for a second monitor are going to want a display that is sleek and simple to manage, screen size is another integral factor. While not every user is going to need a gargantuan display, bigger screens are better for things like presentations and video games. On the flip side, we also need to consider the user that might be plugging away at assignments in environments with limited space — locations where a smaller monitor may be more convenient.
- Types of Connections: Portable monitors need to be able to interface with whatever major hardware you’re running. For most of us, these are other portable devices like laptops, tablets, and phones. In order to receive our true seal of approval, we want our chosen portable monitors to support as many connection types as possible. HDMI and USB ports are a great start, but we also care about the type of USB connections being used. USB-C is most ideal, delivering better image quality, frame rate, and charge times when compared to the older USB-A standard.
- Display Quality: A secondary monitor doesn’t have to lag behind the image fidelity of your primary display. In fact, we place a great emphasis on choosing portable monitors with great color and contrast balance, impressive brightness levels, and top-notch resolution. While not every user is going to require a cutting-edge 4K screen, there are a number of on-the-go trades, like graphic design, that would make excellent use of a crystal-clear secondary display.
1. Lenovo ThinkVision M14 14-Inch Portable Monitor
BEST PORTABLE MONITOR OVERALL
When it comes to a display that can function as an all-around workhorse, you need not look any further than the Lenovo ThinkVision M14, which is our pick as the best portable display. Able to connect to any device with a USB-C output, this 14-inch 1080p screen doesn’t require a separate power adapter, which offers tons of flexibility in where you set it up. Plus, at 1.3 pounds and 4.4 mm at its thinnest point, the ThinkVision M14 is light and thin, and the adjustable base can fold up so that you can quickly stash it away or easily toss it in a bag and take it with you wherever you go.
2. Dell C1422H 14-Inch Portable Monitor
Thin, lightweight, and flexible, the Dell C1422H is exactly what many mobile monitor-users are looking for. The IPS panel allows the screen to look its best from multiple angles, and the onboard ComfortView technology helps to reduce blue-light emissions. We also love that the included tilt stand can be adjusted from 10 to 90 degrees, depending on what kind of work you’re doing. And while the Dell C1422H doesn’t come with a built-in battery, the monitor’s USB-C connection delivers a lightning-fast handshake between the screen and your primary machine, a connection optimized for power and display purposes.
3. Asus ZenScreen Touch 15.6-Inch Portable Monitor
BEST PORTABLE TOUCHSCREEN MONITOR
If you’re looking for one of the best portable monitors that you can use in more unconventional ways, the Asus ZenScreen Touch is right up your alley. Another 1080p display, the ZenScreen Touch not only has a bigger 15.6-inch display with 20-point multi touch capabilities, but it also has a built-in battery, so that it doesn’t leech off the device it’s connected to via USB-C. At 2 pounds and 0.3-inches thick, the ZenScreen touch is a little less portable than our other top picks, but for those who are often having to show video or PowerPoint presentations, this touch-enabled monitor could make your life exponentially easier.
4. UPERFECT 15.6-Inch Portable Monitor
BEST COLOR ACCURACY
If color accuracy is what you’re after, then the UPERFECT 15.6-Inch portable monitor is a great choice, thanks to the fact that it can cover 99% of the Adobe RGB color gamut and 100% of the DCI-P3 gamut. Even better, this 15.6-inch, 1080p display is rated for 500 nits of brightness, which is great for graphic designers and video editors who are working off of their dining room table and want something that can show off the finest details and most vibrant colors. Plus, if you want to use this for more entertainment-focused endeavors, it also comes with HDR support for less than $200.
5. Acer PM161Q 15.6-Inch Portable Monitor
BEST BUDGET PICK
The Acer PM161Q portable monitor is one of the heavier and thicker screens at 2.1 pounds and 0.79 inches, but it is one of the more affordable name-brand options here while still offering 1080p resolution, an adjustable stand and 220 nits of brightness. While it may not be flush with superlative qualities, it still has all the essential features you need and stands up with the best portable monitors, which is just fine if you’re only working with things like Google Chrome or Microsoft Office.
