The other day I was walking past a tablet sale, and I found myself wondering if you can use a tablet as a second monitor for my laptop. Having a cheap second monitor would make you much more productive. The extra screen real estate is very important.
In this article, I’ll show you some of the solutions I found to turn a tablet into a second monitor, and what I think about the idea. To start with, why would anyone want to do this? As anyone who works online will tell you, having a dual-screen setup dramatically improves productivity.
It’s easy to buy a second monitor for your PC at home. What happens when you need to travel and you don’t have access to that second monitor? One solution would be to buy a dedicated portable monitor, but that might not be in everyone’s budget.
That’s where tablets come in. You might already own a tablet, or noticed that they’re much cheaper than portable monitors. Continue reading to find out how to turn a tablet into a second monitor…
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Can I Turn a Tablet Into a Second Monitor?
Yes, if you have a tablet and laptop with Wi-fi, there are a number of apps you can use to turn your tablet into a second monitor. The most popular being Spacedesk. There are more options for Windows and Android devices. In most cases, the setup involves a few clicks.
Keep in mind, to get this to work one of your devices (usually a PC or laptop) needs to host a server, while your tablet connects to that server over Wi-fi. It might seem a little complicated, but it’s actually rather simple.
It works best in private home networks, but there are solutions for public-use, which we’ll discuss a little later.
Who Would This Setup Be Good For?
Who the heck would want to try this? Well, for one, it’s a fun little experiment.
I think this setup is great for a number of situations. It’s a budget version of my other idea, using a dedicated portable monitor with a laptop.
These situations are quite similar to our article explaining what you can do with a portable monitor.
P.S. Our number 1 recommended portable monitor is Asus MB16AC.
Writers who need to have more screen real estate for notes and research will benefit from this solution. I know I would certainly use it, and since it’s wireless, I don’t need to worry about bringing extra cables. Pair a tablet as a second monitor with a wireless keyboard, and you’ll have a really cool and modern workstation.
Don’t want people to see your laptop’s desktop? Connect the tablet as a virtual monitor, and you can just drag and drop windows to the second screen, leaving your laptop’s desktop safe from prying eyes.
Another idea would be to use a tablet or old phone as a second monitor to just track certain data. For example, your computer’s resources, such as graphics card temperature, CPU usage, and whatnot. I tried this, and it works great.
You could even use it for trading or other tasks that require quick actions. Or keep it simple with a todo list or something like that.
The possibilities are endless!
Best Dual Screen Apps for Tablets:
So you have a laptop and you’re looking for the best dual-screen tablet apps.
While researching these apps, I kept coming across articles that recommend obscure apps that have terrible ratings. I personally hand-picked these apps. To save you time, the best one, by far, is Spacedesk.
On that note, we’ll talk a bit more about what you need to use these apps, and whether or not it’s a viable second monitor solution, later on.
P.S. I’m not affiliated with any of these apps, and have no incentive to promote them. Links go to Google Play.
Let’s dive in.
1 – Spacedesk (Free)
Spacedesk is one of the most popular multi-monitor apps on Google Play, and for a good reason too. It’s free, and the installation takes a few seconds.
Spacedesk is mainly designed for Wi-fi connections, but it works with alternative connections too, such as USB and Mobile Hotspot. I tested it via Wi-fi and was quite surprised by the performance.
Basically, it works exactly as I expected, Windows quickly detects the app as a physical monitor. In the display settings in Windows, you can see the new “monitor” and change the settings from there. What’s great about Spacedesk is it’s free, connects pretty much instantly, and there are no irritating ads.
Spacedesk also supports USB tethering and HTML 5, so any device that has a web-browser can be turned into a second monitor.
2 – Duet Display (Paid)
Another app that you can use to turn a tablet into a second monitor is Duet Display. It’s a paid app, which costs about $10 but it seems to work quite well. The cool thing about this app is it works across platforms, for example, an Ipad can connect to a Windows PC, and Macbooks to Galaxy Tabs, etc.
