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HomeLifestyleThe 5 best portable monitors of 2024, tested and reviewed

The 5 best portable monitors of 2024, tested and reviewed

If one is good, two are better. That’s true of friends, cookies and monitors, though you’d be forgiven for scratching your head over that last one. Why a second screen? For extra productivity, natch. The best portable monitors provide extra space for your spreadsheets, presentations, YouTube videos and more. And because they’re thin and light enough to go where you go, feel free to work poolside or at the airport or wherever you want to set up shop. Below I’ve rounded up five of the top portable monitors you can buy right now — starting below $100, believe it or not.

Quick Overview

Stick around after the reviews to learn how I tested these things, what you should look for when choosing a movable monitor and answers to frequently asked questions. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Yes, these work with game consoles, too. Read on to learn more.

MNN

Size: 15.6″ | Native resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: No | Ports: 2 USB-C, 1 mini-HDMI | Weight: 2.1 pounds | Warranty: 2 years

You’ve never heard of MNN, but the company makes a great first impression — and a fine budget monitor. Inside the box, illustrated quick-start guides and instruction manuals help you with the various connection options, while the three bundled cables come in clearly marked bags. (Interestingly, although there’s no DP port adapter in the box, MNN will send you one for free if you request it via MNN’s support email.) There’s even a removable screen overlay with port diagrams, warranty info and support contact info. Color me impressed.

I’m less impressed, though, by the monitor’s color reproduction. Compared with the laptops it sat next to, colors seemed muted and the text a bit soft. Granted, I’m spoiled by the premium, high-resolution screens built into both these machines, but there was a clear difference in color quality.

If you’re just working on documents or browsing the web, you may not care about — or even notice — that difference. It certainly doesn’t diminish the monitor’s usability. Speaking of which, I like the little trackwheel that’s built into the side; it makes for easier menu navigation than the control buttons used by most.

MNN’s magnetic cover allows for two different landscape viewing angles and protects the screen during travel, but there’s nothing “smart” about it, despite MNN’s claims to the contrary. In fact, it’s completely incompatible if you rotate the monitor 90 degrees for portrait viewing. For that you’ll need to purchase some kind of stand.

Let’s remember, though, that we’re talking about a $100 monitor, by far the most affordable in the group. Minor flaws aside, it definitely gets the job done.

Pros

  • Low price
  • Thorough printed documentation
  • Supports portrait mode
  • Intuitive wheel-based menu system
Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Muted colors
  • Portrait mode requires a separate stand

$90 at Amazon

ViewSonic

Size: 15.6″ | Native resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: Yes | Ports: 2 USB-C, 1 mini-HDMI | Weight: 2 pounds | Warranty: 3 years

The highly versatile ViewSonic TD1655 adds one key feature that many users covet: touch. You can tap, pinch, swipe and all that, same as on your phone and tablet. Plus, ViewSonic supplies a stylus in case you want to draw or take notes.

ViewSonic does not, however, make setup easy, because the included quick-start guide is woefully incomplete. When I first plugged the TD1655 into my VAIO, nothing happened; all other monitors immediately came to life. Suspecting that perhaps the USB-C port wasn’t supplying the necessary 10 watts of power, I switched over to the MacBook. Same result, even though the system had clearly detected the presence of a second monitor. Turns out there’s a small power button/control stick on the back of the monitor — but this isn’t shown anywhere in the setup guide.

Similarly, there’s no mention of the software required for Mac users; without it, the screen doesn’t respond to touch.

Those annoyances aside, this is a superb monitor, with a bright, colorful Full HD display and robust kickstand that works for both landscape and portrait orientation. It has dual built-in speakers and a headphone jack, making it a good choice for casual gamers.

I do wish ViewSonic had opted for a matte finish, though; the glossy screen suffers from glare and fingerprints. Something like this inexpensive anti-glare screen protector would make a good addition.

Pros

  • Bright and colorful touchscreen display
  • Built-in stand supports both landscape and portrait viewing
  • Stylus included
  • Long warranty
Cons

  • On the heavy side
  • Poor printed documentation
  • Non-matte screen shows glare, fingerprints

$270 at Adorama

ViewSonic

Size: 15.6″ | Native resolution: 4K | Touchscreen: No | Ports: 2 USB-C, 1 mini-HDMI | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Warranty: 3 years

If your laptop runs at 4K resolution (looking at you, MacBook Pro), it makes sense to choose a portable monitor that matches. The ViewSonic VX1655 matches, making this thin, lightweight OLED display an ideal companion.

