So you’re looking for a portable monitor for your laptop but you’re not sure where to start. In this article, I’ll cover what I consider to be the best portable monitors for laptops and then cover some helpful suggestions for dual-screen laptop setups.
Can You Use a Portable Monitor with a Laptop?
Yes, since both portable monitors and laptops have HDMI ports, it’s easy to use a portable monitor with a laptop. For Macbooks, you might need a USB-C adapter with video support or a portable monitor with USB-C compatibility.
Here’s the thing:
The average laptop user probably won’t see the point of using a portable monitor with a laptop. They’re only interested in browsing the internet, watching movies, and doing basic office work. If you’re asking yourself why someone would need a portable monitor on their laptop, this article is probably not for you.
Work & Travel:
However, for some people, particularly people who need to work from their laptops (which is more and more people), a second monitor can make a massive difference in work productivity. Of course, if you do most of your work at home, it would make sense to invest in a normal stationary monitor, and use that as your secondary display.
But if you’re planning to do a little trip or you simply want a change of scenery, a portable monitor can come in handy. On the fence? Here’s a quick list of some uses for a portable monitor. In a nutshell, it’s perfect for traveling!
What makes a portable monitor perfect for laptops is you can find one that’s the same size as your laptop and slide them both into a backpack. It’s also perfect for people who want to try the remote lifestyle, working from a laptop while traveling in Airbnbs or whatnot.
I happen to fall into the latter category, and I know my work would suffer greatly without that extra screen real estate. And if you’re still on this page then you’re probably in the same boat.
What’s With the Prices?
You might have seen portable monitors in stores and recoiled in horror after looking at the price tags. Why pay that much for a screen when you can buy a tablet or even a computer for that price?
As it turns out, there are actually plenty of affordable portable monitors. Yes, I considered the price when making my list. I won’t be recommending anything that’s not within a reasonable budget range.
So, to expand on that, we’re not going to be looking at 4K, ultra HD, high Hz rate gaming portable monitors today because those are usually crazy expensive, like in the range of $500 or more. The portable monitors below are mainly for office work, people who need the second screen for research and whatnot, in other words, affordable devices.
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Anyways, enough about that.
Best Portable Monitors for Laptops:
1 – ASUS MB169B 15.6-Inch ⭐
- 1920×1080 with IPS
- Powered by USB-C (1x USB-C)
- Auto Rotate (Portrait, Landscape)
Price Range: $170 – $200
Asus has a lot of decent portable monitors, and the MB169B is one of their best-sellers. The resolution is very crisp at 1080P and the response time seems decent too, although it’s definitely not a gaming monitor. It’s also not touchscreen.
It’s a nice ultra-slim portable monitor that’s powered by USB-C, no power cable required. While it says it’s backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0, it seems like most people struggle to get it working with the basic ports. What you want is a laptop that has a USB-C port.
Regardless, the most notable feature of this MB169B is the size, it weighs 1.7 lbs, and it’s about as thick as a tablet. It comes with a nice adjustable case that can also be used as a stand, similar to the Ipad cases. Overall, a little pricey, but good value.
- 1920×1080 Resolution
- 2 x Mini HDMI
- Metal Rack
Price Range $100 – 170
Now, there are a few features on this portable monitor that immediately stand out. For one, it has two mini HDMI ports, one micro USB, and a power port.
If you’re thinking “Hey, wait a second! My laptop doesn’t have mini HDMI port!” then hold on a second. While this monitor does only have mini HDMI, it also includes an HDMI to mini HDMI adapter, which basically converts the physical connectors. With the adapter, everything works the same, and it can work with pretty much any HDMI compatible device.
Other than that, the screen’s quality is decent, with bright colors, and the resolution is 1920×1080 – nice and clear. It does not have a battery but it does have built-in speakers for games and whatnot. A metal rack is included too. A pretty decent portable monitor!
