Traveling Tech Upgrade: Are Portable Monitors Worth the Hype?

You’ve probably seen the ads by now: portable monitors are being touted as the perfect solution for all your on-the-go productivity needs. You know, those second screens you can toss in your bag and use anywhere to get more done. 

The best portable monitors on the market make setting up an ad hoc dual-screen setup as simple as attaching the compact, lightweight display to your laptop or connecting it via HDMI to your phone or tablet. Diagonal sizes for these portable powerhouses range from 13 to 15 inches, providing just enough additional real estate for multitasking without the heft and bulk of a full-sized monitor.

Let’s take a look at a few key reasons why portable monitors are the newest tech upgrade.


One of the biggest perks of an external monitor for a laptop is just how mobile it actually is. At only a few pounds and about the size of a thick tablet, your monitor easily slides into any bag. You can use it everywhere, from coffee shops to co-working spaces to even the park on nice days. Setting it up takes seconds; just plug the USB-C cable into your laptop and turn it on. The lightweight and compact design means it’s never a hassle to bring along. Portability gets a big thumbs-up from me.

Ease of Use

Using the best portable monitor couldn’t be simpler. As mentioned, it’s just a matter of plugging in one cable to your laptop and turning it on. Windows and Mac both recognize it immediately as an extended desktop with no additional software or drivers needed. You can also toggle the screen mirroring or extend modes with a quick press of a button on the monitor. Everything, from zooming and scrolling to dragging and dropping windows between screens, works flawlessly. The user experience is seamless.

Picture Quality

While the resolution of 1080p is a step down from higher-end monitors, for a portable secondary screen, the image quality is impressive. Text and icons look sharp, and streaming video playback is smooth. The 15.6″ screen gives you plenty of workspace as well. Colors are vibrant thanks to the IPS panel technology. Brightness and contrast are also good for both indoor and outdoor use. It’s easily better than most laptop screens on its own.


In addition to connecting via the single USB-C cable, these monitors also offer wireless connectivity options. It can pair over WiFi for a cable-free experience. 

  • This wireless range can be reliable for use within a typical home or office space. It also has 
  • Bluetooth for connecting keyboards, mice or headphones. 
  • Both the WiFi and Bluetooth work without issue. 
  • A USB-C port on the side allows connecting additional devices or powering the monitor too. 

Overall, the connectivity is very robust for a portable screen.

Battery Life

This is probably the area where the best portable monitors for laptops see the most room for improvement. While battery life varies between models, on average, you are looking at around 4-6 hours of regular use on a full charge. Heavier tasks, like video editing, will drain it faster, of course. Thankfully, fast charging capabilities mean it replenishes quickly once plugged in again. For short-term mobile use, the battery has been sufficient. Just don’t expect all-day power without recharging.


Unlike a traditional desktop monitor, portable screens have limited positioning options due to their compact designs. However, it still offers basic adjustability that comes in handy. The stand allows tilting to comfortable viewing angles. The screen can also rotate between landscape and portrait orientations for different content types. These simple ergonomic tweaks make a difference when using it on the go for hours. It beats being stuck at a fixed angle.

Value for Money

The best portable monitors still carry a premium over regular desktop screens due to their compact engineering and features. You can find entry-level options for $200–300, but expect to pay $400–600 for higher-end models with better screens, connectivity, and battery life.

Multitasking Productivity

Having that extra screen in real estate opens up your productivity significantly. You can keep core apps like Slack, email or documents on your laptop screen while using the portable monitor for research, presentations, or media. Creative work like photo and video editing really benefits from the dual monitor setup too. The best part is being able to take this productivity anywhere. It can completely change your workflow, both at home and on travel days.


While productivity is a major use case, portable monitors also double as a fun entertainment hub. You can enjoy streaming shows and movies from your laptop during flights or in hotels. Gaming is also surprisingly good on them, thanks to the responsive IPS panels. Light games like Hearthstone play smoothly. Even more graphic-intensive titles run decently well by streaming from your desktop via services like Steam Link. It beats staring at a tiny laptop screen.


The best portable monitors work with Windows, Mac, Android devices and even gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch via USB-C or HDMI. However, do check compatibility with your specific laptop model, as not all USB-C ports support video output. The monitor should also include the necessary cables in the box, like USB-C to C or USB-C to A, depending on your laptop’s ports. Wireless options add compatibility with even more devices, like smartphones, over WiFi.


While the monitor itself is portable, you may want additional accessories to get the most out of it on the go. A protective sleeve or case prevents scratches while transporting. A portable keyboard and mouse combo makes it feel like a mini desktop when used outdoors. A portable battery pack extends the battery life. A headset completes the immersive entertainment experience. Many monitors also bundle some of these goodies.


Regular portable use means the monitor needs to withstand the occasional bumps and drops that come with travel. Thankfully, these monitors have a sturdy aluminum chassis and protective bumpers that provide decent peace of mind. The screen also has edge-to-edge glass for durability. Just be careful of drops, which no device likes. Overall build quality seems travel-friendly.

Final Words

In conclusion, while portable monitors still have some limitations, like battery life, for mobile professionals, creators and entertainment needs, they are most definitely worth the hype. The productivity and flexibility benefits of having an instant second screen that goes wherever you go are amazing. At reasonable price points, they pay for themselves if you travel frequently for work.

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