That OLED technology is responsible for the monitor’s exceptionally vivid colors and dark blacks, but take note that these screens can suffer from “burn-in,” which is what happens if a static image stays lit for too long. (Think: the Windows toolbar at the bottom.) This probably won’t affect most users, but it’s something to keep in mind. And ViewSonic’s otherwise generous three-year warranty doesn’t cover that issue.

I like the overall design of the VX1655-4K, including the removable travel cover and built-in stand that’s home to the various ports. I also like the mini joystick controller for navigating onscreen menus; it works really well, though I wish ViewSonic had mounted it somewhere else. Because it’s integrated into the stand, it’s hard to reach.

Another note for ViewSonic: Your printed documentation is dismal. Anyone unfamiliar with portable-monitor setup or operation will find zero help in your quick-start guide, which has a couple of illustrations and nothing more.

Thankfully, there’s nothing complicated about using this. On the whole it’s an absolute peach for anyone seeking a colorful 4K second monitor.

Pros

  • Sharp, colorful OLED display
  • Built-in stand
  • Can double as USB hub
  • Long warranty
Cons

  • Poor printed documentation
  • Risk of image burn-in
  • Stand not great for portrait viewing
  • Awkwardly placed menu control stick

$500 at Adorama

SideTrak

Size: 13.3″ | Native resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: No | Ports: 2 USB-C | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Warranty: 1 year

The SideTrak Swivel Pro physically attaches to your laptop instead of sitting alongside it. That makes it easier to transport and potentially easier to use, as it doesn’t require any surface area on a desk or table. The cleverly designed hinge allows the screen to rotate 270 degrees and pivot a full 360.

The downside is that you have to affix a semipermanent metal plate to the backside of your laptop screen. If it’s a work machine, your IT department might frown on that. The good news is that SideTrak provides two of these mounting plates, meaning you can easily move the Swivel Pro between machines — work and personal, for example — if needed.

You also have the option of popping the screen off the mount and using its integrated kickstand, nice if you want to, say, point that second screen toward someone else. But although the stand can hold the screen upright, in portrait mode, the Swivel Pro doesn’t natively support that viewing option; you have to manually set it in MacOS or Windows.

That gripe aside, this is a superb monitor: bright, colorful and glare-free. Given its relatively high price, however, I do wish SideTrak offered a longer warranty.

Pros

  • Versatile piggyback design
  • Vibrant color
Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires semipermanent mounting plate
  • No cover or carrying case
  • Short warranty

$550 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

Size: 10.1″ | Native resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 | Touchscreen: No | Ports: 2 USB-C, 1 mini-HDMI (per screen) | Weight: 2 pounds | Warranty: 1 year

If two screens are better than one, three must be the best option of all. That’s what you get from Xebec’s Tri-Screen 2, an innovative accessory that adds high-resolution 10-inch monitors to either side of your primary display. It’s a little heavy and a little cumbersome, but there’s really nothing else quite like it.

The design is surprisingly simple: The entire apparatus hangs atop your laptop screen, no magnets or sticky-pads required. Then you just slide out one or both screens. Needless to say, this makes the system fairly top-heavy, but a simple kickstand keeps it from toppling over. The only downside is that your laptop is no longer lap-friendly; it needs a desk or other hard surface.

Each screen can plug directly into a USB-C port (if your machine has that many), and each has a pass-through USB-C so you’re effectively net-zero on overall port use. However, they’re all down-facing and therefore hard to access.

My VAIO laptop had only one USB-C port, so I had to rely on Xebec’s Tri-Screen 2 Adapter ($50), which enables a USB Type-A port to supply power and video to one of the displays. This makes for a somewhat clunkier setup, but it works.

The screens are admirably sharp (owing to their impressively high native resolution), but even with their brightness settings cranked to maximum, they’re pretty dim alongside the MacBook and VAIO. It’s not a deal-breaker but definitely noticeable.

The real question is whether you’ll be happy with 10-inch screens. For certain applications (widgets, photos, stock tickers, etc.) they’re fine, but I struggled to use one for the likes of word processing. Even so, anyone needing multiple screens on the go is likely to find this a welcome accessory.