3 – Splashtop Wired XDisplay (Paid)
Splashtop is known for their remote desktop apps, but they have a multi-monitor app too. One thing to keep in mind is this is a wired USB solution, it’s not wireless. They claim it can run at 60FPS.
I didn’t feel like buying this one (it costs about $8) but based on the customer reviews, it seems like a good option. However, I’m not sure if it’s better than the free alternatives.
P.S. There is a free 10-minute trial version here.
So, if you’re going to use a tablet as a second monitor, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
Keep an Eye on the Framerate
To start with, the frame rate won’t be perfect. Since most of the signals are sent over Wi-fi, there’s always going to be a bit of delay.
While it might not seem like a problem for casual web browsing or research, after extended periods of time, it can be quite bothersome. I found myself getting a headache after an hour or so.
Watch the Battery:
As you might have guessed, these apps can drain your battery fast. I recommend plugging the tablet into your laptop through USB to charge. Remember, both the laptop and the tablet need to be on maximum power mode, so both their batteries will quickly drain. This setup requires a decent amount of power!
You Need a Stable Network:
Look, remote work can take us to all kinds of locations, and we don’t always get a strong Wi-fi network. Setting up a tablet as a second monitor while abroad without a private Wifi network can be a hassle. Fortunately, there are a few solutions:
First, try using the USB tethering option. With this option, you create a kind of private network from your computer to your phone. Windows allows you to have more than one active network, so your laptop can be connected to Wi-Fi while USB tethered to the tablet.
It should work okay. The good news is you don’t need an internet connection to use a tablet as a second monitor.
I also noticed some of these multi-monitor apps support Wifi Direct and Hotspots. Give it a shot. A final option would be to buy a USB-C network dongle and connect your laptop to the tablet via a direct LAN cable.
Long story short, you’ll need to tinker around a bit to get a tablet working as a second monitor for your laptop when abroad.
It’s definitely doable. I feel like this is a good, cheap, and temporary, multi-monitor setup – great for working from hotels.
You’ll also need a significantly large tablet.
Remember, tablets are usually 10.5 inches or smaller. For the best results, you would want the largest tablet possible, which seems to be the Galaxy View. But if budget is an issue, there are plenty of budget-friendly 10-inch tablets.
The problem is that costs more than a dedicated portable monitor, so it’s not really worth it. Chances are you’re not planning to permanently use a tablet as a second monitor, so any medium-size tablet should work.
It’s more of a temporary solution. Samsung Tablets are worth looking into.
Paid Multi-Monitor Apps Aren’t Necessarily Better:
I came across a lot of paid multi-monitor apps, and honestly, I wasn’t impressed.
There are free alternatives that work just as well. For example, the first free app we mentioned, Spacedesk, is better than most of the paid multi-monitor apps on the market.
The only upside to paid apps is they usually don’t include ads.
Consider Your Operating System
Since one of your devices needs to act as a host (usually a Windows device) you need to make you’re using compatible platforms. Most android apps will work with Windows, and I tested a few of them with no problems.
I can’t say the same for IOS, and Linux will be even harder. Do a bit of research. Most of the time, it’s not a problem.
Consider Using a Tablet Stand
Some tablets come with a smart case that you can configure into a stand, but usually not to your eye-level. If you’re sold on the idea of using a tablet as a second monitor, I recommend investing in a good tablet stand. On that note, you should also consider getting a laptop stand.
You’ll want an adjustable tablet stand. Here’s a cool one I came across. With one of those, you can pop in the tablet next to your laptop, install the multi-monitor app, and boom – a portable office. Tada!
Wrapping it Up:
So to wrap it up, if you’re on a budget and have a tablet lying around, then you can try out using a tablet as a second monitor. Most of the multi-monitor apps on our list work great, but we recommend Space Desk. It’s still in Beta, but it’s free, and it works really well.
Just don’t expect the same performance as you would from a regular cabled monitor. If you just need something extra screen real estate for your research or notes, then it’s worth a look and much cheaper than a dedicated portable monitor.
What do you think? Have you ever tried using a tablet as a monitor?