Which portable monitors for laptops are best?
In general, laptops are more powerful and more affordable than ever, but even the biggest ones can’t provide the same amount of workspace as a desktop PC. To combat this and expand your portable desktop space, there are plenty of portable monitors available. While they don’t always offer ultra-premium visual fidelity, they’re more than capable of increasing productivity by helping you keep your work organized on screen.
If you’re in the market for a portable monitor for your laptop, know that the UPerfect Freestanding is one of the best and most novel choices out there. It stands apart from the rest thanks to a 110-degree hinge and a rotating bracket that allows for use in portrait mode.
What to know before you buy a portable monitor for a laptop
While portable, large ones are pretty heavy
LCD screens tend to have a bit of heft, and portable monitors are no different. There are some great 17-inch portable monitors, but once you get into that size class they’re all pretty heavy. For that reason, it’s recommended that most users stick with a 14” or 15.6” model.
Beware of no-name brands
Granted, the field of portable laptop monitors is not occupied by all the heavy-hitters who normally manufacture PC monitors and 4K TVs. That said, however, there are some brands that have released, refined and rereleased several lineups of portable monitors for laptops. These are the brands you should try to stick with, if at all possible. Like when buying any kind of electronics, be wary of brands whose names are impossible to pronounce and whose products don’t have any real-world reviews, testing or bench marks.
Avoid portable monitors meant to clip onto your laptop’s body
There’s one specific type of portable monitor that certainly looks extremely convenient, yet in the real world is both clumsy and likely bad for your laptop. There aren’t many, but you should still make a point to avoid any portable monitors that clip to your laptop itself. A quality portable monitor should support itself with a hinge that’s sturdy and relatively easy to adjust.
What to look for in a quality portable monitor for a laptop
Nearly all portable monitors have a common video input in the form of a Micro HDMI port. These days, though, just about all new laptops offer USB-C connectivity with one or more types of USB-C Alt mode video output formats. All laptops with Thunderbolt 3 or 4 connectivity should work perfectly with portable monitors, even if they have touch screens.
Charging port and optional batteries
Avoid any portable monitors that use an old-school DC barrel plug for power. Instead, make sure you get a recently released model that supports USB-C Power Delivery. It’s rare to find a monitor that can be powered directly from a laptop, though, so keep in mind that you’ll probably need a spare USB-C PD port to power a portable monitor. Beyond that, some portable monitors do feature internal batteries, but the selection is somewhat limited.
The vast majority of portable monitors sport a 1080p resolution. You can find some inexpensive models with lower resolutions right around 720p, but those are almost all relatively old and may not have the compatibility and overall quality of more recent and refined options.
On the other side of the coin, under basically no circumstances should you go out of your way to purchase a portable 4K monitor. It’s just about impossible to tell the difference between Full HD and Ultra HD on a portable monitor, and 4K resolutions can mess up scaling in a number of applications in both Windows and macOS.
How much you can expect to spend on a portable monitor for a laptop
The cheapest portable monitors for laptops cost about $150 while many of the best top out in the $350 range. If you really want, you can spend several hundred on something with high-end features like 100% sRGB coverage or an OLED panel, but few users will need either of those.
Portable monitor for a laptop FAQ
Do portable monitors for laptops have any gaming features?
A. There are some portable monitors with express support for advanced graphics. If a gaming laptop is powerful enough to deliver 240 FPS at 1080p, it probably already has a decent screen built into it. For that reason, it’s often not the best idea to look for gaming-oriented portable monitors because they tend to cost a premium.
Do the new MacBooks support portable monitors?
A. For the most part, yes, but it depends more on the monitor than the MacBook. There was a time when USB video connection standards were a mess and it was anybody’s guess how well different laptops would support external displays, but the industry has done a good job of pushing through that and to achieve wide-ranging compatibility. The top portable monitors we recommend for laptops are all compatible with MacBooks, although bear in mind that at least the first generation of Apple’s M1 laptop does not support more than one external monitor at a time.
What are the best portable monitors for a laptop to buy?
Top portable monitor for a laptop
What you need to know: This full HD model offers multiple ergonomic adjustments that make it one of the most useful portable monitors on the market.
What you’ll love: It sports five-point touch capability plus USB-C and Micro HDMI connectors in addition to a separate USB-C Power Delivery port. It’s compatible with a variety of operating systems and the dependable kickstand and hinge have a range of 110 degrees to get the right viewing angle for your setup. You can even rotate the screen to portrait mode for increased productivity as a secondary monitor.
What you should consider: It’s not exactly cheap, but otherwise, there’s little to dislike about this one.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top portable laptop monitor for the money
What you need to know: This especially sturdy option is the right choice if you don’t always have a clean and perfectly flat space to work on.
What you’ll love: Digital nomads and other travelers will appreciate this one because it’s durable, reliable and outfitted with an extremely sturdy hinge. That hinge, by the way, opens up nearly all the way so you can set this highly portable monitor at the perfect angle for your needs.
What you should consider: It doesn’t get particularly bright or cover a very wide color gamut.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Boasting impressive color specifications, it looks even better than many desktop monitors.
What you’ll love: This high-end option offers an impressive 500 nits of peak brightness as well as near-total coverage of the Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 color spaces. It does this by leveraging quantum dot filtration, a feature normally reserved for high-end 4K TVs. Plus, at under .2 inches and 1.4 pounds, it’s as slim and light as any portable monitor on the market.
What you should consider: There’s no touch screen and it doesn’t have an internal battery.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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