6. ASUS ROG Strix 17.3-Inch Portable Gaming Monitor
BEST FOR GAMING
Gamers need a monitor with crisp visuals, fast frame response, and support for multiple connection types. Oh, and a large screen doesn’t hurt either. The button-mashers of our readership get all of this and more with the ASUS ROG Strix 17.3 Inch Portable Gaming Monitor.
While there’s a smaller and less expensive size available (15.6 inches), we opted for the 17.3 inch model because it supports a faster refresh rate of 240Hz, compared to 144Hz on the 15.6. The monitor also includes an IPS-rated panel that displays a max resolution of 1920x1080p. When you add in the 7800mAh three-hour battery, micro HDMI and USB-C connections, and adaptive syncing that optimizes the display based on the game you’re playing, it becomes clear why we’re such big fans of the ASUS ROG Strix.
7. Apple iPad Air
It may sound like overkill to recommend a tablet that costs $600 here, but if you’re a creative, or just want killer image quality, this might be the best portable monitor solution as long as you’re cool with a smaller screen. Thanks to the Sidecar feature in iPadOS and Mac OS, the iPad Air’s 10.9-inch display effortlessly transforms into a second monitor, offering that liquid retina resolution and wide color gamut that Apple has prided itself on for years. At 1 pound and 0.24 inches, it’s as thin and light as any portable monitor you’ll find, and it’s even rated for 500 nits of brightness.
With the Apple Pencil in hand you can also load up Adobe Creative Cloud on your laptop and edit photos or create illustrations directly on the iPad screen. Plus when you’re not using this as a second screen, it obviously stands on its own as the best tablet, and one of the best hybrid laptops around. The only caveat? You have to be a Mac user to take advantage of this.
8. Wacom Cintiq 16 15.6-Inch Drawing Tablet
BEST FOR CREATIVES
If you’re a graphic designer who uses Windows and needs a second screen for drawing, the 15.6-inch Wacom Cintiq 16 is the way to go. Wacom is one of the best in the business when it comes to interactive, pen-based displays, and thanks to the Pro Pen 2’s 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and the Cintiq 16’s 1080p display, you should be churning out masterpieces in Photoshop in no time. The only downside is that the screen only covers 72% of the NTSC color gamut, which may not be ideal for more advanced graphic designers.
9. SideTrak Portable 12.5-inch USB Monitor
MOST INNOVATIVE PICK
A portable monitor that attaches to your laptop is great in space-challenged home offices. One which can then slide into the same profile as your laptop lid and pull a vanishing act? Yeah, sign us up for the SideTrak. At 12.5 inches the SideTrak isn’t as large as most of its competitors, but if you’re drawn to the awesome slide-and-disappear trick, you’re probably looking for something on the smaller side.
It fits with equal aplomb on Mac and PC laptops from 13 to 17 inches, and the screen can rotate 180 degrees horizontally to face away from the back of your laptop for effortless screen sharing. The 1920 x 1080 resolution is great, and it connects to your laptop via USB-C or USB-A (via adaptor) connection, where it also draws its power from. Honestly, we’d forgive lesser monitors than the SideTrak just to get the disappearing act, but there’s no sacrifice needed with this one.
10. UPERFECT Touchscreen 15.6 Inch Monitor
BEST 4K PICK
And here’s your Rolls-Royce option — the UPERFECT comes with a hefty price tag, but lives up to every penny of it. How’s this for the total package: A crystal-clear 4K picture, frameless bezel glass to make the 15.6-inch picture look even bigger, responsive touchscreen, two USB-C jacks, a 1000:1 contrast ratio and 16.7 million color brilliance, and dual 2W speakers for great audio.
Even if you were initially thinking of a portable monitor as a temporary pandemic-busting solution, the UPERFECT will quickly have you thinking of all the ways you’ll use it even after you’re back to the office. Phone, gaming system, tablet, laptop — they’re all hugely enhanced when paired with the UPERFECT. The only shortcoming we could find was that the touchscreen will not work with a MacOS above Mojave. Beyond that, this is the gold standard of portable monitors.