- 1920×1080 Resolution
- 1 x Mini HDMI
- 1 x Type C Data
- 1 x Type C Power
- 1 x Micro USB
Price Range: $100 – $200
The ZSCMALLS is a cheaper version of a more expensive ASUS monitor that I’ll mention later, but it works about the same. The screen is 15.6″ which is impressive for portable monitors, and it’s super lightweight (2.46 lbs) so you can slide it into a backpack with your laptop.
What I like about this monitor is it’s not only budget-friendly but it also has USB C video ports. Can you guess what I’m hinting at? Yes, this monitor can be used with Samsung Dex on your S8 or newer Android phone. Attach this monitor to your phone, add a keyboard and mouse, and you can have a really nice laptop-like workspace. Very cool.
- 1366×768 Resolution
- USB 3.0
- Metal Stand Included
Price Range: $100 – $150
This portable monitor is a budget-friendly choice, so it doesn’t have any bells and whistles. While this one is budget-friendly, there are some things you need to know. For starters, it has USB Type A port, the same ports that are on your laptop.
What you need is a Type A to Type A USB cable, and make sure it’s plugged into a USB 3.0 port that supports video as well as data, which not all laptops have. So while some people are happy with this one, you need to make sure it’s compatible with your devices.
- USB-C (One for charging and the other for data)
- Mini HDMI
Price Range: $100 – $150
Here’s a new portable monitor that took my by surprise. For the price, you would expect something a little junky but it actually has a lot of great features. For one, it has multiple connectors, both USB-C and Mini-HDMI. It also has built-in speakers, a separate charging port, and case similar to our Asus model. Definitely worth checking out.
Here’s an alternative I came across, you can use a tablet as a secondary display too, especially with Windows 10. The upside is tablets are cheaper and more functional than portable monitors. The downside is some of secondary display apps are a little slow and laggy.
What’s The Best Way to Connect a Portable Monitor to a Laptop?
HDMI is the best way to connect a portable monitor to a laptop because it’s the most reliable, the response time is good, and the image quality is the best. You can buy cheap HDMI to Mini-HDMI adapters for a couple of dollars too.
Nowadays, there are laptops that support USB-C which can carry over video signals too. USB-C is the future, but laptops and other other devices are still catching up. However, USB-C portable monitors can be a bit dim.
Another point to consider when buying a portable monitor for a laptop is the size. If you’re planning to extend your laptop’s screen, I recommend looking for a monitor that’s similar to the size of your laptop’s. 15.6 inches is a good starting point.
For example, a 15″ monitor to a 15″ laptop screen, and so on. Generally, I recommend getting a second monitor that is equal to or great than your laptop’s screen. Smaller, specifically 13.3″ monitors, are cheaper, and definitely an option, but they can also be a strain on your eyes. Ultimately, it’s up to you.
The best resolution is 1080P because it’s the most affordable. While there are 4K portable monitors, those cost as much as a laptop, so I wouldn’t recommend those at the moment. 1366×768 is cheaper, and do-able for office tasks, but 1080P is easier on the eyes.
Before you buy a portable monitor for your laptop you need to make sure your that it’s compatible with your laptop. For starters, check if your laptop has USB-C with video support, usually labeled as “ALT-Mode”. Thunderbolt 3 should be compatible with every USB feature.
There are also regular USB monitors (powered by simple USB TYPE A cable) that work okay but are usually a bit dimmer than the USB-C versions. You will also need to connect them to a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port, the 3.0 being preferred. For regular USB, you might have to download specific drivers.
You need to realize that these monitors usually pull power from USB, which isn’t that much, and not enough to create a very bright screen. That also means they’ll be pulling power from your laptop, which could make the battery drain quite fast.
One solution, if the monitor can support it, is to use a power bank to supply the portable monitor with power so you don’t drain your laptop (or phone’s) battery. Yes, it’s a little complicated. I would go with an HDMI port, as I mentioned earlier on.