Pros

  • Effectively triples your workspace
  • Good printed instructions
  • Easy plug-and-play operation
  • Pass-through USB-C ports
Cons

  • Smaller screens a bit less practical
  • Not super bright
  • Down-facing ports hard to access

$450 at Amazon

Not sure what features are important in a portable monitor? Start with these:

  • Size: Bigger is almost always better, but of course the larger the screen, the more it weighs, the more space it takes in your bag and the more power it consumes.

  • Native resolution: This is fairly important, because ideally you want your second screen to match the resolution of the primary one. If your laptop runs at, say, 2,560 x 1,600 and you connect a portable monitor that tops out at 1,920 x 1080 (aka 1080p), that’s a mismatch; whatever app or window you display on the latter will be a different size and scale. This isn’t a deal-breaker — you can resize windows as needed — just something to note.

  • Touchscreen: Touchscreen monitors tend to be a bit larger and more expensive than their non-touchscreen counterparts. It’s a nice option to have if you want mouse-free scrolling and the like, but as with phones and tablets, all that touching leaves fingerprints.

  • Ports: Most portable monitors connect to a laptop via USB-C or HDMI. Pay attention not only to the number and type of ports (making sure they match up with what’s available on your machine) but also the location: Ideally it will have USB-C ports on both sides, making it easier to position on either side of your laptop.

  • Speakers: A monitor with built-in speakers might offer a slight audio improvement over your laptop’s speakers, but they’re especially important to have if you’re connecting the monitor to a phone or game console.

  • Stand: Unless it attaches to your laptop (like the SideTrak and Xebec models), a monitor needs a stand — ideally one that allows for both landscape and portrait viewing (assuming the monitor supports the latter). Not many models here excelled in that department; in some cases switching to portrait mode may require you to supply a stand of your own.

  • Warranty: Traveling with a portable monitor means a lot of plugging and unplugging, stowing and unstowing, and just general bumping around. Although many products come with only one year of warranty coverage, a few include two or even three years.

I’ve been in the tech-reviewing game for over 30 years. Laptops, printers, tablets, headphones, power stations — I’ve tested more products than I can count, and I can count pretty high. Remember Commodore Amigas? Yeah, I wrote about those. The PalmPilot PDA? Did a whole series of books. What has two thumbs and knows a thing or two about monitors? (Picture me pointing said thumbs at myself.) This guy.

What’s to test, right? You plug it in, it works, all good. That’s true to a degree, but there are plenty of variables to consider in making your purchase decision — the factors I considered are all listed above.

My two laptops: an Apple MacBook Pro and a VAIO FE14. For purposes of testing, I checked each monitor’s image quality and brightness, stand versatility, port selection and overall portability. Bonus points for an extended warranty (more than one year) and a decent printed instruction guide. This being a list of the best, there’s not a bad option in the bunch, though be sure to check the individual reviews for any especially notable pros or cons.

Overall, the two are very similar but the situations in which you’d likely use them will be different. Portable monitors are often much smaller in overall screen size than a regular monitor, because most people aren’t going to be lugging around a 32-inch monitor to set up while out and about. Both connect to your computer (either laptop or desktop) and let you see more information at once.

Regular monitors need to be connected to a standard outlet for power while some portable monitors can be powered from just the computer they are connected to.

Yes, but there are two different ways to power a portable monitor. Some portable monitors can be powered directly from the laptop they are connected to while others will require you to use a separate power source. While convenient, powering the portable monitor from your laptop could lead to an increase in power consumption, which will mean you’ll see worse battery life. Be sure to read the description for the model that you’re interested in to ensure it will work in the conditions you plan to use the monitor.

In most cases, yes. The biggest determining factor for this is going to be the ports that are available on the computer you are trying to use it with. Since you need to connect the computer to the portable monitor, there will need to be a compatible (and available) port. Most current portable monitors connect via USB-C, and most current laptops and even desktops have a few USB-C ports.

While I suspect most users will pair a portable monitor with a laptop or desktop PC for work purposes, you can also connect one to a game console: Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. Note that this kind of setup may require an additional cable or adapter not included with the monitor. And be sure to choose a model with built-in speakers. Otherwise you’ll have no choice but to use headphones.

Similarly, these screens can plug into most Android phones and iPhones, though the latter (all models prior to the iPhone 15) require a Lightning-to-HDMI adapter like this one. This could make a nice option for playing games or watching movies on the go when you want a screen larger than your phone’s but don’t have access to a TV.

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